While last winter's debilitating snowfall is now just a bad memory, the debate over how to fix the MBTA continues to rage. The House released
last week that closely parallels Governor Baker's transit funding plan-increasing state support for the MBTA by $65 million and level funding the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) at $80 million. For Gateway City leaders, this is a return to a familiar theme: Boston's transit woes overshadowing the legitimate public transportation needs of communities in other regions of the state.
MassINC and others have tried to draw attention to the consequences of inadequate public transportation for Gateway Cities and their regional economies. As the MBTA consumed more state resources during the last decade, RTAs serving communities outside of Greater Boston saw steep budget cuts and struggled to maintain service. Between 2002 and 2010, the Pioneer Valley RTA cut service by almost 20 percent and Worcester's RTA eliminated nearly one-quarter of its service. A Brookings Institution study captured the impact of underfunding these systems: in 2011, less than one-quarter of all jobs in the Springfield and Worcester metro areas were accessible to the typical worker by transit in less than a 90 minute one-way commute.
Recognizing that residents in regions outside of Boston need better public transit, the legislature modestly increased funding for the RTAs in the last few state budgets. The 2013 transportation finance legislation laid the groundwork for more significant attention to rebuilding RTA transit systems by requiring these agencies to conduct comprehensive service plans. RTAs will complete these service plans by the end of this fiscal year. The new plans will undoubtedly identify a need to run new routes and extend service hours. With no new additional state funding, RTAs will not have the resources to improve; level funding will make it difficult simply to maintain.
For all of the community groups that rallied around RTA comprehensive service plans, this will be disheartening. On May 1, Transportation for Massachusetts is hosting a statewide summit. As the FY 2016 budget process unfolds, this forum provides a welcome opportunity for Gateway City leaders to call for equal attention to the needs of RTAs.
- Caroline Koch, MPP/MBA Candidate, Brandeis University
Housing & Economic Development
Speaker Robert DeLeo & Massachusetts Technology Collaborative CEO Pamela Goldberg writes that a key component for the Commonwealth to retain entrepreneurs is to jump start start-up cultures in Gateway Cities.
Brockton touts $161 million in recent development in their downtown in an effort to catch the eye of developers.
Recently redrawn federal flood zone maps stir concerns about increased insurance costs for over a 1,000 homeowners in Lynn.
New Bedford is once again the country's top port in total dollars for fish landings.
Haverhill plans to use most of its $867,000 federal Community Development Block Grant to address housing issues.
The developer of a Peabody Square building in Peabody abandons plans for a hotel at the site.
Governing asks: what if Americans invested stock in distressed cities?
Pittsburgh buys-out slumlords to reduce crime.
The Building on What Works Coalition plans for a conversation on next generation education finance on May 12.
Superintendent of Holyoke Public Schools, Sergio Paez, softens his stance on a possible state take-over of the district, but if it happens he'd like to be appointed receiver. Earlier this week Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester formally recommended receivership for Holyoke schools.
CommonWealth's Spring issue takes a deep dive on the state's use of new authorities granted in a 2010 reform law to take over failing school districts.
Haverhill schools superintendent James Scully warns parents about bullying in a strongly worded letter.
Pittsfield City Council votes unanimously in favor of building a new $121 million Taconic High School that would prepare students for both college and the workplace, housing the city's vocational and technical programs as well as core academic courses.
Worcester moves forward with its wayfinding project-aimed at installing signs, kiosks, and public art that will help tourists navigate the city's cultural and educational destinations- issuing a $3 million RFP.
Cultural leaders are fighting hard for a House budget amendment (filed by Rep. John Fernandes and Rep. Cory Atkins) boosting Mass Cultural Council funding to $15 million.
Four-term Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong will not seek re-election, ending a long tenure of service marked by a focus on community and economic development and statewide leadership on behalf of all Gateway Cities.
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch says he will seek a fifth term, the first four-year term under a new law passed by voters.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera plans to host a community meeting on the Boston 2024 bid to host the Olympics.
Eight months after implementation of a controversial pay-as-you-throw trash program in Fall River, city officials will begin fining those who don't comply.
The Worcester Regional Research Bureau releases a report reviewing citizen participation and voter turnout records for the city, offering recommendations for engaging more Worcester residents in civic life.
Worcester will host the first ever state-wide transportation summit on May 1.
Lynnway landowner Charles Patsios is pushing transit-oriented development with state officials.
More proof that GenXers are buying far fewer cars than previous generations.
New Bedford city council passed a resolution unanimously in favor of a casino as a show of unified support to the state Gaming Commission, and has set the date of a citywide vote on the proposed $650 million project for June 23.
A Globe editorial says the state gambling commission should hold back and not issue a third casino license if it's not convinced a gambling spot in New Bedford or Brockton would be viable.
MGM Springfield files its first compliance report with Mayor Dominic Sarno, outlining the casino's progress and the promised relationships with local businesses.
Communities & People
Quincy's United First Parish Church, dubbed the Church of the Presidents, installed its first female minister in its 375-year history after a unanimous vote of the congregation.
Worcester's religious leaders speak out against "increasing levels of hate speech" against people of color.