MAKING FARES WORK: FARE PROMOTIONS AND PRODUCTS FOR THE HYBRID COMMUTE

October 2021 - Companies and employees are contemplating the future of work, which will likely include a hybrid model, and are getting ready to transition back to the workplace. Many are asking if it is cost effective to take public transit if they do not come back to the office 5-days a week. At this critical juncture, the MBTA must recapture lapsed riders and attract new customers with competitive fare products that target the new normal and beat out driving. This report offers short- and medium-terms solutions to inducing demand and creating parity across fare products. The recommendations lean in on enhanced targeted stakeholder engagement, promotion of benefits associated with existing fare products, temporary discounts, and the development and piloting of new, innovative fares.

 

ANTICIPATING POST-PANDEMIC COMMUTE TRENDS IN METRO-BOSTON

August 2021 - As Metro-Boston navigated everyday uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic over the course of 2020, residents and employees of the region watched bike lanes fill, highways empty, and transit services shift. With nearly 2/3 of Massachusetts residents vaccinated as of mid-July 2021, we have entered a critical moment for shaping the policies and objectives that will guide the next mobility trends in our region as we look toward a post-pandemic future.  

As COVID-19 restrictions began to significantly lift at the end of Spring 2021, A Better City reached back out to the employee survey respondents and employer distribution partners we have collaborated with over the past year to revisit commute-focused survey questions posed in Summer 2020. In analyzing responses from over 2,650 commuters, we identified key takeaways and actionable recommendations for employers, the City of Boston, and the MBTA that build upon the results of our previous reports Anticipating Post-Pandemic Return to Work Trends in Metro-Boston and Anticipating Post-Pandemic Commute Trends in Metro-Boston. 

This survey effort was made possible thanks to generous support from the Energy Foundation via the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. 

Ready To Move in Massachusetts: A Blueprint For Delivering Major Transportation Projects Through the Biden Infrastructure Plan

August 2021 - The federal government is preparing a historic infrastructure plan that could benefit Massachusetts for the next generation, but there are key steps to take at the state level to maximize this opportunity. This is the best chance to unlock some of the major, transformational projects that can help improve our transportation system, reduce carbon emissions, and boost the regional economy. This report examines the lessons from the past and makes recommendations for the immediate future.

 

ESTABLISHING A REGIONAL OFFSETTING PROGRAM FOR EMISSIONS REDUCTION COMPLIANCE IN MASSACHUSETTS

June 2021 - As local governments implement strategies to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 commitments, significant questions arise about what percentage of indirect emissions reduction can be compensated for by tools like carbon offsets. Both the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts are in the early stages of defining and developing programs to enable the use of offsets for compliance with emissions reduction targets, but have not yet offered any best practice guidance as to what offsets might “count” for emissions reduction compliance. Even international policymakers like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are grappling with best practice recommendations for carbon offsetting.

In recognition of the lack of universal standards and practices for offsetting, A Better City spent over a year researching and interviewing member businesses and institutions, partner organizations, and offset technical experts to understand which best practices to prioritize for carbon offsetting in Massachusetts. The Establishing a Regional Offsetting Program for Emissions Reduction Compliance in Massachusetts: Challenges & Opportunities report details five near-term recommendations for City and State administrations to pursue in the next 1-2 years and three mid- to long-term recommendations to pursue in the next 3-5 years to ensure that any future carbon offsetting for emissions reduction compliance in Massachusetts is as effective, transparent, and equitable as possible.

This research was made possible by the Barr Foundation.

 

ANTICIPATING POST-PANDEMIC RETURN TO WORK TRENDS IN METRO-BOSTON

June 2021 - COVID-19 disrupted our lives and our regional economy in a way not seen in generations. The pandemic has also broadened our thinking about how we work and how we move around the region, highlighting the essential roles that public transit and public space play in the health of our citizens, vibrancy of our communities, and the strength of our economy.  

A Better City conducted eleven interviews with member companies across six sectors in fall 2020 and winter 2021 to forecast, from the employer perspective, the ‘future of work’ and related commute patterns and to better understand how our individual and collective choices can shape the future. These interviews build upon the results of ‘Anticipating Post-Pandemic Commute Trends in Metro-Boston’ an employee-focused commute survey completed in September 2020 — and inform the key learnings and the recommendations included in this new report.  

This interview effort was made possible thanks to generous support from the Energy Foundation via the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. 

