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Boston Globe Comment Letter - 'I'd Rather Not be Driving'

In early October, our letter to the Boston Globe was published in the Sunday Ideas section which was devoted to greater Boston's transportation challenges. We shared our view that addressing congestion and accessibility for all requires better macro transit solutions (e.g. expansion of rail networks and more frequent commuter rail service) combined with more micro mobility solutions. Micro mobility solutions address trips that are less than 5 miles (which represents more than half of Boston-area trips) and they can get people to transit stations more efficiently than cars. Some micro mobility solutions can accompany transit passengers such as foldable scooters and bikes.

Our letter referred to a survey we conducted in July 2018 of Walk/Ride Day participants where we asked what modes of transportation people would like to be using. 60% wanted to be using a different mode from what they were currently using. That number was higher among drivers, with 78% stating that their ideal commute would consist of a different mode (or 22% indicating that driving was their ideal commute).

How would our drivers rather be commuting? Just over one-third indicate they would rather use transit while 22% would like to be walking more. Within transit, the commuter rail is more desired choice (18%) followed by subway (12%). The charts to the left share survey result for all participants (1,048) on the top and a few of the results for drivers on the bottom right (193 logging a driving leg).

What gets in the way of drivers achieving their ideal commute? Is the public transportation service itself the main barrier or their home's location from transit? Both issues were equally voiced when drivers answered our question "what would make your ideal commute achievable?".

Over 20% of drivers indicate that transit's lack of frequency and on time service prevents them from relying on this commuting mode. Just under 20% state that transit is too far from home and/or work.

Verbal comments from drivers indicate that family considerations also play an important role.

Transporting a child to school on the way to work is a common reason why working professionals need to drive.

"My commute is dependent on childcare and when/where/how I need to collect my children. Some days or weeks I'm able to bike or use transit both ways, and others are more complicated and my spouse and I stash the car someplace for me to use to pick them up."

"Biking to the train or walking would be relatively easy, but driving is often my preferred choice due to convenience. I am considering getting a new bike, with a seat for my son, which would make the commute to the train easier."

Drivers are often also cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. They often choose to drive because of the lack of convenient alternatives. Politicians should keep this in mind as they work on alleviating congestion. The best way to discourage driving is affordable, flexible and frequent public transportation, in Boston's inner and outer core.

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