Charley already wrote up WBUR’s transportation poll, but WBUR did a sidebar story on some non-highway transportation ideas.
Reporter Steve Brown talked to State Sen. Tom McGee about his idea to relieve traffic & help people get around – expanding the Lynn-Boston ferry service:
“We started off with 13,000 riders the first year from May to September. Up over 15,000 last year, so there’s definitely an interest,” McGee says. He’d like to see the ferry become permanent and run year-round, to give commuters on the North Shore another option for getting into town.
“We’ve got a state-of-the-art facility with two berths for ferry boats and other operations,” McGee explains. “This is also land that’s also part of the project. [It’s] city-owned, for extra parking spots. Parking’s free, with a building here as planned as a terminal and then a restaurant on the top. You can see how beautiful it is here.”
McGee says the ferry terminal — located a short walk away from a commuter rail stop and parking garage in Lynn Center — could become a major transportation hub for the entire North Shore, especially if long-ago shelved plans to extend the MBTA Blue Line to Lynn were revived.
In general, ferry service is a great idea! Lower carbon, you don’t have to build & maintain new pavement, and it’s just plain way more fun than driving.
But there’s a big problem in Lynn that’s a great example of how we can’t solve our transportation problems without also dealing with housing and development policies.
The problem is the ferry’s location. Here, take a look:
The ferry is cut off from the Central Square-Lynn transit stop by a 7-lane highway with only painted pedestrian crossings, no signal – risky even if you’re young & nimble and dangerous-if-not-impassable if you’re not. I also wouldn’t call the 13-minute walk “short.” There’s a bus from Lynn Center to the ferry, but it only runs every 15 minutes. It also has the makings of a very long commute – a trip to Lynn Center, then a bus ride, to a 30-minute ferry ride, and that’s just to get to Boston, never mind your office. (It’s a 30-40 minute drive from Lynn to downtown, according to Google Maps.)
The ferry terminal is also surrounded by parking lots in the middle of a largely industrial area with no housing. “Free” parking is actually “taxpayer subsidized” parking, and ferry ridership is limited by the size of those lots. If your goal is to “get cars off the road” as McGee says, you’re just redirecting traffic, not eliminating it.
And that’s the real trouble with “transit stop surrounded by sea of park & ride”-style transportation plans – everyone still needs to have a car. The strongest financial upside of transit is going car-free, but if you have to buy, insure & maintain a car AND pay for gas AND pay for the ferry, saving money goes out the window. You’re then much more likely to use that car on off-peak trips, and we wonder why the highways around Boston jam up on weekends, too.
If the goal is to use the Lynn ferry to reduce the number of cars on the road, we should build tons of housing around the ferry so people don’t need cars in the first place. Transit-oriented development also negates the “but won’t new housing increase traffic” complaint from NIMBYs.
We have no shortage of cheap parking, but we have a desperate shortage of cheap housing. The area around any new transit stops should be zoned for dense residential. Dense residential housing should be built on existing park & ride lots wherever it’s feasible. If it’s deemed not feasible, parking should be charged at unsubsidized rates – free market, not free parking. We also need to talk about where & how it’s feasible to add congestion pricing and invest the revenue in transit.
Our transportation system’s failure is that driving & parking are by far the most heavily subsidized, hence often the best, options. That goes hand-in-hand with our housing system’s failure to meet demand for new housing in cities. Our policies make it difficult to build new tall residential buildings or even townhouses in cities while instead subsidizing sprawl through, among many other things, artificially low gas taxes.
It’s long past time to give people more choices on where to live and how to get around.
This is a growing problem for businesses that rely in certain services for their revenue. In the case of HVAC service, for example, it’s hard to find a technician who lives in or close to Weston so transportation costs are high and it’s hard to find techs willing to travel so far from home.
The sidewalk to get from the 7 lane highway (the Lynnway) to the boat… it isn’t ADA, at least if Google Streetview is to be believed. Check out the curb cut for the Dunkies on Blossom St — no ramp on either side. Same goes for the other parking lot entrance a tick down. Although the street view clearly predates the satellite image, the Blossom St sidewalk appears unchanged on the satellite. Maybe it’s been fixed, but I doubt it.
Was there two weeks ago.
There’s many ways to do that. More housing where the jobs are. Public transit improvements and expansions. Etc.
However, is there any more efficient way to get more people to skip their cars and take public transit than if we made buses free?
-Buses don’t bring in very much money for the MBTA, so it wouldn’t be difficult to offset that revenue within the state budget.
-The very little money they bring in comes at a real cost — delays, lines, annoyances.
