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This guide lays out a recipe to help local staff members, leaders, and advocates identify the right ingredients to launch successful bus improvements in high ridership, high delay corridors in their communities. These projects can seem daunting in their complexity, but they are important tools in achieving climate, equity, and transit goals, as well as improving quality of life for the thousands of people in our region.The guide identifies crucial stakeholders and project milestones. It offers examples of successful strategies, and it distills lessons learned. We identified six bus priority projects that started turning the wheels of change in the region. These projects were the first to involve quick, temporary, and easy to change elements in order to influence the permanent design.The information this guide sets forth was drawn from over thirty in-depth interviews with stakeholders involved in the six different projects we identify below:Everett's inbound bus lane on BroadwayBoston's inbound bus lane on Washington Street in RoslindaleArlington's inbound bus lane on Massachusetts AvenueCambridge and Watertown's inbound bus lane on Mount Auburn StreetBoston's inbound bus lane on Brighton Avenue in BrightonSomerville's inbound and outbound bus lanes on BroadwayThese six projects are described in detail in the individual case studies found after the workbook. You'll find examples from these projects throughout this guide that illustrate the different strategies municipal staff and their partners have used to accomplish progressive bus improvements.Every project's recipe will be different, and will require different ingredients, as well as different amounts of each. The projects showcased in this guide may not be directly applicable to your community, but they offer a framework for considering strategies to improve bus transit. With the ingredients presented in this document, we encourage you to innovate and experiment. Not all will apply to your situation, and not all will follow the same order as we have them listed here. This guide is not prescriptive, but instead offers direction based on the experience of people involved in the six local bus improvement projects that were studied.
Mortality-based damages per ton due to the on-road mobile sector in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. by region, vehicle class and precursorJune 8, 2021
A new study that quantifies the total and interstate deaths from transportation-related air pollution from five vehicle types in 12 states and Washington, D.C. has been published in Environmental Research Letters. The research was led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.The study is part of the Transportation, Equity, Climate, and Health project (TRECH), a multi-university research team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston University, University of North Carolina, and Columbia University, which analyzes policy scenarios to address carbon pollution from the transportation sector.Key TakeawaysOzone and fine particulate matter from vehicle emissions in 2016 led to an estimated 7,100 deaths in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., and pollution from tailpipe emissions is also traveling across state lines, harming the health of people living in cities and states downwind.Region wide, light-duty trucks, which include SUVs, were responsible for the largest number of premature deaths at 2,463 followed by light-duty passenger vehicles (1,881) and heavy-duty trucks (1,465)All states experienced substantial health impacts from vehicle emissions and can gain health benefits from local action.New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were hardest hit with health damages at $21 billion, $13 billion, and $12 billion, respectively, in 2016 (the most recent data available from EPA).Many states are heavily impacted by out-of-state emissions and some states cause more deaths out-of-state than in-state, including PA and NJ, highlighting the importance of region-wide action to reduce vehicle emissions.On a ton for ton basis, buses in the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area had the largest health damages at $4 million for every ton of particulate matter emitted.Ammonia emissions play a stronger relative role in causing health damages compared to oxides of nitrogen. Regionally, ammonia emissions from vehicles were responsible for 740 premature deaths in 2016, more than 10% of the total deaths. Ammonia emissions from vehicles are an unintended by-product of catalytic converters and are unregulated in the U.S., and their role in urban air pollution has been generally under appreciated.
A sharp increase in working from home could also spell huge changes in commuting patterns. Massachusetts residents say they will probably be making fewer trips as the state emerges from coronavirus crisis, but more of those trips will be by themselves, according to a new statewide poll out today. On balance, residents expect to drive or walk more, and use all types of shared or public transportation mode less.In all, 35% of residents say they will ride the MBTA subway less than before, and 33% say the same of the commuter rail. Among the most frequent transit users, 44% say they will ride the subway less, and 45% expect to drive more. Young people and Boston residents are among the groups indicating the biggest increases in driving.
Carbon Free Boston was developed through comprehensive engagement with City staff, utilities, neighboring municipalities, regional authorities, state agencies, industry experts, and community representatives, among others, and was supported by comprehensive analysis using models that project feasible pathways to carbon neutrality by 2050. To ensure meaningful and actionable outcomes, we looked across scales and considered opportunities and challenges associated with specific actions at the city, state, and regional levels. We also addressed disparities in communities' capacity both to mitigate climate damages and to benefit from the transition to a carbon-neutral city.Supporting technical reports and other resources are also available on the project web site: http://sites.bu.edu/cfb/
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.
