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
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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

Designing Shelters for Dignity: Energy Shift Boston Rentify Chinatown

September 1, 2020

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.

Climate - Mobility

From Transactional to Transformative: The Case for Equity in Gateway City Transit-Oriented Development

May 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.

Climate - Mobility

Massachusetts Working Cities Challenge Final Assessment of Round 1 Progress

July 20, 2018

In May 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (Boston Fed) formally launched the Working Cities Challenge: An Initiative for Massachusetts Smaller Cities. The Working Cities Challenge (WCC) encourages and supports leaders from the business, government, philanthropy, and nonprofit sectors in smaller, postindustrial cities to work collaboratively on innovative strategies that have the potential to produce large-scale results for low-income residents in their communities. Ultimately, the Boston Fed expects that the teams' efforts will build the cities' civic infrastructure leading to long-term improved prosperity and opportunity for residents in Working Cities.The Boston Fed developed a competitive process for city selection in which a jury chose the winning cities with the grant award varying based on the strength of the cities' proposals. WCC announced in early 2014 the award of a total of $1.8 million in grants to six working cities. The competitive grants included four implementation grants ranging in size from $700,000 to $225,000 over a planned three-year period awarded to Chelsea, Fitchburg, Holyoke, and Lawrence. In addition, WCC awarded two smaller $100,000 one-year seed grants to Salem and Somerville. Based on the assessment of progress at the midpoint of the implementation period, the Boston Fed extended the grant cycle slightly and augmented the implementation grants. Following a second juried competitive application process, the Boston Fed awarded each of the four implementation cities an additional $150,000 and extended the grant period through September 2017, making implementation a full three-and-a-half years. Beyond the grant funds, the working cities have received technical assistance and opportunities for shared learning and peer exchange. While perhaps less tangible than technical assistance, but no less important, the working cities now have greater visibility and new forums for access to funders as well.Below is a presentation produced by Mt. Auburn Associates.Please find the full report, case studies, and additional resources here:

The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities

April 24, 2018

Gateway Cities can accommodate thousands of new housing units and thousands of new jobs on the vacant and underutilized land surrounding their commuter rail stations. This walkable, mixed-use urban land offers an ideal setting for transit-oriented development (TOD) to take hold.Currently, Gateway City commuter rail stations get minimal ridership from downtown neighborhoods and few developers seek out this land for TOD. But changing economic forces may provide opportunities to funnel future development into transit-connected Gateway Cities, generating more inclusive and economically productive growth, reducing road congestion and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increasing housing supply, conserving open space, and improving quality of life in communities throughout the Commonwealth.With generous support from the Barr Foundation, this groundbreaking MassINC research explores the opportunity for TOD in regional urban centers with varying market contexts and estimates the positive outcomes possible if we realize the development potential for TOD in these cities. The report concludes with a strategy to help Massachusetts capture the promise of Gateway City TOD.

Climate - Mobility

A Guide to Electricity Markets, Systems, and Policy In Massachusetts

October 6, 2015

The purpose of this guide is to help stakeholders in the City of Boston understand how regional electricity markets function in New England and Massachusetts, and to introduce some of the important choices about the design of those markets currently being discussed in the region. The guide was prepared by the Conservation Law Foundation for the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, a network of business and civic leaders supporting the implementation of the City of Boston's Climate Action Plan (CAP). It is one of three information products commissioned by the GRC. The other two focus on: 1) an overview of how regional electricity and gas infrastructure decisions are made in New England, and 2) an overview of options for large scale institutional renewable energy purchasing.

Better Rapid Transit for Greater Boston: The Potential for Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit Across the Metropolitan Area

May 11, 2015

To better understand whether and where Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) could work in the region, the Barr Foundation convened the Greater Boston BRT Study Group. Made up of diverse stakeholders and transit experts from across the city, the BRT Study Group partnered with the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy to investigate the possibilities for implementing BRT throughout the metropolitan area. The report presents the results of the group's analysis, and further explores how BRT at its highest standard could improve mobility, equity, and sustainability for residents, commuters, and visitors.

Climate - Mobility

An Introduction to Institutional Renewable Energy Procurement Options in Massachusetts

April 1, 2015

The report addresses the conundrum that although the price of renewable energy has dropped, the cost of completing a transaction for wind or solar energy remains high. This is because the deals are customized and complicated and because there is usually a steep learning curve for institutional purchasers like universities, hospitals, and businesses, which are accustomed to a more traditional energy procurement process. The report identifies and explains common approaches and strategies to guide institutional purchasers, with the goal of reducing both flattening the curve and reducing the costs.

Climate - Clean Energy

The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Boston

March 11, 2015

In the Boston metropolitan area, walkable urbanism adds value. On average, all of the product types studied, including office, retail, hotel, rental apartments, and for-sale housing, have higher values per square foot in walkable urban places than in low-density drivable locations. These price premiums of 20 to 134 percent per square foot are strong indicators of pent-up demand for walkable urbanism.Previous research has demonstrated the correlation between walkable urban places and both the education of the metropolitan work force and the GDP per capita. The current research confirms this finding: for example, since 2000, 70 percent of the population growth of young, educated workers has occurred in the walkable urban places of the Boston region. Public transit, especially rail transit, activates walkable urbanism's potential for adding real estate value, and as this report demonstrates, that potential is ample. Therefore, policymakers must weigh the costs of funding transit against its power to increase tax revenues. With the right value capture tools in place, the increased valuethat transit supports could be used to fund at least a portion of the system's maintenance and future expansion.We should also be concerned that, given the flow of capital into walkable urban places and the price premiums, the affordability of these places may be diminished. The resulting increased displacement of low-income residents to less accessible suburban locations would likely have substantial negative impacts on social equity, the environment and opportunity. As a result, it is critical to establish policies that will preserve existing affordable housing in walkable urban places and leverage private sector investments to enhance opportunities for disadvantaged families to live in high opportunity/high accessibility places. However, the ultimate solution to high housing and commercial costs is more walkable urban inventory, which will occupy less than 10 percent of the metro area's landmass. This new inventory will eventually drive down land costs, the primary reason for the price premiums.

Climate - Mobility

Formative Evaluation Report on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Energy Initiative

June 1, 2012

This Interim Report provides the results of process evaluation activity undertaken to review the MAPC's Clean Energy Division's first year of operation (July 2011-June 2012). MAPC proposed to support cities and towns within the MAPC region to focus on clean energy and energy efficiency. Their theory of change involves recognizing that cities and towns are interested in developing their own clean energy solutions but lack the internal technical and logistical capacity to identify, develop and implement best practices and programs. MAPC proposed to fill this gap with a range of technical assistance, collective procurement, regionalization and policy projects. The evaluation found that the MAPC intervention identified significant potential energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions, and strategies to realize these savings.

Climate - Clean Energy

Creative Placemaking

November 10, 2010

Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa: A white paper for The Mayors' Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the NEA in partnership with the US Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation.

Arts - Cross-sectoral Relationships

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