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Testimony to Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in support of Automated Enforcement

Testimony to Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in support of Automated Enforcement

Testimony as prepared for the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security scheduled on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. conducted via Microsoft Teams. To submit written testimony, please email it to Dave McNeill (david.mcneill@mahouse.gov) and Cara Libman (cara.libman@masenate.gov). Consider adding your elected officials as well. For more talking points to consider from today’s hearing, take a look at this post from MA Vision Zero Coalition.

My name is Brendan Kearney, and I’m the Deputy Director of WalkBoston, Massachusetts’ statewide pedestrian advocacy organization, also speaking on behalf of the MA Vision Zero Coalition in support of these automated enforcement bills, S1545 and H2426 and H2532. Thank you for holding this hearing.

First: There has been an increase in speeding during COVID.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, during 2020, when much of the country was under shelter-in-place restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the rate of overall traffic fatalities jumped 20% from 2019. Said another way, with a 16.5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) nationwide, the rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians jumped to 2.2 deaths per VMT – an increase from 1.8 deaths in 2019. 

Potential causes include speeding, distracted and impaired driving. With fewer drivers on the road, there was more space to speed. Here in Massachusetts, MassDOT and others recognized this trend: High driving speeds contributed to a doubled roadway fatality rate in the month of April 2020 in Massachusetts – and MassDOT began a communications campaign to remind people that times have changed, but speed limits haven’t. 

Second: There is a need for equitable enforcement. 

In June 2020, WGBH reported out data showing that black people in Boston accounted for 70% of police stops despite being 25% of the population. We believe that it is now time to pass an equitable automated enforcement law that would allow municipalities to install red light and speed cameras in high crash corridors with a robust community engagement plan. 

We hope that you will move automated enforcement bills forward and out of committee, and have a few recommendations to help improve them. 

  • Reconsider the population requirements to participate: since all the AE bills are municipal opt-in, it doesn’t seem that there should be a population requirement for communities to take part. A community of any size should be eligible for this program. Lots of rural roads in our state have huge speeding programs, and those places should be able to opt-in if they so choose. For example, as a statewide pedestrian organization, WalkBoston has worked with Rural communities that are also concerned about speeding including Williamsburg, Huntington, Blandford, Chesterfield, Cummington, and Goshen. There had been changes made during debate last February, so we just hope this can be clarified to ensure any community can opt-in. 
  • We support fines that are non-escalating. The primary intent is to change drivers’ behavior. New York recently issued a report that examined their speed camera program from a seven year period: 2014-2020. In 2020, 52% of drivers who received a speeding ticket from a camera never got another one that year, while 20% only got one more (see p.14 of report). This suggests that the system led almost three-quarters of speeding drivers to change their behavior. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. We hope that you can take these recommendations into consideration when consolidating the 3 automated enforcement bills into one bill that we hope will move forward and out of committee.

Comments on Re-Imagining Massachusetts’ Post-Pandemic Transportation System

Comments on Re-Imagining Massachusetts’ Post-Pandemic Transportation System

Comments to Senate Committee on Re-Imagining Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency

Dear Senator Hinds and Committee Members:

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ primary pedestrian advocacy organization, working across the Commonwealth to make it safer and easier for people to walk for all activities of daily living such as access to transit, school and jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic gave stark evidence that walkable neighborhoods and communities are critical to physical and mental health, to reducing isolation and to the resilience of all Massachusetts residents and their neighborhoods.

In light of the pandemic, we have learned that key components of the transportation system to support walking should include:

  • Speed management. We need measures to control, and often reduce, speeds on Commonwealth roadways so that they are safe for all roadway users. During the initial months of the pandemic, there was dangerous speeding on roadways across Massachusetts. MassDOT’s ongoing initiative to create tools and measures to set and manage safe speeds on all MassDOT roadways (other than limited access highways) needs the support and encouragement of the legislature to ensure its success, and then to bring those same measures to municipal roads as well.
  • Safe connections to transit. As we learned during the pandemic, essential workers are more dependent on transit than many others. We need fully accessible transit and bus stops throughout Massachusetts, including safe street crossings and sidewalk connections to adjacent neighborhoods. These are crucial to a transit system that works for everyone.
  • More local funding to repurpose public space. The overwhelmingly popular MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces program that was introduced in response to the pandemic has demonstrated that municipalities are interested and ready to rethink how they use their streets to enable more and safer outdoor recreation,
    commerce, community activities, and mobility.
  • Chapter 90 and Complete Streets. Chapter 90 funds have been traditionally used to build and maintain municipal roads without requirements that sidewalks and crosswalks be included. We suggest that the Committee review this standard and consider including Complete Streets measures within Chapter 90, similar to those requirements set by the legislature for MassDOT roadways.
  • DCR Parkways. DCR’s recently released (and long delayed) Parkway Master Plan clearly demonstrates that immediate action is needed to vastly improve safety for people bicycling and walking. Parkways are cultural and historic landmarks and should remain fully integrated components of parks and open spaces, used and enjoyed by people for walking, rolling, and riding as originally intended. With a commitment to accelerated improvement in partnership with MassDOT, parkways should remain under DCR’s purview. We urge the legislature to set funding and regulatory standards for DCR as follows:
    • Adopt MassDOT’s Complete Streets guidelines as their default design standard for all parkways;
    • Utilize MassDOT crash portal data to implement quick-build improvements on the most dangerous parkway roads and intersections within the next 12 months;
    • Align its parkway speed limits with local speed limits, especially in municipalities where the default speed has been reduced to 25 miles/hour or less;
    • Provide DCR with the budget needed to complete the recommendations in the DCR Parkway Master Plan;
    • Require DCR to set measurable goals to reduce the number of serious and fatal crashes on DCR roadways and report publicly and annually on progress toward these goals; and
    • Require DCR to add analysis and recommendations for several key parkways currently missing from the plan.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Stacey Beuttell
Executive Director, WalkBoston
405 Waltham Street, Suite 309
Lexington, MA 02421

