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Advocates Push For All-Electric Commuter Rail

Members of Transit Matters introduce their plan to electrify the Commuter Rail system and add more frequency to lines.
Members of Transit Matters introduce their plan to electrify the Commuter Rail system and add more frequency to lines.
Mike Deehan

A new report recommends that the state move away from the rush-hour and diesel engine Commuter Rail system and embrace more frequent electric trains on the aging system.

The advocacy group TransitMatters estimates it will cost taxpayers as much as $9 billion to convert the Commuter Rail to electric trains and build a tunnel to link North and South Stations.
 
"The old idea of only accommodating rush hour commuters using a highly inefficient, inaccessible and dirty equipment that harms our environment must give way to the future," said TransitMatters' Marc Ebuña.
 
The group said using electricity will be cleaner, cheaper and allow for more frequent service outside of rush hour to accommodate a modern workforce.
 
"It's a new business model that calls for strategic and systemic investment in our rail network to improve frequency and access," Ebuña said.
 
The group says an all-electric system would allow trains to run every 30 minutes in the suburbs and more frequently in urban areas.
 
The commuter rail system already connects 75 percent of the state’s population with major job centers.
 
The plan to revamp the Commuter Rail came the same day a new poll showed Massachusetts voters heavily favor investing in public transportation projects.

Seventy-three percent of Massachusetts voters say the top priority for state government should be improving highways, roads and bridges, according to a poll on released Tuesday on how voters feel about transportation.

The poll also found big support - 78 percent - for expanding the Commuter Rail to outlying cities like Springfield, Fall River and New Bedford.

And 81 percent say they support the state raising new money to invest in transportation projects, though the poll didn't specify if that meant raising taxes.

Just under under half of Massachusetts registered voters said they think the MBTA is good enough to keep the economy moving, while  35 percent say it's holding back economic growth.

Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents listed improving public education as a major priority, while 64 percent said public transportation. 

Only fourteen percent think it's easier to get around their area than it was five years ago. Forty-six say it's about the same and 38 percent think it's now harder to move around.

As for commutes, only six percent say their commute is more than one hour, while twenty-one percent commute from a half hour to an hour. A lucky 41 percent say they have commutes under 30 minutes.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents say that'd support banning cellphones while driving unless they're in 'hands-free mode."

The poll from the MassINC Polling Group surveyed 709 registered voters and was sponsored by the Barr Foundation.

This story has been updated.

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