Senator Lesser Joins Super-Commuters on Western Mass-Boston Trip | Connecting Point | Dec. 20, 2019

Senator Lesser Joins Super-Commuters on Western Mass-Boston Trip | Connecting Point | Dec. 20, 2019


>>>WITH A GAP IN TRANSPORTATION
OPTIONS TO GET FROM WESTERN MASS TO BOSTON, SOME RESIDENTS HAVE
TAKEN MATTERS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS AND HAVE STARTED A
COMMUTER VAN. STATE SENATOR ERIC LESSER OF
LONGMEADOW EXPERIENCED THEIR COMMUTE WHEN HE JOINED THESE
SO-CALLED SUPER COMMUTERS FOR A DAY, AND HE SPOKE WITH ME
ABOUT THE DETAILS.>>TWO OF THE MEMBERS OF THIS
VAN POOL WROTE TO ME BECAUSE THEY HAD WORKED FOR OFFICES THAT
WERE IN SPRINGFIELD. THOSE OFFICES CLOSED AND
ACTUALLY MOVED THEIR POSITIONS TO BOSTON AND THEY WERE STUCK
BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO OLD MAYBE TO GET RETRAINED OR TO FIND A
DIFFERENT JOB, TOO YOUNG TO RETIRE. THERE WERE NO EQUIVALENT
POSITIONS THAT THEY COULD GET FOR THE SAME PAY. IN THE SPRINGFIELD AREA. AND, OF COURSE, THEY CAN’T JUST
PACK UP AND MOVE TO BOSTON. NUMBER 1, THEY DON’T WANT TO AND
THEY SHOULDN’T BECAUSE THEIR FAMILIES ARE HERE AND THEY’VE
GROWN UP HERE. THIS IS THEIR HOME, BUT ALSO
EVEN IF THEY WANTED TO, THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT BECAUSE THE
HOUSING IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. THE HOUSING PRICES IN EASTERN
MASS AND SO THEY WERE STUCK JOINING THIS MORNING VAN POOL
EVERY DAY, LITERALLY AT THE CRACK OF DAWN, 5:00 IN THE
MORNING. THEY GET INTO A VAN AND THEY
DRIVE EAST TO BOSTON, AND THEN THEY DRIVE BACK EVERY NIGHT ALL
TOGETHER, ALL IN. IT’S A 5:00 A.M. DEPARTURE. THEY’RE OFTEN NOT BACK UNTIL
AROUND 7:00 P.M., MAYBE EVEN 7:30 P.M. BACK TO THAT
McDONALD’S AND THEY HAVE TO JUMP IN THERE AND HEAD HOME.>>AND YOU DID IT ONE DAY WITH
THEM, BUT THEY’RE DOING IT ALL THE TIME. SO ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO YOU
SPOKE WITH WAS LAURA LEE. AT THE TIME, SHE WAS USING THE
VAN POOL AND I SPOKE WITH HER RECENTLY AND SHE SAID THAT SHE
STOPPED USING IT BECAUSE IT’S JUST TOO MUCH BACK AND FORTH. SHE’S BARELY GETTING A NIGHT’S
SLEEP. SHE’S STAYING WITH A FRIEND IN
BURLINGTON. WHEN YOU FIND OUT THAT SOMEONE
WHO COULD BE CONTRIBUTING TO THE LOCAL ECONOMY IS NOW CLOSER TO
BOSTON ALL THE TIME –>>IT’S AN OUTRAGEOUS QUITE
FRANKLY. I DID IT ONE DAY AND I WAS
EXHAUSTED AT THE END OF THE DAY. I WOKE UP AT 4:30 IN THE MORNING
TO MEET THEM AT THE VAN POOL. WE ALL DROVE IN TOGETHER. THIS IS WHAT THEY DO EVERY
SINGLE DAY AND THERE’S NO REASON FOR IT. YOU KNOW, WE NEED AN ECONOMY
THAT’S GROWING AT BOTH ENDS OF THE STATE AND WE NEED BETTER
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE THAT WILL
ACTUALLY GET PEOPLE BACK AND FORTH HAVE I TRAIN SO THEY DON’T
