Event Recap: CLIMATE READY BOSTON | DOWNTOWN AND NORTH END
August 14, 2019

On August 8, 2019, A Better City (ABC) invited representatives from the City of Boston and the Boston Planning and Development Agency to give an overview of Climate Ready Boston Downtown & North End to ABC, Sustainable Buildings Initiative and Greenway BID members. Climate Ready Boston has been working through neighborhoods most vulnerable to climate risks to understand flood pathways and develop both short- and long-term solutions.

The Downtown and North End neighborhoods have been divided into three sub-districts for planning purposes: Downtown and Wharf District (a current flood entry point); North End Waterfront; & North End-West End (a current flood entry point). These areas have varied ownership, including private, city, state, and federal; a variety of subsurface conditions, including highway tunnels and exits, and MBTA tracks and a station; and a vast difference in bulkhead conditions. For each of the three sub-districts, two options are being considered:

  • A raised road option that would include flood protection along an existing artery; and
  • A waterfront option that would include raised land and potentially filled land on the periphery of the sub-district.

Given differences in ownership, use, and the requirements to coordinate with other city and state agencies across different sub-districts, there was a lot of discussion around how to customize intervention strategies for a range of needs. Members encouraged Climate Ready Boston to promote strategies that would facilitate collaboration across . . .

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A Better City Convenes Roundtable and Releases New Report to Help Advance 21st Century MBTA Bus Service and Adoption of Battery Electric Bus Technology
August 07, 2019

BOSTON, MA (August 7, 2019) – Today, A Better City hosted “Powering the Future: Electrifying and Expanding the MBTA Bus System,” a roundtable event that brought together experts who have begun the important task of identifying the challenges and opportunities of moving toward an electric bus fleet and the need for a new major MBTA bus maintenance facility modernization program. 

The event highlighted a newly released A Better City report entitled “New MBTA Bus Maintenance Facilities & Evolving Battery Electric Bus Technology: The Potential for Mixed-use, Public-Private Development.” The study showcases the potential for public-private real estate developments to defray costs associated with construction of new MBTA bus maintenance facilities as part of a broader goal of increasing access to MBTA bus transit, which today features approximately 1,000 buses that serve more than 400,000 riders on weekdays.

“Understanding the opportunities and challenges associated with advancing MBTA bus service in the 21st century is critical given its importance as a transit mode that benefits hundreds of thousands of residents and workers in Massachusetts,” said Richard A. Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City. “Today’s event and release of our newest report on MBTA bus maintenance facilities underscores the importance of elevating bus service in the Commonwealth in the years ahead.”

The new report, which was funded by the Barr Foundation, sheds light on a key transportation infrastructure issue of significance. The report highlights the MBTA’s pressing need for new or updated bus maintenance facilities as set forth in the MBTA Integrated Fleet and Facilities Plan. Currently, more than $875 million in funding is needed to modernize the MBTA’s nine bus maintenance garages, which are, on average, approximately 50 years old. Modernization and expansion of . . .

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Op-ed: How to raise revenue for transportation
July 30, 2019

The MBTA Red Line derailment was a tipping point in the longstanding discussion about addressing our transportation needs. We need dramatic interventions to create a 21st-century transportation system that supports our economy and high quality of life. Recent polling shows we risk losing talent to other states due to people’s frustrations about their commutes.

Many business organizations, including A Better City, believe that any real solution to our transportation woes must not only involve reforms and accountability legislation, but also new revenue. The question becomes: how to do it?

Both the Massachusetts Senate and the House have indicated they will consider legislation that includes new revenue for transportation. While there are different approaches to solving our transportation crisis, the top priority is action. Legislation needs to pass this session to move the commonwealth forward. As the business community considers solutions, a revenue package must adhere to a set of fundamental principles:

  • Address Statewide Needs: The T is in the headlines, but A Better City’s recent State of the Built Environment report showed substandard roads and bridges are the state’s biggest hurdles in reaching a systemwide state of good repair.
  • Address Congestion and Climate Goals: We must prioritize mass transit, pricing for behavior change, and begin work on . . .

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Top 10 Accomplishments Jan - June 2019
July 01, 2019

After a very productive first six months of the year, A Better City is excited to share their first round of accomplishments for the 2019 year. Read the comprehensive accomplishments report spanning from January 2019 to June 2019 here. 
 
1. Released State of the Built Environment Report: ABC finalized and released the second edition of the State of the Built Environment report in consultation with consultants from the UMass Donahue Institute in February 2019. This report provides a quantitative update of the Transportation Finance Commission reports from 2007 and assesses the funding needs for the Commonwealth's transportation infrastructure system, the current funding available in MassDOT and MBTA budget plans, and what is necessary over the next ten years to meet the needs of our transportation system.
 
