Barr Foundation Knowledge Center

This collection includes publications and resources from our partners and in our program areas, both current and legacy. These resources are completely free to access and download. Most of these works were funded by the Barr Foundation. We may occasionally feature items relevant to our program areas which were not funded by Barr. Please be aware that views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barr Foundation. We encourage you to search our collection and suggest potential content to include (use "Suggest an Addition"). For questions or assistance, please contact feedback@barrfoundation.org.
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Featured

Get it Rolling: A brief guide to mobilize bus improvements in Greater Boston

June 21, 2021

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.

Climate - Mobility
Featured

The Arts Advantage: Impacts of Arts Education on Boston Students

May 7, 2021

Launched in 2009, BPS Arts Expansion, the public-private partnership led by the Boston Public Schools Visual and Performing Arts Department and EdVestors, brings together local foundations, the school district, arts organizations, higher education institutions, and the Mayor's Office to focus on a coherent, sustainable approach to quality arts education for all BPS students. This collaboration of local leaders along with students, families, and school staff, has enabled Boston to emerge as a national leader among urban districts working to expand arts education.The purpose of this study is to examine how access to arts education in BPS influences education outcomes pertaining to student social emotional and academic outcomes as well as parent and teacher perspectives regarding school climate. This research strengthens the case for quality arts education for every student, finding significant evidence increases in arts education lead to improvements on a range of indicators of student and parent school engagement.

Arts - Public Support
Featured

Carbon Free Boston: Summary Report 2019

January 1, 2019

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/

Climate - Clean Energy; Climate - Mobility; Climate - Resilience
Featured

The Transportation Dividend: Transit Investments and the Massachusetts Economy

January 29, 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.

Climate - Mobility

Tactical Public Realm Case Studies

February 1, 2021

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.

Climate - Mobility

Not on a Shelf: Reporting on the City of Boston's Progress on Go Boston 2030

March 1, 2020

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.

Climate - Mobility

The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston

June 1, 2019

After a pause during the Great Recession, housing costs began rising again as the shortage of homes identified in 2001 began to widen. In some degree, this is because of nationwide changes that have increased demand for apartments and homes on small lots, especially in walkable, transit-connected places. But Greater Boston is also a victim of its own success. The many attractive characteristics of our region are drawing new households by the thousands. Young adults are forming new families and older residents are less likely to flee to Florida and Arizona. Overall, the population of the region is growing – in fact, Massachusetts is the fastest growing state in the Northeast. The disinvestment and population declines of earlier decades have been reversed, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. But, if housing supply cannot keep up with demand, these gains could be lost.From 2010 to 2017, the Metropolitan Boston region added 245,000 new jobs, a 14 percent increase. Yet according to the best data available, cities and towns permitted only 71,600 housing units over that same time period, growth of only 5.2 percent. When supply of new housing does not keep pace with the growing demand created by new workers and young adults forming new households, there is more competition for the existing units. Low rental vacancy rates (just above half of normal) and low for-sale inventory (just above a third of normal) make it a landlord and sellers' market, allowing them to charge top dollar to the highest bidder. Continued demand for labor, driven by economic growth and the retirement of the Baby Boomers is likely to continue driving strong population growth and housing demand well into the future. Compounding the issue is the fact that Baby Boomers will continue to need housing well after they retire, but are stuck in large single family homes because there are very few affordable options to downsize.For more information: https://ma-smartgrowth.org/resources/resourcesreports-books/

Climate - Resilience

Gridlock: Stopped in Traffic, Delayed on Transit

April 24, 2019

This report shows results of a new poll of Massachusetts registered voters, putting many of these struggles into perspective. The poll was designed and conducted by The MassINC Polling Group with input from a steering committee of policy experts, transportation planners, and businesss leaders. It was sponsored by The Barr Foundation. The results suggest voters, and especially commuters, are feeling the effects of the transportation system's problems in very personal ways. For a large portion of those with the longest commutes, the frustration of being stuck on the roads or transit has led them to consider changing jobs, or leaving the region altogether.

Climate - Mobility

Creative City

April 1, 2019

The inaugural three years (2015-2018) of the Creative City pilot program supported artists of all disciplines to reimagine places for art in Boston, engage public imagination, and inspire community members to share in civic experiences. With acknowledgement of the Barr Foundation's funding and thought partnership, NEFA is excited to share the learnings through the Creative City Report and video series featuring the inspiring stories of the pilot program grantee work and the transformative power art can play in civic life.

Arts - Public Support

Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm: A National Field Scan

April 1, 2019

A challenge for artists and funders in this intersectional work is to advance both aesthetic and community aims. How do programs balance community development needs and goals with opportunities for artists to experiment? What kinds of supports are needed to help community partners, crucial to the impact of the work, fully engage with artists? What services best support artists who are building their capacity for public realm production and community engagement? What funding strategies and practice standards help ensure projects that meet high marks for both aesthetic achievement and community value?In the spirit of advancing field dialogue in this arena, Americans for the Arts and the Barr Foundation are happy to share the findings of a National Scan of Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm. The scan, while not intended to be comprehensive, highlights overarching themes and offers snapshots of 30 programs supporting and building capacity for artists to work in the public realm. Detailed summaries from interviews with seven selected programs provide additional insights.This scan was conducted to inform future directions of the New England Foundation for the Arts' (NEFA) Creative City program. Creative City's pilot phase offered direct support for artists at varied stages of experience and career to exercise their creative power to excite the public imagination and engage Boston's diverse communities. A report on Creative City's pilot phase and videos highlighting its value and impact in Boston can be found at: nefa.org/CreativeCityLearning.

Arts - Public Support

Showcasing and serving Boston's evolving Asian cultures: Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center

March 12, 2019

At Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), evidence of how arts, culture and creativity foster connection are all around.From dumpling cooking classes, which offer a window into Chinese culture for some and a chance to pass on their cultural heritage for others; to expressive arts therapy for children with autism and their families; to events designed to engage Bostonians in the area's evolving Asian cultures, including festivals, concerts, classes and artwork showcased in the new Pao Arts Center.

Carbon Free Boston: Social Equity Report 2019

January 1, 2019

This Carbon Free Boston: Social Equity Report provides a deeper equity context for Carbon Free Boston as a whole, and for each strategy area, by demonstrating how inequitable and unjust the playing field is for socially vulnerable Bostonians and why equity must be integrated into policy design and implementation. This report summarizes the current landscape of climate action work for each strategy area and evaluates how it currently impacts inequity. Finally, this report provides guidance to the City and partners on how to do better; it lays out the attributes of an equitable approach to carbon-neutrality, framed around three guiding principles:1) plan carefully to avoid unintended consequences2) be intentional in design through a clear equity lens3) practice inclusivity from start to finish.

Climate - Clean Energy; Climate - Mobility; Climate - Resilience

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