Attend meetings on a city-run shuttle bus idea, Brattle Street bike lanes and preserving The Pit
These are just some of the municipal meetings and civic events for the coming week. More are on the City Calendar and in the city’s Open Meetings Portal.
Monkeypox, shuttles and delivery
City Council special meeting, 5:30 p.m. Monday. Covid never really went away, and this sole council meeting for July and August marks the arrival of monkeypox: Not only will acting city manager Owen O’Riordan report “relative to a Covid-19 and monkeypox update,” but there’s a call to “prepare for a monkeypox outbreak” in Cambridge. There’s also a sounding of the alarm on drought conditions, and maybe a fourth crisis in departing staff – an unusually long list of 44 resolutions is filled with retirements from among first responders and city agencies and departments.
O’Riordan presents the first annual report on effects of the Affordable Housing Overlay (more than 25 sites assessed for potential development; five AHO developments underway) and on how to update the city’s homeownership programs (proposals are expected this year, decisions on them in early 2023). His office can replace that business with orders likely to pass on banning fur apparel sales; getting ID badges for city workers; pulling together information on the how the local recreational cannabis industry is coming along; and responding to questions on the developer “linkage” fees that fund affordable housing raised at Wednesday’s Ordinance Committee hearing. Councillors want a breakdown of the $44 million received since 2019 through the current incentive zoning program – by project size – and to address how to start charging developers by tiers and with marginal rates that would encourage some smaller construction projects.
New proposals from councillor Paul Toner include a look at ways to make up for an increasingly unreliable MBTA with city-owned shuttle buses or allowing residents to use shuttles run by Lesley University, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and for the city to try running its own delivery service for restaurants and local businesses, would would be cheaper for businesses and customers than third-party, for-profit delivery services such as DoorDash. (This is also the night a working group recommends making the Route 1 bus fare-free on a trial basis.) E. Denise Simmons seeks a Task Force on Cambridge’s African American/Black Residents to get a “grasp on the status and the needs of this community” and a Black Men and Boys Commission to reflect that the groups “continue to face discrimination and the disproportionate impacts of violence.”
Adding length may be two items due to return from the June 27 meeting: A review of “the dramatically growing need for expanded traffic calming, traffic signals and Vision Zero infrastructure through the city”; and appropriating $4.5 million requested to assess renovations on empty city property at 105 Windsor St., a 13,000-square-foot building in The Port neighborhood that was built in 1868 and known for a long time as the Boardman School. Councillor Quinton Zondervan has historical information to add about the structure, which could become community meeting space or be used for public art, education and exhibitions, a Cambridge history museum or city offices, and asks for assurances on a public process to determine its use. Another recurring issue gets a report: implementation of universal pre-kindergarten, with a working group recommending, among other things, that the city should lower the entry age and split junior kindergarten and kindergarten.
The council meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.
Brattle Street safety improvements
Brattle Street community meeting, 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. A Third meeting (after sessions May 3 and June 21) about safety improvements to Brattle Street between Mason and Mount Auburn streets that include separated bike lanes and changes at pedestrian crossings. Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.
Parking minimums and maximums
Ordinance Committee, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. This committee run by city councillors Marc McGovern and Quinton Zondervan will explore a law removing parking minimums and maximums, which had supporters and skeptics when last we wrote about in February. The committee meets at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Televised and watchable by Zoom video conferencing.
Brattle bike lanes, Pit preserving
Historical Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday. Big things are being discussed in Harvard Square, including the formal proposal of the two-way separated bike lanes being discussed Tuesday for Brattle Street between Mason and Craigie streets; a proposal to refresh the grubby Waugh Building, the brick front of which went up in 1973 and now holds an AT&T store and Breathe yoga studio; and a citizen petition to explore landmarking and preserving The Pit, the sunken brick hangout area that would be flattened during a remake of the T station plaza and newsstand building. (And that many people thought they were saying goodbye to at a June public party.) “The destruction of this community space and its conversion into one focused on consumption is in glaring contradiction to the history of The Pit, but, just as importantly, it is the loss of an invaluable resource as one of the last remaining public spaces of its kind in Harvard Square,” say the nearly 40 signers of a petition. “Those supporting the redevelopment of the Pit argue that it needs to be redesigned to bring it into” compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. “We believe this could be done in a way that better preserves and honors The Pit’s unique history.”
There’s also the case of 12 Lakeview Ave., West Cambridge, a 10,751-square-foot single-family home from 1846 for which owners were given permission to renovate and, in the eyes of Inspectional Services, went too far. Now the owners must seek “retroactive application to demolish house.” Watchable by Zoom video conferencing.
