Friday, April 27, 2007

Analyses of Urban Ring - Phase III

Bob La Trémouille reports.

1. Introduction.
2. General Analysis of the Urban Ring.
A. Introduction.
B. The transportation goals are all on the side of the Orange Line / Kenmore Crossing.
(1) Get people off the downtown subway.
(2) Provide clean connections with other transit lines and meaningful support for the Worcester / Framingham commuter rail.
(3) Support Fenway Park.
C. The environmental and financial goals are all in favor of the Orange Line / Kenmore Crossing.
3. Cambridge Chronicle letters.
A. Marilyn - Urban Ring Finances.
B. Your Editor.
(1) Introduction to the Chronicle editor - Issue in context.
(2) Environmental Harm to Cambridge - the neighborhood and the Charles River.
(3) Harvard Allston.
(4) Summary.

1. Introduction.

I have been actively defending the Charles River in Boston for nearly ten years now.

It has been distressingly amazing to learn the many, many attacks ongoing. It has also been surprising to see how many items are matters I have worked on even longer.

One of those attacks is the option for the Urban Ring transportation proposal supported by, of course, the City of Cambridge and its buddies in the state bureaucracy.

Yesterday, I gave you the MBTA maps for the Charles River crossings of the Urban Ring subway. Those maps date back to 2001.

I deliberately presented the maps in as neutral a manner as possible.

2. General Analysis of the Urban Ring.

A. Introduction.

Currently the state is proposing a massive highway build for a phase 2 of the Urban Ring, to precede phase 3 full scale subway.

Interestingly, some of the options certainly look like their expense pushes the cost of subway construction, and particular proposals would very much ensure that the inferior of the two Charles River crossings, the BU Bridge crossing, would be the one to go.

I support the Kenmore Crossing. My general reasons for supporting it were stated with the maps. From a transportation point of view, the Kenmore crossing is by far the better alternative.

B. The transportation goals are all on the side of the Orange Line / Kenmore Crossing.

(1) Get people off the downtown subway.

The main purpose of the subway system is to get people off the downtown subway.

Full scale Orange Line construction (Kenmore crossing) can do that.

Green line construction (BU Bridge crossing) cannot possibly get people off the downtown subway in any meaningful scale.

There is no comparison.

(2) Provide clean connections with other transit lines and meaningful support for the Worcester / Framingham commuter rail.

With regard to connections, there are major differences in the connections to the three green line branches and to the Worcester / Framingham commuter rail.

The proposal is intended to integrate the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail into the subway system.

This train could very easily drop hundreds of passengers onto the Green Line during rush hour.

The Green Line / BU Bridge crossing would drop those hundreds of passengers all on the already overloaded Commonwealth Avenue / Boston College / B branch. The transfer would include walking across Commonwealth Avenue even in the worst of weather.

The Orange Line / Kenmore crossing would provide covered transfers to all three Green Line branches.

There is no comparison.

(3) Support Fenway Park.

The Green Line / BU Bridge crossing would move Fenway Park's commuter rail station away from Fenway Park by a couple of blocks. The Orange Line / Kenmore Crossing would provide excellent, close connection.

There is no comparison.

C. The environmental and financial goals are all in favor of the Orange Line / Kenmore Crossing.

These are discussed below.

There is no comparison.

3. Cambridge Chronicle letters.

On April 19, 2007, the Cambridge Chronicle published a letter signed by among other people, Marilyn Wellons. She did not write it. It had major problems.

The following letters were published in the April 26, 2007 Cambridge Chronicle. Marilyn’s was published in full. Mine omitted the Harvard Allston analysis.

Subdivisioning is added.

A. Marilyn - Urban Ring Finances.

Editor, Cambridge Chronicle

To the Editor:

Thank you for the letter about the Urban Ring signed by me, among others. However, although it accurately states many objections to the buses (Phase 2) and properly endorses going directly to the rail part of the project (Phase 3), it seems to have a typographical error about rail that somehow slipped by.

Simply put, a light rail system is NOT a “smart choice.” According to the Urban Ring Major Investment Study, light rail’s capital costs, operating and maintenance costs, costs of mitigating vibration and electromagnetic interference with instruments at MIT and Longwood Medical Area, all are higher than for heavy rail. (The MBTA Green Line is light rail. The Orange and Red Lines are heavy rail.)

Comparing the cost effectiveness of bus, light rail, and heavy rail, the Study found that “the cost per passenger mile [of] the bus mode is the highest, followed closely by light rail and the heavy rail has the lowest cost.” Compared to Phase 2 buses and Phase 3 heavy rail, “Light Rail is the most expensive in both costs per vehicle revenue mile and per vehicle revenue hour by a large margin.” (MIS , 7-4.)

