Road taxes to help T’s financial trouble?

Legislators and transportation officials listened to ideas to solve the state’s 
transportation funding problem during a State House hearing yesterday.

Charging drivers for how much they use the roads was just one proposal heard by lawmakers Tuesday as transportation advocates floated options to help fund the T’s dire fiscal woes.

During a meeting with state officials on Beacon Hill, Elizabeth Weyant, staff attorney at MassPIRG, pitched ideas to help raise revenue for state transportation needs.

Weyant said a vehicle miles tax, which would charge drivers per mile, and increasing Registry fees on all vehicles were options.

“We need a really robust, ongoing dialogue about our options, led by the Legislature,” Weyant said to a packed room during a meeting of the Legislature’s public transportation caucus.

Weyant also suggested “open road tolling,” which would eliminate booths and charge drivers using a transponder every time they entered a new highway.

Rick Dimino, CEO and president of A Better City, a group also fighting for transportation funding, said the MBTA’s proposed service cuts and fare hikes will put cars back on the road, causing congestion and placing a cost burden on other parts of the economy.

“We need to work together with the governor to stop us from having to come back here year after year to develop Band-Aid approaches to fix our transportation system,” he said.

Dimino said the growth of the economy depends on the T and he was “hopeful” groups could work with lawmakers to find “good solutions” to solve the financial problem.

Other options

MassPIRG representatives also put these ideas on the table:
   
Electronic fare collection: A system that could be placed in Commuter Rail trains and in MBTA parking lots to stop the fare evasion by passengers.
   
UPass Program: A joint venture with local colleges and universities that would turn student identification cards into T passes. The move could bring in monthly revenue from schools, according to transportation advocates.   

Bailout in the works?

More state officials are citing a desperate need for transportation funding sources indicating the possibility of a T bailout.

Yesterday, Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, said that the Legislature needs to act soon.

“I don’t think that there’s anything given at this point except that we have to do something,” said Rushing.

He said the Legislature has to share the solution to the MBTA’s funding problems beyond just cuts and fare increases.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear


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