The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute works to unlock the economic potential of small to mid-size regional cities.

Leveraging MassINC’s research, polling, and policy team, the Institute strengthens connections across communities and helps Gateway City leaders develop and advance a shared policy agenda.

Research Reports

Articles from The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute

Gateway City TTOD Planning and Design Competition

Call for Participants

MassINC invites you and your team to participate in the 2020 Transformative Transit-Oriented Development (TTOD) Planning and Design Competition. The purpose of the competition is to connect Gateway City planning and development teams and community-based organizations with budding urban leaders from our state’s universities and colleges. Click here to see the Call for Proposals document which

Fares for Gateway Cities residents are off the rails

Gateways Episode 32

MassINC recently published a report on fare equity that confirmed what most of us already know: the lowest-wealth Commonwealth residents pay more of their incomes to get around the state than wealthier folks. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the MBTA’s commuter rail network, a public

Reducing train fares to achieve equitable TOD

The Gateway Cities Journal

MassINC released a policy brief this week that is a “classic” in the sense that its main finding—many Gateway City residents can’t afford to ride commuter rail—is blatantly obvious. While this problem has been apparent for some time, we think now is the moment to seek a remedy. Transportation has risen to the top of the

MassINC study finds Gateway City residents priced-out of public transit

Report says state must reduce rail fares in order to achieve more equitable growth

To address the state’s transportation woes, planners and policymakers are evaluating major upgrades to the Commonwealth’s rail network. At the same time, a report from the nonpartisan think tank MassINC argues state leaders must consider new methods of discounting train fares so that low- and moderate-income residents can afford to ride. The new report presents

Tackling Smog and Congestion with TCI

Gateways Episode 30

Traffic congestion in Massachusetts has reached crisis proportions. And while some leaders and officials assure it’s a “symptom of success,” that explanation offers little solace to Bay Staters stuck in mind-numbing traffic everyday. To top it off, gas and diesel-burning cars, trucks, and trains dominate greenhouse

Opinion Analysis | Exploring how Massachusetts can raise revenue and fund investments

Recapping the Get Smart Forum in Cambridge

On June 13, 2019, leaders from business, transportation, and policy gathered in Cambridge for the Get Smart Forum to discuss how Massachusetts can raise revenue and fund investments in transportation. According to the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, our Gateway Cities rely on “Robust public and other transportation modes that connect burgeoning and

Hearing that glorious swish

The Gateways Cities Journal

Down for nearly a decade, Gateway City real estate markets finally show signs of life. From Brockton to Fall River and Lynn to Worcester, private developers are unveiling plans for exactly the kind of mixed-use TOD projects these regional urban centers need to become 21st-century cities. However, as we’ve learned from previous real estate cycles,

Press coverage

  • Our View: Lower fares from gateway cities

    Solving the state’s transportation woes will involve major upgrades to the rail network, which shuttles thousands of commuters in and out of Greater Boston every day. But as state transportation planners evaluate what needs to be done, the think tank MassINC contends the state has to look at making commuter rail fares more affordable to avoid shutting out low- and- moderate-income riders.

    The problem is most serious in Massachusetts’ so-called “gateway cities”, including Lawrence, Haverhill, Salem, Lowell and Lynn on the North Shore. MassINC issued a report in August citing what has long been a “spatial mismatch” between urban neighborhoods and suburban job centers. That mismatch “has reduced wages, lowered labor force participation, and distorted labor markets in other ways that have been especially harmful to communities of color,” according to the report.

    Read More…

  • Report suggests commuter rail is unaffordable for residents of Gateway Cities

    A new study released by the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth suggests that many potential commuters in Gateway Cities like Fitchburg and Lowell can’t afford the state’s commuter rail.

    “A new commuter rail fare policy is also vital to ensuring that future development in Gateway Cities produces equitable outcomes,” the report states.

    MassInc has published various reports on improving transportation, schools, career opportunities and more in Gateway Cities, most located far from Boston.

    Elizabeth Haney, Dr. Tracy Corley, and Ben Forman, authors of the study, suggest that reducing fares for low-income and moderate-income riders who may not otherwise use the train could increase ridership and help residents of gateway communities find higher-pay work, leading to statewide fiscal gains.

    Read More…

  • Study: High fares make commuter rail too costly for many residents

    As housing costs force low and moderate income residents to look far outside the Boston area, the cost of using commuter rail trains to get to jobs in Boston remains out of reach for many of those residents, according to a new study.

    The study from the public policy think tank MassINC notes that a trip to Boston from Worcester can total more than $4,600 a year (at $12.25 each way) for a regular commuter during the workday. That’s more than 13 percent of the median household income in Worcester, the state’s second largest city. Meanwhile, many commuters from Boston’s more affluent suburbs pay less than 2 percent of their median household income.

