We’re proud of the many contributions we have made in transportation, land development, and the environment for the Greater Boston Area. Here are a few of our most recent accomplishments:
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
- Equitable Workforce Development: On June 27, 2023, eight PowerCorpsBOS trainees from a building operations pilot graduated with PowerCorpsBOS certifications, and certifications in Building Operations (BOC) and Green Professional Training (GPRO). These trainees completed six months of: foundational training with the PowerCorpsBOS team; technical training with the Roxbury Community College’s (RCC) Smart Buildings Technology Center; and in- service learning within A Better City member and City of Boston buildings. A Better City staff are working with the PowerCorpsBOS and RCC teams to understand, from trainees and building partners, their experience, lessons learned, and employment offerings, to form the basis of adjustments made to the building operations program for the second cohort of trainees that will begin in July 2023. For the July- December 2023 cohort, A Better City members have offered in-service learning opportunities for 10 trainees within their buildings. A Better City has recently received an additional two years of funding for this work from the Linde Family.
- Extreme Heat: In May 2023, A Better City released two publications on extreme heat: a primer Addressing Extreme Heat in Boston: Engaging the Business Community in Heat Resilience Solutions ,which summarizes the work to date on extreme heat and urban forestry in Greater Boston and suggests how businesses can support extreme heat solutions; and a companion document Case Studies: How Boston Organizations and Institutions Can Engage in Community Heat Resilience Initiatives, which features four member and partner organizations – Boston Medical Center, the C-HEAT Partnership with Boston University and GreenRoots, the Museum of Science, and Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) – that support community heat resilience. In April, A Better City hosted a second meeting of the Extreme Heat Working Group, with Zoe Davis from the City of Boston discussing ongoing work since the release of the Boston Heat Plan in April 2022, and key opportunities for collaboration with the private sector on short- and long-term heat solutions. One solution is the launch of a heat safety communications pilot with a group of member organizations in summer 2023 in partnership with the City of Boston and Boston Green Ribbon Commission. A Better City recently received additional funding for our extreme heat work from the Paul & Edith Babson Foundation. Finally, parallel to our extreme heat work, A Better City attended the launch of the Tree Alliance in May 2023, led by Mass Audubon, to help support tree planting on private land in Boston and continues to follow developments of Tree Protection Ordinances targeting public and private trees in Boston City Council.
- City-Level Building Policies: The regulatory process for BERDO 2.0, for existing buildings in Boston is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. As 85% of buildings that exist in Boston today will be standing in 2050, A Better City members and staff have been actively engaged in this process through comment letters, and recommendations to the BERDO Review Board and Technical Advisory Groups. For new construction, further development on the City of Boston’s Zero Net Carbon Zoning has been paused to account for the impact of updated and new state building codes. With an array of new and updated building policies at both a city and state level to keep abreast of, A Better City hosted a briefing with Boston’s Environment Commissioner, Alison Brizius, to understand the alignment and interplay of these policies. The Cambridge City Council also recently passed an update to the Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) for existing buildings. A Better City highlighted the challenges of BEUDO’s commitment to a 2035 net zero deadline for existing buildings throughout the Ordinance’s development.
- State-Level Building Policies: A Better City continues to engage members on emerging state-level climate and clean energy policies, particularly building policies. The Stretch Energy Code was recently updated and came into effect for commercial buildings on July 1, 2023, for all green communities. The Opt-In Specialized Stretch Energy Code, which municipalities in the Commonwealth can opt in to, was adopted by Boston in April 2023 and will come into effect in January 2024. In addition, Boston applied for consideration as one of the 10 municipalities in the State’s Fossil Fuel Free pilot and will hear if it is successful by March 2024. The Commonwealth is also working on a Clean Heat Standard; A Better City provided comments to the preliminary discussion document and straw regulatory language in May. Beyond building policies, A Better City was also asked to provide expert testimony for a legislative briefing on carbon removals before the Senate Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change in April, and highlighted the recommendations from the June 2021 carbon offsets report for equitable, transparent, and effective carbon removals best practices in Massachusetts. Finally, A Better City provided recommendations for the five-year update to the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP) that we anticipate will be finalized in fall 2023.
