Civic Engagement Group - Jan 26th, 2023
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/31199/18.
Tonight, we have two guests from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council who will talk about MAPC's work and Metrocommons 2050, the region's long range plan. Our guests are Eric Hove and Katherine Antos. The plan is available from https://metrocommon.mapc.org.
Katherine is one of two deputy executive directors and she works in traditional planning roles. She explains that the MAPC region consists of 101 cities and towns around and including Boston. With 3.4 million residents in the area, it is the state's largest regional planning agency. The MAPC is divided into eight sub-regions; Arlington is part of the inner core sub-region.
MAPC's goals are to promote regional collaboration and smart growth. Their work is directed by a regional roadmap. The region's current challenges include affordability, racial injustice and climate change.
MAPC's advisory board consists of 101 municipal representatives, 21 gubernatorial appointees, nine state officials, and three Boston officials.
The agency has a $22.5M annual budget. $10M of this goes to pass-through grants and $12.5M goes towards operating expenses. The funding comes from state contracts, federal grants, private foundations, and fee for service work.
MAPC has a set of technical assistance programs (TAPs), which provide assistance to municipalities. Housing choice and racial equity have been big topics over the past year. Technical assistance is also available for projects that span two or more communities.
MAPC's past work with Arlington includes: a Complete Street Prioritization Plan, Bus Rapid Transit lanes on Mass Ave, the Fair Housing Action Plan, the Net Zero Action Plan, the Small Business and COVID Recovery Plan, a Municipal Vulnerability Hazard Mitigation Plan, public art along the Minuteman Bikeway, and a study of tourism indicators in Arlington, Lexington, and Concord. There's also been work on a DEI guide, and a multi-town effort to address gas leaks.
MetroFuture is our 2007 regional master plan. It's a smart growth plan that seeks to establish thriving downtowns and city centers. MetroCommons 2050 is the 2021 update to the regional plan. The plan was developed via a 3--4 year process, and seeks a more equitable and resilient future for the region. MAPC is not a regulatory or decision making agency, and they wanted to develop a long-term plan that people could get behind.
The plan includes a significant research component, and there are ten major long-term goals. The goals are accompanied by twenty chapters of recommendations, which focus on the state and municipal levels. Plan recommendations fall into five main categories: climate change adaptation and mitigation; dynamic representation and government; homes for everyone; equity, wealth, and health; and inclusive growth and mobility.
Climate change and adaptation includes building a healthy environment, achieving net zero emissions, and climate resilience. Its about how we adapt to climate change, transition to a clean energy future, decarbonize, and how we respond to regional water challenges.
Dynamic representation and government is about making government more participatory and inclusive, improving regional coordination, improving the way local governments are financed, and improving government capacity and delivery of services.
Homes for everyone is about providing access to homes that people can afford, protecting people from displacement, and building a more diverse set of housing types.
Equity, wealth, and health involves economic security, economic prosperity, health, safe neighborhoods, reducing the rate of chronic disease, work force development, and law enforcement.
Inclusive growth and mobility involves arts, culture, heritage, and getting around the region. It's about open space resources, reducing vehicle miles traveled, improving accessibility and regional connectivity, public art, public realm design, and recreation.
MAPC is looking for places where the regional plan aligns with local community goals.
Eric shows an eight-minute video about the regional plan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDHKTF60D1Q.
(Len Diggins, Facilitator) Mr. Diggins says he's interested in doing 5 more presentations like this: one for each of the five recommendation categories. He envisions these happening every 4--6 months.
We move into the Q&A part of the meeting.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik would appreciate it if the MAPC and Metro Mayor's Coalition (MMC) would leverage their regional power to fix gas leaks. She also wants to see something done about telephone poles. There's a shredded phone pole on Mass Ave. Ms. Melofchik says that damaged poles are unslightly and poisoning our environment. She also wants something done about double poles, saying they're bad for the Battle Road Scenic Byway. She also wants Cambridge and Somerville to close their combined sewer outflows in the Alewife Brook.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks what kind of metrics are being collected, to measure progress towards the goals of the regional plan. He gives examples of on-time transit service, and the number of homes built.
