The City of Boston is releasing recommendations from Go Boston 2030, a comprehensive plan that will guide Boston’s long-term transportation vision. Rick Dimino serves as a co-chair of this effort for the past few years. After extended outreach with Boston residents and aspirational targets outlined in the Action Plan, Go Boston 2030 is now finishing with specific ideas for improvements. Leaders from the City of Boston will be giving an overview of the recommendations during A Better City’s November 30th Board Meeting.
Proper forecasting and planning is essential, as Boston is currently seeing substantial growth in our population, workforce, and overall economic activity. Our current transportation system is struggling to serve today’s riders, while projections show that additional capacity and targeted expansion projects are necessary to keep pace with expected job growth over the next fifteen years. Finally, as we improve existing service, we must consider the effects of climate change and look for new strategies in energy use and limits on vehicle emissions.
Go Boston 2030 is a transportation blueprint in the first citywide plan in fifty years. Our hope is the recommendations from this plan will help advance the discussion on the needs of Boston and the entire metropolitan region. While we all focus on making our existing transportation infrastructure more efficient, it is also clear that additional resources will be necessary to meet Go Boston 2030 aspirational goals and develop a 21st century comprehensive statewide transportation system. You can hear more on Nov 30th, and view the plan’s framework at
The Municipal Harbor Plan for the Downtown Waterfront District has been in preparation since March 2013 and a draft plan is nearing its release for public comments. A Better City has been a member of the Advisory Committee since it was established and has submitted several sets of comments as the Public Realm and Watersheet Activation Plan, which is a critical component of the planning process, and as the overall plan have been taking shape. The last pieces of the plan are being prepared by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (until recently known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority) which is working to incorporate the “Blueway” vision developed by the New England Aquarium for its site and surroundings. A Better City is prepared to generally support the content of the draft Municipal Harbor Plan with a few qualifications.
The most controversial portion of the plan relates to the requirements for two of the development sites at the current Harbor Garage at Milk Street and Hook Lobster adjacent to the Moakley Bridge. The draft plan includes requirements for maximum height, density, and lot coverage for these sites and a third site at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel. The draft plan sets the maximum lot coverage for the two largest development sites at 70%, largely based on the analysis that the overall amount of open space in the district more than satisfies the minimum 50% open space requirement in Chapter 91, the Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act, which underlies the Municipal Harbor Plan. According to Chapter 91, a municipality can develop and propose a plan that adapts requirements of Chapter 91 to the conditions of the particular location. The process is long and complex, requiring an active public process, several comment periods, and ultimate approval of the plan by the Massachusetts Secretary of . . .
On October 19, A Better City announced the facilitation of an innovative collaborative solar power purchase agreement (PPA) among three very different board members. While most joint energy purchases are comprised of utilities or a few players within a related institution (such as buildings on a campus or offices in a business-park), such is not the case for a recent Better City project. A Better City orchestrated the nation’s largest power purchase agreement (PPA) amongst a body of diverse benefactors, with 60 megawatts (MW) of solar energy set to join the grid by the end of the year.
The three members—Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston Medical Center (BMC), and Friends of Post Office Square—were by united by both their long-term commitment to supporting renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions, as well as a desire to minimize their financial risk to fluctuating energy prices over the next 25 years.
Prompted by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Renewable Energy Leadership Prize, A Better City brought on CustomerFirst Renewables (CFR), a technical and advisory services firm, to guide the participants through the complicated process— CFR’s deep understanding of the market, analysis, and honed processes enabled the team to quickly review and agree on options, structure the PPA, and negotiate the terms and conditions. The request for proposals received 41 distinct bids and explored a range of wind and solar options located in six different RTOs (Regional Transmission Organizations) spanning fourteen states. The solar project with Dominion was selected through a competitive round of proposals, factoring in many considerations, including price, term, financial strength, and project characteristics. The selected project, built on Summit Farms in . . .
