Draft Memorandum for the Record

Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization Unified Planning Work Program Committee Meeting Summary

November 19, 2020 Meeting

9:00 AM–9:55 AM, Zoom videoconferencing platform

Eric Bourassa, Chair, representing the Metropolitan Area Planning Council


The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) Committee agreed to the following:


Materials for this meeting included the following:

1.    Meeting Summary of the September 17, 2020, meeting

2.    Handout: Concepts for Further Development of the “Access to Commercial Business Districts, Phase 2,” Study

Meeting Agenda and Summary of Discussion

1.    Introductions

Matt Archer (Central Transportation Planning Staff [CTPS]) read the accessibility statement and attendees introduced themselves.

2.    Public Comments

There were none.

3.    Meeting Summary of September 17, 2020Approval of this summary

A motion to approve the meeting summary was made by Tom O’Rourke (Neponset River Regional Chamber/Three Rivers Interlocal Council) and seconded by Tom Bent (City of Somerville/Inner Core Committee). The motion passed unanimously.


4.    Discussion of Scope for the Federal Fiscal Year 2021 UPWP Study Access to Commercial Business Districts, Phase 2—Paul Christner, CTPS Manager of Transit Analysis and Planning

Sandy Johnston (UPWP Manager) introduced the discussion, reminding that the Federal Fiscal Year 2021 UPWP contains a study titled “Access to Commercial Business Districts, Phase 2,” a follow-up to a study that was included in the UPWP a couple of years ago. He noted that the challenges arising from the COVID-19 emergency situation are affecting how that study can be carried out, and that staff seek guidance from the Committee on how to proceed, within the scope of the task as laid out in the UPWP.

Paul Christner and Blake Acton (CTPS Transit Planner) led a discussion of how to frame the study appropriately given the realities of the emergency situation. They presented two possible alternatives in a handout titled “Concepts for Further Development of the Access to Commercial Business Districts, Phase 2, Study,” one focusing on developing scenarios for recovery from the pandemic and resources for municipalities to guide the recovery, and the other on analyzing access to commercial business districts (CBDs) for essential workers.

In discussing the first concept, Len Diggins (Regional Transportation Advisory Council) suggested developing a set of objective metrics, such as revenue or taxes, to determine the progress of recovery, as self-reporting may not be reliable. T. Bent suggested working with Chambers of Commerce and Main Streets organizations for input, and E. Bourassa supported that suggestion. T. O’Rourke also supported that suggestion. In addition, he recommended the idea of further supporting outdoor dining by reconfiguring traffic flow, explaining that in the communities he is aware of there has been little pushback to changes along those lines. B. Acton led a discussion on transportation strategies for recovery from the pandemic, and what the committee might want to prioritize. L. Diggins suggested thinking about how to make CBDs continue to be transit friendly, especially if people are reluctant to return to transit after the pandemic. Daniel Amstutz (Town of Arlington/At-Large Town) discussed how people might begin to travel more locally if they are working from home more, and how future strategies could accommodate that. David Koses (City of Newton/At-Large City) said that cities will come back, they always have throughout history. Outdoor dining is a positive change that people seem to really like, but he wonders how much transit really will come back. Land use decisions are heavily dependent on transit, but Newton’s experience has been that bus service has been cut back bit by bit over the years, and never comes back. There could be more focus on biking and walking, but also potentially more on parking, which is not what the MPO members generally want to prioritize. E. Bourassa said that grappling with parking needs and demands is indeed a core tension. L. Diggins wondered if autonomous and miniature vehicles, possibly shared, could be beneficial in the future. T. Bent observed that peak hour traffic appears to be returning, and shared his fear that the proposed MBTA service cuts will hurt the neediest people the most, and that they would be permanent rather than temporary.

P. Christner asked the committee members if they were aware of any metrics that municipalities are using to gauge economic recovery. L. Diggins mentioned that Arlington’s long-range transportation planning is taking decreased revenue into account. Jenn Emiko Kaplan (Economic Development Planner, Metropolitan Area Planning Council [MAPC]) explained that while she had not heard of any particular metrics, some businesses are planning to go into “hibernation” over the winter, while others are planning to stay open. D. Koses noted that Newton has suspended parking meter payment in many of their village areas, but is seeing some pressure to bring payment enforcement back.

P. Christner led a discussion on the second scope idea, about analyzing access to CBDs for essential workers. This idea would examine where essential workers work in CBDs, how they get to work, and how emergency disruptions might affect them (and how to mitigate that). E. Bourassa asked exactly what kind of guidance staff are looking for, and P. Christner responded that while the first scope concept is probably stronger, they do want input from the committee, and to see which elements of both concepts should be incorporated. L. Diggins said he thinks this scope idea is critically important, and even if staff pursue the first concept, they should incorporate elements of the second. Tom Kadzis (City of Boston) said that while this concept is critically important, much of it will likely be handled on an ad-hoc rather than a planned basis in future emergencies, and many plans are already being drawn by the governor’s office. He also noted that the City of Boston has already been doing a lot of work related to Complete Streets and Active Streets during the pandemic.

P. Christner asked the committee which scope concept they would prefer. T. Bent responded that he prefers the first, and agrees with T. Kadzis that much of the planning that would be part of the second scope is happening elsewhere. T. O’Rourke supported them, but suggested looking into something like the second concept in a future UPWP. T. Kadzis suggested incorporating an assessment of what municipalities are doing now, such as the program implemented by the BlueBikes consortium to provide free rides to health care workers.

5.    Update on Fall 2020 UPWP Outreach Plan—Sandy Johnston, UPWP Manager

S. Johnston explained that he is conducting the usual round of fall outreach, and if members have anyone in particular that they would like him to speak to, or ideas for studies of their own that they would like to share, they can be in touch with him.

6.    Members Items

There were none.

7.    Next Meeting

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 2021.

8.    Adjourn

A motion to adjourn was made by T. Bent and seconded by T. O’Rourke. Without objection, the meeting adjourned.




and Alternates

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Eric Bourassa

Regional Transportation Advisory Council

Lenard Diggins

At-Large City (City of Newton)

David Koses

At-Large Town (Town of Arlington)

Daniel Amstutz

City of Boston (Boston Transportation Department)

Tom Kadzis

Inner Core Committee (City of Somerville)

Tom Bent

Three Rivers Interlocal Council (Town of Norwood/Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce)

Tom O’Rourke

Three Rivers Interlocal Council alternate (Town of Westwood)

Steve Olanoff


Other Attendees


Jenn Emiko Kaplan


Sharon Ron


Susan Price

Town of Sharon

Ashley Stockwell

Blue Hills Community Health Alliance (CHNA 20)


MPO Staff/Central Transportation Planning Staff

Tegin Teich, Executive Director

Paul Christner, Manager of Transit Analysis and Planning

Jonathan Church, Manager of MPO Activities

Sandy Johnston, UPWP Manager

Blake Acton, Transportation Planner, Transit Analysis and Planning Group

Betsy Harvey, Transportation Equity Coordinator

Róisín Foley, Administrative and Communications Assistant

Matt Archer, Transportation Planner



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