-Everyone would benefit. Buses can go anywhere where people live. We can have free buses in Metro Boston, just as we can the Cape or South Coast, just as we can Worcester or Western Mass.
-This would do a ton to create jobs — plenty of employers are looking for good, reliable workers, leaving positions unfilled for longer than they’d like, and there are plenty of good workers looking for jobs with no reliable/affordable way to get there. (And if you’re making minimum wage, bus passes may not be super affordable.)
-By creating hundreds of thousands or millions of additional regular public transportation users, the public transit constituency would grow by leaps and bounds across the state — putting pressure on Beacon Hill to make much more substantial investments in public transportation, both access and reliability.
-And, oh, yeah, it would be a kickass way to reduce traffic and save families thousands a year (by reducing the number of cars families need to pay for, maintain and insure).
I think bus fare collection for the MBTA is something like $100 million a year. It’s not nothing, but it could be almost entirely paid for by killing a certain terrible tax credit our new, esteemed editor brought up the other day.
There are two downsides of making buses free:
* White people complaining about yet another handout for the black and brown people, with all of the political fallout that comes with it.
* Neighborhood opposition to upgrading a transit route to subway because it also means switching from a free service to a not-free (higher quality) service.
I’m not arguing that the downsides outweigh the upsides, but just providing food for thought.
If anything, this should be MORE politically palatable than some programs because it’s not means tested. Bill Gates would be just as welcome to take the bus as your friendly neighborhood panhandler.
…I’m pretty sure MBTA buses already penetrate some rather white Boston suburbs.
Some white people take the bus. I’m one of them (primarily CT1, 1, 47, 65, 66, SL, totaling perhaps 100 trips a year).
But there’s loads of Bostonians (and residents of nearly all major American cities) who would be happy to regularly or occasionally take the subway or streetcar, but would never get on a public bus. It”s one reason why we call it the Silver Line — we can at least give a nominal excuse for folks working in the Seaport to ride a bus by just not calling it a bus.
And those “loads” of Bostonians — demographically, they’re the ones with money and power. Same goes for Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Quincy, Newton, etc. Farther out it’s even more exacerbated methinks.
Without blunting the truth at the core of your sentiment, I’d like to point out the fact that such is not a downside of no-charge busses, but rather it’s a downside of countenancing openly racist political arguments.
Honestly, anybody who makes that argument should get a STFU time out and sent to the back of the class.
Again, while true, that’s not a downside of no-charge bussing. That’s a downside of people misunderstanding what ‘free’ means. “making the buses free” still costs the state money, as rye pointed out. I tend to think it will be money well spent… but once you attach the word ‘free’ to something, it invites a certain entitlement. Maybe we can call it something like ‘single payer’ transportation…
I’m all for it. I think the only real downside would be tracking ridership. If a bus is just get on and get off, without swiping or somehow tagging a rider, we would have to figure out some other way of counting riders. Of course, as it is now,we only count when people get on, not when they get off…
I agree that the argument that free buses are “another handout for the black and brown people” is openly racist. The sad truth, as stomv observed, is that we historically build public rail transportation for prosperous white neighborhoods and provide bus transportation for minority neighborhoods.
Take a look at the neighborhoods served by the “Silver Line” (originally planned and proposed as rail, then converted to bus).
It’s also worth observing that the same openly racist arguments are generally raised against providing ANY public transportation to towns like Arlington, Medford, and the Cape. The dog-whistle most commonly used is “undesirable element”.
Such arguments are openly racist and we should not countenance them. We must, however, admit that they exist and are shared by more people than some of us wish.
Peter Porcupine says
…for the MBTA to refuse to allow Bourne to join after they voted to do so to create public transportation for the Cape?
…that rail makes sense for longer commutes, whereas busses work better for hopping around denser communities?
This has piqued my curiosity and I looked up mass transit in my town Charlton. There actually is a bus route (there is a huge old age home) which stops in the center of town. I live about 15 miles away from it, not gonna walk that far, but I might take a ride to see the ridership.
My objection to free buses for everyone would certainly not be based on race. I’ll let you know if there are even any riders on the route. When I worked my day started long before the first bus makes its way into town, so buses wouldn’t have been useful.
Just a question, because I don’t know Charlton. How many blacks live in Charlton?
Not a lot of diversity.
Currently 26 Blacks, 23 American Indian, 52 Asian
There were some huge family farms out here which were broken up as families got bigger, so I know of three families which would outnumber any of the groups mentioned above. One guy I know just sold/gave over 100 acres to his kids.
I think the phenomenon we’re discussing happens in urban settings.
