Thursday, May 25, 2006

Does the Cambridge City Council Have Nine Heartless Animal Abusers?

From Bob La Trémouille

1. A few caveats.
2. Craig Kelly, Introductory
3. Craig Kelly, Specific.
4. Show me I am wrong.

1. A few caveats.

A. There are two principal contributors to this blog and we try to identify ourselves with each posting.

B. We have worked together on Friends of the White Geese since spring 2000 and we do generally agree with each other.

C. On the matter below, I am really not certain what Marilyn’s opinion is, but I feel quite strongly about wanting to get this out, and if she disagrees I will be quite pleased to add an appropriate comment.

D. Marilyn is out of state for an extended period. When she is out of state like this, she can be difficult to contact.

E. I would be very happy to be talked out of this opinion. If I keep my mouth shut, it will just fester and, should I be wrong, I will not have learned that I am wrong.

2. Craig Kelly, Introductory

That being said, I am very concerned because Councilor Craig Kelly is starting to look to me like just another animal abuser in a political situation stacked with animal abusers.

I was happy to see him running and I would have been very happy if he had defeated one of the “liberals” on the Cambridge City Council.

Trouble is he defeated one of the “conservatives.”

The closer a member of the Cambridge City Council resembles an environmentalist, the more destructive to the environment they tend to be.

They brag about saving the world on environmental initiatives and dead silent on the destruction of the environment in Cambridge by misbehavior by the City of Cambridge and its allies.

The combination of bragging about nonlocal matters which are creditable and dead silence on destructive environmental matters in the City of Cambridge by Cambridge and his buddies creates a very false impression.

3. Craig Kelly, Specific.

I tried to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt, but his total silence on the outrage on the Charles River and the outrage at Fresh Pond, etc., have caused me to have increasing doubts.

Monday night, the Cambridge City Manager reported to the Cambridge City Council on the bizarre project at Magazine Beach by which the City of Cambridge has been barring from the Charles River White Geese their principal food source for 18 months.

Monday night, I very effectively communicated the extreme lack of responsibility of this project including the starvation attacks on the white geese.

The explanation for this heartless behavior has been consistent: a wall of silence.

Monday night, all Kelly had to do was speak on the City Manager's report.

Monday night, Kelly joined that wall of silence.

5. Show me I am wrong.

Kelly looks to me like just another hypocrite claiming to be saving the world. The world saving claims are used to hide their own destruction of the environment of our part of the world as part of the government of the City of Cambridge.

Outrageous, irresponsible. This is the City of Cambridge.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More on environmental justice

At a MoveMass meeting on May 19, 2006, Stephanie Pollock, formerly with the Conservation Law Foundation and now with the Northeastern Center for Urban and Regulatory Policy, spoke about public transportation and land use policy. She reported on work underway jointly between the Center and the Urban Land Institute, a developers' group.

Rather than summarize her very informative talk, I'll just note two things of interest to those of us following the interplay of planning for the Urban Ring and Harvard's "Allston Initiative."

1.) Pollock began by emphasizing the importance of transportation to successful development. "You can't," she said, "develop just anywhere and then expect transit to parachute in." We see that access to public transportation leads development, she said, and gave examples.

This contrasted, I thought, with the gist of an MBTA Urban Ring planner's statement that "Transportation is not the tail that wags the development dog. It has to be the other way around. You have to decide that somebody is going to build something and then you ask the question how to get people in and out of there" ((quoted in The Urban Ring, Envisioning an Interconnected Boston, by Michael Keegan,

A synthesis of these two positions is probably underway in the real world right now, as we await the results of the Harvard-funded study of Transportation Alternatives in Allston for the Executive Office of Transportation. The alternatives will include the reconfiguration of the Mass Pike and public transportation, including the Urban Ring, as well as the Beacon freight yards, vital to Boston's economic competitiveness.

On the Urban Ring, I understand the Phase 2 Citizens Advisory Committee has not yet chosen consultants for revision of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report. In fact, it seems that the contract has not yet been put out to bid. This is a delay from the schedule suggested earlier this year. Possibly the RFR depends on the delayed EOT study.

2.) Because of the importance of access to public transportation to development, there are many in the region that want it. Pollock listed 12 "entities" that have asked for it just this year. They are: Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Lynn, City Square in Worcester, the City of Worcester, Fall River, New Bedford, Harvard University, Assembly Square in Somerville, and the City of Somerville.

When I pointed out the list failed to differentiate between Harvard, which is asking for public transportation for a project in the future, and places like Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Fall River, New Bedford, and Somerville, for example, where existing populations have been underserved by public transportation for years, Pollock responded that the list was only a list--these entities had been the 12 asking for public transportation.

While this is certainly true as far as it goes, that public transportation planners would so quickly place Harvard alongside these communities where environmental justice is a real, live issue, is problematic, I think.

The Urban Land Institute is frankly a developer's organization. Harvard's Allston Initiative will spend billions of dollars over the next 50 years or so--some of it on transportation. I wonder how great the development resulting from any transportation project in any of the communities listed above would ever be, compared to what Harvard plans for Allston. If developers can calculate this, what will the planners and legislature do?