    The high costs, based on distance with fares split into “zones,” hinder ridership among low income residents living near an MBTA commuter rail line, according to the study.

    “This disconnect between proximity and utilization is particularly striking in Lynn, where two-thirds of station area residents are low-income and yet low-income riders account for just 7 percent of those boarding at the Lynn commuter rail station,” the study says.

    Read More…

  • Study: Mass. Residents In Gateway Cities Are Priced Out Of Public Transit

    A new study from MassINC finds that many residents in the state’s gateway cities can’t afford to use the commuter rail — and in effect lack access to major job centers and economic opportunities elsewhere in the state.

    The study looked at access to commuter rail service in Massachusetts’ gateway cities — defined by state law as midsize municipalities where the median household income and rates of a bachelor’s degree (or above) are below the state average.

    The study finds that commuter rail fares make up a larger percent of median household incomes in gateway cities than in more affluent suburbs closer to Boston. For example, the cost of traveling to Boston from Fall River is $4,656 yearly — about 15% of the city’s median household income — compared to Winchester, where the cost of riding the commuter rail yearly amounts to just 2% of the city’s median household income.

    Read More…

  • Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    A new report by MassINC finds the cost of fares on MBTA Commuter Rail trains makes it hard for low- and moderate-income residents of Gateway Cities to use public transit to get to work.

    Today, one-way fares between Gateway Cities and Boston range from $7 in Lynn to $12.25 in Worcester. For a Worcester resident working full-time, this translates to $4,656 a year, or 13% of the city’s median household income. The cost of a monthly pass is $388 in Worcester.

Gateway cities


Services and amenities like grocery stores are vital for robust #TransitOrientedDevelopment. Star Market will join Roche Bros in getting my biz on the #OrangeLine! #MassTOD
Sep 19, 2019
IT'S HERE!🗣️@Gatewaycities #TransformativeTOD Planning & Design Competition has launched! Open to #MassTOD projects in any #Massachusetts #GatewayCity. #Mapoli & #Gatewaypoli, DM/email me to register for our info session for city leaders & student teams on 10/3/19. #MassTOD
Sep 17, 2019
Housing stock is also driving inequality. There's too little of it, and what's out there is unaffordable. #MassTOD
Sep 18, 2019
This week on Gateways, @tracyacorley and Ben Forman talk about how commuter rail fares exacerbate inequities with Lee Matsueda, co-executive director of Community Labor United. #MassTOD
Sep 17, 2019
“With higher-frequency service still a distant possibility, a new policy brief from MassINC makes the case for a quicker fix to the MBTA’s commuter rail system: charging less money for a ticket.”
Sep 16, 2019
Amazing event in #WesternMass w/ folks creating #transportation + #transit options 4 urban, suburban, and rural residents. Met amazing advocates & public officials & transit-dependent folks. Thank you, @EricLesser & all for your persistence! @T4MASS @PVPlanning #MassTOD
Sep 14, 2019
The phased approach to #RegionalRail proposed in this new report from @transitmatters reminds us of how far we have to go yet how much we have already in place. Let's make it happen, #mapoli poli & #Gatewaypoli! #MassTOD
Sep 14, 2019
Gateway Cities' unemployment rates are consistently twice the state average, says @Benkforman. He joins us on Episode 98: Is Fare Fair?
Sep 13, 2019
In a bid to boost public transit ridership, the city of #LawrenceMA is eliminating fares on 3 bus routes. Reliable, accessible, and affordable transit works for everyone. H/T Mayor @danrivera01843! #InvestInMA #mapoli
Sep 12, 2019
Read our latest report: Prioritizing Equitable Growth Through Fare Policy #MassTOD #mapoli
Sep 05, 2019
Please join this discussion about @MBTA_CR. We have fantastic rail infrastructure that we could be using more intensely. Help us improve mobility and accessibility for people in the cities, towns, and suburbs across the Commonwealth. #MassTOD #RideTheT
Sep 12, 2019
Land use beyond the urban. This brilliant, compelling piece about our oversight of rural and remote lands in #climatechange policies and advocacy reminds me of the inextricable links between town and country. #MassTOD
Sep 12, 2019
Lynn cuts the ribbon on a new 24-unit condominium project
Sep 11, 2019
@danrivera01843 Thank you for setting the example & boosting mobility for the people of #LawrenceMA! We need more leaders riding the bus alongside friends, family, & constituents. Can #GatewayCity mayors & city councilors ride the bus every day for a week? #MassTOD
Sep 11, 2019
Our View: Lower fares from gateway cities
Sep 11, 2019
Thank you, @BrooklineMAPD! @bostonpolice will you follow your sisters & brothers in blue? We cyclists want safe streets, too. #MassTOD
Sep 11, 2019
This week on #Gateways, Ben and Juana sit down with Mayor @danrivera01843. Mayor Rivera gives us a behind-the-scenes look at efforts to help the police department become more representative of Lawrence’s diverse population.
Sep 10, 2019
Mayor @William_Samaras stopped by @millno5 over the weekend to officially celebrate the grand opening of Curation 250, an #urban #art #gallery and #retail shop located on Mill No. 5's 5th floor. It will be open on Saturdays and Sundays. #Lowell #LikeLowell #DoBizInLowell
Sep 09, 2019
Reducing train fares to achieve equitable TOD: The Gateway Cities Journal #MassTOD
Sep 10, 2019

