In 2015, MAPC set into motion a new, five-year Strategic Plan to further MetroFuture: Making a Greater Boston Region, the agency’s regional plan for our 101 member cities and towns. Building on the successes of this past year, we are poised to lead the region in furthering our core planning work in 2016, from smart growth to social equity, climate change adaptation, regional collaboration and beyond.
A number of critically important region-wide plans achieved completion in 2015, including the statewide Food Policy Plan, our Regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and our Regional Housing Plan and Fair Housing and Equity Assessment, both key products from the multi-year Sustainable Communities planning grant. We also advanced three new, major work areas: master planning, climate resiliency, and civic engagement – critical initiatives for our cities and towns.
Our work was recognized by several national organizations this year, as well as by public and private organizations that are committed to supporting our efforts to create a more just, vibrant and livable region. We are honored to continue making Metro Boston a national model and regional resource on smart growth and inter-local coordination.
Join us online at mapc.org and on Twitter @MAPCMetroBoston if you'd like to get involved.
As the regional planning agency for Greater Boston, MAPC works to improve Metro Boston’s livability – its prosperity, safety, health, resilience, and equity. A key way we do that is with a wide range of direct services to our municipalities, tailored to each community's unique needs and character.
In our second year implementing MAPC's new Strategic Plan, we are engaging with even more municipalities to do larger and more comprehensive master plan projects, in such places as Ashland, Boxborough, Cohasset, Hanover, Melrose, Revere, Swampscott and Woburn, while starting and continuing downtown visioning projects in Stoneham and Natick and beyond. On the local and neighborhood level, we are engaged in economic development projects with Reading, Southeast Framingham, the Chelsea front and planned Silver Line expansion corridor, along Route 1 in Foxborough, in the Newton-Needham innovation district, and on Route 9 in Wellesley, with more projects to come.
This year, we also continued to place particular emphasis on empowering cities and towns to develop Complete Streets, which are roadways that are designed for everyone: safe, convenient and accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists, and comfortable and barrier-free for people of every age and mobility level. Thanks in large part to our foundational work last year in helping municipalities to pass Complete Streets policies, which ensure that roads are inclusively designed, constructed, refurbished and maintained, this year we saw many cities and towns take up the work themselves, using the strong templates developed by MAPC in recent years and building on the momentum of Complete Streets’ wider acceptance as a best practice in design. This year, to varying degrees, we worked with Ashland, Beverly, Framingham, Lynn, Norwell and Weymouth to get Complete Streets policies crafted at the local level, and we look forward to helping even more cities and towns do so during this year and after.
Parking is a critical link between land use and transportation, and parking policies have a tremendous effect on transportation choices and the built environment. Effective parking strategies can also help cities and towns meet their goals around affordable housing, reducing pollution, improving residents' health and attracting good development. MAPC assists communities in turning parking challenges into assets. This year, one of the biggest parking projects we undertook happened in Downtown Malden, which is poised for transformative change with the redevelopment of City Hall and police headquarters across from the Malden Center MBTA station, where the city has already permitted hundreds of new units of housing and ground-floor retail. Our team undertook a comprehensive study and produced an engaging action plan Action Plan after surveying hundreds of residents, city employees, businesses and downtown patrons. Updates in pricing, enforcement and signage are already happening thanks to MAPC’s recommendations, with more changes coming over the next year or two. We hope that our approach to the Malden project can be replicated in future parking studies across the MAPC region.
When it comes to transportation planning, MAPC advocates for a system that supports concentrated development in areas with existing infrastructure over investments that encourage sprawl. To that end, MAPC helped develop the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Long Range Transportation Plan in 2015, which identifies goals and objectives for the transportation system from 2015 to 2040, and also sets funding priorities. The greatest change the MPO made in this recent Long Range Transportation Plan is to focus more of the region’s federal highway funding on roadway projects that preserve existing infrastructure, increase safety, encourage complete streets and support walking and biking, over increased highway capacity or expansion. Find out more about the MPO and Long Range Transportation Plan here.
