A Better City members are stepping up during these uncertain times and leading efforts in preserving community health with their responses to COVID-19. Their actions reduce community exposure, increase awareness, and assist the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents. This week’s spotlight focuses on the work of hospitals in the A Better City Community. Not only are these institutions working tirelessly to treat those who are COVID-positive, but also find new ways to safely deliver medical care to patients in the midst of the pandemic.
PUTTING COMMUNITY FIRST
Our members in the healthcare sector are on the frontline of COVID-19 response efforts. Their essential workforce puts community first, prioritizing treatment to COVID-positive patients, development of treatments or vaccines for the virus, and care for non-COVID-19 patients.
On Monday, May 18, Rick Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City, welcomed Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets for the City of Boston to discuss the recent work of Boston Transportation, Public Works, and Sanitation Departments. Fifty-one participants joined in the Zoom session.
Chris began his slide presentation with a view of the pandemic “curve” and three major phases: response, recovery, and thrive. Under the response portion of the curve, the initial objectives were to flatten the curve, expand medical capacity, and assist with making worksites safe. Ongoing activities were: continuing to work with residents, youth and education, food, and housing. Chris said that the city was using all the tools in the toolbox and working cooperatively with other groups. Actions included improving transportation for health care workers and assisting with food deliveries for residents.
In the recovery stage, the focus is on lives, livelihoods, and places.
Actions include repurposing roadway lanes to help small businesses recover, calming traffic speeds on local streets, supporting safe transit with dedicated bus lanes and expanded bus boarding areas for physical distancing, and expanding the bike route network. To support transportation, the City is continuing to encourage work from home, encouraging walking and biking for short trips, supporting service availability on short trips, supporting the MBTA in safe service restoration, and increasing MBTA capacity by increasing reliability and schedules by providing dedicated bus lanes.
Chris reviewed a number of bridge projects under construction or design such as the North Washington Street, Dalton Street, Long Island, and Northern Avenue Bridges.
To thrive, Chris mentioned a focus on neighborhood streets, major corridors, and new . . .
As the Commonwealth and its municipalities plan for a multi-phased reopening, government officials, business leaders and associations, as well as transportation experts, are thinking about the commute post-surge. They are considering a range of options to support a gradual return to the workplace that puts safety first and supports economic development, equity, and the environment. There seems to be consensus that biking and walking will be part of the solution.2
In recent weeks, cities from Bogotá to Brookline have made headlines for their forward-thinking adoption of shared streets infrastructure to support physical distancing. For some cities, the decision to implement pop-up bike lanes or to close streets to cars has been positioned as a move to increase space for safe recreation in densely populated areas. For others, similar actions have been framed as a mitigation strategy to lessen crowding on transit while avoiding a swell in single occupancy vehicles (SOVs).
A Better City is exploring how to safeguard and expand Boston’s shared streets infrastructure for biking lanes as a reentry commuting strategy. This piece provides examples of best practices that can help inform rapid implementation and focuses on the potential role of pop-up bike lanes in safe, sustainable transportation reentry strategies for two key neighborhoods and industries represented among A Better City’s Transportation Management Association (TMA) membership: medical service providers in the South End and financial organizations in the Financial District.
As part of the roadmap prepared by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board on May 18, construction joins essential businesses (already open), manufacturing, worship, and hospitals and community health centers as part of the first step of “Reopening Phase 1.” Construction was chosen not only for its importance to the economy but also because physical distancing can be practiced more easily on many job sites.
As with all businesses and activities, construction sites will be required to follow Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards for reopening that consist of:
Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Construction Sites to Address COVID-19, as of May 18, 2020, have also been prepared based on standards and protocols developed by DCAMM in March and April of this year. Those standards include designating a site-specific COVID-19 Officer for every site (except one to three family residences). The Officer shall submit daily reports to the Owner’s Representative and certify that the contractor and all subcontractors are in full compliance with the “COVID-19 Construction Safety Guidance.” Towns and cities may require the submittal of additional safety plans and site-specific risk analysis. The municipalities and state agencies funding or managing projects have joint enforcement responsibilities. A city or town may require the owner of a large project to hire an independent inspector to assist in enforcement on behalf of the municipality.
The standards provide details on the workplace safety standards as they apply to construction sites. The Board has also prepared a detailed list of Mandatory Safety Standards for Construction and a “Construction MA COVID-19 Checklist” for these . . .
On Monday, May 12, Rick Dimino, President & CEO of A Better City, welcomed Jim Tierney of JLL to introduce a discussion of how the reopening of the workplace might work. Jim introduced JLL colleagues Matt Daniels and Julia Georgules to present insights on the reopening process. Fifty participants joined in the Zoom session.
Jim said that JLL is responsible for 25 million square feet of space in the Boston area both as property manager and as tenant representatives. The key message is that there is not a one size fits all plan for reopening the workplace. Plans will vary with types of building, location, along with other factors.
