Entries by Matt Blackbourn

Is it time to expand water transportation in Greater Boston?

A comprehensive study of the MBTA ferry service’s performance as a transit mode and how it compares to other ferry operators nationwide offers useful insights for policy discussion on future water transportation in Massachusetts Bay, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Regulatory reform of the taxi industry is long overdue

If the events of the last several months are any indication, Uber’s future is not as certain as public sentiment might have suggested a year ago. But even though the company has taken hits on a number of fronts, Uber and other transportation network companies (TNCs) will continue to have the upper hand in the ride-for-hire market unless a number of restrictions on taxis are eliminated. 2017 has been a year of endless public relations nightmares for Uber. Beyond scandals and hits to the firm’s image, trouble has also been brewing on the financial front. The ride-hailing company has been hemorrhaging money in its battle with competitors to be consumers’ top TNC option. In 2016 the transportation giant incurred annual […]

The Changing Face of Retirement: The mature workforce and keeping older adults engaged

For many older Americans, the concept of retirement has a different meaning in 2017 relative to thirty, twenty, or even just ten years ago. The traditional notion of retirement at age 65 is becoming a thing of the past—and a growing number of older adults are opting to stay in the workforce into their late 60s and beyond. While the implications of a greying America are cause for concern in some areas, there are many reasons to see this population as an asset to the knowledge economy and a unique opportunity to generate significant value for communities nationwide. Population data show seismic shifts in the demographic character of the workforce over the last three decades, and reflect a changing reality […]

Ensuring a secure financial future for older adults

Every day, 10,000 Americans turn age 65. Adults over this age now make up more than 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau – by 2029, this number will surpass 20 percent. Our 2017 Better Government Competition is focused on ensuring a better future for older Americans – and some of the most valuable ideas in this discussion will concern the retirement security implications of this demographic shift. The fiscal reality today is that most Americans do not have adequate savings to live comfortably in retirement. Equally troubling, many retirement systems are woefully underfunded and unsustainable in their funding practices. Public pension systems are in particularly rough shape. Research from JPMorgan Chase, published last spring, found […]

Fixing the MBTA Retirement Fund: Reforming a Pension Fund in Crisis

This report examines the MBTA Retirement Fund’s unfunded liability and compares MBTA and state employee and employer retirement contributions. It recommends that the MBTA assess the feasibility of moving its employees out of the Social Security system and transfer investment management responsibility for its pension fund to the commonwealth’s Pension Reserves Investment Management board as initial steps toward terminating the MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF).

Key takeaways from new ride-for-hire legislation

There is, fortunately, no major cause for concern in the bill produced by the state lawmakers that labored through the closing hours of the legislative session this past Sunday. They succeeded in finalizing a balanced piece of legislation to regulate transportation network companies (TNCs). With approval and signing from Governor Baker, Bill H.4570 will become law. Offering arguably the most comprehensive regulatory framework for TNCs among all states nationwide, the bill lays out a number of provisions that would help to ensure innovative companies like Uber, Lyft and Fasten can continue to operate in the Commonwealth without overly burdensome restrictions. Importantly, the legislation would also establish a ride-for-hire task force to review current regulations governing taxis, livery service providers and TNCs, with […]

Inconsistencies in UMass’ Reporting of Deferred Maintenance

In assembling the data for Pioneer’s UMass at a Crossroads series, which covers the improving academic profile of UMass students, the strategy of recruiting more out-of-state and international students to generate additional revenue, and the fiscal implications of UMass’ ambitious capital expansion, Pioneer identified inconsistencies in UMass’ reporting of deferred maintenance. Below is a brief overview of the disparate deferred maintenance numbers UMass has provided over the last several years, accompanied by discussion of the implications of these inconsistencies. (Note: endnotes/citations can be found in the papers, available here.) Disparities in UMass’ reporting of deferred maintenance Deferred maintenance refers to the postponement of maintenance of capital assets that are in need of replacement or renewal. It includes delayed repairs on […]

UMass At A Crossroads

This paper is the first in Pioneer Institute’s UMass at a Crossroads series. In this study, Pioneer focuses on UMass’ significant growth in two areas, academic competitiveness and student enrollment, compared to other New England state universities, MA private universities, national private universities and national public universities. Pioneer raises the question of whether the continued expansion of UMass, based largely on increased enrollment of out-of-state students, is in the best interest of the commonwealth.

Important Considerations for Regulating Ridesharing in Massachusetts

Legislation recently approved by the Massachusetts House to create a new Ride for Hire Division within the state Department of Public Utilities to regulate Transportation Network Companies like Uber, Lyft and Fasten includes a number of fair and sensible protections for TNC customers, but goes too far to protect the outdated system of taxi medallions controlled by government regulators.

Key considerations for regulating ridesharing in Massachusetts

Earlier this month, the most recent piece of legislation to come out of the Massachusetts House of Representatives concerning the regulation of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), H.4064[1], was referred to the Senate committee on Ways and Means for review. The legislature’s final decision will determine what service limits companies like Uber, Lyft and Fasten will face in the Commonwealth going forward. The bill delineates a number of significant proposals. One of its core provisions, if passed, would establish within the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) a new ‘Ride for Hire Division’ —this entity would be charged with governing ridesharing firms, overseeing the issuance of removable decals and ensuring TNCs’ compliance with regulatory requirements.  The division would be funded through fees […]

What Will U.S. Households Pay for Health Care in the Future

This white paper reports that health care costs for a U.S. family of average income (including family insurance premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs including co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles) could increase from $8,583 annually to $13,213 by 2025, but up to as high as $18,251 in the same year. In terms of proportion of earnings, this would be equivalent to 20 percent and 27 percent of household income by 2025, respectively.