In Framingham, our staff worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to develop a roadmap for bringing additional investment to the downtown area. Throughout the process, we relied heavily on community engagement techniques such as public forums, downtown business tours in partnership with local employers and community groups, social media, outreach to houses of worship, in-person canvassing, interviews on local cable access as well as Portuguese-language radio, and distributing flyers to families via the schools -- helping to increase participation and ensuring that often-disenfranchised and under-represented groups such as parents, non-English speakers, lower-income residents, youth and the elderly were able to have a voice in the planning process. In the Fall of 2015, the zoning recommendations made by MAPC were approved at Town Meeting, paving the way for much of the vision crafted in the project. Learn more at mapc.org/framinghamTOD.
We are hoping the zoning successes and inclusive civic engagement approaches used in Framingham can serve as a model for other transit-oriented development (TOD) projects in the year ahead, from Braintree to Natick Center and Dedham's Corporate Center station area.
In response to widespread demand for innovative strategies to improve traffic and commuting in the region, MAPC and MassCommute co-hosted a breakfast forum in October on Transportation Demand Management. Municipal leaders and employers gathered to discuss ways of working together on reducing congestion and improving our area's ability to attract and retain a competitive workforce through better transportation options. Staff from MAPC and MassCommute presented findings from two new research papers on transportation demand management. Visit mapc.org/tdm to view case studies and presentations from the forum.
In our ever-growing Public Health practice area, our team continues to bring the "photovoice" approach to placemaking opportunities, most recently in East Boston. There, we have partnered with NOAH, the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, to work with both youth and adults in the Eagle Hill neighborhood, where the community is seeking ways to slow down speeding vehicles and make intersections safer for those walking and bicycling.
The public health team is also working with the Lynn Health Department and the Lynn Housing Authority on a smoke-free housing initiative, working with residents and stakeholders in rolling out the new policy. The work, supported by a Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund grant given to the City of Lynn, aims to reduce health care costs through prevention, and the new smoke-free housing policy is expected to reduce chronic diseases like asthma and tobacco-related deaths.
As part of our Plan4Health grant, MAPC is working north of Boston to improve the distribution of healthy foods in corner stores and to promote "healthy checkout aisles" in grocery markets. Project partners include the Massachusetts Public Health Association, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association, and Mass in Motion and Wellness coalitions in Cambridge, Somerville, Malden, Melrose-Wakefield, Everett and Medford. Read more about our public health work and our "health in all policies" approach to planning work at mapc.org/public-health.
In December, MAPC, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and the Massachusetts Food Policy Council put the finishing touches on the state's first comprehensive food system plan since 1974. Working in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Massachusetts Workforce Alliance, our food plan team published the "Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan" in late 2015 with input from hundreds of stakeholders across the food system, from production to farming, manufacturing, access, wholesale, distribution and beyond. Find the full report — with recommendations for strengthening the state's agricultural viability, improving access to fresh, local food, and creating a system more able to withstand the stresses related to climate change — at mafoodplan.org.
Democratizing data remains a core service MAPC provides to cities, towns, residents, journalists and researchers. After rolling out an enhanced version of the MetroBoston DataCommon in 2015 thanks to continued support from the Barr Foundation, MAPC went on to create a DataCommon for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission this year, launched officially at the first Central Massachusetts Data Day this summer. View the interactive tool, explore data indicators, and learn more at cmrpc.org/centralmassdatacommon.
MAPC’s Data group is also continually making improvements in usability for the Development Database (dd.mapc.org), which tracks and forecasts Metro Boston's growth using information about thousands of residential, commercial and mix-use developments, including those planned, in construction and already completed. Much of the data was submitted by local planning staff and enhanced with MAPC research, and provides a unique insight into recent development patterns in the region. The Development Database relies on public contributions to stay up to date and usable as a resource for future planning projects; if you'd like to find out more or register as a user, visit dd.mapc.org.
Another data resource, our Housing.ma Portal, puts thousands of housing data points in the hands of municipal leaders, reporters, scholars, and regular citizens, helping stakeholders to plan for the housing needed to create a vibrant and economically competitive Commonwealth. With information from the U.S. Census, local building permits, Zillow, MAPC projections and more, Housing.ma helps users to compare their city and town to neighbors, the region, or the state as a whole, and offers visualizations and context to help navigate the data. Designed for both citizen committees and experts, the portal can save time and precious public resources.
Finally, in addition to these new areas of work, our data staff continues to provide modeling and indicators training nationally, and trains users locally in accessing the latest Census figures and both DataCommmon sites. Trainings are offered every month; find the next one at metroboston.datacommon.org.
Aaron Henry Assistant Planning Director, Town of Lexington
Across all our work, climate change planning is playing an increasingly larger role in local and regional projects. We are responding to the needs of individual communities in addressing the expected effects of climate change, in both seaside and inland communities. For example, we are working with the city of Quincy to develop a Coastal Adaptation Plan, which will examine the impacts of climate change on the natural environment, the city's developed areas, its infrastructure and coastal areas, its local health, and the economy. The plan will identify strategies to change land use practices that will protect residents, especially the most vulnerable. We are doing similar climate change projections for Scituate and Duxbury. Read more at mapc.org/environment.
In the housing arena, we've had a particularly successful year in both completing long-term research and furthering fair housing approaches at the local level. We completed our Regional Housing Plan and Fair Housing and Equity Assessment, both key products from the multi-year Sustainable Communities planning grant, this year; you can read more about them at mapc.org/smart-growth/housing. We also conducted housing analyses for Quincy, Canton, Ashland, Salem, and others in 2015, with several future planned housing production plans throughout the region in 2016. In late 2015, the Maynard Selectmen and Planning Board approved a Housing Production Plan developed by MAPC's housing planners after months of community input and a great change in local opinion from the start of the process. This "win" will serve as an excellent case study for future housing production plans.
This year, MAPC continued to grow and innovate our Clean Energy work. One critical new area for us is "green municipal aggregation," a model that brings new additional renewable capacity to the region. The program aggregates the community-wide purchase of electricity – including the city and all commercial and residential customers on basic service, unless they opt out – and leverages this to ensure renewable options are available to the entire region.
In FY15, MAPC developed the first procurement in the state that required renewable energy, with verifiable emissions reductions in addition to price savings. The City of Melrose opted to participate and their aggregation plan was approved in late September, making it likely to go into effect in early 2016. This procurement model has since been replicated in both Dedham and Cambridge, and their aggregation plans should soon follow suit. With the goal of scaling up the work, MAPC released its second aggregation RFP in late 2015, naming Somerville, Newton, Arlington, and Sudbury as participants and crafting it so that any of the 101 MAPC cities and towns will be able to contract with the selected aggregation broker. To learn more, visit mapc.org/clean-energy.
This summer, MAPC piloted a notification program to help municipalities engage in "load shedding," which both reduces greenhouse gas emissions and extra capacity charges. The capacity for which municipalities are charged is determined during just a single hour each summer, meaning these charges can constitute as much as 30 percent of municipal electricity costs. As a result, anticipating and then reducing consumption (known as “load shedding”) during this short window of time offers an opportunity for significant financial savings. One participant, the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, employed a real-time energy meter and sustained a 62 percent reduction in usage over 2.5 hours per load shed, translating to 2.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided per shed. 18 municipalities participated in the daily notification program, and MAPC is aware of at least 8 that implemented load sheds on the 5 “highly likely” days. We are expecting to expand the program next year.
MAPC staff worked this year to guide three communities through the lengthy process of attaining Green Communities Designation, opening up those municipalities to around $500,000 in funding toward local clean energy and energy efficiency projects. The Commonwealth has designated a total of 155 Green Communities statewide, and they are collectively home to 54% of Massachusetts’s population. MAPC will continue working with communities to achieve this status going forward. To learn more about all our energy work, visit mapc.org/clean-energy.
Earlier this year, our Clean Energy team and the Metro Mayors Coalition, coordinated by staff in our Government Affairs division, collaborated with state and regional leaders on a Climate Preparedness Commitment and launched a related Taskforce with short- and long-term action goals for 2016 and beyond. The group will help build municipal capacity on climate preparedness, take action on urban heat island issues such as reducing asphalt and adding grass and trees, help develop emergency plans for extreme heat days, focus on areas vulnerable to flooding from more frequent and extreme storm events, assist in making major infrastructure like the electrical grid, water and transportation systems more resilient, and protect major food distribution points that are currently vulnerable to climate change. Learn more at mapc.org/metro-mayors-coalition.
Marc Draisen MAPC Executive Director
Our legislative staff also works each year to shore up support for the Shannon Grant, which works with at-risk youth in cities and towns struggling with gang violence and crime, and to staff the Metro Mayors Coalition, a group of 14 communities whose leaders come together to troubleshoot and share solutions to common problems. This year, the coalition continued to focus on strategies for reducing gun violence in cities, policies around ride-share programs such as Uber and Lyft, cohesively tackling climate change preparedness, and regionalizing emergency communications.
Zoning reform and housing production are two critical areas of focus for MAPC’s Government Affairs team this year and next. Other legislative goals for 2016 will center on creating parking benefit districts and allowing for regional transportation ballot initiatives around the region, as well as the economic development and solar net metering legislation, and ensuring continued stable funding for the Shannon Grant and District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA).
The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety will continue engaging MAPC as fiduciary agent for the Homeland Security Program in Massachusetts, giving us oversight of the state’s central, northeast, southeast and western Homeland Security regions. We provide management, administrative, and planning support to these four regions and their local advisory councils. We also work with our counterpart regional planning agencies (or RPAs) in those areas, including the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. We look forward to continuing our work with EOPSS and the Homeland Security Regions to enhance emergency preparedness capabilities at the state, regional, and local levels.
The Homeland Security Division has developed and implemented metrics to track our performance in meeting key goals of MAPC’s Statewide Homeland Security Fiduciary contracts with EOPSS. Specifically, we are measuring our work in the areas of procurement and vendor payment processing, with the objective of efficiently and effectively completing these tasks. MAPC developed a tracking program for this effort and submits a biannual report to EOPSS outlining the status of these metrics. 97% of the 163 procurements that were conducted during calendar year 2015 were completed within the expected timeframe. 95% of the 189 payments to vendors that have been made in 2015 were within the expected timeframe. We look forward to continuing this metric tracking process in an effort to identify ways in which we can make our workflow even more efficient.
In 2012, NERAC completed the installation of and began using a six link Microwave Communications System that serves the major command and control networks for public safety in the Northeast Region, including the Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network (BAPERN), Northeast Central Medical Emergency Direction (CMED), and the Fire District 5, 6, 14, and 15 Control Points. This system provides point-to-point voice and data transmissions via a high-frequency signal between telecommunications towers, and replaced existing underground T1 (phone) lines which had to be leased from private telecommunications vendors. This transition from dependence on privately-owned infrastructure that had proven to be very unreliable in recent years to a user owned and operated system has been a tremendous enhancement to public safety communications over the past four years.
As a result of the success of the first six links, NERAC and MAPC’s Homeland Security Division have spent the last two years carefully planning and managing the investment of over $1 million into “Phase 2” of this system, which consists of six new links that were installed in 2015 at sites in Andover, Boston, Danvers, Middleton, Tewksbury, and Tyngsborough. These new links provide a communications backbone and connection to the Statewide CORE at Boston Police Headquarters for the four Fire District Control Points in the NERAC region, enabling them to seamlessly communicate with each other and serve as backup dispatch locations for each other during emergencies. As each of these Control Points functions as a mutual aid coordination center for fire and EMS resources in 15 or more communities, providing them with these interoperable communications tools will allow them to organize multi-jurisdictional emergency response far more effectively.
Our municipal collaboration team also works to secure cost savings for public works, police, and fire departments across Eastern Massachusetts through our collective purchasing program. This year, orders for fire apparatus and ambulances totaled $31.6 million, or 67 pieces of equipment. On the police and DPW side, total sales numbered $23 million in 2015, or 526 units ranging from police vehicles to public works trucks.
With funding from the MetroWest Health Foundation, MAPC worked with five police departments in the MetroWest area (Framingham, Holliston, Marlborough, Natick, and Southborough) to secure the appropriate certifications and training to allow police officers to be equipped with naloxone doses while on duty. MAPC has worked to facilitate relationships between these departments and their local pharmacies or medical supply companies to not only purchase naloxone doses utilizing this grant funding, but to also explore mechanisms to allow for these doses to be replaced upon use or expiration. Through this initiative, 168 naloxone doses have been procured. Beginning in January 2016, MAPC will build on this work by helping first responders in Metrowest, together with medical and social service partners, develop an effective regional response to the opioid crisis.
MAPC and the City of Cambridge Community Development Department (CDD) partnered in February 2015 to develop post-emergency business continuity and emergency preparedness strategies for small businesses in Cambridge. Emergencies that small businesses face can include anything from a fire or climate-related power outage to a major weather event. To help businesses plan for such circumstances, MAPC and the Cambridge CDD recently held a series of five seminars for small business owners outlining the steps they can take to prepare their business for an emergency and recover quickly after one occurs. These seminars also served to launch the Cambridge CDD Business Emergency Preparedness Website, camb.ma/bizeprep, to the public. This site is a resource for businesses that showcases MAPC’s best practice research and analysis on small business emergency preparedness efforts nationwide. These resources will help businesses prepare and make recovery plans to enable them to survive with minimal loss and/or disruption of productivity following an emergency.
Across all our departments and projects, community engagement is a core facet of our approach planning work. Our staff meets informally over lunch every few weeks to share new engagement strategies and to help one another brainstorm helpful approaches to challenging projects. This year, we also unveiled a public web-based tool at projects.metrofuture.org to visualize the breadth of our work across the region, and to help us showcase the successes of implementing the goals in our regional plan, “MetroFuture.” This “MetroFuture in Action” site allows any member of the public to see what MAPC is doing in their community, from housing to place-making, transportation, zoning, research, policy, outreach, and beyond. Visit this new project website to see what we are doing to implement the regional goals of MetroFuture where you live!
Inner Core Committee
The ICC consists of representatives from twenty-one of the metropolitan area’s innermost communities: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Milton,* Needham, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Waltham, Watertown and Winthrop. The Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council are also voting members of the Committee.
MetroWest Regional Collaborative
The MetroWest Regional Collaborative (MWRC) serves the MetroWest region of Eastern Cochituate Aqueducts, Natick, Mass.Massachusetts, from I-95 to I-495 along the Route 9 corridor. MWRC serves as a think tank and advocate for locally initiated regional solutions to policy and planning challenges shared by MetroWest communities.
Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination
Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) is a group of thirteen communities northwest of Boston working collaboratively on issues of regional concern. Established as a growth management committee in 1984, it has become a respected voice in regional decision-making. MAGIC consists of representatives from the following thirteen communities: Acton, Bedford, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Stow, and Sudbury.
North Shore Task Force
The North Shore Task Force (NSTF) is a group of 16 communities north of Boston working collaboratively on regional issues. The goal of NSTF is to cooperate with, and to assist, each member municipality in coordinating its planning and economic development so as to obtain maximum benefits for the North Shore district.NSTF communities include Beverly,Danvers,Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Middleton, Nahant, Peabody, Rockport, Salem, Swampscott, Topsfield, and Wenham.
North Suburban Planning Council
The North Suburban Planning Council (NSPC) is composed of eight towns and one city that have formed a voluntary association to facilitate cooperative regional planning. NSPC membership includes town managers and administrators, planning staff, and members of Planning Boards and Boards of Selectmen from the following nine communities: Burlington, Lynnfield, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Wilmington, Winchester, and Woburn.
South Shore Coalition
The South Shore Coalition subregion comprises 13 towns on the South Shore within the metropolitan Boston area. The towns are Braintree, Cohasset, Duxbury, Hanover, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Pembroke, Rockland, Scituate and Weymouth. The South Shore Coalition (SCC) consists of member positions, one for each of the 13 municipalities.
SouthWest Advisory Planning Committee
The SouthWest Advisory Planning Committee (SWAP) is comprised of up to twenty members representing ten communities southwest of Boston. The purpose of SWAP is to foster joint and cooperative action concerning transportation, land use, economic development, housing, historic preservation, water resources and the environment. Informed and active cooperation among neighboring communities helps to serve the needs of residents, businesses, commuters and local governments. SWAP's membership consists of the following towns: Bellingham, Dover, Franklin, Hopkinton, Medway, Milford, Millis, Norfolk, Sherborn and Wrentham.
Three Rivers Interlocal Council
The Three Rivers Interlocal Council is composed of thirteen communities south of Boston: Canton, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Medfield, Milton, Needham, Norwood, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole and Westwood. Three Rivers takes its name from the three major rivers in the sub-region: the Neponset, Charles, and Canoe Rivers.
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