Not to disagree in any way or divert the thread but I just had a conversation today over lunch about the affordable housing crunch in Boston and the surrounding cities. Our conclusion was that it’s much easier to build transit to where there’s already a lot of less expensive housing stock than it is to build enough housing in Cambridge or Brookline.
You’re on to something. The question is: is it easier to build new transit or to tweak state law to allow for more residential development near the MBTA?
Personally, I’d love to see some carefully crafted legislation that allowed development on MBTA-leased land to exceed local zoning requirements. Something somewhat similar to 40B. It’s taking a page from Bob Neer without the privatization — figure out how to let the MBTA make some significant revenue from real estate, with long term (air rights) and shorter term (track-adjacent property) leases.
And, I’d add, the only subway that seems to have additional rush hour capacity is the Blue Line, so if I were developing housing with an eye on transportation, I’d build up Eastie, Winthrop, and Revere near the Blue Line than try to cram another person on a streetcar west of downtown or onto the Red Line.
-Giant piece of land with no current purpose.
-Subway stop that’s just a few stops shy of downtown.
Is there a better spot to stick a whole lot of affordable and market rate housing, with a cool mixed use project? Boston could build a whole new neighborhood there.
I’ve been bringing it up every few years on BMG for at least a decade.
A whole neighborhood, complete with
* busway to express folks to the T station
* bike and ped accommodation to allow folks to live car free if they so choose
* public infrastructure like parks, post office, public schools
* mixed use development so that retail can exist there to serve the locals — dry cleaners, take out food, grocers, etc.
I wonder where Mr. DeLeo, our number-one “Democrat” for life, will come down on this compellingly excellent proposal.
Anyone care to take odds?
Hard for a rep to say no to what sounds like economic development, methinks. Then again he seems to balk at public transit for reasons passing understanding.
The fact that this is his district is my point.
so, not a priority.
At 10,000/sq mi density, that’s 828 people. 10k/sq mile is the density of Rozzie, Everett, and Lawrence. But keep in mind that entire communities have lots of land where nobody lives — highways, industrial areas, wetlands, etc.
It’s easy to imagine that Suffolk Downs could have 2k-3k people living there.
So while it’s a great possibility for a massive development, it doesn’t build anywhere near the incremental housing needed in Boston (and inner burbs) necessary to stabilize housing prices.
That thing is a freakin eyesore, I’ll post pictures at some point, but the view from the commuter rail is even worse than 1A. And it’s just sitting there! There are some new, young, progressive city councilors in Revere eager to make their town the “next Somerville” and that’s one of the many ways to do that.
No one project will solve housing any more than any one wind farm will solve global warming. Need lots of them over time.
I’m not arguing that the project shouldn’t be done. I’m simply reminding folks that individual projects — no matter the size — don’t solve this problem. We need lots of efforts spread across the region (and, as mentioned elsewhere, it wouldn’t hurt to help people choose to live in a Gateway City either).
Parochialism is the biggest barrier to progress in this state. We have 351 municipalities each with their own approach to housing, transit, taxation and each eyeing the other 350 municipalities as competitors rather than partners. We need more housing of all kinds. We need regional zoning or even statewide zoning reforms that can override the patchwork of local regulations that inhibit smart growth.
This should be an area where left and right can come together. We need a free market in green energy, kill the caps on solar and wind and make the municipal utilities take the same amount of green energy as the rest. Overpower local opposition to projects that could benefit the whole state like Cape Wind.
Let’s have free market zoning reforms that significantly reduce and simplify the kinds of zones one can have and increases the ease of accessibility of getting permits. Every business in Boston or the GBA should step up as New Balance did and help build a better and expanded T, with voluntary and if necessary mandatory contributions. Any company down to sponsor the Olympics should sponsor the T. There should be a million more Assembly Square’s linked to transit and built on dead industrial sites.
This post industrial economy can work for all of us, but we all have to work together to make it happen. Significant changes in how the Commonwealth is governed have to happen.
This is not a zero-sum game – no reason we can’t do both (and a lot more).
We have cheap housing in this state – we simply have a misallocated economy which is all packed into the eastern part of the state. We have a Boston-centric vision for this state which is causing this. Boston is a great place – but we keep trying to make it better rather than trying to make our other cities more similar, and thus more attractive.
Go to any real estate website and search for housing in Gateway Cities. You can land many good properties in Springfield right now for under $75,000. You can buy a condo for $40-60k. I’m sure there are similar deals in other Gateway Cities.
Why build more transportation infrastructure when we can spread the demand around more to cities which already have the infrastructure?
