Governor Baker joined a group of Governors writing to President Biden, requesting the federal government do a few specific things, including:
On Thursday, April 15th, to launch A Better City's new Boston Forward Together speaker series, A Better City convened a special webinar with Paul Grogan, President & CEO of The Boston Foundation and co-author of Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Revival. Rick Dimino, A Better City President & CEO, facilitated the conversation with one of the nation’s leading change makers to explore several timely questions: What is the value of cities? What challenges and opportunities are unique to Boston? How we can all work together to build back better?
See complete Opportunities for Action and Summary below.
Fiscal Management and Control Board Meeting, Agenda Items 2 & 5
Chairman Aiello, Members of the Board, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit public comments today.
Testimony to the Joint Meeting of the MBTA Board and the FMCB, Agenda Item 9: Capital Investment Plan Update
Members of the MassDOT Board of Directors and Fiscal and Management Control Board, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today on the Update to the Capital Investment Plan.
When the legislature and Governor Baker created the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board in 2015, they specifically asked the board to “develop a long-range approach to meeting the future needs of the MBTA’s assets.” Right now, the current draft CIP does not do this.
What is before the Board is really just a one-year CIP update. A Better City is hoping there can be more details available on the 5-year capital plan, especially as there only two months remaining with this FMCB in place.
The public should hear more about how this CIP achieves the stated goals of the FMCB, such as reducing the State of Good Repair Backlog and advancing key priority projects.
In May 2019, the SGR backlog stood at $10.1 Billion. During the CIP deliberations, we should better understand what the SGR number is today and what will it be if you adopt this CIP, as presented?
A few months ago, we learned that capital sources available to the MBTA are expected to decline in 2-3 years. While the MBTA Strategic Plan calls for capital spending of $1.5 billion every year through FY32, to eliminate the SGR backlog, the MBTA’s Pro-Forma shows there is only $1 billion available annually in FY25 through FY30. How will we close this gap to achieve the FMCB goal?
In terms of the key initiatives and new projects, if this is the last CIP approved by this Control Board, there should be specific funding amounts in place beyond FY22 for the priority . . .
Earlier this year, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) unveiled a new approach to development review regarding Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies for new developments over 50,000 sq ft. The updated system brings consistent and transparent targets based on a comprehensive scoring regime that recognizes the unique constraints and opportunities of each parcel. In addition, the interface has been moved from paper forms to an online portal for ease of use for developers and search by the public.
On April 5th, 2021, we were joined in conversation by key players in the design and future implementation of this innovative new system: BTD Director of Planning, Vineet Gupta; BTD Planner, New Mobility Team, Alaa Mukahhal; Ease Consult Principal, Allison Simmons.
The impetus behind this update, as presented by Director Gupta, is to increase consistency, reduce negotiation, bring transparency to the process, and to ensure each development fits within larger citywide goals. Those include:
To guide this initiative based on a comprehensive framework, BTD created a map displaying Mobility Scores for parcels across the city. This score is based on proximity to transit, access to jobs, current conditions for walking and biking, available grocery stores, and other factors. Not surprisingly, the densest and best served parts of downtown have the highest Mobility Scores while farther afield neighborhoods, which are more auto-dependent, have lower . . .
Testimony to the FMCB, Agenda Item I: Capital Investment Plan
Chairman Aiello, members of the Board, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today on the MBTA’s Capital Investment Plan.
Capital spending under the FMCB is a remarkable success story. My testimony begins with praise for the Board and MBTA leadership in creating an organization that can deliver 1.7 billion dollars in capital spending each year. Only a few years ago, some argued we needed to wait to see if the MBTA could spend $1 billion a year before considering new projects or revenue. Now you have exceeded that number three years in a row. This is a great accomplishment.
As the MBTA and this Board develop this next CIP, there should be two primary goals:
1) Reducing the State of Good Repair (SGR) backlog
2) Implementing transformational projects that will modernize the public transit system and contribute to the region’s climate change and resiliency goals.
Today, there are significant concerns that this CIP will not be able to meet these goals.
We ask that the FMCB explain what these CIP projections would mean relative to reducing the SGR Backlog. In May 2019, The the SGR backlog was $10.1 Billion. What is the SGR number today and what will it be if you adopt this CIP, as presented?