So although "environmental justice" is one criterion for choosing among competing public transportation projects, it seems a slender reed to withstand Harvard's plans to get to the head of the list. As Kathy Spiegelman, Harvard's Chief Planner for Allston said, whatever the Urban Ring is, they want it.

Toward that end, along the line of Harvard's apparently favored route for the Urban Ring Phase 2, Cambridge is confirming Cambridgeport and East Cambridge as "environmental justice" communities in a federal block grant application right now.

(I'm waiting for the announcement of a "public-private partnership" with Harvard for the Urban Ring, analogous to one for developing the Charles River Parklands with Harvard to its specifications, especially near the relocated Fogg Museum at 1380 Soldiers Field Road.)

Marilyn Wellons

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

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Harvard's transportation plans for Allston

Kathy Spiegelman, Harvard's Chief Planner for the Allston campus, spoke May 10 at a meeting of the Environmental Business Council in Boston. I was able to attend.

On regional transportation issues, Spiegelman said public transportation--commuter
rail and the Urban Ring--should connect to the Allston campus, on the theory it would allow the university to achieve the highest and best use of its property. And further, that what is good for Harvard is good for us all.

Harvard's Director of Physical Planning, Harris Band, had told a meeting in Allston on May 8 that Harvard proposes to move the Urban Ring west, to serve its Allston campus. Spiegelman's Urban Ring map did not show such a deviation. Instead, it had what I took to be Phase 2 ("Bus Rapid Transit") from Longwood Medical Area north, crossing the river on what might have been the Grand Junction rail bridge, with the addition of a spur to Allston, i.e., what looked like the reinstatement of a segment of BRT4 on the Mass Pike.

The map was freeform, possibly the one shown at I dwell on the lack of sufficient detail about the river crossing because both Spiegelman's and the website's map show either a connection from the Pike or from Storrow to the BU Bridge or from the Pike or Storrow to the Grand Junction rail bridge. With the exception of the Storrow inbound lane's ability to turn to Commonwealth Avenue at the BU Bridge, none of these connections is possible with the existing network of roads.

BRT 4 was a bus route that would have connected Pike traffic between Newton and Allston to Cambridge at Lechmere over a modified Grand Junction rail bridge. The T dropped it in June, 2003, even after Harvard announced its plans for the Allston campus, for lack of anticipated ridership. However, Cambridge strongly favored modifying the rail bridge for both BRT4 from the western suburbs, and BRT5 from LMA, to Lechmere. According to a Cambridge Development Department official at the March, 2006 Urban Ring Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, the city hopes this plan for the rail bridge will be reinstated.

Since BRT4 connects the Mass Pike to Cambridge and north toward I-93, any version of it resurrects the Inner Belt, the interstate highway connecting the Mass Pike and I-93 North cancelled in 1971.

To see whether Spiegelman's map showed, instead, a spurious version of the Urban Ring floated last year--light rail over the Grand Junction rail bridge--I asked her whether her Urban Ring map was for bus or rail. (All planning to date for Phase 3 has been for river crossing by tunnel only.) She said the Urban Ring was buses. When I explained Phase 2 is buses, Phase 3 is rail, she said that whatever the Urban Ring is, Harvard wants it for the Allston campus.

If Spiegelman's understanding of the Urban Ring is buses, I assume Harvard and Cambridge are working together to restore plans for this new Pike exit to Cambridge over the modified rail bridge, to be sold to the public as a dedicated BRT bus lane and a "public-private partnership" with Harvard. With construction of the Allston U-turn at the tolls this summer, the Pike Authority seems to be working for this as well. (, "Contract for Construction of Allston Turnaround Goes out to Bid This Weekend," 02/03/2006.) The Pike turnaround is being sold as an HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane.

As we know, any such "dedicated" route for BRT or HOV rubber-wheeled vehicles is suitable for all rubber-wheeled vehicles. It can be converted for general use when politically feasible.

After showing Harvard's proposed commuter rail stop near the tolls, Spiegelman commented that it would allow an improvement in the Pike ramps. Since the Pike Authority's turnaround would allow access for east- and westbound traffic to and from Cambridge over the modified rail bridge, the potential improvement allowed would be replacement of the current Pike exit to Cambridge with one over the modified Grand Junction rail bridge.

The map circulating with a report of Harris Band's talk shows the Urban Ring as a rail link between LMA and Harvard Square, indicated as the Urban Ring Phase 3--rail. The exact route is unclear; Band did not distribute copies of the map. Whether this would be an extension of an old Red Line tunnel and connect Harvard's Cambridge and Allston campuses; whether it would connect to commuter rail; how, if it were to be some incarnation of the Urban Ring, it might connect to the north and east beyond Harvard Square, are unknown.

The Harvard Allston website continues to show very schematic maps with spare commentary. The Harvard-funded Executive Office of Transportation study by HNTB consultants, originally due at the end of February, will probably be more detailed and much clearer. It is however still forthcoming.

Finally, I note that using the Grand Junction rail bridge for the Urban Ring would gravely and adversely affect freight traffic in the entire metropolitan region and, I believe, compromise the international competitiveness of the Port of Boston--as well as put more trucks on our roads. But these may be minor considerations compared to the presumed benefits of providing the Urban Ring Harvard wants for its Allston Initiative.

Marilyn Wellons
May 11-20, 2006