2. Secured At-Grade Preferred Alternative for the Allston Interchange: ABC has continued to advocate for elimination of the Turnpike viaduct in the narrow transportation corridor along the Charles River that includes the Turnpike, the Worcester Commuter Rail mainline, Grand Junction rail service, Soldiers Field Road, and the Paul Dudley White path in open space along the river bank. In January 2019, in a major victory for ABC, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack announced that the Turnpike should be located at grade with four lanes of Soldiers Field Road elevated over one half of I-90. 
 
3. Advocated for the South Boston Bypass Road Pilot: ABC organized a letter writing and public comment campaign to support the South Boston Bypass Road pilot program and ask that MassDOT keep this program going past September 2019. The current pilot program is underway and MassDOT is monitoring the use of this road, . . .

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Testimony to the Joint Committee on Revenue Regarding S10, An Act Providing for Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth
June 20, 2019

Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, A Better City

June 18, 2019

On behalf of Rick Dimino, President & CEO of A Better City and the 131-member ABC Board, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on S10. I am Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President of ABC. Prior to joining ABC in May 2019, I served in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office for nearly six years—first as the Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, then as the Governor’s Assistant Secretary for the Environment, and most recently as Chief of Staff for State Operations. In these various roles, I garnered significant expertise in climate resilience as the state endeavored to build back better in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Since its inception in 1989, A Better City has fought to enhance the Boston region’s economic competitiveness, growth, and livability by developing solutions in three critical areas: transportation, land use, and energy and the environment. Since 2006, ABC has been working with member buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the last five years, ABC has also been helping members plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. ABC chairs the Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group and has participated in the last two Climate Action Plan updates for the City of Boston.

On behalf of ABC, I thank Governor Baker and Secretary Theoharides for their leadership on both climate mitigation and adaptation policies—their bold vision has positioned Massachusetts as an undisputed national leader. I applaud S10 as an acknowledgement of the dire need to raise new revenue for climate resilience, especially for the critical infrastructure that must be built to protect our communities and economic hubs from the impacts of sea level rise, storm surge, and increased precipitation. 

However, after surveying our membership, which represents a . . .

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Testimony to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Regarding HB3846, An Act Relative to GreenWorks
June 20, 2019

Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, A Better City
June 18, 2019

On behalf of Rick Dimino, President & CEO of A Better City and the 131-member ABC Board, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on GreenWorks. I’m Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President of ABC. Prior to joining ABC in May 2019, I served in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office for nearly six years—first as the Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, then as the Governor’s Assistant Secretary for the Environment, and most recently as Chief of Staff for State Operations. In these various roles, I garnered significant expertise in climate resilience as the state endeavored to build back better in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Since its inception in 1989, A Better City has fought to enhance the Boston region’s economic competitiveness, growth, and livability by developing solutions in three critical areas: transportation, land use, and energy and the environment. Since 2006, ABC has been working with member buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the last five years, ABC has also been helping members plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. ABC leads the Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group and has participated in the last two Climate Action Plan updates for the City of Boston.

On behalf of ABC, I thank Speaker DeLeo and Representative Golden for proposing a legislative package that supports an array of vital initiatives to help the Commonwealth pursue both mitigation and adaptation strategies in parallel. Developing municipal microgrids, electrifying municipal and regional transit authority fleets, establishing municipal sustainability coordinators, and providing funds for municipal resilience projects are all critical steps toward realizing a greener, more resilient future. We appreciate the articulation of a wide range of climate issues as . . .

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Safety Issues and State of Good Repair
June 17, 2019

A Better City's Director of Transportation, Kathryn Carlson testified in front of the MBTA Board to discuss safety concerns surrounding recent derailments. Here is the transcript from her testimony: 

Joint MassDOT and FMCB Board Meeting, June 17, 2019

Comments by Kathryn Carlson, Director of Transportation, A Better City

Safety Issues and State of Good Repair

Thank you Secretary Pollack, Chairman Aiello and all board members for hearing our comments today.

I am Kathryn Carlson, Director of Transportation at A Better City, and I am here today on behalf of our 130-member businesses and institutions.

Obviously there is concern among all – commuters, business leaders and citizens across the region – regarding the recent MBTA train derailments.

We feel that this is indicative of the slow state of State of Good Repair updates and are calling on you to conduct an independent safety audit of the entire system.

1)      It is imperative for confidence in the system that this audit is conducted by an independent entity and the results communicated in a transparent and timely manner not only to the board but also to the business community, commuters and citizens of the region alike.