 

TACTICAL PUBLIC REALM CASE STUDIES

February 2021 -  The pandemic has reinforced the necessity of open spaces to sustain the health and well-being of residents and businesses alike. This new A Better City report highlights the planning, design, and implementation process for three tactical public realm projects managed by A Better City, in addition to a fourth case study describing several pop-up plazas implemented by the City of Boston. 

 

 

 

2020 YEAR IN REVIEW

January 2021 - While 2020 was an immensely challenging year, A Better City made tremendous strides in tackling some of Greater Boston’s most pressing challenges—from transportation, to land use, to energy and environmental issues. There were tremendous losses and there were moments and reflection, reckoning, and progress. Our new year-end report aims to capture some of this progress and to lay out a vision for the year ahead. As we enter 2021 during a time of economic and political turmoil, we are resolved to meet both enduring and emerging challenges with a renewed sense of hope and tenacity. We are committed to identifying and advocating for the policies and projects needed for our members and our region to recover, to grow, and to thrive. 

 

MBTA TRANSIT SERVICE: THE KEY TO OUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY

December 2020 -  The MBTA is grappling with how to provide safe transit service during COVID-19 while facing dwindling fare revenue and high fixed costs to keep passengers safe. The agency predicts a budget gap for FY21-FY22 that could exceed $600 million depending on when and how many riders return to public transit. To eliminate the expected funding gap, the MBTA created the Forging Ahead plan to identify cost savings through internal departmental cost savings goals, reallocation of capital infrastructure dollars, and “service level planning” changes or service cuts. A Better City strongly opposes the proposed service cuts, which could come at a high price to riders, the public transit system itself, and the economic recovery of the region—and would take effect at the time when workers will be looking to return to transit. MBTA Transit Service: The Key to our Economic Recovery presents an alternative approach to close the MBTA budget gap and avoid service cuts. The white paper outlines four options for generating roughly $300 million in revenue before July 2021— more than 2.5 times the amount of funding that would be generated by the MBTA’s proposed service cuts. With a widespread vaccination effort and return to the workplace on the horizon, the MBTA must provide the safe, reliable, equitable transit service needed for our city and region to recover and thrive. 

 

ANTICIPATING POST-PANDEMIC COMMUTE TRENDS IN METRO-BOSTON

November 2020 – As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded in metro-Boston, impacts upon daily commute patterns have been clear even to the most casual observer. News of a car-buying boom, the majority of business professionals working from home, widespread pop-up bike lanes, and sparsely populated subway cars have led to many questions in recent months about the future of transportation in the region. At the same time, the importance of meeting citywide goals to increase transit and bicycle riders to reduce carbon emissions has been dialed into even sharper focus. Against this backdrop, the City of Boston partnered with A Better City to survey over 4,200 employees in metro-Boston to better understand how COVID-19 has impacted commuting choices before, during, and in the anticipated future beyond the current pandemic. This survey effort was made possible thanks to generous support from the Energy Foundation via the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge.

3 BETS ON TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE: FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD MASSACHUSETTS’ TRANSPORTATION FUTURE

July 2020 - As the Commonwealth works to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts, state leaders must simultaneously identify any opportunity to rebuild our damaged economy. Public health and safety will continue to be the top priorities of Massachusetts government, but we also need a new economic recovery plan that helps the Commonwealth grow out of this recession as quickly as possible. While we wait for the federal government to act, there is already one path forward for launching a robust capital spending plan that focuses on transportation infrastructure.  

CREATING A SAFER COMMUTE, TOGETHER BEST PRACTICES FOR ENABLING A SAFE REOPENING OF PUBLIC TRANSIT

June 2020 - As transit systems enable the gradual reopening of regional economies, there are best practices emerging across a spectrum of mitigation measures informed by the most up-to-date public health data. This report examines practices currently in place at the MBTA and at five peer transit agencies in the U.S., and also provides some narrative examples from abroad. It culminates in a scorecard, using publicly available data, to capture how the MBTA compares to its peer transit agencies across the following seven categories: comprehensive planning; cleaning and disinfecting; restoration of service; face coverings; physical distancing; hand sanitizer; and workforce management; and offers a set of recommendations for additional actions the MBTA should take to create a safer commute.

