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An update to Massachusetts' climate policy is on the agenda. In the past year, the Massachusetts House and Senate along with Governor Charlie Baker have all put forward substantial policy proposals to deal with various aspects of climate change. From Speaker Robert DeLeo's GreenWorks resiliency grants for cities and towns to the Governor's new ambitious goal of driving the commonwealth to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, state government is taking the issue seriously. The Massachusetts State Senate just passed new legislation to go even further, setting new emissions targets, pricing carbon, and encouraging purchases of electric vehicles. These bills come at a time of growing anxiety among residents about climate change, and reports from the scientific community that grow more alarming by the day.These are among the findings of a new survey of 2,318 residents of Massachusetts conducted by The MassINC Polling Group. This work is the latest in a series, dating back to 2011, that defined a culture of climate protection as 1) recognizing global warming as a problem and priority, 2) supporting policy efforts to curb global emissions, and 3) putting a premium on individual efforts to reduce one's own carbon footprint. This survey shows progress towards all three of these. The survey was preceded by a series of focus groups conducted across Massachusetts. This report includes insights and quotes from that qualitative research alongside the quantitative findings throughout.
Livable Streets Alliance;
In March of 2017, the City of Boston released Go Boston 2030, their long-term mobility plan. Informed by an extensive two-year community engagement process, the plan envisions a city where all residents have better and more equitable travel choices, and aims to create economic opportunity and prepare for climate change. In order to ensure Go Boston 2030 doesn't sit on a shelf, LivableStreets has committed to independently assessing the City's progress on their goals regularly until 2030.Our report found that since Go Boston 2030 was released three years ago, the City of Boston has made important structural changes to their mobility-related departments, budgets, and priorities, including adding millions of dollars and 20 new staff to the transportation department. These changes provide a strong foundation for the progress they are making on implementing several Go Boston 2030 projects and policies. However, implementation of these projects and policies has not yet demonstrated significant progress toward most of Go Boston 2030's goals and targets. It will be important for the City to increase the scale and pace of its projects to stay on track and begin to see more meaningful progress toward its goals and targets.The report includes key findings, recommendations, and deep dives into key projects, including Better Bike Corridors. One section of the report focuses on providing updates on aspirational targets the City laid out in Go Boston 2030, including eliminating traffic fatalities and decreasing commute to work times. In addition, the report includes a project scorecard that provides status updates, evaluations, and recommended next steps for all 33 Go Boston 2030 early action projects and policies, including Walk- and Bike-Friendly Main Streets and Smart Signals Corridors. The report is intended to assess not only the quality and extent of work the City has done, but its overall impact.
We as a society have made choices that have led to deep inequities. Whether intentional or not, these inequities divide places, races, classes, and cultures across the Commonwealth. To bridge these divisions, policymakers, leaders, and practitioners must reframe decisions and actions with equity as an intentional outcome and part of the process. We write this paper to present a framework of how transit-oriented development (TOD) can help cities, specifically Gateway Cities, embed equity into market-based and other policy tools and practices, thereby transforming their regions through equitable growth and development.This report expands on our 2018 recommendations and lays the groundwork for a series of future policy briefs that will explore the issues covered here in more depth. We call for infusing equity into TOD policies and practices for four specific reasons:Over the past 50 years, demographic change has divided people and communities socially and economically in Gateway City metropolitan regions.Gentrification fears have surged in Gateway Cities' weak real estate markets, where increasing property values threaten to destabilize households and neighborhoods, strip cities of their cultural vibrancy, and put vulnerable residents at risk of displacement and homelessness.Local and nationwide histories of socioeconomic exclusion—particularly along racial and cultural lines—persist today. These histories have exacerbated wealth gaps and income inequality and require both acknowledgement and correction.Finally, a false policy dichotomy that supports either large "urban" or small "nonurban" communities ignores the vital role Gateway Cities play as regional hubs for surrounding towns and cities, thus deepening geographic disparities across the Commonwealth.
A sharp increase in working from home could also spell huge changes in commuting patterns. Massachusetts residents say they will probably be making fewer trips as the state emerges from coronavirus crisis, but more of those trips will be by themselves, according to a new statewide poll out today. On balance, residents expect to drive or walk more, and use all types of shared or public transportation mode less.In all, 35% of residents say they will ride the MBTA subway less than before, and 33% say the same of the commuter rail. Among the most frequent transit users, 44% say they will ride the subway less, and 45% expect to drive more. Young people and Boston residents are among the groups indicating the biggest increases in driving.
