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Signs of Growth in Several Gateway Cities

It’s safe to say that Boston is the economic hub of Massachusetts and will be for the foreseeable future. However, a number of cities have the potential to boost the Commonwealth’s economy in the long-run. These communities, known as “gateway cities”, were once home to booming industries that have since left; but what these industries left behind can become the foundations for another wave of economic development. Gateway cities have struggled both economically and socially over the past several decades. In fact, two characteristics that originally defined these cities were rates of educational attainment and median household incomes below the state average. While these issues persist, some communities are showing notable signs of growth, the first of which is rising […]

MassAnalysis: What are the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita?

Massachusetts municipalities generate the bulk of their revenue from local taxes, primarily property taxes. Tax revenue is spent on a variety of community needs including: Education Road and bridge construction Public safety Sewers and water In 2016, the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita had all been within the top 20 towns since 2000, according to MassAnalysis.  The towns with the highest local taxes per capita remained steady over the previous 16 years. All had less than a 20 percent increase. The amount of revenue local municipalities have to generate largely depends on how much state aid they receive. Overall, the ten towns with the highest local income taxes per capita receive very little state aid. These […]

MBTA Struggles with Commuter Rail Ridership Count

Accurate ridership calculations are critical for public transportation planning as they are a key factor in prioritizing projects. MBTA ridership statistics help determine the optimal allocation of capital among lines and trains as well as projecting capacity requirements for station platforms, waiting areas, and parking facilities.  Further, ridership patterns on existing lines can be used to predict probable patterns on proposed service extensions. The commuter rail falls far short in obtaining sufficient ridership data needed for highly calibrated project planning. Unlike subway and bus services that are operated directly by the MBTA, the commuter rail system lacks the faregates or fareboxes that, under ideal circumstances, can count passengers. The conductors on each commuter rail train must collect fares and inspect […]

MBTA’s Bus Program Driving in the Wrong Direction

According to Pioneer Institute’s, the MBTA’s bus program has the second largest ridership of all MBTA modes of transportation trailing only the heavy rail system. However, in recent years ridership has begun to decline while operating expenses have risen.  From 2015 to 2017 unlinked passenger bus trips decreased by 13.3%. This was a significant shift as ridership had increased by 22.1% from 2009 to 2015. Further, total operating expenses continued to increase despite the falling ridership. Since 2015, when ridership began to decrease significantly, bus operating expenses increased by 7.1%. The expenses show no signs of slowing, as they grew by 46.4% between 2007 and 2017, increasing every year in that span. This rise led to the total operating […]

How Do Massachusetts’s State Pensions Compare with Their Peers?

For those who have kept up with Pioneer’s work on pensions, it’s clear that Massachusetts’s public retirement systems are troubled. However, readers still may wonder how these systems compare to those in other states.  Unfortunately, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the Commonwealth’s state-run pensions are underperforming relative to other states. This is especially concerning given that, as a whole, public pension systems nationwide are considerably underfunded. Using data from 2017 — “the most recent year for which comprehensive data were available for all 50 states” — the report found that the average funded ratio of state-run pensions was 69.1%. At just 59.9% in 2017, the funded ratio of Massachusetts was almost 10 percentage points below the […]