 

THERMAL ELECTRIFICATION OF LARGE BUILDINGS IN THE COMMONWEALTH

June 2020 - Reducing carbon emissions from large buildings is key to the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts meeting their respective carbon neutrality goals by 2050. This report, therefore, analyzes the current feasibility of thermal electrification in large buildings in the Commonwealth - best technologies for our climate zone and building use types, benefits, drawbacks and high level costs. In addition, current barriers to adoption are reviewed, and policy options and strategies that could be considered to overcome these barriers are provided. Five 5 case studies– four in existing buildings and one in new construction – show applicability across use type, at different stages of development and in varying stages of occupancy.

GOING THE DISTANCE

May 2020 - The MBTA has faced many difficulties over the last 50 years: The Blizzard of 1978, the winter of 2015, and the pandemic of 2020 are the most challenging. The winter of 2015 exposed a broken MBTA, revealing not only failures of infrastructure and inadequate investment, but deep-seated and fundamental deficiencies in management and leadership. The COVID-19 crisis paints a different picture of an agency with strong leadership and resilient employees that ensured continuity of vital transit services to healthcare and emergency workers.

This report spotlights the “social distancing” objective that was discussed and adopted by the FMCB at its May 4 meeting. Please note that this report uses the term “physical distancing” as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

 

AUTOMATED FARE COLLECTION AT THE MBTA

April 2020 -The onset of COVID-19 and associated response measures have elevated the importance of automated fare collection (AFC) as a critical part of building public transit systems that address future pandemic outbreaks. AFC offers contact-less fare options, which is appealing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the MBTA has increased its cleaning of “high-touch points,” including fare boxes and fare vending machines to four times a day to reduce the spread. AFC also offers fare flexibility options, which can help speed up response time to crisis situations.

To date, the Fare Transformation project has faced significant challenges related to project delivery, procurement, and management, as well as public outreach and enabling policies. These challenges have mainly been due to lack of experience with public-private partnerships (P3) —the MBTA is not an awarding authority for P3 contracts—high turnover in project leadership, vendor-related issues, and legislative factors. The COVID-19 outbreak underscores the importance of the Fare Transformation project, which supports a new era of more public-health friendly public transit fare systems. There may be a benefit to review the design and implementation plan to consider possible needs post COVID-19.

Supporting amendments to MA General Laws, Chapter 6C, Sections 1 to 74 to allow the MBTA solicit proposals and enter into contracts for design-build- finance-operate-maintain or design-build-operate- maintain services would help strengthen the current institutional framework to manage the Fare Transformation project as well as enhance.

 

FUNDING TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS

November 2019 – A Better City has released a transportation finance plan calling for a minimum of $50 billion in new investment over the next two decades to create the efficient, safe, and reliable system people and businesses deserve. The plan also provides an actionable path forward for generating this revenue from transportation sources of funding. Funding Transportation Solutions: A Comprehensive Transportation Finance Plan serves as an answer to A Better City’s report from February 2019, An Update on Transportation Finance, which identified a projected multi-billion-dollar transportation funding gap over the next ten years just to properly maintain existing transportation infrastructure at the MassDOT Highway Division and the MBTA. The new report lays out a pathway to fill this gap as well as expand and make resilient Massachusetts’ full transportation system.

Full report

 

NEW MBTA BUS MAINTENANCE FACILITIES & EVOLVING BATTERY ELECTRIC BUS TECHNOLOGY

August 2019 - A Better City in partnership with its consultant Jacobs Engineering and funded by the Barr Foundation assessed the potential to incorporate a battery-electric bus (BEB) maintenance facility into a new mixed-use joint-development project, including a case study of MBTA’s Albany Street bus garage. This work culminated in a new report recently published by A Better City, entitled: “A Better City Report: New MBTA Bus Maintenance Facilities & Evolving Battery Electric Bus Technology, Case Study: Albany Street Garage”. 

Full report

 

AN UPDATE ON TRANSPORTATION FINANCE

February 2019 - A Better City released a  report identifying a projected $8.4 billion gap in Massachusetts transportation funding requirements between 2019 and 2028. The gap points to the need for a long-term, comprehensive plan to raise new revenue for the system following a slate of reforms and new management practices implemented by state transportation agencies over the past 10 years.

Executive Summary

Full report 

 

 

THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION

December 2018 - We are encouraged by Governor Baker’s creation of the Future of Transportation Commission to focus on long-term visioning and planning. Transportation and infrastructure investments may be 20+ years in the making and are subject to changing demographics, technologies, and aspirations, but the visioning needs to be proactive and continuous.