Springfield has 14 lanes of interstate highway running through the middle of downtown. The river is blocked off on both sides by highway. I realize that doesn’t answer any of your questions, I’m just shaking my head that it got so, so screwed by Urban Renewal (Turning Our Cities Into Highway Interchanges For People Who Don’t Live There Since 1952).
It’s not just the western part of the state is ignored, Boston has historically treated the hinterlands with disdain. If a city wants to grow it should pay it’s own way. If they had to pay market rate for their water the central part of the state would be rich.
In the late 1890’s Boston became thirsty. Solution, kick 1700 people out of their West Boylston homes, make a dam, send the water to Boston. Best part, to this day West Boylston residents have their own well system for their water. I have a friend who owns 20 acres and part is in the Wachusett watershed, he is supposed to get a permit from Boston to cut down a tree on his own land.
Boston gets thirstier (1930’s), lets flood three towns and create a reservoir (Quabbin) which grows to 39 sq miles. Originally the water can only be used if you live within 10 miles of Beacon Hill. The thousands of acres surrounding these bodies of water must remain pristine. There can be no development to help a town’s tax base, just be good stewards of the land and be glad you live in the commonwealth.
The residents of many towns prefer relying on their own wells and septic systems to paying the taxes and creating the infrastructure needed to provide “town water”. Much of rural Massachusetts is not nearly dense enough to support anything else.
Many major metropolitan areas rely on reservoirs in surrounding rural land, that’s not unique to Boston or Massachusetts. Oh, and by the way, the residents of Boston have been subsidizing the highways and automobile infrastructure of rural Massachusetts for as long as they’ve existed.
I’m reminded of red states who bemoan “wasteful” and “excessive” federal government spending and who demand “austerity” budgets while forgetting that the net cash flowing INTO their state from the feds greatly exceeds the net tax revenue collected from their state. Ironically, it is the blue states who subsidize the red states.
You might want to be careful of what you wish for. I, for one, have suggested here in the past that that one reasonable starting point for federal budget discussions is that those who apply draconian constraints on the federal government must first accept cuts in federal spending on their own state so that the net federal dollars into their state is zero.
Perhaps we might do the same with our rural cities and towns.
Since they couldn’t use the reservoir created in their town, they have wells. If lots were sold along the shore there would be enough real estate development to make a Winnapuasakee south. Plenty of money for roads.
Quabbin would be even better. You could create a Lake Norman (famous NC high end lake side housing) type atmosphere.
There would be enough activity there might even be economic spillover into Springfield. That city would benefit from the influx of people and businesses lining the lake. That would become the urban destination for people in the area.
I agree we have a Boston-centric problem in the state, but if you’re from, say, Western Mass or Cape Cod, I don’t think you want to see which way the ‘paying more than you’re getting’ tax-dollar highway is going… because it’s not Western Mass or Cape Cod.
And, you know… I think that’s okay, and I think even more should be flowing into the parts of the state that aren’t yet the economic engines powering us, because they’re sound investments. But people from beyond the Metro Region need to stop fantasizing that Greater Boston is stealing all their resources, instead of being the net-exporter of tax dollars that it is.
The problem isn’t that one region is getting more than its fair share, hosing the others. The problem is our state’s tax-dollar pie is too small, and too much of it isn’t going toward investments period and instead in silly things like Hollywood tax credits.
There are huge swaths of land though that cannot have any development, because Boston wants the water. The tax dollars from property value for houses surrounding a Quabbin Lake would be tremendous. Same for Wachusett in West Boylston. They would develop into resort destinations and very high end housing. It’s like planting a flower garden, only putting seeds in the eastern half then complaining the western half has no flowers.
Part of this thread was about giving people in the eastern half free bus rides, I still have to keep a landline telephone because there is no cell reception, a problem most people inside 128 wouldn’t even think about. Each area of the state has unique problems but when there is opposition to a Boston plan for infrastructure improvement it isn’t just people want to bitch.
(And I know the lakes wouldn’t be there if the state didn’t create them in the first place, but why limit access to those within 10 miles of Beacon Hill.)
Quabbin reservoir was built as a RESERVOIR. It was not built as an anchor for a luxury golfing condo development. When it was built, it allowed the town of Framingham to do exactly what you propose for Lake Cochituate (which had originally been the water supply for Framingham). It doesn’t appear to me that the subsequent history of Framingham supports your thesis. I think it’s also worth observing that the Quabbin reservoir is the primary water supply for the western MA towns of Chicopee, South Hadley, and Wilbraham — the MWRA serves the entire state.
