The core idea is really simple. The eastern Massachusetts urban metro area is blessed with over 110 miles of long, tree-lined paths along its rivers and harbor, as well as through its parks and water-shed highlands – greenways -- many designed a century ago by Frederick Law Olmsted and his associates. The Charles River’s Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path. The fabulous Emerald Necklace. The Mystic River paths. The Neponset Trail. The HarborWalk. And more. But, although each piece is much used and loved, it’s all cut up into separate, stand-alone blips. Wouldn’t it be great if they were connected into a network, and extended into as many neighborhoods and areas as possible! We’d have a series of linked greenway corridors crisscrossing and connecting the entire region – improving mobility and access to jobs, reducing congestion and pollution, increasing green and family-friendly play space, and more.
That was, and is, the goal of the four-year-old Emerald Network initiative, a project of LivableStreets. Full disclosure – I’m one of the project founders and am still on the Steering Committee. And, because of that, I’m happy to be able to say that the effort seems to be paying off – over 50 additional miles have been constructed or are in process. Of the eight projects our Greenway Partners have proposed, five have been taken up by the local municipality, moving from community dream to city plans. Of course, we rely on a huge ad hoc alliance of local activists, planning firm volunteers and community experts, government agencies, funders, student project teams, and politicians. But the real pleasure comes from the details.Read more
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT: Boston Needs To Give As Much Attention to the Low-income Fairmount/Indigo Corridor as to the High-Income Seaport
The Seaport has everyone’s attention as city and state agencies scramble to make up for the hard-to-believe absence of a Master Plan to guide the big-money area’s development into a functional neighborhood with parks, transit, stores, schools, bicycle facilities – just about everything beyond offices, restaurants, and condos too expensive for anything besides speculative flipping.
But given Mayor Walsh’s commitment to equity, to improving conditions for all Bostonians regardless of income, it’s surprising and disturbing that more attention hasn’t been paid to one of the city’s biggest equalizing opportunities – the 9-mile Fairmount/Indigo Corridor, especially the Fairmount Greenway component. This inattention is especially disappointing because there are many high-impact actions that can be accomplished at extremely low cost that would visibly improve conditions in a nine-mile stretch through many of the city’s low-income and non-white neighborhoods.
True: the Fairmount\Indigo Line has been upgraded and in-city service started (although fares to Readville are still out of scale with appropriate transit amounts and the inability to use Charlie Cards makes payment very confusing). But even though the city has played a role, the rail and the stations are state projects. What’s clearly a city responsibility is the Fairmount Greenway Project – a walking, bicycling, and family-friendly play-in-the-street route meandering through adjoining residential neighborhoods parallel to the rail tracks.
Years of community meetings organized by the Fairmount Collaborative and the Fairmount Greenway Task Force have devised and approved an extensive set of ideas for the street route and key parcels. The plans include creative designs for inexpensive improvements as well as grand plans for major projects. But with few exceptions, already overburdened city agencies have not been able to do more than provide verbal support and small actions – and it should be clear by now to everyone that they won’t do any more (perhaps, given inadequate funding and staffing levels, they can’t do any more) unless the Mayor explicitly makes this project a strategic priority. The Greenway needs to be prominently written into all the long-range plans the Administration is currently preparing – from GoBoston to Imagine Boston 2030 – but even more important, the many quick-easy-cheap ideas need to be funded and accomplished. Soon.Read more