(Katherine Antos, MAPC) Ms. Antos says it depends on the program. There are usually reporting requirements, and they can leverage material in local plans. On a regional level, the MMC has a task force for housing; the task force has set regional targets for housing production, and provisions for data collection. She says there are requests to improve data collection at the state level.
(Eric Hove, MAPC) Mr. Hove says MAPC has done a number of indicator reports during past years, and they do have a set of indicators for the region. He says it's challenging to track policy implementation on a local basis.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins asks Ms. Antos and Mr. Hove if they'd like to respond to Ms. Melofchik's earlier remarks about gas leaks.
(Katherine Antos) Ms. Antos says that Arlington led an effort to create a multi-town gas leaks initiative, and that MAPC can play a convener role in such efforts. National Grid and other utilities have been part of this conversation. She says the ultimate goal is to move the region away from natural gas, which means there's a question about how much to invest in repair and maintenance vs how much to invest in transitioning away from gas.
Regarding telephone poles, MAPC has been invited to do collection procurement. They're not the agency that will repair the infrastructure, but they can help with the procurement process.
In the area of stormwater, Ms. Antos says that MAPC is working on watershed-level plans for stormwater management.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he has one overarching question: who makes requests for MAPC assistance? For example, in Arlington, one of the questions we think about is how to balance more development on commercial corridors with the environment. He asks how we can access MAPC to help us out.
(Katherine Antos) Ms. Antos says that who reaches out often depends on what the project is. Elected officials can submit letters of support for technical assistance. There are also grant programs that can be leveraged.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik says that Alewife brook is an open sewer, and she wants to have the brook dredged. She says she's unwilling to be poisoned by gas leaks while we switch to electric. She asks how we get high intensity gas leaks fixed. She's also concerned about artificial turf, and wants to know how we can pause the installation of it. She asks how we can bring our town hall into the 21st century. She's trying to prevent a mountain bike park from being built on Hill's Hill. She says that Arlington benefits from Barr foundation grants, but the parks and recreation department refers to this as dark arts. She says she's deeply troubled by censorship in this community.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the town manager did put a pause on artificial turf installation.
(Eric Hove) Mr. Hove says he appreciates hearing the local concerns.
(Vince Boudoin) Mr. Boudoin says there was a recent news article which put Boston traffic as the fourth-worst in the world. He says we're not going to achieve our climate goals if we keep subsidizing private automobiles. He asks if MAPC is doing anything in this area.
(Katherine Antos) Ms. Antos says that MAPC works with the state legislature and Metro Mayor's Coalition, and she believes there have been recommendations made about congestion pricing, but we have to look at the regional impacts. She offers to follow up with Mr. Diggins regarding legislative priorities for the upcoming session. She agrees that we need a bigger investment in public and active transit.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Metropolitan Planning Organization is doing a study on congestion pricing via CTPS. He thinks it will probably be out in a year.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says there are movements to develop statewide zoning atlases. He asks who is working on this in Massachusetts.
(Eric Hove) Mr. Hove says that MAPC has done a zoning atlas for MBTA communities, which is available at https://zoningatlas.mapc.org. They're also doing work related to compliance of MBTA community requirements.
(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson has a question about mobility. He's lived here for 32 years and feels that the quality of public transit service is declining. The Alewife garage is falling apart, and the 79 bus was canceled. He asks about long range plans for getting enough transit to suburban communities.
(Katherine Antos) Ms. Antos says the MBTA is doing the bus redesign, and the inner core sub-region is most affected by this effort. She says there was a recent meeting of the inner core sub-region, which talked a lot about the new routes and bus prioritization. She says the MAPC sometimes helps communities with studies, as preparation for adding BRT lanes.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he'd like to attend an inner core sub-region meeting, and asks where he can learn more about that group.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins suggest looking at https://www.bostonmpo.org/ and https://www.ctps.org/, as sources for regional transportation planning.
(Katherine Antos) Ms. Antos offers to provide a point of contact to Mr. Diggins.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says that MAPC is really about regional issues. They can't solve problems themselves, but they can help propose solutions, especially for issues that affect multiple communities.