A Better City;
Over the past several years, many valuable public realm projects have been implemented in Boston. In 2015, A Better City partnered with the Boston Transportation Department to develop the Public Realm Planning Study for Go Boston 2030. As co-chair of the Go Boston 2030 Plan, A Better City identified the untapped potential of Boston's transportation system to function as a network of vibrant public spaces that would support social, cultural, and economic activities. The process also highlighted a need for new short- and long-term public space strategies to reclaim underutilized transportation infrastructure in our neighborhoods.Building on this work, in December 2018, A Better City partnered with the City of Boston to publish Boston's first Tactical Public Realm Guidelines, designed to catalyze "tactical" interventions—such as plazas, parklets, outdoor cafes, and street murals—that can transform the public realm through lower-cost, rapid implementation. These modest interventions can convert our streets into spaces in which to convene, create, and experiment, fostering more vibrant communities and economies alike. As a testament to the importance of this work, the City of Boston hired a Public Realm Director in 2018 and integrated the Tactical Public Realm Guidelines into the City's Public Improvement Commission review process. A Better City has also worked with the City of Boston to develop sidewalk cafe guidelines and to convene a public realm interagency working group.A Better City has undertaken several public realm projects to date, including two outdoor seating projects in East Boston, a one week pop-up tactical plaza and permanent tactical plaza design in Roslindale Village, and a parklet design on Green Street in Jamaica Plain.The groundwork laid by these projects and the tactical guidelines, proved to be extremely beneficial in 2020 when the global pandemic created a tremendous need for flexible public space to help support local businesses, namely restaurants. For example, in many commercial districts across Boston, parklets were quickly installed to help support physically distanced outdoor dining.This publication includes case study summaries of the planning, design, and implementation process for three projects managed by A Better City—Birch Street Plaza, Green Street Plaza, and Outdoor Seating in East Boston— as well as a fourth case study describing the six pop-up plazas implemented by the City of Boston Director of Public Realm.
MIT City Form Lab;
This study examines the transit oriented development (TOD) potential of commuter rail stations in the Greater Boston area.The MBTA has announced plans for major improvements in commuter rail service and connectivity. However appreciated and overdue, transit oriented development that will likely accompany a system-wide commuter rail upgrade may also usher in hazards and blind-spots for planners and policy-makers to address. With TOD come improved amenities, higher land values and more competition for real estate, which in turn could lead to displacement, unaffordability and unequal access for intended beneficiaries. Yet, with coordinated land-use planning, street design and rail planning, there is nevertheless potential to not only enhance access equitably, but to also unlock a large quantity of affordable space that is presently perceived to be outside commuter rail catchment areas, and to shift Greater Boston's growth trajectory from the 20th century car-oriented path to a more sustainable 21st century rail-oriented path.
Eno Center for Transportation;
There is no silver bullet to fix the woes of urban mobility and access, but congestion pricing is a proven, viable, and effective tool. Charging a fee for the parts of the roadway network used the most during the busiest times of day reduces demand. The charges incentivize travelers to switch to other modes of transportation, seek alternative routes, or travel at other times. The charges can help to reduce negative effects of traffic such as air pollution, carbon emissions, road damage, and traffic crashes.This report seeks to accelerate the development of congestion pricing programs in the U.S. that advance sustainability and equity goals. The report is intended for elected officials, civic leaders, advocates, and agency professionals in cities and metropolitan regions. The principles outlined in this report illustrate key concepts, discuss challenges, and share examples and emerging best practices.
Institute for Transportation and Development Policy;
This implementation playbook outlines critical steps and decision points to implement a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in Massachusetts between the cities of Everett and Boston. Included are data-rich insights into specific on-the-ground conditions and illustrations of creative bus priority improvements in Everett along a potential Everett-to-Boston BRT corridor. The playbook highlights how the City of Everett, in collaboration with Boston, as well as state agencies and other adjacent municipalities can continue to be a municipal leader in transit innovation.Everett, Massachusetts is a diverse, vibrant community of 40,000 bordering Boston that, despite a critical lack of transit-specific infrastructure, has become a regional and national leader in transit-oriented development and bus-based transit innovation. It was a pioneer in installing peak-hour bus lanes at a time when other cities were worried about whether such lanes would be feasible and has continued to demonstrate the benefits of planning that prioritizes people over vehicles.Lessons in the playbook, especially around trade-offs, show how Everett and other communities in greater Boston can improve the bus rider experience. Each of Everett's transit-priority interventions has brought the city closer to a full-fledged BRT corridor. Conditions in Everett—with narrow roadways, complex traffic patterns and nearly a dozen bus routes—have posed challenges to implementing a full bus rapid transit system. BRT improves accessibility, equitability, and legibility, making the bus transit experience more time-efficient and easier to use and understand. Many creative solutions have brought and will continue to bring the city and region closer to this goal.While the playbook is focused on getting to BRT in and between Everett and Boston, it offers many lessons that are applicable to cities across the nation who are looking to build BRT across municipal lines and on roadways with limited width.