What are they thinking? What is Paul Toner thinking?
” and for the city to try running its own delivery service for restaurants and local businesses, would would (sic) be cheaper for businesses and customers than third-party, for-profit delivery services such as DoorDash.”
“New proposals from councillor Paul Toner include a look at ways to make up for an increasingly unreliable MBTA with city-owned shuttle buses ”
Rather than even thinking about running a delivery service or running shuttle busses, focus on repaving the streets, streets which are in desperate need of repair. Focus on what really needs to be done, rather than “feel good” projects that aren’t meaningful to the welfare of the city.
This city is gradually getting out of control. It seems as if all the Councillors know how to do is spend money on wasteful projects, as well as expanding the reach of government.
On the other hand, we get what we deserve. A terrible form of city government, and most importantly so relatively few eligible voters who bother to vote.
Toners order has some great stuff in there. MIT/Harvard already have buses driving around the city but a pilot program that unifies the city’s business districts could be a god send and help alleviate the impact from the loss of parking along mass Ave. The delivery service is tricky but worth an investigation especially if we can “marry” existing labor with a program that doesn’t rob restaurants blind like existing companies do. These projects don’t have the price tag that some of the other more intensive policy orders have. Personally I’d love to have a shuttle connecting the squares itd be a boon for the city and local business.
Please!! Let’s focus on keeping the bus service we have now, and not on substitute schemes that may or may not (probably won’t) work.
The MBTA bus service we have in West Cambridge now is pretty reliable; but the MBTA wants to cut it by half or more — see my earlier letter. The city council should be up in arms protesting this cut, and others elsewhere in the city.
None of the shuttle buses from Lesley, Harvard, or MIT go anywhere near my house. They wouldn’t be at all useful. Don’t try to tell me that they would be some sort of “replacement” for the existing service the T wants to eliminate.
It’s been pointed out to me — I haven’t verified it — that the city’s official response to the T discusses bus cuts “at Alewife” but makes no mention of the cuts on Concord Avenue. News item: Concord Avenue isn’t Alewife, at least as far as the T is concerned. I’m hoping the city will somehow revise its comments to object to the actual cuts that the MBTA wants to make.
Unfortunately, the cost, and also the administrative problems, of running a city shuttle service border on the nightmarish. It is very different from Lesley, MIT, and Harvard running a service.
The same with a city run delivery service.
Do we really want to get the city to run a delivery service for restaurants and local businesses? I think not. Off the cuff, I can think of 10 different problems.
The city should focus on things it can do well and that are necessities for a large swarth of citizens. Other than that, don’t try to compete when you (the city) have no real expertise.
And remember, this city, in spite of the former City Manager claiming to the contrary, does not have an unlimited amount of money. It’s already a spendthrift in so many ways i.e. fluff. We have to cut out that fluff. Again, limit city expenditures to services that are necessary, and do those things really well.
Mr. Bahne, it gives me tremendous pleasure to inform you that the City’s letter on the proposed Bus Network Redesign is amazingly good. I wish I had a link for you so you could read it. There is a link to several letters, including Cambridge’s, in Rep. Mike Connolly’s most recent newsletter. Rep. Connolly told me that he worked with city officials on this, and it shows.
This may be the letter Heather wants to share: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/repmikeconnolly/pages/375/attachments/original/1659302815/Letter_MBTA_072922_5_pages.pdf?1659302815
When you see something like this (see below) in the report, it makes you wonder about the entire report and the proposals.
The bus lane on Mt. Auburn is a disaster. In fact, a disaster waiting to happen re cars and buses. It is incredibly confusing to drivers and it is observed mostly in the breach.
And then when you have the traffic lights at Mt. Auburn and Coolidge Avenue, and Mt Auburn and Gerry’s landing and Mt. Auburn and Elmwood, you have chaos, with drivers going through red lights because of the nonsensical way the lights are timed.
“We have added several miles of dedicated bus lanes on our streets since 2018 – including on Mount Auburn Street/ Belmont Street, and on both north and south Massachusetts Avenue.”
The admin link is correct. It is immensely frustrating that the City is not sharing this widely. They did a good job on it. Tell us about it.
Fixing the bus issue would be great, and doing something about the redundancy of the university bus routes.
Its ridiculous the MBTA is cutting service to our neighborhood, 1x and hour on Concord Ave is completely inadequate, especially given all the development going on across Concord Ave from Fresh Pond. I guess we will have more cars fighting with cyclists instead of just having some decent bus routes.