Energy & Environment Unit Announces 2021-2022 Policy Agenda
July 15, 2021

WrItten by Isabella Gambill, Senior Policy Advisor on Climate, Energy, & Resilience

 

The E+E Unit is pleased to announce our updated policy agenda for the 2021-2022 legislative session. After substantive discussion with our E+E Advisory Committee and support from our Executive Committee, we are proud to commit to a more comprehensive and equitable approach to our climate and clean energy work. By incorporating E+E commitments from our Equity in the Built Environment Work Plan as well as emerging policy opportunities at the City-, State-, and Federal-levels, we are excited to advocate for climate solutions that center equity and justice whenever possible, and that help to protect all communities in Greater Boston.

The updated E+E Policy Agenda for 2021-2022 may be found here. As you will notice, there are several new components to our policy commitments, including the following:

  • We have worked to incorporate aspects of climate, energy, and environmental justice, as well as equitable growth, equitable financing, and access to renewable energy.
  • We have included a more people-centered and community-centered approach to our climate work, with a more holistic emphasis on community resilience, health, and well-being.
  • We have called out equitable workforce development and extreme heat as two key Equity in the Built Environment priorities for our unit.
  • We have emphasized the need for effective, transparent, verifiable, and permanent carbon removals in Massachusetts.

If you have any questions about our updated E+E Policy Agenda for 2021-2022 and/or would like to become more involved in our policy work, please contact Isabella Gambill (

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Event Recap: Shaping the Post-Pandemic Commute, Together
July 14, 2021

WRITTEN BY Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director & Noah Jacobson,  INtern, WILLIAMS COLLEGE '22 | July 12th, 2021 | SLIDES

On July 12th, A Better City hosted a joint panel event with leaders from member companies and from the MBTA and Keolis to work together towards better post-pandemic public transportation. Richard Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City, welcomed the audience of approximately 40 members and partners, followed by Steve Poftak, General Manager at the MBTA, who gave a brief introduction and update on the T. The General Manager emphasized that the post-pandemic commute already looks different from pre-pandemic and during-pandemic trends and will continue to change. He stressed the importance of working with providers like Keolis to discuss new work schedules in the post-pandemic world.

Session I: Public transit for the new normal

Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director, A Better City, moderated the first session: Public Transit for the New Normal. Participants heard from five MBTA/Keolis leaders on MBTA employer survey results, service levels, fare products, Regional Rail schedules, and the Ride Safer and We’re Ready public outreach campaigns.

The Post-pandemic commute

Anna Gartsman, Director of Strategic Research for the Office of Performance Management and Innovation at the MBTA, presented data from various MBTA modes, including buses, subway, and Commuter Rail, to illustrate the new post-pandemic trends in ridership.

  • New Trends – Buses have been the most resilient mode as commuters have returned to work. The subway has varied in ridership comparatively, while the Commuter Rail saw substantial increases in usage after . . .

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Boston Forward Together: Dr. Ted Landsmark
July 13, 2021

Written by Tom Nally, Senior Advisor | June 10, 2021 | WATCH

 

On Thursday, June 10th, as part of A Better City’s Boston Forward Together speaker series, A Better City convened a webinar with Dr. Ted Landsmark, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. Rick Dimino, A Better City President and CEO, facilitated the conversation with one of our region’s thought leaders to explore several timely questions: What role can design and urban planning play in supporting an equitable economic recovery? What are Boston's unique challenges and opportunities at this critical point in time? What can we all do to reaffirm the value of Boston and build back better?

See complete Opportunities for Action and Summary below.

Opportunities for Action

  • How can the public and private sector work together to establish a green jobs hub in Roxbury, leveraging the expertise of institutions like Northeastern, Roxbury Community College, Wentworth, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, as well as the proximity of the Orange Line, to train and place the engineers and building operators of the future?
  • How can the MBTA most effectively break down the hub and spoke system to create more connections across the network, prioritizing the bus system?
  • How can the City of Boston work with other municipalities to establish a strategy for taking a regional approach to affordable housing development in Greater Boston?
  • How can the Commonwealth establish a strategy for taking a more collaborative approach to policy development across transportation, land use, and climate policies in New England, which is roughly the size of Georgia or Washington State?
  • What organizations are best positioned . . .

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Workforce Development Opportunities In Building Automation System Training
June 23, 2021

WRITTEN BY YVE TORRIE, DIRECTOR OF CLIMATE, ENERGY & RESILIENCE

Equitable workforce development and green jobs are currently at the front and center of policy development at every level of government and are a high priority with a variety of different stakeholders ranging from nonprofits to higher education. Although a small part of this important conversation, A Better City, on behalf of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, developed a research paper to look at a niche part of workforce development: the growing need for building automation system (BAS) operators in commercial and institutional buildings in Greater Boston that can maintain building operations at peak energy efficiency. Today’s high-performance buildings place new skill and knowledge demands on facility managers, building operators, engineers, architects, commissioning agents, equipment installers, and other onsite technicians; a lack of these skills and knowledge can prevent high-performance buildings from delivering on their peak energy efficiency. As the building sector remains one of the largest sources of GHG emissions both city- and state-wide, the operation of buildings at peak efficiency is essential to the City of Boston and the Commonwealth reaching their carbon neutrality goals by 2050.

