As part of the Massachusetts Senate’s spring 2017 Commonwealth Conversations listening tour around the state, CBI led, designed, and staffed MassMoves, a series of nine workshops to hear from citizens across the Commonwealth about their values and goals for a 21st century vision for the Commonwealth’s transportation system. These workshops, attended by more than a third of the state’s senators, generated input from more than 700 residents across the state. Key findings from these engagements were presented to the Senate in June to help inform decision-making on future transportation priorities. CBI worked in partnership with Raab Associates and Trimount Consulting to conduct this work.

Improving the Massachusetts’ transportation system is a complex and expensive challenge to take on. Surveys show that the state does not currently have the transportation infrastructure to support its economy or economic growth over the long haul. The economy of Massachusetts was recently ranked #1 among states by U.S. News and World Report, but its transportation infrastructure ranked 45th.

To determine how best to tackle these issues, CBI and its partners, in close consultation with the Senate President’s office, designed and facilitated nine highly-interactive workshops with citizens in different locations across the state, a workshop with business leaders, and an online poll. This transportation visioning series, dubbed MassMoves, was funded by the Barr Foundation, which seeks to advance new solutions for transportation and development as part of its Mobility Program.

The process posed several challenges:

  1. how to get some 30 senators to nine meetings across the state amidst very busy schedules and multiple priorities
  2. how to give voice to the values and goals of citizens outside of the Boston metropolitan area
  3. how to succinctly provide an overview of complex transportation needs and funding
  4. how to facilitate quality deliberation among senators and citizens in a brief amount of time, and
  5. how to ensure that the process produced useful, pointed feedback to inform state-wide policy.

To tackle these issues, CBI employed a number of tools. The team created an advisory committee of transportation experts across the state to provide guidance on meeting format, presentations, and process. An overview of transportation in Massachusetts was developed with the aid of former Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi, partner on this project from Trimount Consulting. CBI and partners posed key questions for small group discussion and then used keypad polling to elicit responses. For the keypad polling, the team developed and tested values, principles, and options with the advisory group to ensure that they would yield clear responses from participants. The workshops also incorporated open-ended questions, brainstorming on flip charts, and dot polling for regional considerations. And lastly, the team asked for and received more than 350 ideas for a compelling, overarching vision statement for the Commonwealth’s transportation future.

MassMoves found that participants across the Commonwealth share many of the same transportation values. These values are driven first and foremost by economic growth: connecting people to work and school, and making public transit affordable to those who need it most. Other values, from convenience to combating climate change, also garnered broad support. Across the state, even outside the MBTA service area, improving public transportation (trains and buses) was seen as a preferred approach for realizing these values. Participants also drew a direct relationship between transportation and land use, favoring development around transit hubs and where people can readily ride, walk, and bike. The specific rail and bus projects that garnered the most support varied by region, but overall the desire for a system that better connects citizens within and across regions came through loud and clear.

CBI believes that public engagement should be a critical component of the policymaking process. With MassMoves, CBI aimed to partner with the Senate to identify citizens’ shared values, goals, priorities, and general recommendations to empower legislators to consider and craft legislation that better serves their constituents. MassMoves’ key findings underscore participants’ strong desire for elected officials to prioritize improving the public transportation system statewide, with an eye towards promoting long-term economic growth and equity, even if these improvements require new revenue sources.

MassMoves workshop and survey results were publically released in September 2017. Read CBI’s executive summary here.