 

 

 

Tactical Public Realm Guidelines 

December 2018 - Our streets are the most omnipresent but underutilized component of our public realm. With the goal of leveraging the full placemaking potential of the city’s street network, A Better City and the City of Boston partnered to produce Boston’s Tactical Public Realm Guidelines. This urban design resource introduces four low-cost, easily deployable interim placemaking strategies to activate and reclaim underused sidewalks and roadway for recreational uses. In the Tactical Public Realm Guidelines, readers will find urban design guidelines and procedures for installing interim pedestrian plazas, parklets, outdoor cafes, and street murals through public and private partnerships. The guidebook was produced under the Public Realm Plan for Go Boston 2030, an initiative conceived through the Go Boston 2030 process and developed by A Better City and the City of Boston with the generous support of the Barr Foundation.

 

an OVERVIEW OF ENERGY STORAGE OPPORTUNITIES FOR MASSACHUSETTS COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS 

April 2018 - Energy storage has come to the attention of building owners around the country because of the cost savings it delivers, as well as the range of services and benefits it can provide to facilities and the broader electric grid. Energy storage deployment has grown exponentially in the United States over the past several years. Continued rapid growth is anticipated as the market is estimated to grow to nine times its current size over the next five years. Storage deployment has been driven by policies, incentives, and cost declines for certain battery chemistries. Many businesses are benefiting from this growth, in terms of both cost savings and energy resiliency.

In this report, the commercial sector is introduced to energy storage opportunities.  It provides an overview of energy storage history, types and terminology, services and benefits, technology options, environmental considerations, resilience considerations, incentives and support for project implementation, and market barriers and policy opportunities.

 

TRaNSPORTATION DIVIDEND: TRANSIT INVESTMENTS AND THE MASSACHUSETTS ECONOMY 

February 2018 - As home to America’s first subway, Boston has been a transit-oriented city for more than a century and much of our regional economic success is due to the connectivity that a transit system provides. We are now at a point where major investment is needed to bring the system into the 21st century and expand it for the sake of our economic growth potential.

In this new report, we show the economic benefits of the MBTA far outweigh near-term capital needs and that our region’s levels of expected growth over the next quarter century cannot be accommodated without investing strategically and deliberately in transit. These investments should focus on the reliability, capacity and connectivity of the transit system to continue our strong trajectory of economic growth.

Transportation Dividend Technical Appendices

 

VOLUNTARY RESILIENCE STANDARDS: AN ASSESSMENT OF MARKET OPTIONS FOR BOSTON’S LARGE COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

November 2017 – In the five years since Hurricane Sandy, the number of voluntary resilience standards available for use has grown rapidly to assist developers, building owners, property managers, and tenants in preparing for the potential impacts of climate change.  But unlike green building certifications that have been incorporated into local ordinances, resilience standards are at a much more nascent stage of development. This report reviews eight resilience standards relevant to Boston’s large commercial facilitates. 

 

 

The Commercial Net Zero Energy Building Market In Boston 

May 2017 – The City and State’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 100% and 80% respectively are among the most ambitious in the nation.  With commercial buildings contributing to 52.2% of these emissions in the City, exploring and implementing net zero energy buildings is critical for energy and emissions reductions.  This overview document discusses the feasibility of net zero energy buildings in Boston and explores options that encourage their construction.  It also presents eight case studies of net zero and high performance new construction and retrofit projects in Massachusetts or regions with similar climates.

 

Innovation Through Aggregation

April 2017 – A Better City facilitated the formation of a team among three of its members – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation – to purchase the output of a large-scale renewable energy facility. This aggregation was unique in the diversity of the partners, the scale of the project, and the mutual benefit to all parties involved. This case study provides lessons learned for organizations interested in aggregating the purchase of renewable energy including: the benefits of renewable energy beyond environmental impact; the value of partnerships and collaboration to yield results; the organizational flexibility gained through renewable energy purchasing; and the necessity for ongoing recruitment and anchor partners.

 

Sustainable Tenant Fit-Out and Improvement Guide

March 2017 – Tenant fit-outs and retrofits of tenant spaces can be key opportunities to incorporate sustainability principles.  To embed sustainability into tenant spaces, commercial tenants can: define sustainability goals for their tenant space; create a cross functional team to ensure sustainability priorities are key factors in early conversations with brokers and potential landlords; and engage informed architects and utility program managers to understand the suite of options available to them.  The Guide provides suggestions, resources, and case studies for Boston tenants to include sustainability when moving to a new space, retrofitting an existing space or maintaining the efficiency of existing spaces.  

 

Future of Parking in Boston

November 2016 – Parking policy affects the livelihood of Bostonians, the success of businesses, and the health of our environment. Today, Boston’s parking policies are not aligning well with the needs that parking is intended to serve. This report is intended to be a guide for the city’s neighborhoods and policymakers. Based on nationwide best practices, this report provides strategies to reduce parking demand, increase the accessibility and efficiency of parking, minimize congestion and infrastructure wear-and-tear, support zoning amendments that would reduce parking demand, and improve efficiency of parking management. The recommendations of this report are structured around three primary policies: enhance community access, promote economic opportunity, and reduce parking demand.

a guide to placemaking for mobility

September 2016 – This report introduces a framework for analysis to understand the relationship between mobility and the public realm. It overviews the history of the Greater Boston region's public realm, then describes emerging design and planning strategies to improve the places and corridors that comprise the area's mobility system. Through its detailed guidebook of spatial typologies, the report defines and provides examples of places, corridors, gateways, and more that comprise Boston's mobility system. This piece is an installment of a research series aimed at evaluating the past and present conditions of public space in Boston and supports the Go Boston 2030 Public Realm Planning Study.

THE state of the public realm in boston

September 2016 – This essay invites readers to reflect on the past, present, and future role of public space in shaping the urban development and determining the economic and social successes of the Greater Boston region. Beginning with a glimpse at Boston's rich historical legacy of public spaces, then delving into emerging design and planning practices to reclaim the public way for citizens, this essay identifies shifting trends that demand a larger role in the Greater Boston region's public realm. This piece is an installment of a research series aimed at evaluating the past and present conditions of public space in Boston.

Energy Efficiency in Commercial Real Estate

August 2016 – Commercial real estate properties in Boston present a significant opportunity for energy efficiency investment, but these investments are constrained by financial and non-financial barriers.  This paper synthesizes research on energy efficiency barriers and explores how these barriers may impact commercial real estate properties in Boston based on factors such as ownership strategy, lease type, and building classification.  It then identifies potential solution sets and programs which can overcome some of these barriers.  

Inspirational Ideas for Boston’s Public Realm

July 2016 – A vibrant, inclusive, and adaptable public realm is key for any city to stay attractive and competitive while also asserting its place as a global city. At the same time, resources for public spaces are often scarce in both the public and private sector. If the Boston’s economic future depends on the quality of its public realm but faces limited resources for public space projects, how can the city accomplish these goals? With this question in mind, this report summarizes key national and international placemaking strategies to transform the quality and user experience of urban spaces. This piece is an installment of a research series aimed at evaluating the past and present conditions of public space in Boston and supports the Go Boston 2030 Public Realm Planning Study.

State of the Built Environment: Greater Boston Infrastructure

SBE Cover Image WebJune 2016- A comprehensive examination of the impacts of population and economic growth on the region’s transportation, energy, water, sewer and waste management systems, as well as the consequences of forecasted climate change on the region’s seaports over the next 15 years.  In this report we measure the state of infrastructure in nearly 150 communities surrounding Boston, to establish a firm understanding about what lies ahead, and to provide a baseline for regional leaders and stakeholders as they plan to address projected population and economic growth in the years leading up to 2030.

Executive Summary Report

Mobile Source Emissions Calculator

4.15.2015 Mobile Emissions Publication CoverApril 2016 - A compendium to A Better City’s recently released a Mobile Source Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator, this report has been designed to describe the calculator and its goals, methodology, benefits and uses. The calculator provides building owners and businesses with a detailed understanding of their mobile source (transportation) emissions, which contribute to the building or business’ overall greenhouse gas emissions. It captures information from the three primary sources of mobile source emissions within a worksite or building: employee/tenant commutes, business travel, and fleet vehicles. Understanding these emissions can help users develop policies and programs to reduce them.

Dynamic Ridesharing Technologies

2015.10.19 Rideshare Publication imgOctober 2015 - This report explores new models and approaches that can be used to coordinate transportation systems in ways that successfully make those systems responsive to the needs of disabled and elderly populations. It explores the opportunity for paratransit services in the Boston Metropolitan area to better utilize new ridesharing technologies to achieve higher vehicle utilization, specifically looking at MBTA’s The RIDE paratransit service as a potential model of how ridesharing may be integrated with current paratransit service delivery models.

Passive Flood Barrier Overview and Product Comparisons

PassiveFloodBarrierCoverSeptember 2015 - This briefing supplies supplemental information on passive floodproofing and expands on the “Retractable Barriers” section of A Better City’s Building Resilience Toolkit. It provides a high-level overview of passive barriers followed by a detailed comparative analysis of the three self-activating passive flood barrier products available for protecting buildings and infrastructure: Floodbreak, the Self Activating Flood Barrier (SAFB), and AquaFragma.

Unified Transportation Payment System

4.15.2016 Unified Payment Publication coverApril 2015 - Boston visitors and residents alike can find their first experience with the transportation system to be confusing, especially when trying to decipher what payment process is required to ride each part of the transportation system: where the payment card is obtained, what fare options are available, and how the card is used. An Open Payment system for transportation allows travelers to simply use their mobile phone or contactless credit or debit card to board a vehicle, while the payment system computes the best value fare for all trips. A Better City led a project in 2014 and 2015 looking at the benefits, costs, and a possible implementation plan for an Open Payment system for transportation in Massachusetts.

Opportunities to Expand the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Corporate Pass Program

MBTA Corp Pass Publication COVERApril 2015 - This report aims to increase the number of small and medium-sized businesses participating in the MBTA Corporate Pass Program by 10% by: identifying the potential target market for expanding the program and developing a list of prospect businesses in the Boston, Cambridge and Somerville areas; developing a profile of best practices in operating and marketing corporate pass programs through a national survey of similar type programs; and based on the national scan of best practices make recommendations to expand and strengthen the MBTA Program.

Enhancing Resilience in Boston: A Guide for Large Buildings and Institutions

coverFebruary 2015 - Climate projections for Boston indicate that the city is vulnerable to rising temperatures, increased storm intensity and higher sea levels. Boston’s built infrastructure is at risk from these climate stressors, but there is a series of technologies currently available to help asset owners increase the adaptability of both existing and new buildings. This report and its associated toolkit provide building owners with information on 32 available resilience actions and technologies. It also includes a preliminary assessment of potential regulatory touch points within the City and state for resilience actions and considers initial ideas for district-level resilience strategies for the Boston area. Read the Full Report Here.

Green Leasing: An Effective Tenant/Landlord Strategy for Energy Efficiency

coverDecember 2014 - Most lease structures give property owners and tenants little incentive to invest in energy saving technologies. A green lease, defined as a lease which contains sustainability or environmental provisions as part of a landlord-tenant agreement, has become an increasingly important tool for landlords and tenants to provide energy incentives and meet sustainability goals. Read the full report for the latest best practices in green leasing, example clauses and case studies.

Establishing an Effective Commute Trip Reduction Policy in Massachusetts

coverAugust 2014 —This report provides an assessment of best practices in Trip Reduction Ordinances (TRO) from around the United States and is intended to guide and inform policy at the city and state level in Massachusetts in the hopes of strengthening the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA-DEP) Rideshare Regulation and the city of Boston’s Transportation Access Agreement Plans (TAPAs). An examination of the history of Trip Reduction Ordinances has shown that many regulations were born out of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendment and that those who have been successful have adapted policies to growth in their area and/or current environmental policy. Aggressive sustainability and climate mitigation is becoming a larger part of the business culture both for the public and private sector, and as such an opportunity to create congestion mitigation and air quality policy that reflects this change and capitalizes on it exists. Read the full report

Alternative Propulsion Systems

coverMarch 2014 - This study reviews characteristics of the current MBTA fleet propulsion systems and presents summaries of alternative systems in terms of life cycle costs and potential greenhouse gas reduction. It offers recommended next steps that the MBTA can take to incorporate new propulsion systems into its fleet. It evaluates bus propulsion systems and fuels such as diesel, parallel and series hybrid-electric technology, compressed natural gas, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells aimed at achieving greenhouse gas reduction. The study finds that several systems show promise in reducing greenhouse gas emissions at reduced life cycle costs, with compressed natural gas, already in use by the MBTA, continuing to be a reasonable investment. Technological developments may make battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell systems more attractive in the future and in the long run. Read the full report here.

Bus Priority Measures Case Study

coverMarch 2014 - This technical memo summarizes the recommended implementation of the most advantageous priority measures in a corridor in Boston. The recommendations include relocating bus stops, traffic signal changes, and changes to some curbs. The corridor is Washington Street between Forest Hills and Roslindale Square, Belgrade Avenue to West Roxbury Parkway, and Centre Street in West Roxbury and includes nine bus routes in a portion of the corridor. Modeling of the changes suggests that, if implemented, moderate and major improvements in the morning would result in 19% travel time savings. In the afternoon peak, moderate improvements would save 8% and major improvements would save 15% in travel time. Read the full report here.

Virtual Energy Assessments: An Emerging Technology to Understand Building Energy Use and Opportunities

coverFebruary 2014 — Virtual energy assessments are an emerging technology that provides building owners with a greater understanding of their building’s energy use and operations using inputs from utility meters and computer modeling. The technology was piloted with nine properties within Boston to investigate how useful the results of virtual energy assessments were to building operations and management staff; if actionable improvements and opportunities were identified; the limitations of the technology; and if the technology was a viable alternative to more expensive walk-through audit requirements. Read the full report here.

Summary of National Summit on Green Business Engagement Programs 2013

cover

May 2013 - A Better City hosted over forty leaders from across the United States for the first ever National Summit on Green Business Engagement Programs. The Summit provided a forum for leaders to share achievements, discuss challenges, and exchange best practices for engaging the business community, partnering with local governments, collaborating with utility districts, and delivering program services. The summit was highly successful in identifying the critical factors for green business programs to support economically vibrant and sustainable cities where current and future generations will want to live, work, and play.

National Summit of Green Business Engagement Programs: Empowering Businesses Towards a More Sustainable Future

May 2013 - Cities across the country are increasingly looking to the private sector to help them achieve their climate goals In response to this challenge, green business engagement programs, have been developed to provide leadership, guidance, and technical assistance to businesses and property owners in a number of major U.S. cities. A Better City hosted the first ever summit on green business engagement programs in Boston, May 2013. This report outlines a summary and lessons learned.
Read the full report here.

Surface Transportation Optimization and Bus Priority Measures

March 2013 - This report is about how to move buses faster along their routes. The report summarizes current MBTA operational challenges, reviews recent and current MBTA initiatives, and surveys best practices that can be applied in Boston. It recommends several measures judged to be most likely to be effective in Boston, including: Transit Signal Priority, prioritizing corridors suitable for bus running way accommodations, changing policy to allow rear door boarding for monthly pass holders on articulated buses, increasing the number of articulated 60-foot buses in the fleet, and leveraging ticketless mobile technology as proof of payment on buses. Read the full report here.

Benchmarking and Disclosure: Lessons from Leading Cities

June 2012 - The following report summarizes lessons learned from a number of the first U.S. cities to implement benchmarking and disclosure programs. Many of these cities have had common experiences implementing policies and the lessons learned from these early adopters may prove valuable to Boston’s commercial real estate community and city policy makers as Boston explores its own benchmarking
policy. Read the full report

A Better City Position Paper on the MBTA Fare & Service Changes

March 2012 — The MBTA has proposed two scenarios of fare hikes and service cuts to close its projected $161 million budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. After reviewing both scenarios and consulting with our membership, A Better City and the A Better City Transportation Management Association (A Better City TMA) have concluded that the Massachusetts economy cannot afford either scenario. Instead, we believe the T should seek to close part of its budget gap with a more reasonable fare hike and limited service cuts. The T should then work with MassDOT, Massport, the Patrick administration and the legislature to address the remaining budget shortfall for FY 2013, and to begin work on a long-term, comprehensive finance plan for the Commonwealth's entire transportation system.

Virtual energy assessments are an emerging technology that provides building owners with a greater understanding of their building’s energy use and operations using inputs from utility meters and computer modeling. The technology was piloted with nine properties within Boston to investigate how useful the results of virtual energy assessments were to building operations and management staff; if actionable improvements and opportunities were identified; the limitations of the technology; and if the technology was a viable alternative to more expensive walk-through audit requirements. Read the full report

On the Right Track? The Future of the Massachusetts Commuter Rail

November 2011 — Continuing our dialogue over transportation finance policy and reform, A Better City explores options for the future of Massachusetts' commuter rail system. With the current commuter rail contract set to expire June 30, 2013, A Better City looks at the current state of the commuter system, the history of the current deal, and the T's options for a new deal. One option to explore would be a longer term public-private partnership, but will the T have enough time to properly prepare for a long-term deal?