HAVE TO WAIT IN THIS TRAFFIC IN THESE VAN POOLS. THE REASON WHY I THINK THIS IS
SO IMPORTANT IS IT TELLS A LARGER STORY, WHICH IS OVER THE
LAST 10, 20, 30 YEARS, THERE’S BEEN A VACUUMING OF JOBS AND
OPPORTUNITY OUT OF PLACES LIKE WESTERN MASS, OUT OF THE
SPRINGFIELD AREA, AND IT’S HYPERCONCENTRATING ALL OF THOSE
JOBS AND OPPORTUNITY INTO JUST A HANDFUL OF ZIP CODES IN THE
BOSTON AREA. THAT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE OR GOOD
FOR ANYONE. IN THE BOSTON AREA IT’S LED TO
OUT OF CONTROL HOUSING PRICES, RAMPANT GENTRIFICATION. THE T. IS FALLING APART. THE TRAFFIC IS TERRIBLE, NOBODY
CAN MOVE AROUND. IN WESTERN MASS IT’S LED TO JOBS
AND OPPORTUNITY LEAVING AND AT THIS POINT, NOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE
IN WESTERN MASS FEEL LIKE THEIR KIDS AND THEIR GRANDKIDS NEED TO
LEAVE THE REGION IN ORDER TO FIND A GOOD CAN. PAYING JOB AND IN ORDER TO FIND
A GOOD LIFE FOR THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES. WE NEED TO BREAK THAT CYCLE. INFRASTRUCTURE WILL FIX THAT. HIGH-SPEED RAIL CONNECTING
SPRINGFIELD AND BOSTON WILL FIX THAT. INVESTING IN JOB CREATION IN ALL
OF OUR STUDENTS MAKING SURE THAT IT’S NOT HYPER-CONCENTRATING IN
A HANDFUL OF ZIP CODES IS GOING TO BE THE KEY.
>>AND I KNOW OUR — OUR LISTENERS KNOW WELL, TOO, THAT
YOU HAVE LONG ADVOCATED FOR THIS RAIL CONNECTOR. IT’S BEING STUDIED RIGHT NOW. IF, AND THAT’S A BIG IF IT AT
THIS POINT, IF IT’S EVEN APPROVED THAT’S YEARS IN THE
MAKING. SO WHAT DO PEOPLE DO BETWEEN NOW
AND THEN? WITH CONGESTION GETTING WORSE
AND WORSE? I MEAN, THIS VAN POOL IT TAKES
THEM TWO HOURS TO MAKE THE TRIP. IT SHOULD TAKE AN HOUR AND FIVE
MINUTES AT MOST IN TYPICAL TRAFFIC.>>AND MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE
SIGNING UP FOR THESE VAN POOLS WHICH MAKES THE TRAFFIC EVEN
WORSE. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. SO FIRST OFF WE CAN’T LET UP THE
PRESSURE ON THE VISION, WHICH IS HIGH-SPEED RAIL BETWEEN
SPRINGFIELD AND BOSTON. WE JUST CAN’T LET UP ON THAT AND
FRANKLY IF IT TAKES 10 YEARS WELL IF WE START TODAY, IT’S A
10 YEAR PROJECT. IF WE KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD
NOW IT’S A 15 OR 20 YEAR PROJECT. BUT YOU’RE RIGHT THAT WE HAVE AN
URGENT ISSUE RIGHT NOW, WHICH IS HOW DO WE CREATE JOBS AND
OPPORTUNITY IN OUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE
PIONEER VALLEY SO THAT PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO GET IN THE VAN AND
DRIVE TWO HOURS TO THE BOSTON AREA AND THEN TWO HOURS BACK
EVERY SINGLE DAY.>>BECAUSE THAT’S ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT LAURA LEE AND OTHERS IN THAT VAN POOL TOLD MASS LIVE
WAS THAT THEY WOULD LOVE TO FIND A SIMILAR JOB HERE IN WESTERN
MASSACHUSETTS, BUT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO DO IT.>>SO WE NEED TO GROW THE
