The Works

Crowdfunding Campaign Aims to Raise $30 Billion to Fix Boston Transit

Plus plans for Europe’s first major monorail system and more in our weekly New Starts.

An Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Orange Line train (Photo by Pi.1415926535)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Brother, could you spare a buck for Boston transit?

Janssen McCormick of the city’s Charlestown section hopes you can, and that there are at least 299,999,999 more like you out there.

Actually, he hopes that there are 29,999,999,999 more like you out there, but $300 million is all GoFundMe will let him raise to bring the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority back up to snuff.

Decades of deferred maintenance and $9 billion in debt have brought the “T” nearly to its knees, and the recent snowstorms that have pummeled New England finished the job, all but shutting down the regional transit system and exacerbating the chaos on Boston-area highways.

Since it appears the Commonwealth of Massachusetts won’t be able to come up with even a fraction of the system’s $3 billion maintenance backlog, let alone the $30 billion the MBTA needs to bring the aging system into the 21st century with rebuilt facilities and new equipment, McCormick has taken the initiative to try the crowdfunding option.

BostInno, in its ongoing coverage of the “Modernize Boston’s Transit” campaign on GoFundMe, notes that “If Everyone in The World Donated $4, The T Would Be ‘Modernized.”” That’s not likely to happen, but it won’t be for lack of trying. McCormick makes a strong case for chipping in with his pitch: “The MBTA is outmoded, unsafe and incapable of withstanding the rigors of New England winters,” he wrote, and the state dithered back when the problems might have been more manageable. (Digging out from under the Big Dig debacle didn’t help things any either.)

“So here’s where you come in. If the Internet can help one working class guy in Detroit who struggles every day to get to work, surely we can help the hundreds of thousands of working class people in Boston who rely on the decrepit MBTA to get them to work, school, doctor’s appointments or the grocery store.”

McCormick sweetens the deal in his tongue-only-partly-in-cheek campaign with attractive incentives, ranging from “the right to forcibly remove backpacks from passengers” and toss them onto the tracks at rush hour for a $200 contribution to “your own state-funded Legoland with an Orange Line station” for $130 million. Pony up the whole $30 billion, he says, and you get “a transit system barely adequate for the needs of a 21st-century global city.”

McCormick has expressed surprise at the attention his crowdfund-the-T proposal has gotten in online media. Many of the comments he has received come from people asking where the money will really go. He assures GoFundMe visitors that if the campaign raises the full $300 million limit, the money will go to buy new rail cars for the MBTA from Bombardier, adding a job-creation angle to the campaign. If it doesn’t, the money will go to “an organization working on the issues this GoFundMe makes light of.”

Fifty donors have contributed $1,090 in the five days since the launch. That’s not a lot, but just remember that Chinese saying about the journey of a thousand miles.

Istanbul to Add Monorails to Transit Mix
“You can’t build your way out of congestion” is a phrase critics of rampant freeway-building have used for years. It appears it may be true even when it comes to other transport modes in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

The city already has virtually every mode of public transport known to man — the world’s second-oldest subway tunnel, a more modern metro system, suburban trains, trams, local buses, a busway, ferries, funiculars, cable cars, water taxis and vanpools — and still it has just about the worst traffic congestion of any city in Europe.

But that isn’t stopping city officials from trying to do something about it. The latest effort, according to a report in the Railly News, is adding a 47-km monorail system to the city’s mix of transit modes. The system, which will consist of eight lines connecting various Istanbul neighborhoods, will be the first major monorail system in Europe when it is completed.

Some in Istanbul expressed skepticism about the monorail’s ability to put a dent in Istanbul’s crippling traffic congestion, which can turn a 15-minute trip into a nearly two-hour one at peak periods. Akif Burak Atlar, head of the city’s Chamber of Urban Planners, told the Railly News, “You need a general plan. Not just connecting two hills with a cable car, or connecting two provinces with a monorail.” (City officials have also expressed interest in building two cable car lines across the Bosporus Strait, which separates the city’s European and Asian sides.)

The key to solving the traffic problem, he said, is getting more people to use the services already in place: “When you look at the railway use in Istanbul and compare it with Tokyo, New York, Paris, London, Berlin — it’s not more than 15 percent. In Tokyo it’s more than 95 percent. More integrated, more comfortable and cheaper public transport will solve the traffic problem.” Atlar said he is not opposed to the monorail proposal but does object to the cable cars; he also said Istanbul should continue to expand its metro system — and the city also has plans to do that: According to the report, the city plans to add another 600 km to its existing 150-km metro network over the next five years.

Beijing MTR to Build City’s Metro Line 16
The International Railway Journal reports that the Chinese capital is on the fast track to add a 19th line to its 527-km metro system, the world’s busiest and second-largest subway network.

Beijing MTR Corporation Limited signed a concession agreement with the Beijing municipal government Feb. 8th to construct Line 16, a 50-km line extending across three districts of the city and providing interchange with other lines at 13 of its 29 stations.

The 49.5-billion-yuan ($9.7 billion U.S.) line will be built via a public-private partnership involving Beijing MTR, which will handle the power supply system, mechanical systems, and rolling stock, and Beijing Infrastructure Investment Corporation Limited, which will build the physical plant. Beijing Infrastructure Investment Corporation is also one of the three shareholders of Beijing MTR; the other two are Beijing Capital Group Limited and MTR Corporation.

Line 16 will be the fourth Beijing metro line operated by Beijing MTR. The company currently runs Line 4, Line 14 and the Daxing Line of the city’s metro system.

The first phase of the line is scheduled to open by the end of 2016, with the remainder going into service after 2017.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Tweet @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: bostoncommutingcrowdfundingbeijingistanbul

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