Given effective transportation’s critical importance to our region’s jobs and cost of living, we cannot afford to squander funds on Urban Ring buses or light rail. Short-sighted decisions, lack of strategic thinking, and lack of investment in transportation have contributed to the loss of population and businesses here, placing us at a tremendous disadvantage relative to other regions. Officials and the attentive public are well aware of these very real problems.

In this context, light rail, like the buses, would continue the errors of the past.

I hope this clarifies the situation regarding the Urban Ring, a very complicated subject.

B. Your Editor.

(1) Introduction to the Chronicle editor - Issue in context.

Editor: I realize this is a bit long for a letter. That is why I suggest, as an option, an op ed. Another possibility is to cut out the Harvard Allston analysis.

I am uncomfortable with the timing of this initiative, especially since an op-ed was printed at the same time from Stosh Horowitz concerning the North Point project. My discomfort comes from the fact that the project concerning the Hotel near Trader Joe's is perhaps the major current issue in this part of the city.

The problem with that hotel is a fake downzoning which legalized (with fake reviews) the Hotel's initiatives. Horowitz led that fake downzoning, and there has been distressingly aggressive censorship of issues relating to the hotel in the Cambridgeport listserve. See my blog for a sample of the censorship.

Kelley voted for that fake and very destructive fake downzoning. Is the Urban Ring noise a red herring? Nevertheless, correction is needed for incorrect statements.

(2) Environmental Harm to Cambridge - the neighborhood and the Charles River.

Cambridge Chronicle

In your 4/19/07 edition, you printed an extended discussion of the state’s Urban Ring plans. While the letter seems well intended, there were enough errors in it that people could be confused.

First of all, the letter supported amendment of a motion by Councilor Kelley. I understand Councilor Kelley does not seem to support amendment of his motion and amendment does not seem feasible.

Kelley’s motion seems to support a new state highway on top of the Grand Junction railway tracks in East Cambridge / Cambridgeport. This new highway could be another Inner Belt.

Secondly, the letter supported certain elements of “Phase III” of the Urban Ring plans but does not seem to understand Phase III.

Phase III is a proposal for a new subway line connecting Charlestown to Lechmere to MIT to the Harvard Medical Area to Ruggles.

The key differences are in the way the subway would cross the Charles River and in the type of vehicle used.

I proposed one option which is now a formal state option for crossing the Charles River. This is the Kenmore crossing.

I proposed the Kenmore crossing because the other crossing, the BU Bridge crossing, is so destructive to Cambridgeport.

The BU Bridge crossing would put a subway stop at the end of Putnam Avenue with obvious destructive impact on Cambridgeport. The BU Bridge crossing would also be highly destructive to a sensitive part of the Charles River in Cambridge.

That two pronged destructive impact on Cambridgeport is the reason I proposed the Kenmore crossing instead of the BU Bridge crossing in 1986. The state picked up the Kenmore crossing as a formal alternative in 1991.

The two different types of vehicle are: full scale subway in the manner of the Orange Line, and street cars in the manner of the Green Line. The Kenmore crossing is Orange Line technology. The BU Bridge crossing, with its very destructive Putnam Avenue and Charles River impacts, is Green Line technology.

The letter you printed included language favorable to the Green Line technology while opposing the destructiveness of Councilor Kelley’s highway. The difference in damage to Cambridgeport between the Green Line Phase III crossing and Kelley’s highway is only a matter of degree.

If you oppose Kelley’s highway, you should oppose the Green Line BU Bridge Phase III and you should support the Orange Line Kenmore Phase III.

(3) Harvard Allston.

Similarly, Councilor Kelley in 2005 gave people the impression that the Green Line BU Bridge crossing would support Harvard’s Allston project from the east. I went so far as to bring in the project managers to disprove this statement, but Councilor Kelley has never withdrawn this statement.

Currently, the state’s consultants have proposed four different ways to support Harvard Allston.

Every one of the current state options support Harvard Allston from the east with connections from Boston, Brookline and the Harvard Medical Area and on the west with connection to Harvard Square.

There would be a much better way to do the eastern connection with a new Green Line branch from the Boston end of the BU Bridge, but there is no meaningful eastern proposal (except for Councilor Kelley’s 2005 statement) from Cambridge.

(4) Summary.

I hope this analysis if of assistance. I have lived the Urban Ring since the mid-80's. It can be very distressing to see people fighting for items they might not support if they had full information.

Thank you.

Representative Walz supports environmental destruction at Magazine Beach

Bob La Trémouille reports:

1. Introduction.
2. Bob La Trémouille Response.
3. Marilyn Wellons Response, Letter to Representative Walz.

1. Introduction.

Several weeks ago, a former Cambridge School Committee member published a letter in the Cambridge Chronicle supporting destruction of Magazine Beach without saying he was supporting destruction of Magazine Beach. He said he was "improving" an unidentified Little League field. A week later, the Cambridge Chronicle published an anonymous supporting comment also not identifying the place being destroyed.

About three weeks after the anonymous communication, the original signer, Marc McGovern cosigned with State Representative Marty Walz a letter bragging about the destruction and identifying Magazine Beach.

