Greater Boston Chamber Of Commerce Calling For Congestion Pricing Study

BOSTON (State House News Service) — The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce urged the Legislature on Tuesday to look past the opposition of Gov. Charlie Baker and again pass legislation that would create a commission to study congestion pricing and impose new fees on Uber and Lyft rides.

Baker struck the provisions from a $16.5 billion transportation infrastructure borrowing bill that he signed last month, arguing it was too soon to try to predict or respond to how the COVID-19 pandemic may have forever changed commuting and traffic patterns. The governor said he intended to refile the data collection provisions of the transportation network fee proposal to better understand changing transit habits before deciding how to create financial incentives to drive behavior.

Chamber CEO Jim Rooney wrote a letter to House and Senate lawmakers Tuesday telling them that Baker was wrong to throw the brakes on both efforts.

"Massachusetts cannot afford to wait, as Governor Baker suggests it should, to modernize transportation funding, policy, and infrastructure," Rooney said.

Rooney recommended two changes to the congestion pricing commission, including giving it additional time -- two years -- to study the issues involved and take into account the effects of the pandemic before filing a report by Jan. 1, 2023.

He also suggested requiring the group to make pricing recommendations based on multiple scenarios that take into account changing commuting patterns, similar to how the MBTA is looking at its future.

"The work of the commission on roadway and congestion pricing is not only necessary, it is achievable despite the challenges presented by COVID," Rooney said.

On TNC fees, Rooney said the Chamber "strongly supports" a new fee structure to incentivize shared rides, with revenues shared equitably across the states and additional surcharges added to luxury rides.

"While commuting patterns will change to a degree, TNCs will continue to draw riders away from public transit and contribute to congestion, especially in urban areas," Rooney said.

By Matt Murphy, State House News Service

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(Photo: Mario Jarjour/WBZ NewsRadio)

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