COMMONWEALTH’S MOST POPULAR Codcast of 2021 was recorded in 2018.
The interview was with Fred Salvucci, the former secretary of transportation, who made the bold statement that the proposed West Station commuter rail stop was needed then to deal with existing congestion on the Massachusetts Turnpike and in Kenmore Square — not future congestion caused by Harvard University’s creation of a new neighborhood in Allston.
West Station is no closer to actual construction 3½ years later, but the debate about when it should be built has quieted. In 2018, the Baker administration insisted there wouldn’t be enough riders to justify the station until 2040 at the earliest — after Harvard’s plans for the area are fleshed out more.
Salvucci and other transportation advocates disagreed. “The demand is there. It’s not a theoretical thing. You can count the building permits,” he said on The Codcast. “Those commuters are coming and there’s no space for them on the Turnpike.”
The debate has subsided amid the COVID-induced downturn in traffic and the preoccupation in recent years with another key element of the I-90 Allston project — how to replace a deteriorating elevated section of the Turnpike near Boston University. That issue is now seemingly resolved, which may explain why Salvucci’s 2018 interview continues to attract listeners in 2021.
The wide-ranging interview with Salvucci also contains his tips on how to improve Silver Line service in the Seaport (he favored a tunnel under D Street, which hasn’t been embraced), opposed congestion pricing (which hasn’t gained traction), and said he will never take an Uber or Lyft because the companies don’t provide health care to their drivers and the apps pull passengers away from public transit.
The Salvucci Codcast had the most plays in 2021, according to CommonWealth’s podcast carrier, SoundCloud. Here, in reverse order, are the top 10 Codcasts of 2021 along with links to the audio files and the stories we wrote about them.
- “Mass Reboot Episode 2: Home” July 1, 2021
Our friends at the MassINC Polling Group produced a series of eight podcasts called Mass Reboot that looked at the impact of COVID when we thought we were emerging from under its cloud. The second episode of that series, dealing with the home, came in tenth in popularity. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.
- “Mass Reboot Episode 8: Government” August 20, 2021
- “Danielle Allen: A scholar eyeing a run for governor with a firm grounding outside the ivory tower” April 26, 2021
As a scholar of Athenian democracy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen said her academic background would be a plus in a modern-day political campaign. “I’ve always been a practitioner of democracy first, and I’ve been a scholar of democracy to support my work as a practitioner of democracy,” she said on The Codcast prior to formally announcing her candidacy. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Michael Jonas.
- “For Ben Downing, politics are personal” February 22, 2021
Ben Downing ran for a state Senate seat at the age of 24 and took office when he was 25. After 10 years in the Legislature and a stint working for clean energy firms, he became the first candidate to formally seek the Democratic nomination for governor. He also became the first to drop out, announcing this morning that he is ending his campaign. In the February conversation, he said his yearning for office could be traced at least partially to the deaths of his father and his brother, events that made him appreciate the support of his community and a desire to give back. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Michael Jonas.
- “Sneak peak of this year’s transportation debate” March 8, 2021
The two chairs of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee debate eliminating fares at the MBTA, an issue that has gained significant attention with the election of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Joseph Boncore, who at the time was a state senator from Winthrop, called for a major paradigm shift in transportation, while Rep. William Straus of Mattapoisett questioned whether that shift came with too high a price tag. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.
- “Baker under fire on climate bill” January 19, 2021
Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature’s climate change bill, prompting a strong reaction from Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington and Bradley Campbell, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Barrett questioned where the governor came up with his estimate that the Senate’s emission reduction target for 2030 would unnecessarily cost Massachusetts residents an extra $6 billion. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.
- “Tom Croswell, Harvard Pilgrim-Tufts merger architect” February 16, 2021
Tom Croswell, who orchestrated the merger of the state’s second and third largest health insurance companies, predicted the consolidation would pay big dividends for consumers in Massachusetts. But he was far less enthusiastic about other mergers taking place in health care. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.
- “Fusion energy nears Kitty Hawk moment” September 27, 2021
Dennis Whyte of MIT and Bob Mumgaard of Commonwealth Fusion Systems describe the technological breakthrough that allowed them to efficiently contain what amounts to an artificial star. “With the advent of this new technology, there is nothing stopping us from building that first demonstration, the Kitty Hawk moment of fusion, when you see net energy from a system for the first time on earth,” said Whyte, the director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.
- “Mass Reboot Episode 3: Transportation” July 9, 2021
- “Salvucci takes new tack on West Station” June 11, 2018
Wide-ranging interview with Fred Salvucci, the former secretary of transportation who talks softly but thinks big on transportation. Listen to The Codcast in its entirety or read the writeup by Bruce Mohl.