I suggest that your flower garden analogy is inaccurate. It is, in fact, like building rainwater collectors to irrigate a vegetable garden that feeds the many families living on a tract of land — and then firmly refusing suggestions to make the open rain barrels available for use as urinals. The MWRA that you whine about serves 40 communities, 2.2 million people, and 5,500 industrial users. I haven’t worked the numbers, and neither have you, and I’m still willing to wager that the net economic impact of the MWRA is OVERWHELMINGLY positive, and that any additional tax revenue generated by polluting the watershed is dwarfed by the consequences of doing the same. It is far less expensive to not pollute water in the first place than to treat it afterwards.
As ryepower12 observes, the net flow of state tax revenue is INTO, not out of, Charlton in particular and western MA in general. That is appropriate and I support it. If you lack cell reception in Charlton, that sounds like a failure of the much-vaunted “free enterprise” system — last time I checked, none of the cell-phone carriers are regulated public entities.
There was a day when telephone service WAS regulated, and I’m pretty sure that the land-line you use exists BECAUSE of that. I’m pretty sure that taxpayers of greater Boston required Bell Telephone to install those lines, and subsidized that installation with higher urban telephone charges.
It seems to me that there are advantages and disadvantages of every location for a potential home. Charlton enjoys many advantages, as does Somerville. Charlton faces many disadvantages, as does Somerville. I’d like to see rather more evidence that all of us engage the challenges cooperatively, and rather less groundless finger-pointing.
That is, the Department of Conservation and Recreation . . .
They said that use of the areas around active and backup reservoirs is becoming more, not less, restrictive, as more and more scientific evidence comes in about the role of naturally forested areas in preserving water quality.
I live near the Sudbury backup reservoir and people here tend to grumble about access restrictions as well. However the state would have taken a much bigger economic hit during the water main break back in 2010 if we hadn’t been able to activate the emergency water supply.
the land was flooded and use of the water was for Boston only (other areas have been added). The 56,000+ acres must now lie fallow so the water is naturally filtered, my point being that it can’t be developed so the areas that use the nice clean water generated have to send tax money back this way BECAUSE no tax generating development can be created on the pristine land. You may say we get more in tax money than we should, I might say a resource such as pristine water is almost invaluable.
Actually my phone is provided by a private entity (Charter), I was just using that as an example of the type of infrastructure problems we have that urban areas don’t have.
Your phone service is provided either by copper wires installed by Bell years ago (and now maintained by somebody else) or by VOIP provided over a fiber-optic cable governed by a VERY restrictive contract between Charter and your town. Charleton is one of many Massachusetts towns served by Charter — is is, in fact, an excellent example of how State regulation provides REGIONAL benefits.
Dance how you like, the Commonwealth is called a “Commonwealth” because Massachusetts has long recognized that our more prosperous regions have both a duty and also benefit from investing public funds in our less prosperous regions. I did NOT say that Charlton residents (or any other Western MA community) “get more in tax money than [you] should”. Is there some part of “That is appropriate and I support it.” that is hard to understand? I said that the MWRA is a public asset that generates enormous wealth for ALL of us.
It seems to me that you should be encouraging and supporting people like me who advocated for higher taxes on the wealthy IN ORDER TO increase state investment in places like Charlton, rather than implicitly choosing those like Mr. DeLeo and the state GOP who would REDUCE state investment in your area.
Peter Porcupine says
But, by keeping their money, they can invest in their own community at the more efficient and less expensive municipal level.
Porcupine, that may or may not hold true at a general level, but it’s not the case in Massachusetts. Division into 351 municipalities with a high degree of local control is costing us money rather than saving it, as it leads to unnecessary duplication of personnel and an inability to scale up efficiently.
Here’s a short presentation (.pdf link at 8:50) from the Boston Fed on this topic (although I suspect you may be automatically sceptical about anything from the Fed …)
I have no clue what your comment means. What “10 percent” are we talking about? Please cite services that are “more efficient” and “less expensive” at the municipal level. Those metrics most certainly do NOT apply to police and fire, schools, and planning/building departments. Do you really argue that 351 separate building and electrical codes is “more efficient” and “less expensive”?
You have to forgive us out here for our distrust of interaction with the state.
There are lakes out here where the residents know each other by their boats. Common sense rules the operation of boats and the placements of docks. No accidents in fifty years.
How is the state going to help them? They sent letters to homeowners requiring people to get permits for their docks (with a license fee), assign a number and help maintain the lake under the navigable waterways act.