The MBTA Strategic Plan sets goals of spending $1.5 billion each year through FY32. But the 5-Year Pro Forma shows a sharp decline in capital dollars in FY24. So you are facing approximately a $4 billion funding gap over the next ten years.
Because of this funding gap, the FMCB should try to replicate what has worked over the past few years through maximizing federal funding. The MBTA capital spending success is largely a result of the Green Line . . .
On Friday, March 26th, 2021, after two years of advocacy across two legislative sessions, debates amongst coalition groups and partner organizations, and hundreds of bill amendments, Governor Baker signed S.9, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, into law. By signing the Next Generation Roadmap bill, Governor Baker enacted: 1) the most comprehensive piece of climate or clean energy legislation signed into law in Massachusetts since the initial passing of our 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA); and 2) one of the most comprehensive climate and clean energy laws in the country that now serves as a national model for bipartisan compromise, innovation, and climate leadership. A Better City congratulates the Commonwealth for this remarkable achievement, and thanks to the Baker Administration, Legislative leadership, and our engaged members for their partnership and collaboration.
Municipal Opt-In High Performance Stretch Energy Code
The bill directs the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to develop a new high-performance stretch energy code for new construction. The new high-performance stretch energy code will provide several compliance pathways that will include, but not be limited to, a net-zero compliance pathway. In alignment with A Better City’s recommendations, the climate bill ensures the updated stretch energy code is structured in a phased manner to account for technical constraints and extends the stretch code development timeline to roughly 18 months to ensure stakeholder input. With this law, there will in . . .
As part of A Better City’s Boston Forward Together initiative, A Better City welcomed Keolis CEO and General Manager for Commuter Services, David Scorey, on March 18th to speak with members about the innovative changes to Commuter Rail scheduling and service provision that go into effect on April 5, 2021.
CEO and General Manager David Scorey started off the conversation with some background information on Keolis and details on the division of responsibility and contractual relationship with the MBTA. He noted that Keolis is a global company with over 60,000 employees worldwide that operates every mode of transit service. Here in the Commonwealth, he explained Keolis has been responsible for operating and maintaining the MBTA Commuter Rail since 2015, with a recently extended contract until 2026. GM Scorey clarified that contractually, Keolis is responsible for running and scheduling service, including hiring staff and maintaining the Commuter Rail assets. The company is not responsible for capital investments and related work (e.g. tracks, signals, bridges, or for setting fare revenue). He noted that Keolis has and maintains a collaborative relationship with the MBTA.
The General Manager acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both the workforce and service side for Keolis Commuter Rail services. He noted that the company took early action to safeguard the health of its employees and the travelling public, including instituting a paid leave policy for all employees (10 days paid sick time) and putting in place rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols on Commuter Rail vehicles (e.g. mask mandate, fogging, disinfecting).
As reported by GM Poftak at the recent Boston Forward Together conversation on MBTA service and workplace . . .
Testimony to the FMCB, Agenda Item 9
Chairman Aiello, Members of the Board, General Manager Poftak, Acting Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.
Re: Testimony to the FMCB, Agenda Item 11: FY22 Budget Preview
Today, we are asking the MBTA to create a budgetary fund for targeted capital projects.
There is money at the MBTA to do both: return to full service immediately, and apply some of the federal aid to jumpstart unfunded capital projects.
When you combine the 3rd round of transit relief from the American Rescue Plan, with the MBTA budget projections from your recent Pro-Forma, the MBTA can carry a surplus into FY25.
Even under the MBTA’s worst case scenario in projected fare collections, you are reserving money for too long into the future. We are asking the FMCB to spend a small amount now.
Please, take advantage of this unique time when the MBTA has money available and there is a major federal infrastructure bill scheduled to pass Congress in September.
The FMCB should advance design and planning work on specific projects that have already been endorsed by the board. This is consistent with legislation filed by Sen. Boncore and his “PROJECTS Act”.
Today as part of the budget debate, you could create a new budgetary fund, similar to the old-PAYGO Capital Fund”. That would set aside money for “Federal Projects and Decarbonization Opportunities” and require the MBTA to move forward with the next set of enhancement projects like Regional Rail Phase 1 and the Red-Blue Connector.
Other projects that can be eligible for this fund should be