Coming up

Explore research reports

  • MassINC is a key partner to the Boston Foundation, and all of us who are seeking to advance the regional conversation around economic opportunity and a strong quality of life for all.  MassINC's robust, nonpartisan research is exactly what our citizens and leaders need to make good decisions.

    Paul Grogan, President of The Boston Foundation

  • I watch my inbox for CommonWealth magazine’s Daily Download. I can count on the newsletter to tell me succinctly what’s happening in politics and public policy. The magazine itself always delivers in-depth news, analysis and commentary. It's simply outstanding, quality journalism. I am happy to support unbiased reporting through my participation in Citizens Circle.

    Helen Chin Schlichte
    Former Public Administrator; President Emeritus, South Cove Manor at Quincy Point

  • MassINC's long-term dedication to Gateway Cities makes them a valuable resource to all of our communities. They are a true thought partner. They go the distance to help others appreciate our unique opportunities, needs, and perspectives.

    Tim McGourthy Executive Director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau

  • MassINC serves as a credible, thoughtful resource for all of us who are invested in the future of the Commonwealth. Its emphasis on careful analysis that is grounded in data, research, and polling makes an important contribution to and helps elevate the conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the region.

    Trevor Pollack, Manager of Special Projects for the Barr Foundation

  • The potential of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities is limitless. MassINC’s dedicated work in promoting these cities has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in their individual and collective success.

    Jay Ash
    Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and former chair of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute

  • MassINC has always provided research showing the detrimental impact of the state’s unforgiving criminal justice system on our communities. Their polling confirmed that the public understood the need for change in our system. That criminal justice reform is at the forefront of bipartisan local and national debates today is in no small measure due to MassINC’s persistent and fair commitment to the issue.

    Juliette Kayyem Faculty Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Founder Kayyem Solutions LLC

  • Through my partnership with MassINC, the Building On What Works Coalition is working to unite a diverse collection of civic leaders around an urgent call to encourage the state to act on the progress that has been made ensuring all children in Massachusetts have a true chance to succeed in the state’s economy. MassINC’s research and commitment to data driven public policy are helping to give the children of Massachusetts a better education.

    Kim Driscoll Mayor of Salem

  • MassINC's work with the Gateway Cities is unmatched. As Eastern Bank strives to help businesses in these communities thrive, MassINC has been a tremendous partner, providing data-driven research and affirming that these cities are full of opportunities.

    Bob Rivers Chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank

  • When MassINC speaks, it’s well worth listening. After all, the nonpartisan think tank has established itself as a thoughtful, careful, credible voice on public policy in Massachusetts.

    Scot Lehigh Boston Globe Op-Ed Columnist

  • Few organizations in the country have better understood the important role of governance reform and accountability in education policy and economic development than MassINC.

    Bruce Katz Former Vice President and Founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution

  • [MassINC's] understanding of the complexity of the challenges facing the state’s older cities, its belief in the opportunities that present themselves in those communities, and its advocacy of the role that public higher education can and should play in them, has added to the understanding that policy makers need to have as they move our state toward the future.

    Jean MacCormack

Why support massinc?

  • We enjoy what we do.

    Whether it’s planning events, conducting research, or analyzing the news, our team works on projects that we’re passionate about.
  • We develop leaders.

    Former MassINC employees have gone on to work at reputable organizations like Harvard University, Boston University, City Year, EnerNOC, and Governor Baker’s office.  
  • We stick with it.

    Our work on transformative development, which uses public and private funding for projects to revitalize an entire downtown or urban neighbor­hood, began as Policy Center research report in 2013. A year later, the state legislature passed a bill funding transformative development projects across Massachusetts.
  • We are nonpartisan.

    Our Board of Directors includes prominent Massachusetts Democrats and Republicans. We are interested people’s ideas, not which side of the aisle they sit on.
  • We have a complete toolbox.

    We aren’t just a think tank. We bring nonpartisan research, civic engagement, journalism, and independent polling together under one roof.
  • We have state-wide reach.

    We know that Beacon Hill isn’t the only place to make progress. We’re on the ground in cities across the state working with local leaders.
  • We have unique networks.

    We use our connections to bring together a cross-section of diverse leaders to solve problems. Our networks include mayors, economic development directors, superintendents, business people, newspaper editors, arts leaders, and regional transit officials.  

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