Your comment reminds me of the trauma that gripped Dunstable, MA shortly before I moved their in 1986, because the awful and intrusive federal government (in the form of the US Postal Service) demanded that each property in town be assigned a street address and each property owner provide a mailbox.
I’m sorry, but I have a hard time feeling a lot of sympathy for waterfront property owners being asked to contribute to the costs of, for example, managing the milfoil and other challenges that affect the fresh water lakes of Massachusetts.
Your assertion of “No accidents in fifty years” sounds more like “rural legend” than fact, I invite a cite. I searched for boating statistics, and found a 2014 US Coast Guard report that found that Massachusetts more than fifty accidents EACH YEAR between 2010 and 2014 (60, 46, 68, 83, 82). Some of these were fatal (16,9, 16,12, 5) and of those killed more than one person. That report does not, however, separate fresh water from salt water boating. I’m willing to stipulate the some of the accidents may have occurred on salt water. I’m far more dubious that ALL of those accidents were salt-water.
I think you’re cherry-picking (and I’m not sure how sweet your cherry’s are!). It seems to me that you overlook a great deal — in fact, the overwhelming majority — of what the state does every day that protects and helps every MA resident.
I’d say, for example, that the registration on EVERY motor vehicle, the annual inspection of EVERY motor vehicle, the state police that patrol your major highways, and so on create far more benefits than disadvantages. For that matter, I’d like to see some numbers about the turnpike itself and how it affects Charlton — my guess is that it’s a net positive, but I confess that I haven’t investigated that question.
I agree sometimes Boston does some good. They fixed dead man’s curve on route 20 when a woman and her baby were killed, outstanding response.
It boils down to overall perceptions and you seem to think state govt is fair minded and equally benevolent. Often the view from here is that Boston eats the cake and we get the leftovers. Your idea of fees going to pay to fight milfoil is great, we would first think the fees would go toward paying for some pols brother-in-law to be a dock inspector. It’s just perception.
I wish I could have more faith in government at all levels, it’s just the continuous stories of corruption (which are probably the tip of the iceberg) leave me disillusioned.
(the no accidents referenced the particular lakes out here, where enforcement of rules are handled by the people who live on the lake)
(enough on all this for me)
47 other areas have been added. Not one or two or three or four. 42. And by adding those other areas, it’s reduced the burden across the entire system.
Water is one of the few things necessary for human life. So, pardon me for not feeling much sympathy for your POV that the survival of our state’s way of life is a ‘steep cost’ because it’s denying the construction of a few million dollar homes on the Quabbin.
PS. Sorry, but if you have a landline…. that was paid for with vast subsidies by the people of the Commonwealth, the bulk of the funding coming from Metro West. Again, you don’t get to make things up. It’s a private service, but one that was built because the government forced the phone company to build it — and contributed hefty subsidies toward that construction (subsidies that continued up until Patrick’s administration ended them). If it was up to the private sector, you still wouldn’t have a phone of any kind because it never would have been profitable to have built the capacity for you to have one.
So, no, sorry — there will be no Quabbin Lake.
Want other investments made to communities in that area that don’t involve taking water away from 48 of the state’s most populated communities away… all so a few million dollar homes could be built along the Quabbin? Great, let us know.
No, it was about how buses can go anywhere people live and could be made free.
I was the one who raised the issue in this thread, and this was one of the bullet points in the very post I raised it.
So, sorry, you don’t get to make things up. Which is what you’re doing here.
The point about Quabbin when it was created was that communities other than Boston were excluded from it’s use. People were kicked off their farms, in West Boylston the town was split in two. That would have been OK if everyone had benefited. It was for Boston’s exclusive use.
Other areas may have been added but only after Boston quenched it’s thirst.
Didn’t make that up it was in the design.
was that once upon a time, Massachusetts was very Boston-centric, but since then it’s become considerably less?
Because that’s what your Quabbin point actually points out. Someone went to Boston, once upon a time, but now has been channeled to towns all across the state — from Eastern to Western Mass — providing several million people with one of the nation’s best water sources in the country, and easing the burden on everyone who’s not in the system.
There are very few people who are still alive from this point of time, and the ‘exclusivity’ of the Quabbin is an issue that has long since been fixed.
So trickle down (money,water) really works. (Couldn’t resist).
There’s no question that there’s plenty of affordable housing in the gateway cities as a result of the 20th century loss of industry. Plenty of those cities have glimmers of hope — neighborhoods on the upswing, local businesses diversifying, streetscapes improving.
