Saturday, May 20, 2006

Transportation and environmental justice

For transportation planners, "environmental justice" means equal transportation service for poor/non-English speaking/zero-vehicle households. It's one of the main criteria for the Urban Ring, whether Phase 1 or 2 (bus) or Phase 3 (rail).

Cambridge is designating three planning areas--in East Cambridge, Cambridgeport, and North Cambridge--as economically disadvantaged and eligible for Federal block grants.

Whatever else is going on, the CDD's formal identification of these areas means that when Harvard makes its pitch for its version of the Urban Ring (i.e., over the Grand
Junction rail bridge--I cite Kathy Spiegalman's map at her May 10 talk to the Environmental Business Council--see blog posting, "Harvard's transportation plans in Allston"), Cambridge will be able to argue that Harvard's configuration serves "environmental justice."

Harvard can argue for the Grand Junction rail bridge either for Phase 2 (please note Kathy Spiegelman's Urban Ring map reinstated BRT4 from the west, but starting at the Harvard campus, not the western suburbs, as a spur of the Urban Ring) or, if there's a push to advance rail in this section, as Phase 3 in its spurious light rail incarnation.

This of course was what then-Cambridge City Council Candidate, now City Councillor Craig Kelley presented as the Urban Ring at the Dana Park Neighborhood Association's August, 2005 meeting. (One of his campaign staff had previously said it was endorsed by the Sierra Club and asked for signatures on a petition supporting it. There was some confusion on this point. When questioned, the Sierra Club never endorsed light rail over the Grand Junction rail bridge as the Urban Ring Phase 3, but never said what its position is, either. Craig later explained he had proposed it in an article in a Sierra Club publication.)

The west Cambridge zone serves transportation projects at Alewife and Route 2. I think we'll see another push for major highway work at Alewife at the Route 2
rotary and inbound using some more "environmental justice."

It may also be possible there will be some attempt in the third block grant neighborhood to connect a Harvard version of the Phase 3 Urban Ring now floating on the internet to some route to the north and east of Harvard Square--possibly Union Square?--again, see the posting about "Harvard's transportation plans in Allston."

Marilyn Wellons