- Equitable Climate Funding: On June 13, 2023, Governor Healey, the City of Boston, and legislative partners officially announced the launch of a Massachusetts Community Climate Bank (Bank), which will initially focus on decarbonizing affordable housing with $50M in seed funding committed from the Department of Environmental Protection. The Bank will be administered in MassHousing and jointly run in collaboration with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and will operate like a revolving loan fund, likely providing low risk and low interest loans for equitably decarbonizing existing In the next few months, the State will be looking to hire an Executive Director and supporting staff, as well as to attract additional private sector funding to expand the Bank’s seed funding capital stack. A Better City participated in the Steering Committee that helped to develop a business plan for a climate bank over the past two years and was a longtime advocate of the creation of a climate bank to the Baker and Healey administrations. A Better City was delighted to attend the State House launch of the MA Community Climate Bank and will continue to push for opportunities to expand the scope of the Bank to include equitable decarbonization of BERDO 2.0 compliant buildings, as originally envisioned, and to consider resilience funding opportunities.
LAND USE & DEVELOPMENT
- Greenway BID: This spring, the Greenway BID finalized a five-year contract with the Greenway Conservancy that explains how BID funds will be used and specific performance standards for the Greenway parks. The Greenway BID previously agreed to increase its annual financial contribution to the Conservancy to account for inflation and the increased need to activate the parks throughout the entire year. Over the next five years, the BID will advance major capital enhancement projects to bring more lighting along the corridor and will support park programing that appeals to office workers and the downtown economy. This agreement between the BID and Conservancy sets the framework on achieving these goals.
- City of Boston Zoning & Policy Changes: A Better City prepared detailed comments on proposed changes to linkage payments and Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) that would impact projects that seek to advance during uncertain economic times when financing of projects has become more challenging than in the recent past. As a result of comments by A Better City and others, the City has adjusted timelines to acknowledge market conditions.
- Greening the Blue Line: With support from the Stone Living Lab, the project team of A Better City, Civic Space Collaborative, and Weston & Sampson completed work on the development of nature-based solutions to address impacts of coastal and stormwater flooding for portions of the Blue Line corridor in East Boston begun in 2022. The work was presented and well received at a conference of the Stone Living Lab Conference in late April 2023. The final report is now being prepared.
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
- MBTA Safety, Staffing, & Service Analysis & Advocacy: A Better City launched a continuing advocacy campaign to shape the MBTA's focus on safety, staffing, and service in coordination with General Manager Eng, including a regular snapshot report to monitor key performance metrics and data trends using publicly facing data. A Better City continued to provide testimony at MBTA Board of Director Meetings on key issues ranging from safety, staffing, and service to the T’s operating budget and Capital Investment Plan (CIP); regularly engaged with MBTA staff and leadership; and participated in the MBTA Policy Development Working Group. A Better City published:Reimagining Regional Mobility, released in February 2023.
- Transportation Finance Analysis & Advocacy: A Better City successfully led a coalition of business, environmental, community-based equity organizations calling for 50% of the Millionaires Tax to be directed toward new transportation programs—State Budget writers approved plans consistent with this request. A Better City continues to advocate for lawmakers to consider potential for long-term borrowing against Millionaire's Tax revenue to advance infrastructure projects like the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project, Regional Rail, and Cape Cod bridges. Additionally, A Better City worked with Beacon Hill leaders who filed legislation to study the future of highway tolling through a Mobility Pricing Commission. As part of this work, A Better City published an op-ed in the Boston Globe’s “The Argument” section calling for a new statewide policy on highway tolling to address congestion, equity concerns, and new infrastructure projects—voters supported the proposed approach to tolling 63-37% over the argument opposing a new toll policy.