But many of those inexpensive houses are in neighborhoods that are, simply put, not currently attractive places to live. Vacancies, dangers real or perceived, lack of convenient local businesses, struggling school districts, shabby physical infrastructure, the works. So if GE (for example) locates in Worcester, do its’ white collar employees live in Worcester? Or do they instead move to Grafton, Northborough, Leicester, Paxton, Auburn, etc.? And while homes there probably don’t cost what they do in Newton or Milton or Lexington, they’re no longer the deep discount to which you refer.
Boston’s success is, in a large part, built on the universities and hospitals (and now biotech). These institutions create synergy and maintain their own economic ecosystem. Add the 21st century trend of young people staying in cities into their 30s and demand is booming in a vibrant place.
Seems to me the best thing for Springfield or New Bedford or Salem or whatevs is to figure out how to get clusters of industries that employ loads of young people. Dotcoms, DIY-type industries, young creatives. It’s just so much more plausible to me that a 22 year old college grad with $100k in student loans moves to a marginal neighborhood in Lowell proper and becomes a piece of fabric in the community than a 40 year old white collar worker with 2 school aged kids. I don’t know how a Gateway City could gain a significant young and hip population, but it seems that doing so would help stabilize the housing, local economy, and tax base, help keep the economic activity in the city (not lose it to the burbs), and generate tax revenue without putting cost pressure on the schools.
And yes, if a Gateway City or two got popular it would alleviate a bit of housing pressure on Boston.
But government builds transportation. It doesn’t build or operate private sector businesses. Until we figure out how to get businesses to locate in the Gateways and how to get those businesses’ employees to live in the Gateways, we’re stuck talking about government doing what is in its purview — including transportation from places without enough jobs to places where jobs are more plentiful.
I agree that a lot of the neighborhoods are “not currently attractive places to live”, but the overwhelming reason for that is because the residents are economically segregated. In other words, simplistically, a lot of people don’t want to move there because of the people that are already there. Some neighborhoods are well over the 20% poverty threshold that the Brooking Institute considers to be the point where the neighborhood breaks down.
But there are ways for the state to impact that. We have a lot of housing stock that needs renovation – and this renovation actually needs to be subsidized in some way because the properties are underwater. If there was a program that could take 5 or 6 streets, provide funding to make renovation attractive to the owners, that instantly transforms a neighborhood. We have vacant industrial buildings that could be turned into market-rate housing, except that again, the renovation cost far exceeds the market-rate cost of the housing. How can this help? Someone who is not desperately poor is not going to move into a run-down house in a poor neighborhood, but some will move into a nice house in a poor neighborhood, and that makes the neighborhood less poor. There are some housing programs, but they are very complex and restricted and are only used by huge developers.
Infrastructure could be improved too. Our streets are filled with potholes, our sidewalks are 80 years old and are crumbled. People notice this and avoid such neighborhoods.
Even providing money for quality-of-life issues, such as picking up litter and illegal dumping, or pressuring property owners to clean their properties would go a long way to help Gateway Cities become more attractive. Take a look at this street in Google Street view:
Is it attractive? No, because of the following problems:
* Property you see immediately – owned by “RR Realty Company” has a dirt front lawn that is strewn with trash. That’s something that a code enforcement department could work on, but the city currently only has 8 inspectors for 42,243 properties. That means each inspector is responsible for 5,280 properties – an impossible number.
* Property next door has trash on the treebelt, and my guess is that this was just dumped there by someone. It costs $8 to have a bulk item taken away by the city, and you have to go to city hall or the grocery store get a sticker to do this, so a lot of people just dump.
* A lot of the porches have been rebuilt with pressure treated wood (cheapest) and left unfinished. It makes them look crappy. The city could put in an ordinance to prevent this, but it doesn’t have the staff to enforce it.
* As you move up the street, you can see that there is litter everywhere. Most of the properties are investor-owned, and the courts have ruled that in order to impose daily fines for litter, they have to inspect the property each day. The city has 10 code enforcement inspectors for a population of 155,000, which means that they don’t have the staff to work on problems like this throughout the city.
* Keep going up the street and you’ll see the remains of a tree on city property, the stump was never removed, so it is just there, rotting. No money to remove those stumps in the city budget.
* Keep going up and you’ll see more properties that have faded vinyl siding, pressure-treated porches, trash-strewn fences. That’s the sign of a property that isn’t owner-occupied and is being maintained at the minimal level that optimizes the income for an investor. You’ll see a patchwork of sidewalks – some concrete, some asphalt. That’s the sign of a city with no budget to replace the concrete. You’ll see inhabited properties with doors that have plywood on them; that’s the sign of an underfunded code enforcement department coupled with municipal ordinances that were written for owner-occupied properties, where an owner would never want to do something that crappy.
