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Globe Puts Spotlight On Beacon Hill’s Gridlocked Car Culture

The cover of the Tuesday, November 19, 2019 Boston Globe, with the first of three stories from the “Seeing Red” Spotlight report.

The Boston Globe has debuted its latest Spotlight report, "Seeing Red," with a hard look at how state politicians are failing to deal with the region's burgeoning traffic problems.

"Massachusetts is moving in the wrong direction — barely moving at all, in fact — on efforts to reduce congestion. In the last five years in Greater Boston, 59,000 more drivers commuted alone," writes Andrew Ryan in today's opening part of a three-part series.

It's not just ordinary people who are contributing to the problem. The reporting team surveyed over a hundred local lawmakers and officials, and found that  85 percent of them habitually add to traffic jams by driving themselves or using taxpayer-funded chauffeurs, even when they have easy access to the region's transit system.

Of the 200 Beacon Hill lawmakers that the Globe reached out to for their report, only five said that they owned an active MBTA transit pass. The report points out that lawmakers on Beacon Hill free parking in some the state's most expensive and most transit-accessible real estate, at taxpayer expense.

The state's top two Democrats are called out in specific examples of how State House rules and campaign finance rules help subsidize driving. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who lives in Winthrop and could easily ride to Beacon Hill via the Blue Line, has spent more of his campaign money on driving than nearly any other lawmaker, including $22,000 on gasoline and $115,000 on lease payments over the past 13 years, the Globe reports.

DeLeo earlier this year said that his chamber would pass a “long-term strategic investment plan” for the state’s transportation systems before the end of the year; last week, DeLeo said he would put off that debate until 2020.

Senate President Karen Spilka has similarly brushed off the urgency of transportation issues in the upper house: Spilka delegated the task of coming up with potential new revenue ideas to a Senate working group earlier this year, but the recommendations from that group aren't expected to see the light of day until the new year.

Spilka lives a mile from a commuter rail station on the Worcester line, but according to the Globe, in 2019 alone, she has spent $9,500 of her campaign money to lease an Audi Q5 SUV.

Read Seeing Red: Part 1 from the Boston Globe.

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