Tuesday, July 17, 2007

His Excellent Compact

It must be nice to be the Governor of Massachusetts. It appears that they are referred to by the moniker "His Excellency," which certainly is a snazzier title than anything we use in Illinois.

Today His Excellency Deval Patrick issued Executive Order No. 488, establishing the "Massachusetts Mobility Compact." The Compact was signed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Executive Office of Transportation, the Massachusetts Highway Department, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, The MBTA, Massport, the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Massachusetts Association of Regional Transit Authorities.

The Compact describes its purpose as follows:

The Compact's principal mission shall be to improve the delivery of transportation services in the Commonwealth by communicating regularly and more effectively and by adopting a cooperative and coordinated approach to transportation planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance aimed principally at:

a. increasing mobility for people and goods within and through the Commonwealth in a safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and efficient manner;

b. promoting and adopting administrative efficiency and program improvement initiatives between and among transportation agencies and authorities; and

c. sharing best practice techniques for implementation across transportation modes.

According to news reports, the impetus for the Compact was Governor Patrick's dismay at the fare hikes by Boston's public transit agency (MBTA) at the same time that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was pushing for toll reductions:

During last year's gubernatorial campaign, Patrick complained about a proposed T fare hike -- later enacted -- because he said it clashed with the Turnpike Authority's proposal to remove traffic tolls.

One agency, he said, was making it less expensive to drive, while another was making it more expensive to use mass transit systems.

The governor conceded that coordination is commonsense, since each of the agencies is focused on moving people in one mode or another. But he and others said political disputes, turf wars and the independent structure of the MBTA and Massport have impeded past cooperation.

It seems rather extraordinary that public agencies have to be browbeat into entering into an agreement in order to discuss and coordinate transportation planning and projects among themselves. Nevertheless, His Excellency's use of a compact to provide a framework for productive collaboration is a positive step.

Patrick is in the early days of his administration, when initiatives (stunts?) like inter-agency compacts make political sense. While "political disputes, turf wars and the independent structure of the [Tollway, the RTA] and [IDOT] have impeded past cooperation" it is unlikely that our second-term governor would consider a similar compact. Such a compact, however, might be a tool for the next governor to use.


Anonymous said...

Nice Compact-- sort of like the Magna Carta on tp given the state of their transportation system. Have you ever driven on Mass Pike? Or used the MBTA to get to that landfill maze they call an airport? We have politics and a decent system in need of liberation from political agendas. They have a bad system in need of liberation from political agendas. He should of rode a stallion with a 3 cornered hat, the charter in one hand and a lantern in the other. Wouldn't fit our gov's style--nope--he'd have to do it from a convertible eldorado with la dolce vita sunglasses.

Justin said...

Hey hey now, easy on the Boston-bashing :). Seriously, airport access notwithstanding, the MBTA has its good moments too.

I agree that this compact is little more than a plea to "play nice," because 1) save-the-world rhetoric seems to be Patrick's style and 2) there's little else he can do - he actually has little statutory power over these agencies. Heck, after three years of Patrick's predecessor complaining about the MassPike Board, it took a horrible tragedy in the Big Dig tunnels to mobilize enough will to replace the Chairman.

Sec. Trans. Cohen is new to the scene as of this spring, so let's wait and see how effective he can be at getting results from fragmentation. The first big test, in my view, will be the capital funding for the campaign-promised Fall River/New Bedford commuter rail line.