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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 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.
April 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, it’s 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.
April 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.
October 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.
September 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.
April 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.
February 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.
December 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.
August 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
March 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.
March 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.
February 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
May 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.
February 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
June 2012 - This white paper considers core transit congestion and the future of transit and development in Greater Boston.
This 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.