The Gateway Cities Journal

Finding "leadership" on transportation to sustain economic growth

“Raising MBTA fares is not leadership” read the provocative title of an op-ed by Boston City Council President Michelle Wu and Newton Mayor Setti Warren published in The Boston Globe this week. Wu and Warren make some great points about the importance of the T and the negative impacts that raising fares would have, both on riders and the region’s broader transportation system. The op-ed correctly points out that relying on increased fares as a means to address the system’s fiscal woes puts pressure on lower- and middle-income families and decreases overall ridership.

It’s encouraging to see two prominent elected officials take a stand. But Wu and Warren themselves fall short of leadership in failing to propose an alternative source of funding for the T. Calling for “Massachusetts to invest in Massachusetts” is a great sentiment, but absent a concrete revenue mechanism, it is not a way to raise the transportation revenue vital to the system, and by extension, the Greater Boston economy.

In contrast, there are viable new ideas about paying for transportation and they are coming from the state’s Gateway Cities. On Thursday this week, Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem and Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield will be joined by former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and transportation leaders at the State House to discuss legislation (S1474/H2698) that would let one or more municipalities raise transportation revenues with approval from voters at the ballot box.

If passed, this bill would not only provide a potential new revenue stream for the MBTA, it would also be a sea-change for projects in Gateway Cities that have languished for years without attention from the state’s overburdened transportation bureaucracy. MassINC’s research has shown that regional funding by ballot initiative could raise significant new revenue both in the MBTA service area and in Gateway City regions. Not only is the idea popular with a vast majority of voters, regional transportation ballot initiatives have been working in other states and cities.

As noted recently in MassBenchmarks, deferred investment in transportation infrastructure is already taking a heavy toll on our economic growth . With bold leadership from Gateway Cities, communities across the Commonwealth may soon have a new tool to tackle their own transportation challenges and keep their economies moving.

Winthrop Roosevelt, Director of Public Affairs, MassINC

 

Housing & Economic Development

Transformative Development Initiative Director Anne Haynes writes about opportunities to support Gateway Cities through the National Resources Network in the Worcester Business Journal. The Sentinel & Enterprise looks at what the launch of the network means to Fitchburg.

The first big piece of the effort to redevelop Quincy Center is underway; 169 apartments, touted as “The Biggest Thing to Happen to Quincy Ever” are set to open this spring.

The New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce and the New Bedford Economic Development Council (EDC) announce a formal partnership, pledging to coordinate marketing and outreach efforts and other resources to attract businesses to the area.

Baystone Development has taken over the site of a would-be condo building on Revere Beach, with a proposal to bring 234 luxury apartments to the area.

Taunton City councilors approve a special permit to convert the Walker School into 40 affordable housing apartments for people at least age 62 or those deemed disabled.

First Bristol Corp., a Fall River development company, breaks ground on a new hotel at Worcester‘s Washington Square.

Fall River welcomes its first Market Basket to anchor the major South Coast Plaza retail redevelopment effort.

New Bedford advocates have launched a new service, “The Call”, which serves as a one-stop-shop for any homeless or at-risk of being homeless person in need of services.

A study in the February issue of Urban Affairs finds increasing competition for federal funds may exacerbate inequality between communities and regions with varying capacity to compete.

Education 

Springfield, Revere, Lynn, Lowell, Holyoke, Fitchburg, Chelsea, and Brockton Public Schools are among 13 districts from Massachusetts, and only 130 nationwide, recognized for “excelling in creating opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students” by the Gaston Caperton Opportunity Honor Roll 2015.

The state approves the first charter school in Brockton. The New Heights Charter School plans to serve a maximum of 735 students from Brockton, Taunton and Randolph. 

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announce $9.3 million in capital grants for workforce equipment to high schools, community colleges, and training services.

EdWeek looks at how community schools can blunt the impact of poverty on student success.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education looks at how three states are advancing policy to support competency-based education. 

Governance

The Holyoke City Council overrides two vetoes by Mayor Alex Morse on identical 13-2 votes.

Mayor Brian Sullivan has asked the Westfield City Council to add a Community Outreach Coordinator to his office staff to promote communication and marketing opportunities and replace the Community Development Grants Coordinator position. 

Worcester may link tax incentives  to requirements that workers be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Latino leaders in Salem say behind-the-scenes efforts to address harassment at the voting booth went nowhere. 

Energy/Environment

National Grid says customers in Worcester participating in a pilot program that charges time-of-day electricity rates cut energy use 4 percent and saved $1.25 million in the first year.

City and port officials in New Bedford are looking to reduce oil spills in the harbor and will use a state grant to clean bilge pumpouts on fishing boats, a main contributor to oil slicks. 

Transportation 

In a new report, MassBenchmarks identifies the state’s aging transportation infrastructure as a major obstacle to long-term economic growth.

Lawmakers consider a pitch for a high-speed Boston-Springfield rail line.

US Representative Jim McGovern travels from Worcester to South Station in an effort to draw attention to a recently expanded federal program that allows riders to set aside up to $255 a month from their paychecks, before federal taxes are taken out, for train and van-pool passes. 

Gov. Charlie Baker asks the legislature for $200 million in Chapter 90 funds.

Lawrence City Commission considers installing on-street bike parking downtown. 

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority says it needs another $3 million from the state to clean up hazardous waste at a maintenance and operations facility under construction.

Public Safety/Community Health 

A new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s New England Public Policy Center examines the role of neighborhood violence in choosing a place to live.

Total crime in Brockton dropped 11 percent in 2015. 

Public safety leaders gather at a MassINC forum to explore ways to reduce recidivism among young adult offenders.

The Worcester Housing Authority bans smoking inside its buildings.

The City of Brockton and Mayor Bill Carpenter launch a new recovery program, the Champion Plan, a police-assisted outreach program for those struggling with heroin addiction. Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas leads a statewide task force in combatting the opioid epidemic, and says municipal officials should be on the frontlines of the fight.

Everett is one of six winners of a national award and an accompanying grant for its efforts to combat obesity in the community, winning first place in the Small City category

The City of Lawrence is one of eight winners of the Culture of Health Prize, awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognizing community efforts to help people live healthier lives

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