National League of Cities;
As Congress debates the President's proposed American Jobs Plan (AJP) and an infrastructure infusion, the National League of Cities (NLC) met with city leaders across the United States to ask one simple question: "What is your top infrastructure priority?" From the smallest to largest communities, every place has a story to tell, and Ready to Rebuild shows a range of transportation, water, broadband and workforce projects across the country from communities of all sizes. While projects are different, the message from local officials is the same: infrastructure is a job worth doing, but in most places, it's now beyond what the local government can handle on their own. Far worse, the perpetual waiting game in Washington means the risk and consequences are building up to an emergency spill over point. Most local governments know exactly what needs to be done to fix their infrastructure, but they simply can't afford it.
Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health;
A new study that quantifies the total and interstate deaths from transportation-related air pollution from five vehicle types in 12 states and Washington, D.C. has been published in Environmental Research Letters. The research was led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.The study is part of the Transportation, Equity, Climate, and Health project (TRECH), a multi-university research team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston University, University of North Carolina, and Columbia University, which analyzes policy scenarios to address carbon pollution from the transportation sector.Key TakeawaysOzone and fine particulate matter from vehicle emissions in 2016 led to an estimated 7,100 deaths in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., and pollution from tailpipe emissions is also traveling across state lines, harming the health of people living in cities and states downwind.Region wide, light-duty trucks, which include SUVs, were responsible for the largest number of premature deaths at 2,463 followed by light-duty passenger vehicles (1,881) and heavy-duty trucks (1,465)All states experienced substantial health impacts from vehicle emissions and can gain health benefits from local action.New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were hardest hit with health damages at $21 billion, $13 billion, and $12 billion, respectively, in 2016 (the most recent data available from EPA).Many states are heavily impacted by out-of-state emissions and some states cause more deaths out-of-state than in-state, including PA and NJ, highlighting the importance of region-wide action to reduce vehicle emissions.On a ton for ton basis, buses in the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area had the largest health damages at $4 million for every ton of particulate matter emitted.Ammonia emissions play a stronger relative role in causing health damages compared to oxides of nitrogen. Regionally, ammonia emissions from vehicles were responsible for 740 premature deaths in 2016, more than 10% of the total deaths. Ammonia emissions from vehicles are an unintended by-product of catalytic converters and are unregulated in the U.S., and their role in urban air pollution has been generally under appreciated.
Metropolitan Area Planning Council;
This guide lays out a recipe to help local staff members, leaders, and advocates identify the right ingredients to launch successful bus improvements in high ridership, high delay corridors in their communities. These projects can seem daunting in their complexity, but they are important tools in achieving climate, equity, and transit goals, as well as improving quality of life for the thousands of people in our region.The guide identifies crucial stakeholders and project milestones. It offers examples of successful strategies, and it distills lessons learned. We identified six bus priority projects that started turning the wheels of change in the region. These projects were the first to involve quick, temporary, and easy to change elements in order to influence the permanent design.The information this guide sets forth was drawn from over thirty in-depth interviews with stakeholders involved in the six different projects we identify below:Everett's inbound bus lane on BroadwayBoston's inbound bus lane on Washington Street in RoslindaleArlington's inbound bus lane on Massachusetts AvenueCambridge and Watertown's inbound bus lane on Mount Auburn StreetBoston's inbound bus lane on Brighton Avenue in BrightonSomerville's inbound and outbound bus lanes on BroadwayThese six projects are described in detail in the individual case studies found after the workbook. You'll find examples from these projects throughout this guide that illustrate the different strategies municipal staff and their partners have used to accomplish progressive bus improvements.Every project's recipe will be different, and will require different ingredients, as well as different amounts of each. The projects showcased in this guide may not be directly applicable to your community, but they offer a framework for considering strategies to improve bus transit. With the ingredients presented in this document, we encourage you to innovate and experiment. Not all will apply to your situation, and not all will follow the same order as we have them listed here. This guide is not prescriptive, but instead offers direction based on the experience of people involved in the six local bus improvement projects that were studied.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute;
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are an emerging technology in surface transportation with tremendous potential to change the way individuals and communities interact with the built environment. The widespread use of AVs could also have a substantial impact on greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which is responsible for the largest share of emissions in the United States at 28 percent. The vast majority of those transportation emissions—82 percent—are from cars and trucks, many of which could be replaced with AVs. A recent study suggests that half of new vehicles could be autonomous by 2050, and half of the entire vehicle fleet by the 2060s. Another, related key trend in transportation is electrification: more than half of all new passenger vehicles will be electric by 2040, according to a BloombergNEF study, and most AVs are expected to be electric. Whether AVs increase or reduce greenhouse gas emissions could help make or break efforts at keeping climate change in check. This issue brief reviews the projected environmental impacts of AVs, the benefits AVs could provide as a form of mass transit, and an overview of AV development, testing, and policies in the United States as well as internationally.