Sustainable Transportation.

Eliminating the 11% of our city’s greenhouse gas emissions that come from transportation is an important part of our city’s climate action plan. We need a just transition to a more sustainable system, prioritizing safety and protecting access and convenience for everyone. There is great diversity in people’s transportation needs, and as city councillor I would take that into account as we make necessary changes. We need a more transparent, community-oriented process to limit surprises and make sure everyone’s voices are heard. That may include reintroducing a traffic board or similar body for review of traffic pattern changes by community representatives to ensure we maximize safety and minimize inconvenience.

I’ve been a bicycle commuter in Cambridge since 1992 when I came here to study at MIT, and I fully endorse the Cambridge Bicycle Safety platform. One of my top priorities as a councillor would be to adopt a comprehensive plan for the implementation of a network of protected bicycle lanes within Cambridge as part of the growing regional network which connects us to cities like Somerville and Boston. Two people have died on our streets in the last two years, and car crashes in Cambridge stopped their significant decline around 2008 (right around the time the iPhone came out). We need to implement Vision Zero. I also intend to make sure we complete the Grand Junction pathway and maximize other opportunities to create similar bicycle paths. As vehicle ownership continues to decline, more and more road and parking space will become available for alternative uses. We need to be cognizant of the tradeoffs being made on our roads, and ensure excellent public process and world-class street design. We don’t want to end up with unhappy surprises like UPS trucks in the protected bike lane or insufficient parking for seniors and the disabled.

The development in Kendall Sq. and Alewife is bringing in many more potential T riders, but the MBTA has not taken sufficient steps to increase the capacity required to service these new riders. We need to explore further augmenting the MBTA bus service with shuttle buses that are free for residents. Corporate shuttles in Kendall and Harvard help employees get to and from their place of work, and residents desperately need similarly convenient service if they are to leave their cars behind.

Cambridge has a powerful voice in advocating for better service from the T and we should work with state leaders to ensure the MBTA is properly funded and not privatized at the expense of workers.

Affordable electric vehicles with practical battery ranges are poised to take over and finally become the dominant form of car transportation in the future. This will allow us to massively reduce harmful pollution and climate change causing emissions from vehicular transport. EV technology will become available for trucks, buses and delivery vehicles to go electric as well. However, this can only happen with a network of accessible EV charging stations throughout the city, as many home owners, renters and business owners don’t have the space, permission or electrical capacity to install EV chargers on their own property. Currently the city has a handful of EV charging stations that are accessible to the public, but we need to install many more. There is no significant cost associated with doing so, since the city simply has to lease the space to a private company that installs and maintains the charging stations. It could even be a revenue opportunity for the city. Charging stations could be installed at on-street parking spots as is already the case on Cambridge St. in Boston, and is common in European cities.

Accordingly, administration should make it city-wide policy to replace municipal vehicles with electric models as part of routine replacement.

The convenience of ridesharing apps has taken the world by storm and significantly disrupted the taxi industry. These new companies have fundamentally altered how people travel around the city, but our road design has not kept up. We need many more safe dropoff and pickup locations throughout the city, and prohibitions against stopping in bike/car lanes should be strictly enforced. Additionally, we need to make sure that ridesharing companies are following state labor laws and that drivers are treated with dignity and respect as every worker should be. Just as we did with Air BnB (PDF), Cambridge needs to implement some common sense rules that allow us to benefit from the convenience of technological innovation while protecting the safety and economic justice of all residents.
In Cambridge, money raised from parking permit fees is put entirely towards VMT (vehicle miles travelled) reduction. Street parking is a privilege which is severely undervalued in our city, as it costs more to park in a garage for 24 hours than it does to park on the street for an entire year. Permit fees were recently raised from $8 to $25 per year as a direct result of my advocacy, which has generated an additional $400,000 in annual revenue for the city. It is important to continue raising the fee because the number of parking permits issued has stagnated despite a steady population increase, echoing a national trend of declining vehicle ownership. I propose that we raise the annual parking permit fee on an escalating schedule, with exemptions for low income residents in addition to the exemption already in place for seniors. By doing this, we will raise millions of dollars for bicycle infrastructure, parking demand management, public transit improvements, and other VMT reduction efforts. Current legislation already permits deliberate overpayment by wealthier residents wishing to contribute more than the minimum towards our VMT reduction efforts, and this should be actively encouraged.