Updated Energy Efficiency Priorities In The Next Three-Year Energy Efficiency Plan
March 03, 2021

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

At the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council’s (EEAC) Listening Session on November 17th, 2020, initial Commercial and Industrial (C&I) comments for the next three year energy efficiency plan (2022-2024) were submitted on behalf of A Better City, and the Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial and Health Care Working Groups. Since that time, the EEAC Consultant Team have presented their recommendations, and there has been a robust public engagement and workshop process that commenced in the last quarter of 2020. In addition, we hosted a focus group with interested members about our draft comments on February 12th, 2021, and received invaluable feedback.

This resulted in an update to our C&I comments that were presented in both written form and verbally at the EEAC’s monthly meeting on February 24th. There are seven key recommendations:

  1. Enhance communication between the C&I sector and Program Administrators (PAs): With progress towards achieving C&I savings targets lagging behind the necessary pace to meet the 2019-2021 Three-Year Plan goals, we consider establishing stronger channels for engagement between PA’s and key C&I market actors to be critical to meeting future goals.
  2. Develop enhanced retrofit offerings for pursuing deeper energy reductions and electrification: In order to set the C&I sector on the path to achieving long-term decarbonization goals, it is imperative that the 2022-2024 Three Year Plan offerings support building . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Preparation for the Next Federal Stimulus & Infrastructure Bill
February 24, 2021

Prepared by Tom Ryan, SENIOR ADVISOR ON POLICY, GOVERNMENT & COMMUNITY AFFAIRS | February 22nd, 2021 | WATCH

 

When you reach the agenda item for the Capital Investment Plan update, A Better City is hoping the Board Members will ask “What are we doing to prepare for the next federal stimulus and infrastructure bill?

If the MBTA and MassDOT can develop a focused effort on federal stimulus, we could maximize this opportunity and see action on a few transportation projects that today are currently unfunded.

The FMCB and MassDOT Board can show we have learned the key lessons from our last experience with federal stimulus when most of our federal transportation stimulus dollars mostly went towards road paving projects.  Certainly, the ARRA bill had flaws, because of its focus on “shovel-ready” projects even though MA didn’t really have any shovel-ready projects. This year should be different.

Congress is on track to pass a major federal infrastructure bill by Sept/Oct 2021.   So there are potentially nine months for the MBTA and MassDOT to get a head start on federal stimulus.  This is the right amount of time to advance design on some transformational capital projects that are supported by The Regional Rail Vision study, The Commission on the Future of Transportation, and Focus 40.

By taking steps now, we can increase investment in our economy, put more people to work on these projects, and we could realize the long-term transportation benefits from completed rail and transit projects.

Let’s not be caught flat-footed in the fall, when the federal infrastructure bill passes Congress.  Today, you should be asking the following questions:

 

  1. What are we doing to prepare for the next federal stimulus and infrastructure . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Let's Re-imagine Not Downsize Service
February 24, 2021

Prepared by Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director | FEBRUARY 22ND, 2021 | WATCH

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

  • Today, after a challenging year, the MBTA is in receipt of over $1 billion in stimulus funds—with a third round of relief expected—a vaccine is available, and the vaccine rollout is underway.
  • A Better City recognizes that this was not the case last September when the MBTA launched the Forging Ahead planning process to proactively identify cost savings solutions. At that time, there was great uncertainty over the future of federal aid, the presidential election, and the future of the pandemic.
  • Presently, we have finally reached a point where there is reason to believe that we are closer to the end of this pandemic and to the start of a return to the workplace. For this reason, A Better City hopes that the updated ridership projections we will hear about this afternoon reflect the current situation and future trends in the Commonwealth.
  • When commuters come back, A Better City strongly encourages the MBTA to be there with fuller-service that provides riders with the physical space they will want and require. If enough service is not available, the MBTA could lose customers and signal that Boston is not open for business.
  • Rather than downsize the MBTA, let’s re-shape and re-imagine service that improves customer experience, attracts new riders, and supports transformational change to our regional transit system. Here, A Better City supports piloting ideas like regular and predictable scheduling on the Commuter Rail, which could result in better service and more affordable fares.
  • The pandemic has shown us just how critical public transit is to the people and the economy of the Commonwealth. A Better City . . .

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Build For The Future, Don't Repair The Past
February 18, 2021

OP-ED | Boston Business Journal | Rick Dimino, President & CEO 

If you’ve taken the Mass Pike into Boston, you’ve ridden the relic — the elevated viaduct carrying eight lanes of traffic that snakes between the Boston University campus and the Charles River. It’s a throwback to 1960s highway design that divides our communities and hinders our region’s full potential. 

