Safe and reliable public transit service is essential to the economic vitality of the region—and to reaching our climate, equity, and mobility goals. To meet the current and future needs of our riders and our economy, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) must address major safety, service, and staffing challenges. As the MTBA works to address these challenges, it is imperative to track key performance metrics and data trends. As such, this short report aims to provide a periodic, user-friendly snapshot of these metrics, using publicly available data. Please contact Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Senior Advisor on Transportation, with questions or feedback. Click here
My name is Glen Berkowitz, Project Manager at A Better City. A Better City is an organization of nearly 130 business leaders that has long partnered with MassDOT to enhance the Greater Boston region’s transportation system, economic health, equitable growth, and sustainability.
I am speaking today about Agenda Item #7: the 2024-2028 DraS Capital Investment Plan, with two comments that relate to the Allston I-90 Multimodal Project.
First, the current FY23 – 27 CIP includes $91M to fund a contract to preserve the I-90 Viaduct in Allston. Two months ago, this Board voted to award this contract. This Board noted that new alternative staging concepts for the full Allston I-90 Multimodal Project had been prepared by A Better City and other stakeholders and that these new concepts should reduce schedule and cost and may allow for earlier removal of the Allston viaduct. This Board directed the Highway Division to consider the new staging concept and provide an update to the full Board within sixty (60) days or no later than its May meeting today.
At a Multimodal Project Task Force meeting three weeks ago, MassDOT announced it has tentatively decided to implement most of the new staging concept. We thank Highway Administrator Gulliver and the project team for this good news. This Board directed in March that it hears by today about recommendations for scope modiﬁcations to the Viaduct Preservation Contract to accommodate or incorporate these new staging concepts. We expect the Board to be told that the new staging approach should remove traﬃc from the I-90 Viaduct much earlier in the sequence of constructing the Multimodal Project. We trust that all can agree it makes sense to spend as little money as possible to preserve a viaduct that should now be able to be demolished years earlier than previously contemplated.
Therefore, we believe that the new CIP should . . .
On Friday, May 12th, A Better City was thrilled to attend the planting of a new micro forest and launch of a citywide Tree Alliance at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan. The Tree Alliance will be led by Mass Audubon as an effort to help expand tree plantings and maintain urban tree canopy on privately owned land in Boston, centering environmental justice hot spot neighborhoods like Mattapan to help increase tree equity across neighborhoods.
Background Context: 20-Year Urban Forest Plan & Boston Tree Alliance
In September 2022, the City of Boston released it’s 20-Year Urban Forest Plan (UFP) to help analyze existing tree canopy across Boston’s neighborhoods, as well as to offer recommendations for how to protect and expand existing tree canopy. After the UFP launch in 2022, the City of Boston released a request for proposals for a leader of a newly established Tree Alliance in late 2022, modeled after a public-private partnership in Montreal, Quebec that helps to plant and maintain tree canopy on private land in collaboration with city government. This spring, Boston announced that Mass Audubon would lead the Tree Alliance and help the city to work across non-profit organizations, developers, community groups, institutional landowners, and private property owners to address tree equity and tree canopy expansion on privately owned land. A Better City is in contact with Mass Audubon around opportunities to participate in the Tree Alliance and looks forward to working with members and partner organizations on collaborative tree planting efforts.
May 2023 Launch Event: Boston Nature Center & . . .
The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 tasked MassDEP with developing a “high-level program to meet the emissions limit for residential, commercial, and industrial heating” and identified a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) as a regulatory option for addressing this requirement. This was further expanded on in the 2050 Clean Energy and Climate Plan where MassDEP was tasked with establishing a CHS that would require a “gradual reduction in building emissions.” Furthermore, the Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat’s report in November 2022 recommended MassDEP initiate a regulatory process to establish a CHS aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel heating fuels.