This implementation playbook outlines critical steps and decision points to implement a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in Massachusetts between the cities of Everett and Boston. Included are data-rich insights into specific on-the-ground conditions and illustrations of creative bus priority improvements in Everett along a potential Everett-to-Boston BRT corridor. The playbook highlights how the City of Everett, in collaboration with Boston, as well as state agencies and other adjacent municipalities can continue to be a municipal leader in transit innovation.Everett, Massachusetts is a diverse, vibrant community of 40,000 bordering Boston that, despite a critical lack of transit-specific infrastructure, has become a regional and national leader in transit-oriented development and bus-based transit innovation. It was a pioneer in installing peak-hour bus lanes at a time when other cities were worried about whether such lanes would be feasible and has continued to demonstrate the benefits of planning that prioritizes people over vehicles.Lessons in the playbook, especially around trade-offs, show how Everett and other communities in greater Boston can improve the bus rider experience. Each of Everett's transit-priority interventions has brought the city closer to a full-fledged BRT corridor. Conditions in Everett—with narrow roadways, complex traffic patterns and nearly a dozen bus routes—have posed challenges to implementing a full bus rapid transit system. BRT improves accessibility, equitability, and legibility, making the bus transit experience more time-efficient and easier to use and understand. Many creative solutions have brought and will continue to bring the city and region closer to this goal.While the playbook is focused on getting to BRT in and between Everett and Boston, it offers many lessons that are applicable to cities across the nation who are looking to build BRT across municipal lines and on roadways with limited width.
Over the past several years, many valuable public realm projects have been implemented in Boston. In 2015, A Better City partnered with the Boston Transportation Department to develop the Public Realm Planning Study for Go Boston 2030. As co-chair of the Go Boston 2030 Plan, A Better City identified the untapped potential of Boston's transportation system to function as a network of vibrant public spaces that would support social, cultural, and economic activities. The process also highlighted a need for new short- and long-term public space strategies to reclaim underutilized transportation infrastructure in our neighborhoods.Building on this work, in December 2018, A Better City partnered with the City of Boston to publish Boston's first Tactical Public Realm Guidelines, designed to catalyze "tactical" interventions—such as plazas, parklets, outdoor cafes, and street murals—that can transform the public realm through lower-cost, rapid implementation. These modest interventions can convert our streets into spaces in which to convene, create, and experiment, fostering more vibrant communities and economies alike. As a testament to the importance of this work, the City of Boston hired a Public Realm Director in 2018 and integrated the Tactical Public Realm Guidelines into the City's Public Improvement Commission review process. A Better City has also worked with the City of Boston to develop sidewalk cafe guidelines and to convene a public realm interagency working group.A Better City has undertaken several public realm projects to date, including two outdoor seating projects in East Boston, a one week pop-up tactical plaza and permanent tactical plaza design in Roslindale Village, and a parklet design on Green Street in Jamaica Plain.The groundwork laid by these projects and the tactical guidelines, proved to be extremely beneficial in 2020 when the global pandemic created a tremendous need for flexible public space to help support local businesses, namely restaurants. For example, in many commercial districts across Boston, parklets were quickly installed to help support physically distanced outdoor dining.This publication includes case study summaries of the planning, design, and implementation process for three projects managed by A Better City—Birch Street Plaza, Green Street Plaza, and Outdoor Seating in East Boston— as well as a fourth case study describing the six pop-up plazas implemented by the City of Boston Director of Public Realm.
Resilient communities are strong communities. Unfortunately, some communities - especially those that are primarily people of color or historically low-income - are disproportionately impacted by environmental, economic, and social challenges. And yet, when we design the built environment to address these challenges, the voices of the residents are often left out of the process.The Sasaki Foundation Design Grants focused on the biennial theme of resilience to highlight the role of design in building stronger communities - proactive approaches to climate adaptation, housing, transit, and placekeeping - the Sasaki Foundation issued a call for proposals to find projects that engaged with communities in the Gateway Cities, Metro West, and Greater Boston.In 2019, the Sasaki Foundation received 18 applications representing 42 organizations, 11 institutions, 8 Boston communities, 6 Greater Boston cities, and 2 Gateway Cities. Finalists pitched their ideas to win grant money and coworking space in the Incubator at Sasaki. The three winning teams spent ten months in the Incubator working on projects that promote equity in design.