Driving Critical Reforms at DCF: Ideas for a Direction Forward in Massachusetts’ Child and Family Services

This report dissects other studies and their recommendations, with additional suggestions for a direction forward for DCF in the context of a broader discussion of the agency’s recent history and issues with mission ambiguity. The first and most important recommendation is to overhaul the current two-tiered child intake system, which should be the central focus of any changes at the agency.

An Uncertain Future for Ridesharing Services in Massachusetts

Three bills currently pending in the Massachusetts Legislature would create a regulatory structure for TNCs; two attempt to address customer safety concerns without imposing burdensome regulations, but a third bill includes at least one poison pill. A new Pioneer Policy Brief argues that rather than apply rules that have led to higher costs and lower quality in the taxi industry, Massachusetts should strive to balance adequate customer protections with maintaining the ability of transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft to do business in the commonwealth.

An Uncertain Future for Ridesharing Services in Massachusetts

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved a new policy that will allow ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate at LAX—the second busiest airport in the United States, and fifth busiest in the world. Mark it a huge loss for the Los Angeles taxi industry and another victory for the ride-hailing firms that continue their fight for existence in lawmaking bodies and courtrooms across the country. Massachusetts is no exception: the battle over Uber and Lyft’s future in the Bay State has arrived on Beacon Hill, and the fate of three bills (listed below) will largely determine these companies’ future in the Commonwealth. Bill H.3351 – An Act Establishing Department of Public Utilities Oversight of Transportation Network […]

A Promising New Direction for Justice Reform in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is not notorious for overflowing prisons; nor is it a state where residents tune into the evening news to see police at war with frustrated locals amidst clouds of tear gas and burning vehicles. The Commonwealth might not fit the paradigm of most states that are the focus of national criminal justice reform today. However, we still have an enormous way to go to better manage our corrections system and improve the channels through which offenders re-enter our communities. Yesterday, Massachusetts’ elected leadership confirmed they are working together towards this change with their public announcement of support for bringing the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to the Bay State. Both the Governor’s office and leadership in both chambers of the legislature […]

What Court Documents Show About Compensation at the MBTA vs. Peer Communities

Introduction As the Baker Administration works with the state legislature to determine the future course of the MBTA, a critical component of this deliberative process should be revisiting and interpreting the long-standing, often contentious history of interest arbitration between the MBTA and its public employee unions.  The Boston Carmen’s Union, ATU Local 589, is the largest of the MBTA’s 28 bargaining units, representing roughly 3,500 employees over a range of 45 distinct job classifications—or approximately 55 percent of the MBTA labor force.  The outcome of the MBTA’s negotiations with Local 589 typically sets a ‘pattern’ that the other MBTA unions follow.  This method is not based on statute or in collective bargaining agreements, but is a practice that has emerged […]

Post-Olympic Real Estate Implications of the Boston 2024 Proposal

Two weeks ago, a series of documents published by a number of sources, including the Boston Business Journal, Boston Magazine and the New York Times, revealed development plans for the Boston Olympics that give the public greater information and raise new questions about the effort to bring Boston the 2024 Olympics. Of great interest to Pioneer, the “bid book” disclosed some of the post-Olympic real estate implications of bringing the games to Boston.  What it made clear to us is that there is much more to the proposal than the Olympics—it’s also about post-Olympics real estate development rights. The Boston 2024 Olympics plan includes an expansive post-Olympics private real estate development proposal for the Olympics site, facilitated by a combination […]

Uber Against the World

Of all the ridesharing services under the public microscope today, there is no doubt that Uber is the loudest start-up in the petri dish. With a tenacious leader in Travis Kalanick, who has been no stranger to controversy during his company’s rise to popularity, Uber is on the cutting edge of a much larger movement: a generational change in perspective regarding the relationship between producer and consumer. AirBnB, TaskRabbit and “ridesharing services” similar to Uber, like Lyft, Hailo and Sidecar, are all shaking up their respective marketplaces, and the paradigm shift has sent shockwaves throughout industries ill-prepared for the revolution. Leading the charge in this rise of the “sharing economy”, Uber grows larger by the day. Of course, so does […]

An anniversary you may have missed

With the acrimonious standoff in Congress bringing about the first federal government shutdown in seventeen years, one can’t help but feel deep frustration and disappointment with our elected officials. At the beginning of a new fiscal year, we aim to look forward with optimism and faith in the direction of our government. Instead, we find ourselves observing playground bickering and refusal to compromise on critical issues—a bitter tug-of-war that puts a damper on any hopes of progress. Unfortunately, this soap opera of unwavering partisanship in Washington overshadows the first anniversary of something very much worth celebrating: the launch of the online government transparency tool, FOIAonline. A year after its initial launch, FOIAonline remains a dynamic concept that sets a great […]