The new administration’s transportation goals need to include “Smart Growth” alternatives in the urban core where the MBTA has shown a long-term pattern of disinvestment in the kinds of hard infrastructure that encourage sustainable practices of development and travel.
There are plenty of examples to go around, but specifically, I’m talking about the Arborway Line restoration and the disingenuous stance of the past administration in dealing with what was once a mutually-agreed-upon high-return project with demonstrable air quality and ridership benefits.
First the state allowed the project to languish. Then it wriggled through a substitution attempt that it finally admitted it couldn’t win, because no substitute provided the real benefits the Green Line restoration did. And admirably, it dropped its resistance and began a productive community design process. Until, that is, the last administration decided to begin dismantling the state clean-air regulations requiring the project, providing none of the smart growth or clean air benefits to the corridor where they were taken away in 1985.
As an environmental justice project serving minorities in the Hyde Square and Mission Hill areas, as well as a smart growth project ensuring that high density business and residential districts like Centre/South Streets and Brigham Circle retain their walking- and transit-oriented development qualities, the Arborway project is a lifeline waiting to happen. And the relatively low level of infrastructure needed makes it a bargain when you compare the costs and returns.
Where the Romney administration gave mainly lip service to its own boldly-stated smart growth platform, the new administration has in this project an excellent opportunity to embrace investment in the things we’ve had all along (walkability, light rail, transit oriented development) that other cities nationwide are scrambling to get back.