This study examines the transit oriented development (TOD) potential of commuter rail stations in the Greater Boston area.The MBTA has announced plans for major improvements in commuter rail service and connectivity. However appreciated and overdue, transit oriented development that will likely accompany a system-wide commuter rail upgrade may also usher in hazards and blind-spots for planners and policy-makers to address. With TOD come improved amenities, higher land values and more competition for real estate, which in turn could lead to displacement, unaffordability and unequal access for intended beneficiaries. Yet, with coordinated land-use planning, street design and rail planning, there is nevertheless potential to not only enhance access equitably, but to also unlock a large quantity of affordable space that is presently perceived to be outside commuter rail catchment areas, and to shift Greater Boston's growth trajectory from the 20th century car-oriented path to a more sustainable 21st century rail-oriented path.
Congestion Pricing in the United States: Principles for Developing a Viable Program to Advance Sustainability and Equity GoalsMay 20, 2020
There is no silver bullet to fix the woes of urban mobility and access, but congestion pricing is a proven, viable, and effective tool. Charging a fee for the parts of the roadway network used the most during the busiest times of day reduces demand. The charges incentivize travelers to switch to other modes of transportation, seek alternative routes, or travel at other times. The charges can help to reduce negative effects of traffic such as air pollution, carbon emissions, road damage, and traffic crashes.This report seeks to accelerate the development of congestion pricing programs in the U.S. that advance sustainability and equity goals. The report is intended for elected officials, civic leaders, advocates, and agency professionals in cities and metropolitan regions. The principles outlined in this report illustrate key concepts, discuss challenges, and share examples and emerging best practices.
From Transactional to Transformative: The Case for Equity in Gateway City Transit-Oriented DevelopmentMay 1, 2020
We as a society have made choices that have led to deep inequities. Whether intentional or not, these inequities divide places, races, classes, and cultures across the Commonwealth. To bridge these divisions, policymakers, leaders, and practitioners must reframe decisions and actions with equity as an intentional outcome and part of the process. We write this paper to present a framework of how transit-oriented development (TOD) can help cities, specifically Gateway Cities, embed equity into market-based and other policy tools and practices, thereby transforming their regions through equitable growth and development.This report expands on our 2018 recommendations and lays the groundwork for a series of future policy briefs that will explore the issues covered here in more depth. We call for infusing equity into TOD policies and practices for four specific reasons:Over the past 50 years, demographic change has divided people and communities socially and economically in Gateway City metropolitan regions.Gentrification fears have surged in Gateway Cities' weak real estate markets, where increasing property values threaten to destabilize households and neighborhoods, strip cities of their cultural vibrancy, and put vulnerable residents at risk of displacement and homelessness.Local and nationwide histories of socioeconomic exclusion—particularly along racial and cultural lines—persist today. These histories have exacerbated wealth gaps and income inequality and require both acknowledgement and correction.Finally, a false policy dichotomy that supports either large "urban" or small "nonurban" communities ignores the vital role Gateway Cities play as regional hubs for surrounding towns and cities, thus deepening geographic disparities across the Commonwealth.
In March of 2017, the City of Boston released Go Boston 2030, their long-term mobility plan. Informed by an extensive two-year community engagement process, the plan envisions a city where all residents have better and more equitable travel choices, and aims to create economic opportunity and prepare for climate change. In order to ensure Go Boston 2030 doesn't sit on a shelf, LivableStreets has committed to independently assessing the City's progress on their goals regularly until 2030.Our report found that since Go Boston 2030 was released three years ago, the City of Boston has made important structural changes to their mobility-related departments, budgets, and priorities, including adding millions of dollars and 20 new staff to the transportation department. These changes provide a strong foundation for the progress they are making on implementing several Go Boston 2030 projects and policies. However, implementation of these projects and policies has not yet demonstrated significant progress toward most of Go Boston 2030's goals and targets. It will be important for the City to increase the scale and pace of its projects to stay on track and begin to see more meaningful progress toward its goals and targets.The report includes key findings, recommendations, and deep dives into key projects, including Better Bike Corridors. One section of the report focuses on providing updates on aspirational targets the City laid out in Go Boston 2030, including eliminating traffic fatalities and decreasing commute to work times. In addition, the report includes a project scorecard that provides status updates, evaluations, and recommended next steps for all 33 Go Boston 2030 early action projects and policies, including Walk- and Bike-Friendly Main Streets and Smart Signals Corridors. The report is intended to assess not only the quality and extent of work the City has done, but its overall impact.
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