Comment Letter for Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Comment Letter for Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Massachusetts State Senate
The State House
Boston, MA 02133

May 16, 2019

Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Honorable Members of the Senate:

We, a group of elected, nonprofit, community, and business leaders who support RTAs and their riders, support amendment 1136, which would provide $90.5 million in base funding for the regional transit authority (RTA) line item (1595-6370) in the FY2020 budget, and identifies separate, additional funding for performance targets and innovations, subject to Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between RTAs and MassDOT. Stable base funding is essential to protect riders from service cuts, and for RTAs to provide predictable service as they continue to improve performance and accountability. We are very pleased that the Senate Ways and Means budget includes language that ties state assistance to RTAs to inflation.

To count any MOU-based funding towards the base, as the Senate Ways and Means budget does, amounts to a cut in service which penalizes riders who are transit-dependent. Here is why: MOUs and the underlying performance targets take months to develop, and the transit service that results is not assured to continue. As an example, the $4 million in MOU-based funding that the legislature voted as part of the FY 2019 budget has still not been released, 10 1⁄2 months into the fiscal year, and several service cuts have not been restored as a result.

Senators may recall that the FY 2019 budget also established the Task Force on RTA Performance and Funding. Constituted in October 2018, the Task Force completed its work and delivered a report to the legislature on April 5, 2019, titled A Vision for the Future of Massachusetts’ Regional Transit Authorities.

This Task Force report included several recommendations to improve service. These included $90.5 million in base funding from the state budget; indexing of future state appropriations to CPI; establishment of MOUs with MassDOT to ensure future performance goals; and other recommendations to promote accountable, statewide public transit.

In conclusion, we cite the first recommendation from Choices for Stewardship, the December 2018 report of the Baker Administration’s Commission on the Future of Transportation:

  1. Prioritize investment in public transit as the foundation for a robust, reliable, clean, and efficient transportation system.

In this spirit, we thank the Senate for making investment in public transit a priority for FY 2020.

Respectfully submitted,

Mayor Jon Mitchell, City of New Bedford

Mayor Daniel Rivera, City of Lawrence

Mayor Alex Morse, City of Holyoke

Mayor Paul Heroux, City of Attleboro

Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale, City of Fitchburg

William F. Martin, Mayor, City of Greenfield

Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director, Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Tim Brennan, Executive Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Frederick Kidder, President/CEO, SouthCoast Chamber

Maddie Ribble, Director of Public Policy and Campaign Strategy, Massachusetts Public Health Association

Andre Leroux, Executive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance

Chris Dempsey, Director, Transportation for Massachusetts

Nancy Goodman, Vice President for Policy, Environmental League of Massachusetts

Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance

Heather McMann, Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence

Mayor Donna Holaday, City of Newburyport

Mayor David Narkewicz, City of Northampton

Mayor Thomas W. Bernard, City of North Adams

Cathy Ann Viveiros, City Administrator, City of Fall River

Thomas Matuszko, Executive Director, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Marc Draisen, Executive Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Jack Lank, President/CEO, The United Regional Chamber of Commerce

Marie Oliva, President & CEO, Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber

Wendy Garf-Lipp, Executive Director, United Neighbors of Fall River

Janet Domenitz, Executive Director, MASSPIRG

Joseph Kriesberg, President, Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

Deb Pasternak, Chapter Director, Sierra Club, Massachusetts Chapter

John MacDougall, Sylvia Parsons and Jack Spence, Co-Chairs, 350Mass Transportation Working Group

Elena Letona, Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston

Scott Zadakis, Director, CrossTown Connect TMA

Judith L. Kirk, Director of Community Impact, YouthConnect Worcester

Kevin McCaffrey, Director of Government and Community Relations and Special Projects, Office of Advancement, Mount Holyoke College

