Hey, there! Log in / Register

Six cities set up regional planning effort, bypassing existing regional planning effort

The mayors of Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Quincy and Somerville today announced the Greater Boston Regional Economic Compact, which "will facilitate regional problem solving" in "the areas of housing, transportation, sustainability, and economic development that would benefit from a regional response."

The mayors will look to hire a "Regional Compact coordinator" and a separate full-time staffer to coordinate regional efforts by the six cities.

The 52-year-old Metropolitan Area Planning Council has a full-time executive director - former state Rep. Marc Draisen of Roslindale - as well as numerous staffers who work on housing, transportation, sustainability and economic development for the greater-Boston area.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Just because there's a 52 yo institution doesn't mean it's good (or bad!) and the existence of a paid director isn't meaningful in this patronage riddled state.

MAPC might be awesome - can one of your urban planning wonks weigh in on their merits or lack of merits?

up
Voting closed 0

When these discussions started, it was all about the red line and bringing cities together to nurture the emerging "life sciences corridor" up and down the line. It was discussed as a way to get Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville to cooperate rather than to compete for corporate expansion (ie not Vertex at the Seaport or Partners at Assembly) and simultaneously to take advantage of cheaper, more plentiful land at the other end of the red line in stuck-in-the-70s Quincy and would-you-believe-it's-the-50s Braintree. At least, that's how Boston's John Barros described it while on a panel at Mass Historic Society with none other than Marc Draisen of MAPC last week.

Not sure how or why Chelsea joined in, but I bet that's why we get a more generic name and not something using the red line brand. Or maybe the MBTA has just destroyed that brand over the last two years? Speaking of which, why aren't they and their vast asphalt land holdings part of the compact?

Oh, and MAPC has awesome ideas. They just lack clout in local-control New England.

up
Voting closed 0

The MAPC is pretty good, but they don't really do much in the inner core cities and suburbs.

There's also the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, but they focus almost exclusively on transportation.

up
Voting closed 0

MAPC might be awesome

It is pretty great - they produce some real interesting reports, they're one of the few agencies that takes an appropriately scaled view of policy implementation (that is to say, Metro-level), but....the MAPC is a solely advisory body. There was a great push for regionalization of services from the 1860s up through the 1930s: it birthed the MPC (prior to its gutting for patronage), metro utility organizations, the Boston Transit Commission which provided the political impetus and wrangled funding for BERy's rapid transit build-out, and the annexation of Rox, Dot, Brighton, W. Rox, Charlestown, and HP by Boston (mostly as rapid population growth in those areas overwhelmed the ability of municipal governments to meet the demand for modern infra and services).

The major policy area that never achieved regionalization...land use. Land use is still the primary power of municipal governments and one of very few areas where local powers have not been superseded by the State. As snazzy as the MAPC's reports are - they're talking into the wind; the MAPC's power of implementation is almost entirely nullified, with some, indirect, exceptions. This new agency holds potential, but is going to suffer that same lack of bite that MAPC lacks. But if we're being optimistic, here are the good things:

1. Cambridge, Somerville, Boston, et al have similar economic and travel pattern connections. A lot of the MAPC towns are only marginally wired in to the core economy, but these six cities are irreconcilably connected to Boston so there's the ability to craft a more detailed plan.

2. I think we're finally past the era of Boston celebrating the businesses it attracts from far-off lands....like Cambridge (cough Vertex). 20, 15, even 10 years ago, each town was reasonably more concerned with development within its own borders; today, the policies with the greatest impact on Cambridge's housing market are being developed in Somerville, Watertown, and Arlington. If this organization furthers that sentiment, then that's a success in and of itself

3. There's still of ton of areas to work on just within these core towns. Quincy/Braintree are locked into to Boston's economic sphere with only a paltry connection to Cambridge. Chelsea is the same. Somerville is the only town on this list that has parlayed access to both economies and I think it's little surprise to note that Somerville has been able to craft far more substantial changes in the last 20 years than any other city in Mass. Greater cooperation between Quincy and Cambridge, improved transit links between Chelsea and Cambridge could have very meaningful impacts and regional, but focused, body is probably the best place to develop and advocate for those policies

4. Or pessimistically, this turns into a bunch of people with BIG IDEAS talking to other people with BIGGER IDEAS and nothing meaningful happens. That's always a possibility (probability), and especially so considering its just an advisory board. But I do think there's a lot to be said for treating the core as one function unit - it's kind of ridiculous to have 6 different redevelopment authorities covering an area that is smaller than many American metropolitan counties - it's politically useful, but inefficient and wasteful.