This fall has been a busy time for the Challenge for Sustainability, with the continuation of the 2016 program alongside the development of 2017 plans. Mid-year meetings have been conducted with more than two-thirds of participants to introduce Laura LoSciuto, the new Sustainability Programs Coordinator, get an update on sustainability initiatives and action plans, and discuss the upcoming year. In addition to these one-on-one meetings, fall programming to date has included the Climate Vulnerability and Solutions Symposium and a building tour of the new Partners Healthcare facility, the first LEED v4 building in Somerville. The Building Resilience Toolkit, one of three online toolkits that serve as resources for participants, has also been updated with 11 new technologies.
Meanwhile, A Better City is working hard on 2017 plans to ensure the upcoming year is the most successful one yet. The 2017 Challenge will focus on four key areas:
Programming for 2017 will include a kick-off event, the annual awards ceremony, a summer social, and invites to larger events. In addition, peer-to-peer meetings will be held throughout the year. These meetings are opportunities for participants to tour innovative facilities, hear from experts in . . .
In an unprecedented collaboration, A Better City TMA and Seaport TMA joined forces to organize and promote the first ever Water Transit Month. Taking place during August 2016, Water Transit Month consisted of events promoting awareness of the Boston waterfront as a transportation resource to reduce drive-alone commuting and greenhouse gas emissions in the city. Promotions included the #WTMBoston social media photo contest, boasting over 100 submissions featuring water transit, increased subsidies for new users of the MBTA Commuter Ferry, HarborWalk Tours with Boston Harbor Now, and a partnership event with Boston Rowing Center inviting downtown Bostonians to row in the Fort Point Channel.
Thanks to a special partnership with Boston Harbor Cruises, A Better City TMA was able to further showcase the underutilized mode that is water transit. During the Water Transit Month Executive Harbor Cruise, local officials and stakeholders were invited aboard Boston Harbor Cruises’ Majestic, highlighting the possible ferry connection between Boston North Station and the Seaport District, a current goal for the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation . . .
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation recently finalized a transportation infrastructure plan to fund repairs, improvements, and some new expansion projects. A Better City worked closely with MassDOT throughout the process to gain commitments on important transportation projects that are essential to the components of the Massachusetts economy and our quality of life.
The final plan approved by MassDOT totals $14. 8 Billion, which will spend over the next five years. A Better City is pleased to see the state’s is moving forward a few large and complex projects including the Green Line Extension, South Station Expansion, and the I-90 Interchange area in Allston. Our top priority for in the short term is infrastructure improvements for the Seaport District in Boston. The MassDOT capital plan contains funding to address the needs of this rapidly growing area, through a commitment to spend $25 Million on transportation improvements. Some projects identified in the 2015 South Boston Waterfront Transportation Plan will be implemented with this money and A Better City together with state and city agencies are leading the effort to identify specific projects that will begin this fiscal year.
There are many other important projects included the capital plan, from State of Good Repair improvements at the MBTA, additional surface buses, and funding for the Compete Streets Program, which will benefit many communities throughout Massachusetts. The next phase for MassDOT will be in delivering on this budget blueprint. A Better City will be working with them to advocate for management reforms that assist in getting this infrastructure work completed as planned. We also will continue to recommend new projects that address the economic, population, and . . .
The latest generation of urban dwellers wants to live and work in urban places that provide opportunities to play, exercise, eat, and shop. This urban trend puts what is known as the “public realm” in the center of urban design and planning. Public realm refers to all open and enclosed spaces that can be accessed and used by the public. We are currently witnessing a growing interest in reclaiming the public realm for social, cultural and economic activities and American cities are no stranger to this trend. Until the mid-20th century, the public realm was the center of urban life. However, with the rise of the automobile industry and suburban development that privileged private homes and spaces, Americans started to slowly abandon the public sphere. Shopping malls grew faster than commercial Main Streets. Enclosed arcades replaced outdoor carnivals. Gym memberships substituted daily strolls in the park. By the end of the 20thcentury, the public realm of American cities became a leftover space between buildings, a space of transition rather than connection.