- Sumner Tunnel Closure: A Better City actively participated in working groups established to plan and support mitigation of impacts resulting from the summer closure of the Sumner Tunnel, including the Principal’s Working Group, Transit Issues/Users/Mobility Working Group, and Business Working Group as a co-chair. These measures are aimed at encouraging regular users of the Sumner Tunnel to take advantage of transportation alternatives by reducing Blue Line slow zones, reducing or eliminating commuter rail and Blue Line fares, reducing parking rates, and supporting use of ferries across Boston Harbor. ABC staff facilitated two-way communications between business and institutional employers to inform employees and visitors of mitigation measures and routes. Additionally, A Better City played a leading role in engaging stakeholder groups to support and amplify MassDOT’s “#DitchTheDrive” campaign to encourage use of public transportation during the closure and beyond.
- I-90 Allston Multimodal Project Economic Benefits: In June, A Better City held an in- person panel discussion to highlight the Economic Benefits Study on the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project. As the first step in a campaign to advance support for implementation of the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project, A Better City convened a panel discussion with ABC President Emeritus Richard Dimino, Boston Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison, MassDOT and MBTA General Counsel Douglas McGarrah, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Timothy Murray, Colliers International Executive Vice President Jeanne Pinado, and Multimodal Task Force member Jessica Robertson. Over 40 attendees joined in the discussion of how the project will unlock economic opportunity and enhance mobility in Greater Boston and the region. Additionally, A Better City is conducting additional analysis to quantify project benefits and to inform a project finance plan.
- I-90 Allston Multimodal Project Construction Staging & Viaduct Preservation Contract: As a critical next step in advancing the Multimodal Project, the team continued development of a construction staging concept based on two principles: 1) minimize temporary construction of project elements in the staging, and 2) place the most beneficial elements of the roadway system in service permanently as soon as Following these principles, a staging plan will result in savings of time and cost for the project as fewer components are installed temporarily and abandoned when replaced with permanent elements. An efficient staging concept will make the project more attractive to fund and will facilitate planning for construction mitigation measures. As a result of this work, MassDOT has revised its approach to construction staging and has adopted most of the concepts developed by A Better City. Additionally, A Better City, working closely with the Conservation Law Foundation and other stakeholders, successfully advocated for changes to the preservation contract language to emphasize the interim nature of the viaduct preservation work.
- TMA Member Engagement: A Better City’s engagement with TMA members continues to deepen and evolve, with 130% increase in one-on-one member workplan meetings over last These sessions enhance programming support and enable granular goal setting by which to measure our collective impact over the year. In addition, A Better City convened the first in-person quarterly TMA membership meeting since the pandemic began, gathering at the Hood Park campus for an afternoon of e-bike demos, a deep discussion of current TDM challenges and opportunities, and a social hour at the onsite Aeronaut beer garden.
- Expanded Bike Clinics and Targeted Commuter Promotions: a Better City’s popular neighborhood-based Bike Clinic Series launched in early May with new sites for the West End, Brighton, and Back Bay series, increased staff coverage during the busiest sessions, expanded the event schedule throughout the entire summer season, and instituted a more robust post-event evaluation process. Successfully executed commuter promotions include: the May “Navigate the T with your TMA” commuter webinar; the May National Bike Month celebration that included new resources and raffles and resulted in 1,022 bike trips covering nearly 4,000 miles; and the April “Move Green, Plant a Tree Challenge” with more than 1,400 trips logged and 337 trees
- Expanded Shuttle Options: After a successful first year of operations, the Allston- Brighton TMA expanded route and schedule options southward for the Consolidated Shuttle Service (CSS) to make a new connection to the B Branch of the Green Line. This extension was made possible by bringing two additional partners into the CSS group through Transportation Access Plan Agreements with the City of Boston. The CSS serves as the foundation on which to build the larger operational vision of a Neighborhood Transit LINK service, which the City of Boston contracted A Better City to study. The final report of that study effort is scheduled to be published in Q3.
