SASS letter to the Joint Committee on Transportation about bills S.2208 / H.3398

SASS letter to the Joint Committee on Transportation about bills S.2208 / H.3398

Chairs Brendan Crighton and William Straus
Vice Chairs Paul Mark and Brian Murray
Joint Committee on Transportation
24 Beacon Street, Rooms 109-C & 134
Boston, MA 02133

October 3, 2023

Dear Chairs Crighton and Straus, Vice Chairs Mark and Murray, and members of the Committee,

We are writing to ask you to report out favorably on bills S.2208 / H.3398 that are before the Joint Committee on Transportation, while incorporating modifications as recommended below. Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets (SASS) is an organization of over 900 residents working toward safe streets and equitable mobility in the City of Somerville. Like many communities across the Commonwealth, Somerville is facing persistent traffic violence against vulnerable road users, with seven fatalities across the city in just under four years. Somerville also supports the greenhouse gas reduction mandates of the Green Communities Act of 2008 and has a Somerville Climate Forward plan that identifies transportation electrification and mode shift as two key strategies to meeting these goals.

In Somerville, as elsewhere, the worst impacts of both traffic violence and climate change are falling on our environmental justice communities, which are also suffering from air and noise pollution from abutting highways and dangerous cut-through roads as well as from transit cut-backs and underinvestment.

Large, heavy, fossil-fuel powered vehicles are the primary culprits of these negative impacts. From well-documented deadly visibility shortcomings to human-killing strike zones from high hoods, to abysmal efficiencies, these vehicles are killing our neighbors and destroying our climate. In addition, large, heavy vehicles destroy pavement, stressing our municipal budget for road repair. Like many of the Commonwealth’s oldest cities, Somerville has many narrow residential streets, with limited space in the public way for all modes of mobility. These large vehicles reduce already limited street parking, and frustrate our city’s efforts to create safer infrastructure – like parking-protected bicycle lanes.

As analysis by the Green Energy Consumers’ Alliance demonstrates, vehicles that cost over $60,000 are mostly SUVs and large pickup trucks – exactly the large, heavy vehicles that are causing disproportionate damage in Somerville and elsewhere.

SASS is supportive of S.2208 / H.3398. We respectfully ask the Committee to consider a few opportunities to strengthen this bill:

  • Given the proliferation of dangerously large electric vehicles such as Hummers and pickup trucks, we recommend that a weight-based registration fee formula apply to ALL motor vehicles, with a 1,000 pound or other reasonable exemption for battery weight on plug-in and hybrid models, as has been successfully implemented in Washington DC.
  • In addition to weight, consider setting fees based on other factors of motor vehicle design that impact the safety of vulnerable road users:
    • The pedestrian safety rating pending rulemaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or in the absence of such rating, a combination of bumper height and leading edge hood height.
    • The direct vision or outward visibility of child pedestrians to a the vehicle operator.
    • The overall vehicle height and its footprint (both related to visual obstruction of people in crosswalks to other drivers and to safely navigating historic town/city streets)
  • Allocate at least 50 percent of the revenue raised by the fees levied as a result of this bill towards public transportation, bike/walk paths, bike/micro-mobility lanes, sidewalks, and accessibility improvements to help shift trips to inherently safer, non-driving modes statewide, while supporting the mode shift that is critical to meeting the Commonwealth’s statutory greenhouse gas targets.

We urge you to report out favorably on S.2208 / H.3398, with the above modifications.

Thank you,

The SASS Steering Committee

Chris Dwan, Ivaloo Street
Stephanie Galaitsi, Morrison Ave
Joan Liu, Florence Street
Karen Molloy, Highland Avenue
Arah Schuur, Walker Street
Susann Wilkinson, Orchard Street
Larry Yu, Herbert Street
Alex Epstein, Windsor Road
Mark Neidergang, Conwell Street
Roman Zadov
Ellin Reisner, Mt Vernon Street
Alex Frieden, lake street
Cynthia Stillinger
Edward Faulkner
Adrienne Agarwal, Hall Street
Cole Springate

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