ECONOMY HERE SO HOW DO WE DO THAT? WELL, WE’VE TALKED ABOUT A LOT
OF THESE THINGS TOGETHER OVER MANY SESSIONS HERE. YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE SINGLE MOST
IMPORTANT WAYS WE CAN DO THIS IS CLOSING THE WAITING LIST AT OUR
VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS. RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE GREAT
VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS ALL ACROSS WESTERN MASS. LOWER PIONEER VALLEY EDUCATION
COLLABORATIVE, PUTNAM IN SPRINGFIELD, CHICOPEE COMP, YOU
NAME IT. PATHFINDER. ALL OF THEM HAVE WAIT LISTS IN
REALLY GOOD POSITIONS IN ADVANCED MANUFACTURING, 3D
PRINTING, TOOL AND DIE MAKING. WE NEED TO CLOSE THOSE WAIT
LISTS. WE NEED TO GET MORE TEACHERS IN
THERE, MORE EQUIPMENT IN THERE. WE NEED TO DO MORE TO ATTRACT
AND GROW OUR LIFE SCIENCES INDUSTRY HERE IN WESTERN
MASSACHUSETTS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE NEW CLINICAL
TRIALS UNIT AT BAY STATE MEDICAL CENTER HAS THE POTENTIAL TO
EMPLOY HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE LOCALLY HERE IN SPRINGFIELD AND
UP AND DOWN THE PIONEER VALLEY SO WE’VE GOT TO DO TWO THINGS AT
ONCE. WE’VE GOT TO INVEST IN THE
INFRASTRUCTURE. WE’VE GOT TO GET THAT RAIL LINK
TO BOSTON SO THAT WE CAN CONNECT OURSELVES TO THAT RED-HOT
ECONOMY IN THE EASTERN PART OF THE STATE. WE ALSO NEED TO GROW AND NURTURE
THE ECONOMY HERE AND CREATE JOBS AND OPPORTUNITY HERE SO THAT
PEOPLE LIKE LAURA DON’T HAVE TO GET IN THE VAN AT 4:30 IN THE
MORNING TO GO TO BOSTON TO WORK. THEY CAN DRIVE 15 MINUTES OR
TAKE A PBTA BUS 15 MINUTES TO WORK IN SPRINGFIELD OR CHICOPEE
OR LONGMEADOW OR SHELBURNE OR ANYWHERE IN WESTERN MASS IF
WE’RE PRODUCING THOSE JOBS AND ATTRACTING THOSE PEOPLE.>>I’LL PIVOT A LITTLE BIT. YOU’VE PROPOSED AN INITIATIVE
THAT WOULD GIVE PEOPLE $10,000 TO RELOCATE TO WESTERN
MASSACHUSETTS AND TELECOMMUNICATE. VERMONT ROLLED OUT A SIMILAR
THING. THEY’RE COMING UP ON A YEAR OF
HAVING HAD IT ENACTED AND THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS SAID THERE
WERE SOME MIXED REVIEWS. THERE WERE SOME CRITICS OF IT,
BUT MAKEOVER THEY SAW 110 PEOPLE MAKE USE OF THE PROGRAM, BROUGHT
ABOUT 300 PEOPLE OVERALL TO THE STATE OF VERMONT. THE FACT THAT THE PROPOSAL HAS
BEEN A SUCCESS IN VERMONT, DO YOU THINK THAT THAT BODES WELL
FOR IT BECOMING A REALITY HERE IN MASSACHUSETTS?>>IT CERTAINLY HELPS OUR
ARGUMENT AND YEAH, YOU’RE RIGHT. THERE WERE A LOT OF NAYSAYERS, A
LOT OF SKEPTICS WHEN THE VERMONT PROGRAM WAS FIRST PROPOSED PUT
IT’S ACTUALLY SHOWN OVER THE LAST YEAR TO HAVE REAL RESULTS
AND THEY’RE ACTUALLY EXPANDING THE PROGRAM IN VERMONT BECAUSE
IT’S ATTRACTED SO MANY PEOPLE. AND I THINK IT’S WORTH POINTING
OUT AND YOU ALLUDED TO THIS IN THE STATISTICS YOU CITED. IF ONE PERSON COMES, THEY’RE