The "goals" referenced in the City of Boston news release seem are pretty impressive though, I think (hope) there might actually be some legs for this one.

EDIT: Just to flesh out the question "Why have a new body and not the MAPC" a bit more. The MAPC has a Federal role, its the organization through which Federal initiative grants are programmed, many of which have a basis in environmental resiliency. That's why the MAPC often couches many its reports' recommendations in environmental terms (as is also the case with the MPO). The GBREC seems to take a more functional, econ. development approach - both of those are parts of the MAPC program, but they exist in a complex relationship with environmental goals. That's what I mean when I say that a more "targeted" approach could be beneficial - environmental degradation is often a symptom of structural issues, so addressing negative environmental externalities can get be like papering over issues rather than solving the core problem. I'm not saying the GBREC will solve the core issues either, but its scope seems to be less tied to meeting environmental goals which give it more flexibility in the long term (and could have a greater impact on quality of life/issues of convenience)) should the partnership work out.

up
Voting closed 0

     ... the second paragraph provided the answer.

up
Voting closed 0

yay more money spent on "consultants" or "contractors"

/s

up
Voting closed 0

don't like what MAPC is telling them.

up
Voting closed 0

From what I know from friends who have contributed dogs to this hunt, they probably actually intend to work together to actually do stuff, rather than study or talk about it. The larger reason is that Boston tends to lag in political will to implement data-driven and forward-thinking changes and doesn't work and play well with others.

Too bad this has happened during Medford's mayoral transition. I hope we can get a piece of it as well.

up
Voting closed 0

with what I have seen and heard, having contributed few dogs of my own to this hunt.

(The part about Boston, that is. I'm not so sure why they think an alternative to MAPC with all the same players as MAPC would be different than MAPC)

up
Voting closed 0

....hence the need to create their own organization.

up
Voting closed 0

mapc just covers too much area to be useful, like the mpo.

up
Voting closed 0

I am not specifically in this line of work, but isn't MAPC a "required" regional planning organization? I have this vague recollection of the MAPC being mentioned as having certain responsibilities w/r/t environmental studies (e.g., MEPA and NEPA), and must be consulted w/r/t receive federal or state funds for certain kinds of projects, etc. Is that not right?

up
Voting closed 0

Don't know if they have specific duties or weight regarding NEPA/MEPA (never had anything to do with MAPC in those contexts) but regarding transportation planning and the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), MAPC provides some planning assistance and sits on their Advisory Council.

up
Voting closed 0

Chelsea wasn't part of this compact but the article says that " the alliance could be a springboard to other regional partnerships in economic development, housing, and transportation, ranging from subway improvements to affordable housing for life sciences workers."

up
Voting closed 0

Maybe they can figure out how to get the Quincy Center T Garage fixed and open again. It's only been a few years.

I did check out the Quincy City Councilors' site and saw my tax dollars at work with granite floors in Quincy City Hall and a balcony in the City Council hearing room. I'll take Pergo and no balcony any day over the property tax increases we've had this year and will have next year.

up
Voting closed 0

Wait, doesnt Boston already have two, making them the only area in the country to do so?

And now theres a third?

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is responsible for conducting the federally required metropolitan transportation-planning process for the Boston metropolitan area. The MPO develops a vision for the region and then decides how to allocate federal and some state transportation funds to programs and projects that support that vision. The work of the MPO is conducted by the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) under the direction of the MPO.

---
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston. Our mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration. Our regional plan, MetroFuture, guides our work as we engage the public in responsible stewardship of our region’s future.

WTF is this shit

up
Voting closed 0

Gotta keep the consultants employed and lobbyists busy trying to get backroom deals.

up
Voting closed 0

Brookline says Thanks but no thanks!

up
Voting closed 0

I guess Brookline, Everett, Newton, Milton, Dedham, Watertown, Needham, Winthorp, and Revere weren't invited to the big boys table.

up
Voting closed 0