The research paper had three goals:

  • To provide an internship opportunity for those training in high efficiency building operations or BAS at the Roxbury Community College’s (RCC) Center for Smart Building Technology, within Boston’s large buildings, where there is a high demand for these skills;
  • To provide RCC students from underserved communities with industry-guided internship and skill building opportunities within Boston’s commercial and institutional buildings that can be an entry to well-paying and sought-after jobs; and
  • To find a “home” for . . .

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Boston Forward Together: Conversation with Josiane Martinez
June 15, 2021

Written by Tom Nally, Senior Advisor | May 6th, 2021 | WATCH

On Thursday, May 6th, as part of A Better City’s Boston Forward Together speaker series, A Better City convened a webinar with Josiane Martinez, Founder and CEO of Archipelago Strategies Group. Rick Dimino, A Better City President and CEO, facilitated the conversation with one of our region’s thought leaders to explore several timely questions: What role can cross-cultural, data-informed communications strategies play in the region's recovery? What are Boston's unique challenges and opportunities at this critical point in time? What can we all do to reaffirm the value of Boston and build back better?

See complete Opportunities for Action and Summary below.

Opportunities for Action

  • How can our federal, state, and local governments prioritize those most impacted by the pandemic—including communities of color—in the recovery and rebuilding effort? What is the most effective way to center equity and diversity in this process?
  • How can the Commonwealth and City continue providing resources to impacted communities and small businesses post-pandemic?
  • Should the Commonwealth and/or philanthropic sector consider replicating the Chelsea Universal Basic Income pilot in other communities?
  • Should the Commonwealth and/or City take a closer look at the way people move around the City and region, with an eye toward supporting transit dependent communities and reducing the use of single occupancy vehicles?
  • What role might the business community play in recruiting and placing minority/women-owned businesses downtown? Should the City consider creating a target or set aside for MWBEs?

Summary

Josiane joined the webinar from Holyoke where she was assisting in local vaccination efforts. Her firm is . . .

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Event Recap: Resilience Recommendations for Boston’s Next Mayor
June 10, 2021

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 | 9AM - 10:30AM | WATCH | SLIDES

On June 2nd, A Better City hosted a joint panel event with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission to hear from resiliency leaders in their respective fields about what they see as resilience priority actions and recommendations. These recommendations will be included in a set of resiliency recommendations for Boston’s next mayor to ensure we are ready to respond to federal infrastructure funds and state funds as they become available.

Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, welcomed the audience of approximately 60 members and partners, followed by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy & Resilience, who introduced the event. As the City of Boston and its partners have worked diligently to understand Boston’s projected climate impacts, the neighborhoods that will be most affected, and have worked to develop plans for these neighborhoods, she said that many are now eager to move from planning to implementation.

City of Boston Update

Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Boston, updated us on Boston’s resilience work, providing an overview of City-wide resilience project priorities. He started by mentioning two new appointees: Chief White Hammond and Sanjey Seth, Program Manager for Climate Ready Boston. He said there are four areas of resilience focus:

  • Planning – Based on the Climate Ready Boston report of 2016, the City has developed plans for neighbors deemed most vulnerable with the most recent plans for Downtown/North End and Dorchester being released last year. Currently, they are also doing a second planning phase in East Boston and Charlestown. By the end of the year, there will be a full set of coastal neighborhood . . .

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I-90 Multimodal Project Task Force Meeting
June 08, 2021

Written by Tom Nally, Senior Advisor 

Continuing the theme of collaboration established in the February 23 Task Force Meeting, Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver opened the latest Task Force Meeting on June 3 by outlining the latest developments in this project’s saga that began in earnest in 2014. Using funds made available from fees generated by air rights projects now being constructed over the Turnpike, $75 million is planned to be spent on Phase 1 of the Multimodal project: structurally reinforcing the existing Turnpike viaduct in the narrow “Throat” portion of the project site along the Charles River. This work will help to provide a safer viaduct as the initial phase of the larger project. Later Mr. Gulliver made clear that MassDOT is looking to further refine the All At-Grade design, which is strongly supported by a consensus of municipalities, advocates, and other stakeholders and elected officials. Up until now MassDOT support for this alternative has been lacking, and so this new approach is a major turning point for the project. 