- Better Bike Share Grant: A Better City earned a $20,000 grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership’s 2023 Micro Grant awards program to implement a recurring series of guided bicycle commutes in support of our large institutional employer members in Downtown, South End, and Dorchester. The goal is to highlight the availability of bikeshare at participants’ home and work destinations, increase awareness of existing employer membership subsidy programs, and generate data to support the case for new employer membership subsidy programs where applicable.
- E-Bike Rebates: A Better City convened a broad coalition of stakeholder groups to form a strategy related to a potential e-bike rebate program. Currently, the Commonwealth subsidizes EV cars only and the goal is to make the undersubscribed funds in the MOR- EV program—tens of millions of dollars—flexible for lighter electric vehicles like e- bikes, e-cargo bikes, and more. DOER representatives have expressed a willingness to implement a program but not until the end of 2024. Such a program should be implemented immediately to jumpstart efforts to achieve 2025 Clean Energy and Climate Plan commitments.
- GoMassCommute Branding: A Better City completed updates to the online commuter support panel, including navigational updates, branding enhancements, and redesigned landing The team also added new branding to the Transit Thursday series, a regular rundown of upcoming service changes on the MBTA.
MEMBERSHIP & COMMUNICATIONS
- Publications & Programming: During the first half of 2022, A Better City has held two Executive Committee meetings, two Board of Director meetings, 14 A Better City Membership Engagement Programs, and published 31 blog posts, 26 email, blasts, and five report: Addressing Extreme Heat in Boston: Engaging the Business Community in Heat Resilience Solutions, Case Studies: How Boston Organizations and Institutions Can Engage in Community Heat Resilience; Initiatives;Menu of Mitigation Measures Addressing Transportation Impacts: I-90 Allston Multimodal Project (February 2023); Reimagining Regional Mobility; Public-Private Partnerships for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority; Public-Private Partnerships Station Redevelopment for the MBTA. A Better City welcomed an array of key decision makers at Board and Executive Committee meetings over the past six months: Secretary Gina Fiandaca spoke at the March Board Meeting, Chief of Planning and Director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency Arthur Jemison spoke at the March Executive Committee Meeting, MBTA General Manager Phil Eng spoke at the May Board Meeting, and City of Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge spoke at the June Executive Committee Meeting. Additionally, A Better City hosted five A Better City Conversations with the following guests: Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, Secretary Rebecca Tepper, Undersecretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt, City of Boston Chief Financial Officer and Collector-Treasurer Ashley Groffenberger, and Commissioner of the City of Boston Environment Department Alizon Brizius. Additional programming included an in-person I-90 Allston economic benefits panel, and a virtual Sumner Tunnel Closure briefing, and several lunch and learns focused on Regional Mobility, Public Private Partnerships, and Extreme Heat.
2023 Norman B. Leventhal Excellence in City Building Awards: Named in memory of A Better City’s founding director, the Norman B. Leventhal Excellence in City Building Awards recognize the leaders and innovators who have made significant contributions to our built environment. On December 4, 2023, at the Boston Harbor Hotel, A Better City will honor a particularly impressive slate of civic leaders and visionaries that are continuing to build a better city for all. Learn more about sponsorship opportunities here.
- City Builder: Rick Dimino, President Emeritus, A Better City
- Distinguished Leadership: Ted Landsmark, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, Director, Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern
- Environment: Kathy Abbott, CEO & President, Boston Harbor Now
- Land Use: Alex Krieger, Principal, NBBJ, and Professor Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Member Retention, Recruitment & Development: A Better City continues to focus on member retention, as well as strategic new member recruitment. In the first six months of 2023, A Better City has welcomed Synergy, STA Design, and Sasaki as new members. Additionally, A Better City has secured $275,000 in new grant funding through the Linde Family Foundation, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, and the Better Bike Share Partnership. Please reach out to Leann Kosior, Membership & Business Development Manager with any questions.