We acknowledge that LTK is a highly respected and reputable national firm and has done great work for the MBTA and with us at A Better City. Our issue is NOT with LTK being selected by the MBTA GM to conduct this safety review. Rather, given these recent derailments and the public's heightened and reasonable concerns with system safety, A Better City thinks this safety review should be done independent of the MBTA.

2)      We ask you to consider deferring the fare increase until such time that safety issues are well-addressed.

3)      These are immediate actions but need to work in concert with a renewed push for removing the State of Good Repair backlog on the . . .

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MBTA Derailment | A Statement from A Better City
June 13, 2019

Recent derailments of the MBTA Red and Green Lines are reigniting the focus on our transportation infrastructure and the financial resources dedicated to supporting it.  President & CEO, Rick Dimino released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to these unacceptable events. 
 
"When our transportation system doesn't function, Boston and the region don't function. Recent derailments and the ensuing disruption are a stark reminder of the importance of transportation to our economy and quality of life. They are also a symptom of a larger problem reaching crisis proportions: decades of neglect and under-investment impacting our whole transportation system -- including not just the MBTA but also our roads, bridges, and regional transit. The business community, riders, public officials, and other stakeholders must come together this year to find real solutions, including new revenue, to bring forth the modern, comfortable, and convenient system Massachusetts residents deserve and are demanding."
 
A Better City will continue focusing on the development of a comprehensive transportation finance plan. We seek a plan before the end of 2019 that can generate funding to address our State of Good Repair needs and also support the capacity improvements for our expanding economy requires. 
 
We look forward to working with all of you on this important issue and are interested in hearing your . . .

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Welcoming a New Team Member
May 02, 2019

We are happy to formally announce the hiring of our new Executive Vice President, Kate Dineen. She will be starting at A Better City on May 6th.

Kate Dineen is the former Chief of Staff for State Operations in the Office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. In this role, Ms. Dineen spearheaded the development and implementation of the Governor's annual State of the State policy agenda and helped negotiate the State's annual $170 billion budget. She oversaw the daily operations of New York State agencies and managed a team of nearly 40 senior policymakers to advance the Governor's priorities. She played a key role in a variety of marquee initiatives, from combating the opioid epidemic, to fighting gang violence, to ensuring gender equity. She has noteworthy expertise in energy and environmental policy, developing and implementing sweeping initiatives to improve community resilience, expand renewable energy, enhance open space, and protect water quality.

Amid more frequent and severe storms, Ms. Dineen also worked closely with key agencies on emergency preparedness and response efforts. Additionally, Ms. Dineen managed New York State's sweeping efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, including the deployment of more than 1,000 public safety personnel and utility workers, distribution of nearly 4,500 pallets of critical supplies, and the establishment of student volunteer initiative to rebuild hundreds of homes in 10 weeks.

Ms. Dineen previously served as Governor Cuomo's Assistant Secretary for the Environment, negotiating the historic $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and record $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. She also served as the Deputy Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, established to implement approximately $4.4 billion in federally-funded . . .

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Allston I-90 Status Report: Two Important Meetings
April 25, 2019

Two important meetings for the Allston I-90 project were held in mid-April. On April 18, the Urban Design Committee of the Boston Society of Architects hosted a workshop charrette to explore new ideas for three locations in the narrow portion of the transportation right of way along the Charles River known as the “Throat” where the Turnpike viaduct will be removed and the roadway rebuild on the ground. Four lanes of Soldiers Field Road will be relocated over four lanes of the Turnpike to allow space to accommodate all of the transportation facilities and an enhanced river edge in the narrow corridor. 

Following an introduction and update on the project presented by Thomas Nally of A Better City, Tad Read of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and neighborhood activist Jessica Robertson, the 100 participants divided into six groups to explore ideas for three areas:

1. The pedestrian and bicycle crossing of the corridor between Commonwealth Avenue and the edge of the river at Agganis Way near the western end of the Throat.

2. The Paul Dudley White Path and the edge of the river along the length of the Throat.

3. The potential development parcel and connection from the BU Bridge to the river at the eastern end of the Throat.

At the end of the evening, the groups reported out and summarized their work.  This large group of designers, activists, and other stakeholders came away from the session with a better understanding of the potential for making new connections that would not have been possible if MassDOT had not chosen to pursue this preferred alternative.

At the April 24 Task Force meeting, Ken Miller of the Federal Highway Administration introduced a presentation on the federal environmental review of the Allston project.  The first step in the process is issuing a Notice of Intent to file an environmental report followed by beginning a scoping process. The state and the federal process will be . . .

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