As land development patterns continue to shift towards higher density and mixed-use development, the public realm is regaining the attention it deserves as a vital part of urban life. This new generation of urban dwellers is not only reclaiming the public realm but also redefining it dramatically. Years ago, urban dwellers were happy with more straightforward public spaces for relaxing. Today, city residents expect spaces to perform. People want more than a beautiful urban space; they want places that allow them to interact with other people and their surroundings. A vibrant, inclusive, and adaptable public realm is key for any city to stay attractive and competitive while also asserting its place as a global city. At the same time, resources for public spaces and . . .
The Climate Ready Boston initiative – an effort started by Mayor Martin Walsh last October - recently released its climate projections for the Greater Boston region. These represent a consensus on the future of the region according to leading scientists, universities and previously published work. This report forecasts increases in rainfall, higher temperatures, and affirms that the sea level is rising. Although some sea level rise is inevitable, our ability to limit this increase and protect our city largely depends on the energy choices and climate defense strategies we make today. Taking moderate steps to reduce emissions will see a rise in sea-level in Boston by 2100 that will impact much of downtown Boston and the Seaport district. If we continue upon our current trajectory of GHG outputs, we could see sea level rise by 6 feet or more, a level that almost certainly means regular flooding and severe water damage to public and private sector infrastructure. Reducing our GHG emissions and increasing our reliance on renewables and energy efficient technologies is critical to preventing the worst-case climate scenarios.
Currently the Climate Ready Boston team is finalizing the identification of critical resiliency focus areas and their climate vulnerabilities where focused attention and public-private partnerships will be necessary to prepare for projected climate impacts. In addition, the team is working to develop a portfolio of solutions across the City and in certain key business districts with identified vulnerabilities.
A Better City understands that timely and aggressive action from the Boston business community is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make smart investments in climate defense. We have been leading private-sector engagement in the
The Challenge for Sustainability (Challenge) has continued to engage internal and external stakeholders in an effort to evolve this long-standing, successful program. As part of the planning process, Challenge staff analyzed accomplishments since the program’s inception in 2009 which include an annual increase in participating square footage around 24%, an aggregate annual electricity reduction around 1%, and an aggregate annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction around 2% per year. This keeps Challenge participants on track to reach the City and State goals of 25% GHG reduction by 2020. To recognize this success, Challenge coordinators hosted the 7th annual Challenge for Sustainability Awards in March which included comments from the City of Boston’s Chief of the Environment, Austin Blackmon, and featured President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmell as the keynote speaker. Awards were given for the greatest greenhouse gas, energy, water, and waste reduction as well as the annual Peer Award. Additionally, three Challenge participants were added to the ‘Target 2020 Leaders’ plaque which recognizes individual facilities and organizations for their accomplishment of the 25% by 2020 goal. A Better City is currently refining a draft plan to take the Challenge forward with a goal of launching an updated version in 2017.
With the help of renewable energy consultancy CustomerFirst Renewables, A Better City issued a 100,000MWh request for proposals to the developer community on December 1st, 2015. We received a highly competitive response with bids from Maine to Texas with pricing that vastly exceeded our expectations. The A Better City CO-REP now include a large university as well as a hospital, parking garage and park and commercial real estate assets. The finalist project is a 60MWac solar farm located in the northeast corner of North Carolina. It is expected to produce 150,000MWh per year and participants will be purchasing power from the project at a fixed price lower than the current wholesale market rate for 25 years.
Additionally, Garrett Sprague represented the project on a panel focused on aggregating demand at the Washington DC convening of the Association of Climate Change Officers. Stakeholders have been invited by the project developers to take a helicopter tour of the site which is scheduled for July 21st. A Better City is incredibly grateful to Larry DiCara and Ruth Silman from Nixon Peabody, LLC for their assistance and guidance throughout this process and to the impressive leadership of those leading the charge at participating organizations.
Finally, with the announcement of the extension of the federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit at the end of 2015, A Better City would be open to replicating this collaborative procurement model in 2016/2017. . . .