Summary of Governor Baker’s Letter on Emissions
April 28, 2021

Prepared by TOM RYAN, SENIOR ADVISOR ON POLICY, GOVERNMENT & COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | READ THE ORIGINAL LETTER HERE

 

Governor Baker joined a group of Governors writing to President Biden, requesting the federal government do a few specific things, including:

  • Setting standards to ensure that all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold are zero-emission no later than 2035 with significant milestones along the way to monitor progress.
  • Setting standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles and supporting complementary policies such as purchase incentives and infrastructure investments, that set a path towards 100% zero-emission sales by no later than 2045 with significant milestones along the way to monitor progress.
  • Expeditiously restoring strong scientifically based greenhouse gas emission standards for all vehicle model years possible to replace the unsupported standards from the previous administration. This will recover all of the emission reductions and other important benefits that were lost during the past four years.
  • Reaffirming that states have authority to follow vehicle emissions standards set by California, if they choose to do so.
  • Providing states with substantial funding for investment in charging and fueling infrastructure, providing grants or other financial support for fleet turnover to ZEVs, providing underserved communities equitable access to ZEVs and charging and fueling infrastructure, and supporting ZEV marketing.
  • Enhancing the existing electric vehicle tax credits by raising or removing the limits per manufacturer and extending tax credits to sales of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.
  • Ensuring that purchase incentives for ZEVs incorporate strategies targeting low-income buyers as well as expand incentives to used ZEVs focusing rebates at the point . . .

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Boston Forward Together: Conversation with Paul Grogan
April 28, 2021

A BETTER CITY STAFF | APRIL 15TH, 2021 | WATCH

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.

Opportunities for Action

  • Should the region’s top business associations collaborate to advance a discrete agenda of top 3 priorities to support equitable recovery and growth? 
  • How can the business community best support a Commonwealth-led campaign to attract riders back to public transit and to fund the enhancement and expansion of the transit system? 
  • Should the City hire a Chief Architect to oversee strategic placemaking and public realm activation in coordination with the Director of the Public Realm? 
  • How can the Commonwealth and City develop new strategies for funding and promoting cultural institutions? 
  • How can the Commonwealth and City most effectively prioritize the development of affordable housing and implementation of Governor Baker’s Housing Choice Law? 
  • Should the Commonwealth launch a Marshall Plan for literacy to dramatically expand vocationally-focused English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs that have proven to have an almost immediate payback for students? 

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Testimony to the FMCB: Forging Ahead
April 26, 2021

Prepared by Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director 

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.

  • A Better City and its members would like to thank the General Manager and Deputy General Manager for their progress report on service restoration at the last FMCB meeting, as well as their presentation on the Authority’s process and approach for rebuilding service.

  • Building back better to create a more equitable, affordable, reliable, and flexible public transit system is critical to meeting the mobility needs of the region. To get there, A Better City firmly believes the MBTA should start by reversing all service cuts set in motion by Forging Ahead as soon as possible.

  • A Better City asks the MBTA to put in place a restoration timeline that is in sync with the needs of riders and conditions in the communities the T serves. For example, the T should prioritize the restoration of bus routes serving Boston Public Schools now — not on June 20th, which is two days after the last day of school.

  • The MBTA has acknowledged that the primary challenge the T is facing to restore full or more robust service is a human resource capacity issue and not funding. This is thanks to the almost $2 billion in federal transit funding the T has received during and after the Forging Ahead process. A Better City continues to offer its support to accelerate training and to investigate all other possible options to offer more service, now, particularly on high ridership bus routes.

  • Today and in FY22, A Better City calls on the MBTA to lead demand by staying ahead of demand. Ridership is increasing, and the MTBA must fund and staff the system to safely accommodate riders on all . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Capital Investment Plan Update
April 26, 2021

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

 

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 . . .

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Event Recap: TDM Points Program: A New Standard in Development Review
April 15, 2021

WRITTEN BY SCOTT MULLEN, TRANSPORTATION DEMAND MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR | WATCH  

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: 

  • Reducing the drive alone rate 50% by 2030 
  • Eliminating traffic fatalities per the VisionZero policy 
  • Increasing access to, and use of, sustainable modes of transport 
  • Achieving net carbon neutrality by 2050, of which transportation is a huge part 

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 . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Capital Investment Plan
April 13, 2021

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

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 . . .

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Landmark Climate Bill Signed into Law as National Bipartisan Model
April 01, 2021

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

 

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 . . .

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Event Recap | Boston Forward Together: A New Regional Model for the Commuter Rail
March 31, 2021

WRITTEN BY CAITLIN ALLEN-CONNELLY, PROJECT DIRECTOR

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.

Summary

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.

COVID-19 Impacts on Workforce and Service

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 . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Restoration of Service
March 29, 2021

 Prepared by Caitlin ALLEN-CONNELLY, PROJECT DIRECTOR | March 29th, 2021

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.

  • A Better City and its members are encouraged by the recent signals from MBTA leadership suggesting that the Authority is taking important steps to restore and fund full service on the bus and subway as soon as possible.

  • We are grateful to Congressman Lynch and the state delegation for voicing their apprehension about Forging Ahead and advocating for immediate allocation of federal relief funds to support our public transit system.

  • Their call to action aligns with A Better City’s long-standing position, and we commend the MBTA for addressing and responding to the delegation’s concerns.

  • A Better City recognizes the complexities of restoring full service during the pandemic, and we stand ready to help support this effort, including by providing space for training.

  • With Phase 4 of the Governor’s re-opening plan underway, the region is transitioning to the “new normal”. While do not know exactly what this will look like, we do know that there will be a return to recreational activities this spring and summer and to the workplace by the fall.

  • With reports of crowding on the bus and subway, getting back to full service is critical to the T’s ability to safely accommodate the several hundred thousand current daily riders, many of whom are essential workers and transit dependent, as well as the uptick in ridership we expect to see with the re-opening of the economy.

  • As the MBTA prepares the FY22 budget, A Better City urges the Authority to not only fully fund bus and subway service, but to bring back full service on the Commuter Rail and . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Budgetary Fund for Capital Projects
March 29, 2021

PREPARED BY TOM RYAN, SENIOR ADVISOR ON POLICY, GOVERNMENT & COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | MARCH 29, 2021

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

  • Better Bus Network and overhaul of Bus Maintenance Facilities
  • Improvements to Environment Justice areas:
    • Improvements to the Fairmount Line
    • Electrification of the Newburyport/Rockport line that serves Lynn
    • Development of EMUs on the Attleboro . . .

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