USUALLY COMING WITH A FAMILY SO IF THAT’S THREE OR FOUR, FIVE
EVEN SIX PEOPLE THAT ARE COMING BASED OFF THAT ONE POSITIN, NOW
A HOUSE IS BEING PURCHASED AM. THERE’S NEW INVESTMENT IN THE
COMMUNITY. THERE’S KIDS IN THE SCHOOL
SYSTEM. THAT’S A PERSON WHO IS SHOPPING
IN A LOCAL STORE, EATING IN A LOCAL RESTAURANT THAT WASN’T
THERE BEFORE. THERE WAS AN ESTIMATE DONE OF
JUST OUR PILOT PROGRAM, THE BILL I FILED, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN A
THREE YEAR, $1 MILLION PILOT PROGRAM TO JUST SEE IF THIS
WORKS. JUST THAT $1 MILLION PILOT
PROGRAM COULD HAVE AS MUCH AS A 10X RETURN IN TERMS OF SECONDARY
IMPACTS ON THE ECONOMY. WE HAVE A CHALLENGE HERE IN
WESTERN MASS, WHICH IS OUR YOUNG PEOPLE ARE LEAVING. YOUR YOUNG FAMILIES ARE LEAVING. WE’RE NOT ATTRACTING ENOUGH NEW
PEOPLE TO THE REGION. REMOTE WORKING IS A MAJOR TREND
THAT’S SPREADING THE WHOLE GLOBE. IF WE COULD MAKE WESTERN MASS A
CENTER FOR REMOTE WORKING WE COULD CREATE HUNDREDS, MAYBE
EVEN THOUSANDS OF REALLY HIGH-PAYING NEW JOBS VIRTUALLY
OVERNIGHT AND I POINT OUT THAT WE’RE VERY WELL SITUATED TO TAKE
ADVANTAGE OF THIS, PARTLY BECAUSE WE’RE RIGHT IN BETWEEN
TWO MAJOR TECH CENTERS, NEW YORK CITY JUST TO OUR SOUTH AND
BOSTON JUST TO OUR EAST SO YOU COULD LEVERAGE ACCESS TO THOSE
TWO MARKETS. WE’RE RIGHT IN BETWEEN THEM WITH
REMOTE WORKING. THE OTHER THING I WOULD POINT
OUT IS WE’RE A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE SO PEOPLE CAN LIVE HERE,
THEY CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE GREAT NATURAL SCENERY, THE
CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS, THE UNIVERSITIES. THEY CAN STILL GET TO THE BIG
CITIES IF THEY NEED TO. FOR BUSINESS OR FOR RECREATION. AND THEY CAN WORK REMOTELY IN
BETWEEN. IT IS A HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR US.>>ONE POTENTIAL STICKING POINT
THERE IS WE STILL DON’T HAVE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ALL OVER
WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS. THAT WOULD BE A CHALLENGE.>>IT ALL HAS TO BE WORKED
TOGETHER AS A PACKAGE SO YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. WE HAVE TOO MANY COMMUNITIES
THAT DON’T HAVE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET. WE’VE MADE IT A BIG PRIORITY IN
THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE, THE ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT BILL THAT WE DID LAST YEAR INCLUDED FUNDING FOR
THE SORT OF LAST BATCH OF COMMUNITIES THAT WE NEED TO GET
ONLINE AND IT ALSO HAS TO BE DONE IN CONJUNCTION WITH BETTER
RAIL SERVICE. AND YOU CAN BEGIN TO SEE THE
COMBINATION OF HIGH-SPEED INTERNET, HIGH-SPEED RAIL AND
REMOTE WORKING ALL WORKING IN SYNERGY WITH EACH OTHER TO
CREATE A WHOLE NEW ECOSYSTEM HERE IN WESTERN MASS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *