Last week, canvassing in East Boston for a City Council candidate, I had a lengthy informative conversation with Chris Marchi, as well-knowing a transportation activist as any I know of. From that discussion, which focused on MassPort traffic, but soon expanded to the impact of major housing creation on our local transporting systems, I drew conclusions whence arises the column I am now writing.

The problem : Logan Airport’s location directly abutting East Boston has brought an ever-increasing surge of vehicle traffic onto all the access roads that surround and pass directly through a neighborhood which is home to at least 45,000 people. Although the Covid pandemic shut down most of this traffic for over a year, it is sure to return now that the local State of Emergency is set to end on June 15th. Marchi predicts that post-Covid traffic to and from Logan will increase well beyond the highest pre-Covid numbers. Add to that the traffic consequences of the 10,000 housing-unit Suffolk Downs project,, and there is simply no place for so much vehicle traffic to traverse.

Discussion : Perhaps Logan airport should not have expanded as much as it has. Perhaps a second Boston airport should have been constructed, elsewhere. Other big cities are served by two airports or more; why not Boston ? It was oft5en discussed some decades ag but nothing transpired. Instead, Logan Airport took over the entire Wood Island section of East Boston and encroached upon Jeffries Point right up to its ocean side. There is, however, no more land that Logan can take. Its danger to East Boston no longer arises from land seizures but from traffic overwhelming every neighborhood street.

The Logan plan : Logan has put together an expansion proposal which, so argues Marchi, vehicle trips to and from the airport will total maybe 100 million per year. If that number is reached — the highest figure pre-Covid was 75 million, says Marchi — streets to and from Logan, all access roads, and many neighborhood roads, will be jammed up all day long and well into the night hours.

An advisory committee, many of whose members I know, all of them dedicated East Boston activists, has met with Logan planners and, according to a member of the advisory group, had all of its concerns satisfied. Marchi, however, argues that the expansion plan will enable traffic volumes well beyond what the advisory committee has considered.

If Marchi is correct, what now can be done ? He says that it’s a matter for State government, that local mitigation efforts no longer suffice; that the State’s Transportation administration (MassDOT) must tackle the matter fundamentally. This includes increasing traffic capacity on access roads; limiting the number of one-occupant vehicle trips to and from Logan; and making use of auxiliary airports such as T F Green in Rhode Island to handle the anticipated air flight surges.

Of these suggestions, all of which ought be approved in order for any of them to work, I would advise the following :

( 1 ) divert short-trip flights to T F Green and to Manchester Airport, via shuttle service, if need be, reserving Logan for long distance flights (greater than 500 miles)

( 2 ) connect Logan access roads directly to Route One north and even to Interstate 93 in order to relieve the traffic pressure oi Burbank and McLellan Highways.

( 3 ) limit one-occupant vehicle trips to and from Logan to persons intending top park on site at Logan. Pick-ups and drop-offs to be done at one central location on the main Logan access road hard by the Airport MBTA terminal, those being dropped off or picked up using a shuttle to go to or from an airport terminal.

The second item on my list is going to happen anyway once the 10,000 Suffolk Downs housing units are fully occupied some ten years from now. Suffolk’s planners have already discussed with MassDOT improvements it intends to make to McLellan and Burbank Highways, including moving and reshaping the lanes. Might as well ad just these renovations to my airport traffic proposal.

Conclusion : some have suggested State action top discourage the use of private vehicles for its own sake. I oppose this move., The private vehicle is a significant advantage to personal freedom. Being able to move where one likes, when one likes, is crucial to the liberty we idealize as Americans. Better by far to be held up in traffic as a free man than to speed one’s way somewhere under the control thumb of public transport. That said, my suggestion uses only private vehicles as far as they can rationally go : to the gateway of an airport, even if not, in most cases, into it. The airport gateway is all that a free person need destine himself to. Inside that gate, you’re the airport’s guest and can freely accommodate yourself to being hosted.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Caitlyn Jenner

FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo Caitlyn Jenner, a well-known transgender person, speaks at the 4th Women’s March in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Our political parties have made the transgender condition a political issue. This is wrong. No private attribute of any person should ever be a political matter. Every person is the owner of his or her condition. It is nobody’s business except that person’s.

The condition of transgender has also become a social issue. This is understandable. As with almost every condition arising from human nature, it is a mystery; and mysteries intrigue us all and set us pondering. I say ‘a mystery” because no one really knows what the human condition is or is supposed to be. We may think we know, but we don’t.

Nonetheless, some observations about transgender seem to make sense.

First, it exists in every human community and is therefore not a cultural construct.

Second, it seems linked only tangentially, if at all, to sexual biology. People who have the transgender condition find their biology at odds with who they are. Nor is one’s biology any indication of sexual attraction. People of all conditions may be attracted to those of the same biology, or opposite, or both. Transgender people are no different in that regard.

If we have learned anything about sex and gender conditions these past 50 years — and I think we have learned much — it is that how these three attributes play out is a mystery and entirely personal and thus not to be interfered with by any other person.

Now comes the politics. Let me dispose of them forthwith:

Some on the political right want to deny that the transgender condition is anything other than a delusion or a quirk of the mind. My own experience belies this view. One realizes that one is transgender long before any thought about it arises. it is simply something that one knows. The doubter may say, “but that knowing is an illusion,” yet is it ? Perception is a physical attribute; transgender is of the whole being. the concept of “soul” enters here. We do not know what the soul is, but we do know that human life is more than mere biology or cellular physics. What that may be, we do not know, yet we know it is there. A mystery ? No less so than the precepts of any religion are a mystery — as they have always been.

The dispute here is simply a difference of opinion about what life’s mystery is. If we respect one person’s idea of life mystery, we should respect another’s.

Some on the political left want to force the transgender condition into legal clothes. This too is a mistake. No more than the mythical Procrustes could force his guests into one bed by stretching them or shrinking them, can we jam the legs of transgender into a legal bed.

One such bed is the matter of pronouns. Transgender people have become accustomed to adopting their gender pronoun rather than their biology pronoun. That is ok; I see no reason why gender should not replace biology as a seedbed of one’s pronoun. Difficulty begins when people start substituting neutral terms for gender nouns. Of late some on the far left have come up with “birthing person” in place of “woman” in order to include transgender women as women. There is no basis at all for doing this. there are plenty of biological women who cannot give birth. The noun “woman” suffices for all.

I also se no reason why transgender people have any right to force everyone else to accept a transgender person’s definition of the condition. First, there are too many views, among transgenders, of what this condition is. How else do we see some people calling themselves “they” — a plural pronoun — or “genderfluid” ? These are clearly attempts to search — for what probably cannot be found.

Second, as it is a mystery, it should be enough for the society at large to view transgender as a mystery : a question with no good answer. Or, as Queen Elizabeth I once told an inquiring parliament, I give you an “answer answerless.”

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere