The State Tackles Important Transportation Projects in Capital Plan Update for FY2019-2023 But Still Misses a Few Key Pieces
June 12, 2018

We all understand that our growing economy cannot thrive, expand and provide opportunity if our transportation system cannot move people and goods efficiently. In fact, numerous recent reports have highlighted this connection. In A Better City’s “Transportation Dividend” report from February 2018, we found that our transit system provides an $11.4 billion annual return on a $2 billion annual investment and identified key regional growth centers where future transportation needs are unmet. As a result of these findings, we, and others, have urged the state to address funding, management and project shortfalls that could impede our current economic growth trajectory.

One of the most important ways the Commonwealth illustrates its priorities is with its capital planning processes. The MassDOT board just approved an updated Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for FY2019-2023 and, given the important influence that transportation investment has on our economy, we are pleased to see many significant projects included and underway in this CIP including: the Green Line Extension, Red/Orange Line Upgrades and Automated Fare Collection (AFC) 2.0, among others. We appreciate the Administration’s push to move these forward and begin their implementation.

The Green Line Extension is a key part of the Artery Tunnel Project mitigation efforts and Automated Fare Collection will allow MBTA users to move seamlessly between modes of transit (bus, commuter rail, subway) and also make a big step toward full Bus Rapid Transit implementation by allowing for all-door boarding on system buses. These projects have been priorities for A Better City for many years and we are pleased with this progress.

Furthermore, we are encouraged to see $103.4 million allocated for DMA replacement vehicles, which we expect will serve a Silver Line currently running at 128% capacity during peak . . .

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Silver Line Gateway Helps Chelsea to Become More Connected
April 26, 2018

On April 21, 2018 the MBTA initiated SL3 service in the new Silver Line Gateway corridor in Chelsea.  The concept emerged from the Urban Ring Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report in 2008 and has been advanced by many advocates before and since, leading to construction of Phase 1 in the corridor by MassDOT beginning in 2015.  The new service provides enhanced bus service, in a dedicated right-of-way for part of the route connecting from Bellingham Square in the heart of Chelsea to the MBTA Blue Line at Airport Station in less than 15 minutes and to South Station via the Seaport District in as little as 25 minutes, which is much faster that any of the other bus routes serving Chelsea.

These connections provide this improved service to residents of Chelsea, to employees of the many blue collar and white collar establishments in the area, and even for users of the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail in the North Shore connecting from the Chelsea rail station to South Boston and the Financial District.

These benefits help this wide range of users and enhance access to property in Chelsea that includes health care facilities for Massachusetts General Hospital, the new FBI Boston office, and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, all located in the part of the city leveled by a huge fire in 1973. 

The improved access would not have been possible without a series of public investments that have become part of the Silver Line Gateway corridor starting with the Ted Williams Tunnel opened in 1995, the Silver Line tunnel from South Station to South Boston, the new Chelsea Street lift bridge, and the Martin Coughlin Bypass Road in East Boston.  Connection to the new Airport MBTA Station is also part of this chain of incremental investments that makes this corridor the newest addition the transportation network of the . . .

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Publication Release and Event: Harnessing the Power of Energy Storage in Boston’s Commercial Buildings
April 04, 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.[1] 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.

Massachusetts is on the verge of capturing the benefits of storage as the factors that have allowed California and New York to support vibrant storage market growth are now—or will soon be—present in Massachusetts. Both California and New York have high commercial demand charges; those within metro Boston can be equally high and make up most of a building’s electric bill. A common metric used to determine the cost-effectiveness of battery energy storage for demand-charge management is $15/kilowatt (kW). In Boston, demand charges can often exceed this number. [2],

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ZERO WASTE PLANNING IN BOSTON
April 03, 2018

Every year, the United States produces around 250 million tons of municipal solid waste—a number that has tripled since the year 1960 (EPA). In light of increasing knowledge about the negative environmental, economic and public health impacts of our overflowing landfills, many cities are beginning to set ambitious goals to reduce their total waste generation and increase the percentage diverted from landfill. Cities from New York to San Francisco and Minneapolis to Austin have committed to going “Zero Waste” (often defined as diverting at least 95% of non-hazardous waste from landfill, without the use of incineration).

In 2014, Boston included a Zero Waste goal as part of its Climate Action Plan Update; this year, the planning process to achieve that goal began. Boston has officially launched its Zero Waste Advisory Committee (ZWAC), which will consider a variety of actions and strategies for Boston to become a Zero Waste city by 2050. The ZWAC includes Residential and Institutional, Commercial, & Industrial (ICI) Subcommittees to address waste reduction and diversion from both sectors.

As a member of the ICI Subcommittee, A Better City wants to keep you informed about the process and provide opportunities to get involved. At our recent Sustainable Buildings Initiative meeting, participants heard from the City about plans already in place, such as the plastic bag ordinance (taking effect in December) and use of the ZW International Alliance’s definition of “zero waste.” We learned about some challenges in the recycling market, both at a local level (such as the recent closure of the Ardagh glass facility) and an international level (with China’s new . . .

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Allston I-90 "540 Comments"
March 05, 2018

“Comments expressing an opinion on the Throat Area alternatives heavily favored the at-grade alternative conceptualized by A Better City.”  So said the MEPA Certificate signed by Secretary of Energy and Environment Matthew Beacon that summarizes the responses to the Draft Environmental Impact Report prepared for the I-90 Allston Interchange.  MEPA received 540 comments on the 600 page report, demonstrating a high level of interest not only among the agencies and organizations focused on the project, but among members of the public who live near the site primarily in Allston, Cambridge, and Brookline.

The overall site is located at a bend in the Charles River and is currently owned by Harvard University.  The “Throat Area” is the 1,200 foot long, 220 foot wide corridor between the edge of the river and the property line of Boston University.  The overall site accommodates eight Turnpike travel lanes – part of the way on a viaduct that is deteriorating, four lanes of Soldiers Field Road, multiple lanes of major streets and ramps that connect these streets to and from the Turnpike, narrow bike and pedestrian paths, two active rail tracks between South Station and Worcester (and beyond), tracks that connect rail systems north and south of the river and provide freight service, an abandoned rail yard, and acres of very accessible land with the potential to provide that “once in a generation” opportunity to build something grand.

Last year, the toll booths at the Allston Interchange were removed and were replaced by All Electronic Toll gantries near the BU Bridge and west of Cambridge Street.  The former rail yard tracks have been removed, and soon the spur that supports rail deliveries to the Houghton Chemical plant will be removed allowing the present Turnpike curve to be straightened a bit, and opening the opportunity for a flat and level Turnpike . . .

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The Transportation Dividend: Transit Investments and the Massachusetts Economy
February 12, 2018

As home to America’s first subway, Boston has been a transit-oriented city for more than a century. In fact, much of our regional economic success is due to the connectivity that a transit system provides. It is no coincidence that the area served by the MBTA houses almost 70 percent of the state’s population, offers 74 percent of the jobs, and generates 84 percent of Massachusetts’s gross domestic product. The MBTA is the backbone of our economy and any successful strategy for continued growth and prosperity for the region must begin with smart investment in this system.

Luckily, the calculus is straightforward as the benefits from our transit system far outweigh the costs we dedicate to support it. A new report from A Better City, made possible through support from both the Barr Foundation and The Boston Foundation, measured the MBTA’s performance and economic impact. It found that through travel time and cost savings, vehicular crashes avoided and reduced auto emissions, the MBTA provides an estimated $11.4 billion in value to Greater Boston each year for both transit users and non-users alike. Boston residents experience all of these benefits from the T’s annual operating budget of approximately $2 billion.

The report also considered the alternative, examining what would it cost if our transit system did not exist. Our economy would require the capital cost of nearly 2,300 additional lane miles of roads and 400,000 more parking spaces. If we needed to build that today, the cost for this vehicular infrastructure would be over $15 billion. The MBTA is a bargain today and for the future.

 

 

At more than five times the return on investment, the choice to finance the maintenance, improvement and expansion of MBTA operations within the 164 communities of metro Boston is clearly worth it. Unfortunately, the current MBTA budget plans . . .

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New 2017 Member Companies
December 06, 2017

ameresco

Kleo Taliadouros
Director - Development 

Ameresco, Inc. is an independent, integrated, comprehensive energy efficiency, and renewable energy company that is building a sustainable future with public organizations and private enterprise throughout North America and the United Kingdom. Through energy audits, innovative engineering, utility-scale solar farms, and deep energy retrofits, Ameresco applies forward-thinking technology to the challenges of controlling emissions, enhancing energy security, and shifting toward clean, renewable sources of power.

www.ameresco.com

 

ARUP

Brian Swett
Director, Cities and Sustainiable Real Estate

Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. They offer a broad range of professional services that combine to make a real difference to their clients and the communities in which they work. They are truly global. From 85 offices in 35 countries, their 12,000 planners, designers, engineers, and consultants deliver innovative projects across the world with creativity and passion.

 

www.arup.com

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LEED for Resilient Buildings?
November 13, 2017

In the last few years, responding to climate change hazards has become part of the way we do business. At a state level, September 2016’s Executive Order 569: Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth requires Executive Offices to assess climate vulnerabilities and identify adaptation options, and cities and towns in the Commonwealth to complete vulnerability assessments, identify adaptation strategies and begin implementation of these strategies.  

At a city level, Climate Ready Boston has taken large steps forward in identifying Boston’s climate hazards and vulnerabilities, and providing recommendations for further action. Coastal resilience solutions for two of the City’s eight vulnerable areas – East Boston and Charlestown – have recently been released; the same process is beginning in South Boston with resilience solutions due in April 2018. In addition, UMASS Boston is expected to release results from a much anticipated harbor barrier review and a study on resilience governance and financing by the end of 2018. 

At a building level, the number of voluntary resilience standards has also grown rapidly to assist developers, building owners, property managers, and tenants in preparing for the potential impacts of climate change. The intent of these standards is to shift the building sector toward more robust adaptation and preparedness practices in the same way programs such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard has driven the development of . . .

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The Campaign to Create a Greenway BID
November 13, 2017

The campaign to create a Greenway Business Improvement District (BID) is officially underway! For the last ten months, A Better City's Greenway Abutters Committee collaborated with the Greenway Conservancy, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the City of Boston to develop a long-term sustainable funding structure for the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Establishing a BID is the key mechanism in this four-party arrangement that is modeled on shared responsibility of this special area. This partnership will ultimately help to fulfil the original promise of the Greenway and ensure it continues to be a first class urban park for the foreseeable future.  

Creating a BID is a difficult. There are multiple steps required by Massachusetts state law that culminate in a vote of the Boston City Council. A Better City and the Abutters Committee, with support from John Rattigan and Mark Tang from DLA Piper, prepared the legal documents and enabling forms for the Greenway BID’s purpose, boundary lines, fee structure, and many other details. With those now in place, we are now asking the owners of properties located inside the Greenway BID boundary to sign letters of support to create the BID. 

If 60% of these property owners endorse the BID plan, and these supportive owners represent more than 50% of the assessed value in the Greenway district, we can submit this as a petition to the Boston City Council. If successful at City Council, the Greenway BID would exist through 2023 and become the only the second BID in Boston, after the Downtown BID.  It would be the sixth active BID in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Greenway BID is necessary to close a funding gap for Greenway’s maintenance and operations expenses. These Greenway abutters would be agreeing to collectively contribute approximately $1.5 . . .

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Transportation & Climate Change Overview
November 13, 2017

When we focus on Boston’s transportation needs, it’s often in the context of congestion or delays on the T. However, as we passed the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and watched large portions of the East & Gulf Coasts and Caribbean experience a devastating year of storms, the impacts of climate change loom large over a sea-level coastal metropolis like Boston.

In 2008, the Massachusetts’ legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which set statewide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (over a 1990 baseline). Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth ruled that those targets are legal mandates, further underscoring the need for widespread action.

Over the past decade, Massachusetts has worked aggressively to address emissions from the energy sector—what was then the single-largest source of our state’s emissions. The Commonwealth helped to launch the nation’s first mandatory market-based program to reduce climate pollution from power plants across 13 states, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and established a suite of incentives and standards that has led our state to be ranked the most energy efficient state in the country for seven consecutive years.

Due in large part to our participation in the RGGI cap-and-invest program, emissions in the electricity sector have dropped by almost 50% since 2008. Proceeds from that program are invested in programs including energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, greenhouse gas abatement, and direct bill assistance to further drive down emissions. As of 2017, the . . .

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