By Bob Weiss, All Things Travel

BOSTON (CBS) – Barcelona and the Catalonia region of Spain came to Northeastern University to give Boston a lesson on how to invest in regional transportation.

The morning conference on June 20th was sponsored by The World Class Cities Partnership along with The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.

Speakers from several areas of Spanish transportation discussed transportation improvements that have taken place in the last two decades, while admitting that financial problems facing the country made public-private partnerships a priority going forward.

There were two panel discussions. “The Catalan Model of Infrastructure” was moderated by Mayor Curtatone of Somerville. “Organizing And Financing of Public Transportation Infrastructure” was moderated by Richard Davey, Secretary of The Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Both in high-speed rail and regional transportation, European cities continue to make major improvements in transportation compared to this country.

The key word in the planning process in Catalonia is mobility, as it relates to the community and building of economic growth.

The key question that came up in discussion after the panel presentations was why projects that cost billions in this country cost hundreds of millions in Spain. The answer would seem to be that Europe uses more design-build teams that speed things up and remove layers of approvals of construction.

One panel member outlined the growth of the Port of Barcelona that is also the number one cruise port in Europe. It has eight terminals compared to one in Boston. Barcelona expects to handle about 2.6 million cruise passengers this year compared to about a record number in Boston of over 300,000 this season.

About 500,000 people come from the U.S. to board ships in Barcelona with about 55 percent of the total arrivals landing at the city’s airport which has connecting free bus transfers to their ships. In the case of Delta Air Lines, people leaving JFK Airport in New York for the non-stop flight, will next see their luggage in their room on board.

Another feature of Spanish transportation is the high speed rail trip between Madrid and Barcelona that takes 2 hours and 28 minutes. If the train is more than five minutes late, the trip is free.

Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

One of the features of the Catalan regional rail and subway ridership is zone pricing for local residents. Customers pay different fares depending on their destination.

Asked if such a system might be coming to the MBTA, Secretary Davey told this reporter that he doubted it. He indicated that a more reasonable solution to increased costs would be a better fare structure with other Massachusetts transit authorities.

In the Catalonia region, passengers pay about 50 percent of the total cost of ridership. In Boston, that figure is 30 percent.

“All Things Travel” reports can be heard on WBZ News Radio 1030


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