With 3 weeks into the new calendar year, Barr Foundation and transit advocates, are preparing for the next phase of the BostonBRT campaign. Two recent articles published in the Boston Globe ("Can buses be cool? Transit advocates hope so.") and Commonwealth Magazine ("Buses are what’s next in transportation: But only if streets are reprogrammed for bus rapid transit.") are setting the stage for what is expected to be a robust transoprtation debate in 2017.
My professional and practical experience have taught me that to make the transportation and resiliency investments we have seen emerge from current citywide and grassroots planning efforts will take sustained and relentless organizing and advocacy to activate the political will and courage to make it happen. As technocrats, decision-makers, strategists, and agitators we must become fully aware that to win we must lead with the spirit and leadership of those most affected. To make change happen at the street level from Beacon Hill we must be accountable to the past to lean into the future.
Whether its Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, or increased social and climate resiliency, we have a unique moment to either retreat or resist. If history is an indicator we will resist and act boldly into our future. as we complete current mobility and resiliency planning efforts, that Boston becomes a “just” sustainable city. Just sustainability is “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.” As we continue to forge a new collective vision and master plan for our city, we can leverage transportation to transform communities. But who wins and who loses is the responsibility of all us – everyday folks, organizers, planners, and decision-makers.
We do this by leveraging downtown development and economic growth to increase connectivity and access for communities of color by leveraging public transit to become a just sustainable city. This, I argue, would strengthen Boston’s social resiliency at a time of historic levels of income inequality.
We cannot be afraid to navigate this nor shortsighted to think that we can ignore it. Whether you live, work, or play here, the story of change in an era of resistance must be one that leverages social justice and sustainability to lean in and shape the future of Boston. Moving forward, therefore, when we talk about public transit, we must talk about the context it serves.