Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Governor Patrick’s The Way Forward plan provides an infusion of funds for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) serving Gateway Cities, including $100 million annually for enhanced service and $400 million in capital funds to purchase new buses and modernize facilities. If state leaders are able to support RTAs at this level, it could radically change the way these systems contribute to economic growth in Gateway City economies, particularly with regard to the transformative redevelopment concept MassINC recently unveiled.
Transformative redevelopment is about tailoring public support for projects that can spur private reinvestment in the surrounding downtown or neighborhood. To have this catalytic impact, the project must capture a market-driven opportunity. In many Gateway Cities, this opportunity often lies in commuter rail stations. As of now, the potential of these stops is limited by weak RTA transit service, which makes it difficult to get workers to trains and on to higher paying jobs in Boston.
Even in cities without commuter rail, RTA service is an important complement to large redevelopment projects. By taking cars off the streets, public transit will make Gateway City downtowns more attractive and pedestrian friendly. Better service will also improve connections between downtowns businesses and potential patrons in residential neighborhoods.
Strong transit service shapes the built environment in cities both large and small, transformative redevelopment will be needed to unlock the opportunity, but without a doubt, investments outlined in The Way Forward provide an important complement.