* Go even further and you will see a street island (city owned) that has trash on it, and is generally unmaintained. The city doesn’t have the funds to maintain those anymore, even after they laid off the city employees in 2003 who used to do it and then went to private contractors.
Can the state solve all of Springfield’s problems? No, but it could provide help which would make the city (and its affordable housing) more attractive to people. The moral argument for doing this is that since Springfield is providing a substantial amount of affordable housing, this is the reason that its revenues are depressed and its expenses are higher. Poverty costs a city a lot of money.
The neighborhood I highlighted is within 1/4 mile of each of Baystate Hospital (largest in WMA), Mercy Hospital, and the Shriners Hospital for Children. There is no synergy created by the presence of those institutions.
Baystate has 4000 employees. Shriners has 200.
Longwood has 66,000 employees and students. And that’s just LMA — don’t forget Mass Eye/Ear, BUMC, etc. etc.
Any synergy those three Springfield hospitals create would be too small for you to notice, especially when the doctors and administrators can easily live 30 miles away and have a relatively easy commute. A 30 minute commute to LMA means you live in Newton.
Because I opened up the map and saw street activity, mature street trees, and a number of well maintained yards. Sure, folks are poor, but this, to me, looks like a street with pride. Also, it’s trash day, which explains the “dumping.” Go down the street southbound, and you’ll see that the crosswalks are painted. As for the PT wood — I’m not sure that a city can require it be painted. That sounds suspiciously like a building code issue, which is a state code.
Yes, the property you point to is a problem. Yes, there aren’t enough code inspectors (there never are!) and I don’t know the cash flow issues; you’d think you could issue enough fines to pay the salaries (roughly $1k/week).
Property is significantly less expensive, it’s on the commuter rail and a quick bus ride to Revere, it’s got a highly walkable and bikeable downtown and it’s cheap as hell to live there. Salem State is on a building boom and the old power plant site is going to get redeveloped. There’s a distillery and a microbrew on my neighborhood and a new 8 bit arcade going into the old jail. Really psyched to live here and it’s in much better shape than the other gateways you mentioned, that said, I hope I can save for a down payment before the rest of my Cambridge comrades discover it.
It’s not just on the commuter rail, it’s got frequent service. Approx 35 mins to Boston — it would be lovely to shave a few minutes off of that with infrastructure improvements, but that’s faster downtown than from Newton on the Green Line. I wonder: how many people live within a 10 minute walk of the Salem rail station?
With more to come since the newer housing units are clustering there once they redevelop Flyntann or near SSU, though the center of campus is probably closer to Swampscott’s station. And the new parking garage is only 4 bucks a day. I’m 25 minutes away, so far I’ve enjoyed the walk and can do it briskly in 20 if I’m running a little late. And this conversation has reminded me to pack my bike lock back from Chicago so I can give the “new” bike a try!
The Schools as a whole are rated below average, but my neighborhoods school has good reviews from parents and seems to have an active music program based on the concerts I’ve walked by. My suspicion is its like Cambridge was 20 years ago where new influxes of immigrants haven’t been absorbed yet skewing the numbers. And dad’s quick to remind me they weren’t a city priority when he was a kid there either.
Are they all marathon runners? Salem’s a dense community…. but 20,000 is half the population.
Re: the schools… there’s a lot of mismanagement in their school system even above and beyond the issues you mention. Were I to have kids in the area and had the choice between Lynn or Salem, I’d choose Lynn schools in a heartbeat. Much better run, even though the demographics are similar.
However, like with all schools, any kid with a stable family that is invested in their kid’s education will do fine whether they’re going to the highest ranked school or the lowest. Switch Salem’s teachers with Wellesley’s — and vice versa — and the results would be about the same.
The students who do poorly in badly managed systems who would do well in well managed systems are your C and B students whose parents can’t be as active. Those are the kids a resource rich district like Cambridge consistently failed at the 5-8 level which is why we switched to middle schools from K-8.
Rindge was considered a dump when I was a rising freshmen and my teachers at Longfellow ISP pushed me to go private, all but Matignon were out of reach for my folks and I really didn’t want to go there. So I went and it ended up being a great education. I think between the two of us the hypotethical kids will have the best tutors they can get, especially if their parents once spent a summer making 30/hr tutoring strangers 😉
…you are going to get very far very fast during weekends in October!
Unfortunately there was no way to see grandma in the willows without going through the bad traffic, fortunately where I am now I can just head in the other direction. Something to plan for as October will be a very busy month for me!