Jim Kolesar, Vice President, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing

Elizabeth Isherwood, Communications Director, Rail to Boston Coalition

Jennifer Lee, Systems Advocate, Stavros

Corinn Williams, Executive Director, Community Economic Development Center

Janie Katz-Christy, Director, Green Streets Initiative

Jessica Collins, Executive Director, Public Health Institute of Western MA

Victoria Waterman, Chief Executive Officer, Girls, Inc. of Worcester

Staci Rubin, Senior Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation

Carolyn Villers, Executive Director, Massachusetts Senior Action Council

Kerry Conaghan, VP Community Impact, United Way of Central Massachusetts

Patty Flanagan, Director of Wellness and Health Equity, YWCA Central Massachusetts

Samuel Masinter, Associate Vice President for College Relations, Smith College

Margaret Coffin, CEO, Center for Living & Working, Inc.

David Connell, Vice President/Chief Human Resource Officer, YMCA of Central Massachusetts

Gordon Hargrove, Executive Director, Friendly House, Inc.

Alan Dallmann, Coordinator The Coalition to End Hunger

Justin Lawson, Fund Mass RTAs

Samuel Martin, Executive Director, Worcester Youth Center

Susan Moriarty, MASS Central Regional Coordinator, Mass Advocates Standing Strong

K. Lev Ben-Ezra, Executive Director, Amherst Survival Center

Deb Fastino, Executive Director, Coalition for Social Justice

Christopher M. O’Keeffe, Vice President for Programs, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

Drew Grande, Clean Energy Program Director, Massachusetts Climate Action Network

Joyce Mandell, Founder and Director, Jane Jacobs in the Woo

Lew Finfer, Co-Director, Massachusetts Communities Action Network

Adam Thielker, Transportation Advocacy Coalition

Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Worcester

Joe Bellil, VP of Public Affairs & Youth Services, Easter Seals of Massachusetts

Mary Haroyan, Bay State Council of the Blind

Ali, Amrana and Shabaz Soofi, Worker-Owners, WooRides

Scott Avedisian, CEO, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority

Join us on Jan 23rd for a Day of Action at the State House

Join us on Jan 23rd for a Day of Action at the State House

Please join us and other members of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition for a Day of Action at the State House on the morning of WednesdayJanuary 23rd.

We’ll go door-to-door and ask our representatives and senators to support traffic safety legislation around three key issues. This legislation will save lives, reduce injuries, and bring us closer to Vision Zero. Read more about these issues below.

Event Details:
Day of Action at the State House
WednesdayJanuary 23, 2019, 9:30 am to 12:00 pm
@ Massachusetts State House, Room 437
24 Beacon Street, Boston

9:30 – 10:00 am | Arrive, check in, enjoy coffee + light breakfast
10:00 – 10:30 am | Program (speakers TBA)
10:30 am – 12 pm | Meetings with legislative offices

Training materials and talking points will be provided day of. Even if you can’t commit to the full morning, you are welcome to join us for any part of the schedule! Please RSVP here.

Priorities for Traffic Safety Legislation:

  1. Hands-free — improve the current law against texting-while-driving, which is difficult for officers to enforce, by requiring any use of mobile devices while driving to be hands-free.
  2. Automated enforcement — allow red light cameras and speed cameras to be placed in certain locations in the Commonwealth. When enacted in other states, automated enforcement has reduced speeding and serious crashes.
  3. Truck safety — equip state-contracted trucks with safety side-guards, mirrors, and back-up cameras to reduce the number of fatalities of people walking and biking.

Traffic fatalities are unacceptably high in Massachusetts, and we know that crashes are not accidents – they’re the tragic, preventable results of inadequate planning, policy, and unsafe behavior.

Help us spread the word about the Day of Action to your contacts by sharing this post, and via social media before and during the event using these hashtags: #crashnotaccident #visionzero #textlesslivemore

Please RSVP here. For more information, contact Emily Stein at emily@saferoadsalliance.org.

We hope to see you there!

Event: Rally to Pass Hands-Free Bill In Massachusetts, July 11th – 12:30pm

Event: Rally to Pass Hands-Free Bill In Massachusetts, July 11th – 12:30pm

Please join us on your lunch break this Wednesday, July 11th at 12:30pm on the State House steps. We will have signs, lemonade and a really important message for the legislature to hear: We are gathering to show our elected officials that we cannot and will not wait another year to pass a Hands-Free law in MA. Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roads, and a hands-free bill is a first step to solving the problem and making our roads safer.

Rich Levitan and Anna Cheshire Levitan, parents of the late Merritt Levitan and leaders of Text Less Live More, a national education and awareness campaign, joined Radio Boston on Monday.

More info and updates at the Facebook event page