The old viaduct is nearing the end of its useful lifespan, and the commonwealth is assessing new configurations that not only improve the Pike but also enhance mobility, safety and access more broadly. And after more than five years of debate, major business and civic leaders agree: The “modified all at-grade” design is the best choice for this project because it is the best choice for the future of our region.

The all at-grade design would tear down the existing I-90 highway viaduct, place the highway on ground level, create a living shoreline to beautify and restore the riverbank, and replace the narrow Paul Dudley White path with a new boardwalk that separates pedestrians and cyclists and provide sweeping views of the Charles. Additionally, tearing down the viaduct and replacing it with a straighter, flatter surface road would be safer for drivers and easier for the state to maintain, while reducing roadway noise and pollution in adjacent communities.

Still not convinced? Construction would be less disruptive to drivers and transit riders, faster to complete, and cheaper than replacing a viaduct lane-by-lane while the roadway remains in service.

There is overwhelming support for the modified all at-grade — more than 90% of public comments submitted to MassDOT . . .

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Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District
February 17, 2021

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

One of the goals of the 2016 Climate Ready Boston plan was to promote adapted buildings that will limit damage and displacement related to the impacts of climate change.  As one of the most significant climate risks facing Boston is coastal flooding, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) was tasked with developing the Coastal Flood Risk Design Guidelines for new construction and building retrofits that were completed in 2019. These guidelines are intended to provide best practices for flood resistant design, and to be administered by BPDA staff for the review of projects within a proposed Flood Resilience Zoning Overlay District.

A draft of this Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District (CFROD), Article 25A, was released in late 2020 for public comment.

A Better City submitted comments on the draft Coastal Flood Resilience Overlay District on February 12, 2021. Although we were pleased to see clarification on some items that members had raised previously like how to measure building height and the location of vertical circulation items, we also requested the following amendments for BPDA’s consideration:

  • That the resilience review component of Article 80, not the Board of Appeals, is the more appropriate process for determining that all uses proposed within the CFROD are designed to address projected coastal flood risks.
  • That below grade parking that includes parking accessory to non-residential uses be amended to include residential and mixed-uses as well.
  • That modeling data used in the determination of the CFROD map be amended to clarify the rationale for the . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Deliver Full Service Now
February 08, 2021

Prepared by Cailin Allen-Connelly, Project Director | February 8th, 2021

Chairman Aiello, Members of the Board, Acting Secretary Tesler, thank you for the opportunity to comment today.

Before testifying, I would like emphasize that A Better City and its members understand the daunting challenges the MBTA is facing as a result of the pandemic. We sincerely appreciate the Authority’s heroic efforts to keep service running for the frontline workers who depend on it. This gratitude is unwavering even when our testimony addresses contentious issues and our views do not align.

Our comments today focus on the MBTA operating budget for FY21 and beyond. As the T continues to monitor its financial position this fiscal year and looks ahead to FY22, A Better City calls on the T and this Board not to short-change riders. With over $1 billion in federal relief funds in hand, the full restoration of service and continued funding of critical capital projects should be maintained.

The MBTA is the Commonwealth’s connector to the urban core and bustling communities from Worcester to Lowell. Right now, it is a lifeline for essential trips by disproportionately low-income people who rely on the MBTA1. Post-pandemic, it will service as a vital resource to bring people back to the workplace. Interviews with our members show a large portion of offices are currently open with employees having the option to go in, and that the Medical and Office/Professional sectors, provided vaccine rollout and state planning allow, are predicting a return in July 2021.

A Better City is concerned that the cuts voted on in December 2020 will lead to a lag in service when demand returns this summer and fall. With no information available on the costs savings associated with the approved service cuts, there is no evidence to suggest that the benefits outweigh the potential negative . . .

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Testimony to the FMCB: Create a Capital Program to Prepare for Stimulus Funding
February 08, 2021

Prepared by Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government & Community Affairs | February 8, 2021 

Right now there is a unique opportunity for the MBTA to maximize future federal funding under the Biden Administration and deliver meaningful improvements to the people of Massachusetts.

The MBTA should be creating a capital program specifically to be ready for Stimulus funding.

This effort would be to advance study, design, and engineering work on unfunded capital infrastructure projects at the MBTA.  

We know that almost all of the transformational infrastructure efforts at the MBTA lacking funding and won’t be funded in this next CIP.