Mr. Gulliver also announced that the MBTA has awarded a preliminary design contract for design of a South Side Maintenance facility for commuter rail locomotives and coaches in Readville. This too is a significant development because two of the alternatives for replacement of the Turnpike viaduct require multi-year interruption of rail access from lines south of the Charles River to the principal maintenance facility in Somerville. With a Readville facility in operation, a major impediment to selection of the All At Grade option would be removed.

Finally, Administrator Gulliver indicated that MassDOT is moving ahead toward completion of an environmental Notice of Project Change before the end of 2021, with the intention of selecting a Preferred Alternative with or before issuance of that documents. The NPC will update the state environmental process on changes since . . .

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Testimony to FMCB: Budget Update
June 08, 2021

Prepared by Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government & Community Affairs

I want to thank the MBTA leadership and staff for their transparency in the presentations that will be shown today. There is a lot of good work happening at the MBTA and there is great potential for the future, particularly as it relates to the budget. I also want to thank the members of the FMCB for their hard work over the past 6 years. You have a proud record of success that justifies the continuation of a Control Board at the MBTA.


But today, there is one central question I want to ask before this FMCB expires and hopefully, a new board is established: "What do you want to do with the extra money that is now available at the MBTA?”


This is quite a different situation for the FMCB and the MBTA as an organization, and a unique opportunity for the FMCB to propel the T forward, and ensure your priorities are implemented as soon as possible.


Right now, there is approximately $200 Million that is being reserved for FY24, as a result of the federal transit relief funds. This number assumes fare collections will continue at the lowest projected scenario that the FMCB picked a few months ago. You are using Scenario 3, but if you had selected the midpoint option of Scenario 2, there will be $500 million still in reserve for FY24.


Today the presentations will show the 4th month in a row where fare collections exceed your budget estimates. And the economy is reopening sooner than we expected a few months ago. There is extra money to use now.
So what do you want to do with this extra money that is available to the MBTA?


A Better City is asking you to increase the amount set aside another $30 million into the Near-Term Transformational Investments Fund, and start the early design, engineering, and planning on capital investments that could be eligible for the Biden infrastructure bill. By advancing this . . .

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Testimony to FMCB: Service Demands
June 08, 2021

Prepared by Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director 

Chairman Aiello, Members of the Board, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tesler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.

It has been an unpredictable and challenging last fiscal year. The pandemic brought with it a fiscal landscape that was difficult to navigate.

I am certain that the Board and the entire MBTA team are relieved to be closing out the books. While it was not easy, and at times our opinions diverged, A Better City and its Members thank everyone for rolling up their sleeves and getting through the year intact.

Not too long ago, it seemed like FY22 would not offer much relief, but today the Commonwealth is in a much different place. The economy is back up and running with no restrictions: Boston and the region are officially OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

It appears to be full speed ahead to a long awaited and much needed recovery.

Memorial Day, rainy as it was, marked the “unofficial” start of summer, and with it a return to the recreational activities in and around Boston that we all love.

On the work front, we are hearing from our Members that workplace returns will start for some in July and for others in September. Employees are coming back to the office; some 5 days a week, and others in more of a hybrid capacity, commuting 3-5 days a week.

What does this mean for the MBTA’s FY22 budget?

It means funding pre-pandemic service levels—or more—and rethinking service delivery policy to make riding the T better than before. Let’s not return to crush capacity.

Last week, ridership across the system was at 41% compared to 35% just a month ago.

It means proactively thanking existing riders, welcoming back riders, and attracting new riders to a safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable system.

The word must get . . .

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FMCB Public Comment Testimonies | I-90 Multimodal Project
May 26, 2021

Prepared by Tom Nally, Senior Advisor

  • First of all, on behalf of A Better City, I express our thanks for the work and accomplishments of members of this Fiscal Management and Control Board over the years of the Board’s existence, and to underscore the importance of maintaining the continuity of the initiatives begun by this Board by whatever governance structure is established as its successor.
  • Second, I express appreciation for the first steps taken by MassDOT to maintain safety for users of the existing Turnpike viaduct in Allston, but we emphasize that the proposed implementation of short term viaduct repairs is no substitute for the advancement of the full I-90 Multimodal Project to address the needs and opportunities for that corridor, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the region.
  • We continue to believe that replacing the viaduct with an All At-Grade Alternative and all components of the Multimodal Project is the best approach to address those opportunities, and we urge the Secretary and the Governor to select and advance that alternative and to outline an expedited design and construction schedule to take advantage of available federal infrastructure funds.
  • Third, an important component of that approach will both facilitate continued commuter rail operations during construction in the Turnpike corridor and will contribute toward the implementation of a larger Regional Rail vision is the siting, design, and construction of a new Southside Rail Maintenance Facility.
  • This facility can provide maintenance for Southside rolling stock while access to facilities in Somerville is constrained by interruption in service on the Grand Junction line.
  • Work needs to begin now on this facility.
  • We urge your approval of the next step to advance this important facility by taking action today on the engineering . . .

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