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Fix The T, Build Affordable Housing, Improve Schools: Locals Share Their Vision For A Better Boston In 2030

A view of Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
A view of Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

On Wednesday, the city launched an initiative to gather the public’s big ideas on how to make Boston a better place to live in the year 2030.

We got a lot of Facebook comments from readers sharing their suggestions. So, we put the question — What’s your vision for Boston in 2030? — to a few folks around the city. Here’s what they had to say (lightly edited):

Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Some of the issues that we have to deal with are the cost of housing, which is an impediment to our economy and a burden for our residents. I very much support the mayor’s goal of building 53,000 new housing units. I think they have to serve a range of incomes and they have to be located in neighborhoods all over the city, not just on the waterfront, but everywhere.

Another thing that I would mention is that Boston historically has built new neighborhoods. The Back Bay was once a new neighborhood, the South End was a new neighborhood, South Boston was new neighborhood — some of them created entirely by filled land. I think we need to maybe build a few new neighborhoods in Boston today. There is undeveloped land, there is land that’s not being particularly very well utilized. We learned about some of these sites during the Olympics debate and we may not be getting the Olympics but we should still try and build for our future. That's going to mean not only helping to improve and grow existing neighborhoods, but finding some new places to create new and different communities that will serve a range of incomes and families at different ages and parts of their lives.

The third and last thing I’ll say is that part of the planning purpose must be to focus on the caliber of the city’s education, particularly the quality of our public schools. If the city is going to grow, attract and retain new families and more workers, it’s very important that we continue to make strides and really improve the quality of education in the city. I could hardly think of anything that’s more important than making a top class school system in the city of Boston.

Shavel’le Olivier, bike advocate and coordinator of Mattapan On Wheels

In 2030, I see all communities getting provided the same and equal resources. Instead of having 100s of non-profits and for-profits working on and providing the same service, organizations will be able to come together to work in harmony instead of isolation.

In 2030, I see all communities able to put in input on what is happening in their community. They can decide what stores and restaurants are able to move into their neighborhood.

In terms of transportation, I definitely see multiple Hubways in the community of Mattapan. I see residents being able to easily cross the Mattapan/Milton intersections and bikers being able to bike all over Mattapan in protected bike lanes.

James E. Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

I applaud the mayor for launching this significant planning project. As we envision Boston’s future, solving our transportation infrastructure challenges in a meaningful and sustainable way has to be among our top priorities. You cannot have a robust economy if individuals and businesses don’t have access to a public transportation system that is reliable, and roads and bridges that are safe. Our inadequate infrastructure is already affecting quality of life, access, and opportunity. Congested roads are threatening economic development in hubs like the waterfront, Kendall Square, and Longwood. People in outlying neighborhoods have long, and often unreliable, commutes which add an unnecessary burden to earning a living. And we are risking our regional competitiveness as businesses make location decisions. Addressing our transportation challenges is critical to our long-term growth and must be an underpinning of any planning effort for Boston’s future.

Toni Wiley, executive director of Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester

I hope that we will become a more creative city and that we'll recognize that education doesn’t only happen in the classroom and that work doesn’t happen 9 to 5. We need to really completely reenvision the way we think about everything from public transportation to when and where the education process takes place. Preparing kids and young adults for what’s going to come down the future does not have to be a K-12 education that’s followed by four years of college and then life begins.

We really need to be able to recognize that people learn differently, people are going to produce differently and be productive members of society in their own way. So, I’m hoping that we’ll become a city where the blue laws will be nothing but a really, really, really distant memory, we will have public transportation that’s available around the clock and various education systems that really meet people where they are and allow them to continue their learning throughout their lifetime without being confined by some of the old structures that Boston has lived under.

C.A. Webb, co-founder and partner at venture capital firm Assemble VC

Basically my three organizing ideas are around connectivity, culture and originality. So I’ll start with the last. There’s so much amazing innovation, which has become a buzzword. But truly groundbreaking work [is] happening inside Boston’s universities [and] startup companies and I think that so much of it happens behind closed doors and isn’t visible to the rest of us. We need to look for more ways to showcase these truly original things happening by remarkably talented people that live in our city.

Let me jump to culture. I heard a great talk once by someone who spoke at TEDxBoston about the importance of visible art and what it signals to the creative class of the city. I think we’re getting better and better at making those investments in public art. I fully believe that we need to put art out for all of us to experience because it taps into something deeply emotional and it signals to people that we want to attract from all over the world and the students that are coming here to study that this is a creative place that they should consider for a longer term home. So, I think we need more visible signals and symbols that will create positive ripple effects.

On connectivity, I think we really need to think about urban planning [and] how we create ways for our four-season city to create better connectivity among all of us during, let’s be honest, the six pretty rough weather months we confront. So, let’s build winter gardens, let’s build underground meeting places, let’s transform atriums of urban buildings into really interesting, dynamic meeting places. Let's invest in more things like what’s happening in Dudley Square to draw people who usually only hang out in the Back Bay, the South End or Financial District into a new neighborhood. Let’s just be really thoughtful about how we create these places and design them to create stronger connectivity among individuals and among communities of people that should know one another.

Shekia Scott, activist and co-organizer of the Boston Police Camera Action Team

In 2030, there are a lot of things I would love the city of Boston to be and look like. I would most importantly like to see Boston progress into a city that is a place where your dreams, in more fields than teaching and medicine/science, can be fully realized and not just a place where you can get your start but then have to move somewhere else (LA, NY, etc.) to get to the level of success you want to reach.

I want to see downtown Boston become like a Times Square, just in regard to attracting heavier foot traffic with things for pedestrians to actually see and do besides shopping. I would love to see more establishments open past 9 p.m. and our city become one that "never sleeps." I basically want to see Boston come alive and not carry on a legacy of being a historically important but boring place.

Lastly, I want to see inner city Boston go through major face lifts. The inner city needs and deserves serious investments. Investments into its infrastructure, housing, community programs, etc. This will greatly improve the look and feel of the city. Moreover, instead of what I want to see Boston look like is what I DON'T want to see Boston look like. I absolutely DON'T want our inner city Boston to be heavily gentrified.

We also had a really vibrant discussion on the future of Boston on our Facebook page. Some of the most liked comments called for a better public transportation system and more affordable housing. Here are some of examples of what readers had to say:

"Affordable housing. Please stop with the luxury condos." — Joyce Roberge

"Fight poverty first. It doesn't matter what the city looks like." — Rod Redouan

"Tax the universities or allow them to avoid property tax thru innovative public education projects. There is no reason for the #1 city for higher ed not to have the #1 public schools." — Sean Mack

"The way things have been going lately, I think that being above water and not frozen solid for more than 6 months out of the year would be good goals." — Dave Rensberger

"Pedestrian center city ... low speed speed electric cars ... more benches in green areas to promote contemplation ... no more food deserts in some neighborhoods ... and so on ..." — Alice Anne Barbo

"Add a draw bridge from Charlestown to Chelsea, gondolas across the harbors to Boston, improve the T and add more stops, make the green necklace more enjoyable and accessible, make underpasses useful places, affordable housing and more bike lanes." — Zachariah Heathwaite

"Ban luxury condominiums, bring back music venues, fix the T and make sure it runs for a full hour after bars close, allow bars to be open until 4 a.m. like a real city" — Matthew Karlsson

So tell us (in the comments below), what's your vision for Boston in 2030?

Related:

Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Digital Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a digital reporter, covering a range of news. She also covers tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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