The following are my and Marilyn Wellons' response to the more recent communication.

2. Bob La Trémouille Response.

It is always interesting to see the bad guys at work in Cambridge.

In November 1999, nine members of the Cambridge City Council voted for environmental irresponsibility at Magazine Beach, being fully aware of the harm to wildlife.

Since then nine members of the Cambridge City Council, with individual incumbents varying from time to time, have done their best not to know what they were doing.

When heartless killers targeted the Charles River White Geese, nine Cambridge City Councilors were "neutral" with what amounted to the usual complicant wink and a nod.

When the leader of the gaggle was brutally killed and the Cambridge Chronicle headlined our memorial ceremony, the Cambridge City Council was neutral with what amounted to the usual complicant wink and a nod.

When a young woman was murdered in what seemed to be clearly a graduation from killing geese, the Cambridge City Council spent an extended period discussing the killing. They just did not want to know where she was killed. Another wink and a nod.

The killer was sentenced to life and clearly looked like the goose killer.

The DCR took a poll. A majority thought that the Charles River was fine without "improvements."

Over a period of seven years, nobody could see any value in the most reprehensible part of the "improvements," the destruction of Magazine Beach.

Walling off Magazine Beach from the Charles River with designer bushes in place of wetlands was heralded with a swim-in that claimed that walling off the Charles River was a way to assist swimming in the Charles.

The starvation attacks involved in that bizarre walling off with vegetation which had no business on the Charles River was described by the DCR as doing "no harm" to the Charles River White Geese who were being starved by the project.

The DCR defined starvation as "no harm."

Finally, about a month ago, a former school committee member, Marc McGovern, supported in the Cambridge Chronicle a little league improvement at a location which that former school committee member did not identify.

One week later an anonymous message in the Chronicle agreed on the "improvement" at the unidentified location.

This looked to me like the sort of underhanded game that goes on.

Normal people consider the Magazine Beach playing fields perfectly adequate. The plans are dig up all the dirt, cart it away and replace it with dirt and poisons.

The DCR claims to want only water related activities on the banks of the Charles. They starve water birds, poison eggs of water birds and instal poisons to support "improvements" which are unnecessary for playing fields which are most definitely not water related.

The last time the DCR applied poisons to one of their water related playing fields was at Ebersol Fields near Mass. General Hospital.

This was last spring. The next day, the Charles was dead from the harbor to the Mass. Ave. bridge.

So Thursday, State Representative Marty Walz bragged about these destructive, environmentally wasteful "improvements" in the Cambridge Chronicle in response to the letter which did not identify the target. Walz identified the target as Magazine Beach.

Business as usual. Starve the animals, poison the environment and do it in response to a letter which identified nothing.

Truly reprehensible.

2. Marilyn Wellons Response, Letter to Representative Walz.

Dear Rep. Walz,

I was disturbed to read that you support the DCR's plan to install
commercial sod on the playing fields at Magazine Beach. Such sod will need
continuing applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
These chemicals are not good for young athletes or for the Charles
River's water quality.

The prototype of this project is the DCR's Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox
Fields at Lederman Park in Boston. In the spring of 2006 the agency
replaced 6 acres of grasses adapted to the water's edge there with commercial
sod. The unprecedented algae bloom in the Charles River just offshore
from these fields followed in August. "We've never seen an algae bloom
like this before," the Boston Globe quoted a Charles River Watershed
Association spokesperson as saying. There had never been runoff from 6
acres of chemically treated sod there before, either.

In fact, the algae bloom followed by days the application of "Tartan,"
a fungicide. The label warning for "Tartan" states it is not to be
used near bodies of water. Nevertheless, the DCR, citing the need for the
"quality of turf our players deserve," applied it to the stressed
grass. I attended the Boston Conservation Commission hearing at the DCR
representative made this statement.

In a part of the river that had been safe enough for swimming, the
algae bloom created a public health hazard, dangerous to humans and
wildlife. The DCR has never denied that runoff from the newly installed,
heavily fertilized, and chemically treated sod, including the use of
"Tartan," led to the algae bloom and cancellation of the second Charles River

The DCR now proposes to repeat the blunder at Magazine Beach's 7 acres.

Organized, regulation baseball at "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at
Lederman Park" is not a "water-dependent activity" supposedly privileged
on Charles River parkland. Casual riverside ball playing, cited as
suitable by the Charles River Reservation's original designers a century
ago, bears no resemblance to the klieg lights on 60' high poles,
extensive fences, and chemically treated sod there or what is planned for
Magazine Beach.

Please also note that childrens' soccer leagues have backed off from
their endorsements of chemical lawn-care companies when they discovered
what exposure to the chemicals meant for the children. I do not know if
Little League teams have similar agreements or are aware of the

Please reconsider your support for the duplication of this disastrous
project at Magazine Beach.