Matt Daniels describes some of the differences between downtown office towers and suburban locations are employees are less dependent on public transportation, stairs are often used rather than elevators, and where the roof is easily accessible for enhancements for HVAC equipment. He described recent trends for more dense office use, with average square footage per person declining from 200 SF to 140 SF. That increased density is not able to support physical distancing that may be necessary in a healthful pandemic world. Landlords and tenants will have different responsibilities, for instance, who will conduct temperature checks in lobbies or at the entry? While organizations have quickly adapted to remote work, it will not be a permanent solution. The culture of an organization is not easily transmitted via Zoom.
An example of a tenant that is experiencing change is WeWork where two types of users occupy space: co-work and space for office tenants to expand for a short term. The space needed to provide a safe and healthy work environment needs to be determined.
Julia Georgules is responsible for research for JLL . . .
|A BETTER CITY LAW FIRM MEMBERS|
|CHOATE HALL & STEWART|
|FOLEY HOAG, LLP|
|GOULSTON & STORRS PC|
|LAWRENCE DICARA LAW|
|NIXON PEABODY, LLP|
|NUTTER, MCCLENNEN & FISH LLP|
|SHERIN AND LODGEN, LLP|
A Better City members are stepping up during these unsettling times and leading efforts in the business community with their response to COVID-19. Their actions assist their clients and the community at large to support a united relief . . .
Senator Barrett, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, and Vice Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, was welcomed by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy & Resilience at A Better City. As co-author of the Senate’s climate policy package released in January 2020: An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy; An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon-Free Power; and An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency, Senator Barrett presented key details . . .
On April 28, Governor Baker appointed a 17-member Reopening Advisory Board consisting of business executives, public health officials and municipal leaders to guide his administration with strategies for reopening the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, A Better City was invited to staff a subgroup of the RAB chaired by Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and focused on the relationship between reopening and public transportation. The subgroup included representation from municipal, business, and transit industry and labor leaders.
Over the course of five days, the subgroup convened for three 1.5 hour working sessions. Additionally, some subgroup participants took part in two special business-focused sessions with Secretary Pollack and General Manager Poftak hosted by A Better City and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, respectively.
On May 11th and 12th, Secretary Pollack briefed the Governor’s full Reopening Advisory Board on the MBTA’s proposed plan to safely operate the T and to facilitate a gradual reopening of the regional economy. The Secretary’s presentation reflected input from A Better City and our fellow subgroup participants. The Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board is expected to present their findings on May 18th.
A Better City ardently believes that safety on public transit is the number one priority—and the only way to reopen our regional economy. The MBTA must take strong, immediate, well-publicized actions to protect its workforce and riders in order to build trust and confidence in the system, gradually increasing ridership to enhance mobility, facilitate economic spending, reduce emissions, and ensure equitable access. In brief, the MBTA should take a suite of actions to ensure safety, including: 1) robust, frequent disinfection, 2) masks/face coverings, and 3) increased capacity to ensure physical . . .
On Thursday, May 7, President and CEO of A Better City Rick Dimino welcomed Evan Horowitz who is Executive Director of the Center for State Policy Analysis to discuss three consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for Massachusetts. Thirty-three representatives of our members and staff joined in the Zoom session.
Analysis has shown that the rate of growth of the Massachusetts state revenue tracks closely with the United States growth of Gross Domestic Product, Mr. Horowitz said, and making assumptions about the role of other factors is not necessary and needlessly complicates the projections. The GDP and FY 2020 revenue in Massachusetts has declined by 4.8% in the recent quarter. National projections anticipate a 30% economic contraction in the next quarter and a 19% expansion in the future, but there is great uncertainty about future conditions, therapeutic medications, and timing of a possible vaccine as well as response to these conditions. Customarily, April is a high revenue month with larger tax receipts, but it looks like a revenue loss of $750 million for the remainder of this state fiscal year and a $2 to $4 billion shortfall for FY 2021. The scale of federal relief is close to meeting current needs, according to Mr. Horowitz. April tax receipts are about half of what was projected but withholding was 97% of projections.
Mr. Horowitz said that the states will need a federal bailout to cover operating expenses as a next step. If the state takes a hit, he said, local aid to cities and towns is likely to suffer first. The state is in good shape with a $3½ billion . . .
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 500,000 people across the Commonwealth relied on the MBTA daily as their primary transportation method.1 Most had set routines, and apart from delays, riders knew exactly what to expect during their commute. After weeks of lockdown, the gradual reopening of the economy won’t just be a “restart” or back to “business-as-usual.” It will come with a new set of rules—the “new normal”—that redefine the very fabric of our daily lives. For many, this change will come with underlying fears, in particular related to getting back on public transportation. A recent survey suggests that only 18 percent of people surveyed would feel comfortable riding buses, subways, or commuter trains when they return to the workplace.2 This is a huge hurdle to overcome, and the MBTA has a critical role to play in easing those fears.
A Better City recommends that the MBTA launch of a dynamic, multilingual and multimedia public outreach campaign, Commonwealth Commutes, to let riders know about the aggressive health and safety efforts the MBTA is taking to create a safe public transit environment and to inform riders of the new protocols in place that will protect them throughout all stages of their commute—from home to the workplace.
The campaign would help answer questions like: What should I expect when I leave the house to return to the workplace or to find a new job? What tools will I need to commute safely into the dense urban core? What practices do I need to embrace to keep myself, my family, and my fellow commuters safe and healthy? These are basic but vexing questions that . . .