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Roadmap to a sustainable transportation system

Stephanie Pol­lack, asso­ciate director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy in Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, noted a decades-​​long shift in public thinking about the envi­ron­mental impact of energy con­sump­tion. Now, she said, a sim­ilar move­ment must be directed toward sus­tain­able transportation.

“We haven’t been able to make that par­a­digm shift on trans­porta­tion because we don’t know what the trans­porta­tion equiv­a­lent of the megawatt is,” Pol­lack said.

To this end, Pol­lack has devel­oped a new frame­work for building a more equi­table and sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion system in Greater Boston. The Dukakis Center report, “Staying on Track,” is based on an exten­sive col­lec­tion and analysis of a broad range of data and is designed to shed light on how the system does or does not work.

Pol­lack out­lined the first-​​of-​​its-​​kind project on Monday at the Metro Boston Con­sor­tium for Sus­tain­able Com­mu­ni­ties fall meeting, which took place in Northeastern’s Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room. The con­sor­tium is coor­di­nated by the Met­ro­pol­itan Area Plan­ning Council, a regional plan­ning agency serving more than 100 cities and towns of Met­ro­pol­itan Boston.

The sweeping analysis com­prises three dozen pro­posed indi­ca­tors and bench­marks that could be used to explain the com­pli­cated set of demo­graphic and eco­nomic fac­tors dri­ving the region’s travel pat­terns. Those indi­ca­tors and bench­marks aim to address what Pol­lack iden­ti­fies as nine attrib­utes of a sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion system: the system’s con­di­tion, funding sus­tain­ability, trans­porta­tion options, acces­si­bility, afford­ability, safety, con­ve­nience and sustainability.

In Monday’s pre­sen­ta­tion, Pol­lack cited sev­eral daunting pieces of data. She called atten­tion to the state trans­porta­tion department’s $240 mil­lion short­fall to operate its highway system in the 2014 fiscal year and a fleet of MBTA’s Orange and Red Line vehi­cles that are beyond their intended lifespan.


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