If you start now, with a focused effort, to be ready to receive future federal stimulus funds for construction phases, it is more likely we can maximize this opportunity with the federal government.  

We are asking the FMCB to set aside 5% of all the emergency federal transit relief funds into a Stimulus-Ready fund, for the advancement of capital projects be related to 3 goals:

  1. Increasing transit service capacity,
  2. Addressing agency decarburization efforts
  3. Improving resiliency of the system

Only then we can actually have a chance to see this work implemented and benefit our region.   This is great opportunity to work with our Congressional delegation and be strategic.  

Please start now designing projects, because federal infrastructure funds will be available soon and the MBTA needs to be . . .

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A Better City Conversations: Zero Net Carbon Zoning Initiative
February 03, 2021

Written by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy, & Resilience
Thursday, January 21, 2021 | SLIDESWATCH

On Thursday, January 21, A Better City hosted the team supporting the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) Zoning Standard development process. Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, and Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy, and Resilience, at A Better City, welcomed John Dalzell, Senior Architect for Sustainability at the BPDA, and members of the ZNC consulting team, including Alejandra Menchaca and Colin Schless of Thornton Tomasetti, Jacob Knowles of the BR+A, Debra Perry of Cadmus (representing SolSmart), and Vincent Martinez of Architecture 2030. The purpose of the meeting was to provide members of the real estate community with an update on the ZNC Zoning Standard development process and how it fits with other climate priorities of the City and Commonwealth. Dalzell, Menchaca, Perry, and Martinez each presented on an aspect of the standard.

Dalzell provided an overview of Boston’s building emissions and goals, including that buildings represent 70% of Boston’s emissions and that Boston’s latest Climate Action Plan has identified early action items for achieving carbon neutrality. The BPDA is in the process of developing a zero net carbon standard to be included in Article 37 of the Article 80 large project review process. The framework for this standard includes: (1) low carbon buildings; (2) on-site renewable energy; and (3) offsite renewable energy, and a technical advisory group has been developed for each of these 3 pieces of the framework. Dalzell provided the example . . .

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Governor Baker refiles proposals on the MBTA Control Board & Procurement Rules
February 02, 2021

Written by Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government and Community Affairs 

Last week, Governor Baker filed legislation on budget recommendations for fiscal year 2022, which begins in July.   This proposal includes a few policy changes including an extension of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB).   Keeping the FMCB in place is a top priority of A Better City in 2021 as this board is an essential component for proper oversight and transparency at the MBTA.

Last summer, A Better City worked closely with the legislature to prevent the FMCB from expiring and Governor Baker is now proposing to expand the current board to seven members.  As this proposal heads to the legislature, there will be some debate over the makeup of this group, such as should there be municipal representation or an official specifically from the City of Boston.  A Better City will continue to emphasize the importance of the FMCB and we will work to find a solution before the FMCB expires on July 1, 2021.

There are also proposed changes to capital deliver and procurement laws at the MBTA and MassDOT, similar to the ideas proposed by Governor Baker last year.  These include allowing Design-Build project delivery methods and alternative methods like Design Build Finance Operate Maintain, allowing the MBTA to partner with private parties on mitigation work at MBTA/MassDOT facilities, and allowing for “A+B bidding” for infrastructure projects.   Due to the scale of the challenge facing the Commonwealth with our current and future transportation needs, A Better City supports these proposals, and we hope they can become law this year.   You can find more about these proposals at the

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S.9 Climate Bill Passed | Statement
January 28, 2021

Prepared by Rick Dimino, President & CEO

The recently passed climate bill (S.9) represents a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding clean energy, and uplifting environmental justice communities. We thank the Legislature for their bold leadership and continued commitment to combatting climate change in the Commonwealth.

While this bill is a step in the right direction, more work remains. The foundation of the climate bill is strong, but some key amendments are needed to address implementation concerns, especially relating to the net zero stretch energy code for buildings. The goal of updating the stretch energy code is commendable. However, the current bill language lacks clarity regarding process and scope and establishes an infeasible timeline for adopting an updated code. Moving forward, the commercial real estate sector must be at the table to define compliance pathways and timelines for net zero buildings that are both technically and economically achievable.

While it is disappointing that the Legislature did not take the opportunity to improve the bill language at this time, we look forward to continuing to work with Governor Baker’s team to enhance the bill. We now have an unparalleled opportunity to advance a compromise bill that propels Massachusetts toward meeting its climate goals, while investing in the region's equitable growth. We are grateful for the vision of our state leaders and the thoughtful perspectives of our members—we at A Better City remain committed to being part of the . . .

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