Boston, like any major city, struggles to move its people around.  We need to see improvements in all transportation modes for the city to compete on a global stage: pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, and mass transit.

What types of transportation improvements should Boston be advocating for?


8 responses »

  1. mike l says:

    The Urban ring, with all or mostly all rail rapid transit blue line to salem, orange line to melrose,wakefield and finally woburn reytheon, cummins properties area, red line to burlington mall, another orange line to natick mall, a true spoke and wheel system with the inner wheel around the everett route 16 area and a outer wheel around the peabody 128 area to canton braintree 128 area. I know this wqould be massive amounts of money but with a part privatization part public partnership and the increase in ridership and revenue i believe it would possibly be prfitable… also a merrimac valley straight line newburyport to lowell and all the cities in between and possibly one line out to merrimac valley from greater boston

    • Mike: The Urban Ring was a very ambitious proposal involving a lot of different pieces that all needed to fit perfectly together for it to work. Boston and the greater Boston area absolutely need better connections between the “spokes” of the current system. We would love to see something like the Urban Ring get planned and developed.

      For now, we are focusing on smaller scale ideas and proposals that can improve transit across all modes. One important aspect of that is taxi reform. Given the MBTA’s relatively early closing time ( taxis play a vital role in getting people home safely at night. But the number of taxis in Boston hasn’t gone up since the 1930s. This would be a relatively easy change to make that would make getting around much easier.

      What are some other ideas you have?

      • KB says:

        Actually, the number of taxicabs in Boston increased by 300 in the year 2002. It is necessary to cap the number of taxi licenses to ensure the quality of the vehicle and equipment inside. Also it is a public safety issue, where the city controls the appearance of the taxi and how many can be in the city. This number is determined by a feasibility study and is in place to preserve that drivers can be profitable and earn a fair wage. If too many taxis occupy the city, this dilutes driver wages and is an incentive to have cheaper vehicles in disrepair on the roadways. The Boston area only experiences a shortage of taxi vehicles on Friday and Saturday nights between midnight and 2:30PM when all of the bars, nightclubs and restaurants close simultaneously. In contrast, cities like New York do not have this issue because the bars and clubs stay open until 6AM and no bottleneck in cab service is seen. If you look around at the taxi stands on other days and hours you will see lots of idle cabs standing on the taxi stands. I do agree with your previous post about the light on top of the vehicle being a helpful change though.

  2. Taxi reform is a great place to start. There was an excellent planet money podcast on this that looked at the necessity to have limited licenses at all and came to the conclusion that they don’t help either consumers or drivers. Not that taxis should be unlicensed, but that there shouldn’t be a cap on medallions. We also need real bike infrastructure, not just stripes on the side of the road, but proper bike boulevards. And there’s a lot we could do with getting portions of the urban ring up and running with low-cost bus-rapid-transit models if we did them right (not like the silver line, which they did all wrong).

    • Jason: Excellent ideas all around. We absolutely need taxi reform, and enforcement of taxi regulations (using the light on top of the car, not refusing fares, etc.).

      Bike infrastructure is also critically important. Hubway is a great service, and paint on the roads is a step in the right direction. The city is doing a lot in this area and has a pretty extensive network planned for actual cycle tracks and bike boulevards. You can get a look at it here

      It would be great to see real BRT in Boston, but like you mentioned the Silver Line has turned a lot of people off that type of service. However, if done right, it can bring subway-like levels of service for way less investment.

      If you have other dieas, submit them over at and tell us what we should be working on.

      Thanks for getting involved!

  3. KB, I’m not sure there’s any fact to back up your arguments about the necessity to cap licenses. Here’s an excellent look at the taxi medallion situation in NYC (link below). It seems our medallion system is based on the NYC system so many of the lessons should transfer.

    If anything, increased competition should lead to higher quality cabs, better service, and more appropriate scheduling of vehicles so that there aren’t so many empty cabs sitting around when business is slow. Late night bar rush will always be an issue, no matter what.

    • Jack V says:

      I’ve listened to this broadcast. Just a couple of guys laughing how expensive the taxis are. I’m a salesperson who travels within the US four days a week. Have you taking DC or New Orleans cabs, for example? You should… after that horrible experience you would appreciate Boston cabs. Hybrid cars, mostly new, credit cards, no smelly inside. NY and Boston have the best taxi fleets in the country.

      • Jackson says:

        I could not agree more with this statement. Having traveled extensively across the United States and other countries, Boston and NY have by far, the best taxi and transportation systems ever! DC and Chicago’s public transit are pretty good as well.

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