Fixing Transit Finance: A Framework for Discussion

April 2011

Building Massachusetts' Economy through Transportation Investment

coverMay 2009 — A Better City has released an executive summary, "Building Massachusetts' Economy through Transportation Investment" prepared by Cambridge Systematics. The summary details the role that transportation plays in the Massachusetts and Boaton metropolitan area economies and summarizes the findings of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission's report. While reforms are clearly needed to make more effective use of revenues from current sources this report provides an analysis of a menu of options that Massachusetts can select from for raising revenue to address the enormous gap in Massachusetts transportation funding.

A Better City Transportation Finance Position Paper

coverFebruary 2009 — A Better City's Transportation Finance Plan position paper represents what our membership believes should be included when the Commonwealth makes any consideration or takes any action in creating a transportation finance plan for the future.

Collaborative Publications

South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan

January 2015 - A Better City was asked by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, MassPort, the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to manage a new transportation plan for the South Boston Waterfront. The resulting Plan, featuring an unprecedented collaboration of the private and public sectors, is a blueprint for improving the growth of the Waterfront, proposing real solutions to meet the growing and changing transportation needs of the district, improve the public realm of the area, all while preserving the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Plan benefitted from the input of area stakeholders through five community meetings and more than 50 outreach meetings throughout the process. We see its completion as the beginning of continued collaboration to refine and implement Plan recommendations.

The full report is provided here for review. To review the executive summary, click here.

Infrastructure and Economic Development in Metropolitan Boston: A Regional Survey

May 2013- The study seeks to evaluate the state of public infrastructure investment in metropolitan Boston, particularly as it relates to the region's potential for near- and longer-term economic development. The contemporary relationship between infrastructure and economic development is hardly a new topic. It is the subject of many recent analyses and a theme of daunting breadth and depth. The intended contribution of this study is to deepen the discussion by linking infrastructure investments—and the consequences of making or not making them in timely fashion—to concrete economic development agendas in the cities and towns of Greater Boston. A Better City's strategy for doing so in this study is to start with a review of infrastructure issues at the regional level and progressively "drill down" to subregional and local examples.

The A Better City Metropolitan Infrastructure and Economic Development Survey is organized as follows:

The Cost of Doing Nothing

January 2013 - Massachusetts is at a crossroads. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth is recovering from the recession at a pace that is among the fastest in the nation. Job growth is improving, the economy is back on track and the future looks bright, but there is a serious problem that could stop this growth in its tracks. If Massachusetts does nothing to repair and improve its transportation infrastructure, the current recovery could easily stall. This is not just a problem for Greater Boston. Rather, it imperils jobs and economic growth throughout the entire state. Simply put, the Commonwealth‘s transportation network is essential to its vitality, competitiveness and quality of life.

Benchmarking and Disclosure: Lessons from Leading Cities

June 2012 - This white paper on the implementation of building energy benchmarking and disclosure programs in New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco informs the discussion related to the development of a similar ordinance in the City of Boston.

Hub and Spoke: Core Transit Congestion and the Future of Transit and Development in Greater Boston

June 2012 - This white paper considers core transit congestion and the future of transit and development in Greater Boston.

Moving Forward: Transportation and the Massachusetts Economy

coverThis white paper reviews state, regional and national literature on the relationship between transportation investment and the economy to make the case that Massachusetts must continue to invest boldly in its transportation future in order to ensure its economic future.

A Better City Archived Publications

A Better City Related Publications

November 2019 – A Better City has released a transportation finance plan calling for a minimum of $50 billion in new investment over the next two decades to create the efficient, safe, and reliable system people and businesses deserve. The plan also provides an actionable path forward for generating this revenue from transportation sources of funding. Funding Transportation Solutions: A Comprehensive Transportation Finance Plan serves as an answer to A Better City’s report from February 2019, An Update on Transportation Finance, which identified a projected multi-billion-dollar transportation funding gap over the next ten years just to properly maintain existing transportation infrastructure at the MassDOT Highway Division and the MBTA. The new report lays out a pathway to fill this gap as well as expand and make resilient Massachusetts’ full transportation system.