To begin this process, MassDEP sought initial stakeholder input to inform the development of a proposed CHS regulation and related heating fuel supplier reporting requirements by May 1st, 2023, and provided the following conceptual documents:
Based on member feedback, A Better City provided the following
On Monday, May 8th, A Better City's Senior Advisor on Policy, Government and Community Affairs; Tom Ryan, provided testimony to the Joint Committee on Transportation. Read the full testimony MORE
On Monday, April 24th, A Better City submitted a comment letter in response to the MBTA’s Capital Investment Plan for FY24-28 (CIP). A Better City appreciates the appropriate
emphasis on critical investments in safety related to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) inspection, as well as repairs that are needed to restore service and
reliability for subway lines. A Better City’s letter focus on additional priorities that should be accelerated and included in this five-year plan, including:
Read the full comment letter MORE
“The service, safety, and staffing challenges facing the MBTA are critical but solvable. Governor Healey’s appointments should be applauded—Tom Glynn’s experience at both the MBTA and Massport is unmatched, and Tom McGee and Eric Goodwine bring vital perspectives from their extensive work in MBTA communities," said A Better City President & CEO Kate Dineen. "With the strategic guidance and oversight from this new leadership team, the MBTA is better positioned to deliver the system needed for our communities and for our economy to thrive. We look forward to working with Chair Glynn and members of the Board to rebuild the capacity and capabilities of our region’s public transit system as well as rider confidence in . . .
“A seven month timeline to eliminate slow zones on the Blue Line is unworkable for riders and our region alike. While we appreciate the MBTA’s prioritization of Blue Line service, this timetable is untenable in light of the transit dependent riders and essential workers that rely on this line each and every day,” said A Better City President & CEO Kate Dineen. “It is imperative to address major track issues before the Sumner Tunnel closure in July and the MBTA must consider alternative strategies that do not require starting to shut down service as early as 7 PM, which would disproportionately impact shift workers as well as the broader economy. Additionally, we need more transparency about what was actually achieved during recent Blue Line closures and what documentation gaps and inconsistencies triggered the systemwide speed restrictions just over a month . . .
In fall 2022, the City of Boston released its 20-Year Urban Forest Plan (UFP), which analyzed urban tree canopy on both private and publicly owned land in Boston and laid out a series of recommendations for the conservation and expansion of tree canopy over the next two decades. Since the UFP was released last fall, Boston City Council and the City Environment Department have been exploring opportunities to implement its recommendations, from staffing up the new Urban Forestry Division to encouraging equitable workforce development in urban forestry through Powercorps Boston. One of the key developments regarding the possible establishment of a tree protection ordinance through Boston City Council could affect both private and public trees throughout the city and would help to protect urban tree canopy and provide community relief and resilience in the face of extreme heat.
Before the Urban Forest Plan was released in 2022, City Councilors Arroyo and Braedon attempted to move a tree protection ordinance through City Council without success. In January 2023, with new evidence from the UFP and backing from fellow councilors, Boston City Councilors Arroyo and Braedon filed the 2023 Ordinance Establishing Protections for the City of Boston Tree Canopy, with the support of Councilors Lara, Bok, Coletta, Fernandes Anderson, Flaherty, Louijeune, Mejia, Murphy, Worrell, and Flynn. The 2023 tree protection ordinance draft does the following:
A Better City staff have been tracking the City of Cambridge Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) amendment process, which applies to Cambridge’s existing buildings over 25,000 square feet or 50 units, since our last blogpost in July 2022. Over the last several months, Cambridge City Manager, Yi-An Huang, and the City’s Community Development Department (CDD) staff have worked with BEUDO buildings in Cambridge to develop a draft BEUDO Ordinance proposal that provides more flexibility in meeting net zero goals than the ones previously offered by Councilors Zondervan and Nolan since February 2022. The details of this new proposal can be found on slides 34-64 of a slide deck presented at the Cambridge Ordinance Committee meeting on April 12, 2023. A summary of the proposal can be found in the modified 2035 proposal column of slide 66 in the same deck.
In summary, the new proposal suggests BEUDO commercial buildings over 100,000 square feet be net zero by 2035; all other BEUDO buildings (25,000-100,000 square feet commercial buildings and 50+ unit rental residential buildings) are not required to be net zero until 2050. Large commercial buildings over 100,000 square feet, are, however, allowed to purchase a declining amount of carbon offsets from 2035-2050 to offset on-site fossil fuel emissions. There is also flexibility in the baseline, campus pathways, alternative compliance credit payment deferrals, and some exemptions. The new proposal also suggests the creation of a Review Board of five technical experts, two business representatives, and two advocates. It also suggests a policy review be . . .