Mayor Martin Walsh releases quarterly housing report

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ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh released a quarterly housing report Tuesday that stated that 565 new housing units were permitted this quarter to reach a total of 17,183 units that have been permitted or completed since the launch of the city’s housing plan, “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030,” according to a Tuesday press release.

The results of the report show that Boston is still on target to meet the goal of creating 53,000 housing units by 2030, according to the release.

“Our population is growing faster today than at any time in our city’s history, and I’m committed to making sure that Boston stays affordable by meeting the demand of our growing city,” Walsh said in the release. “By working across multiple agencies, this administration is working everyday to bring new units on line at a variety of income levels, and we are seeing results.”

By the end of this year’s first quarter, enough housing was completed to house 20,237 new residents. This exceeded the projected population growth, according to the release.

The release stated that the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Neighborhood Housing Trust approved eight projects geared toward low-income housing this quarter. These projects will help create 325 new housing units that are “low-income affordable,” according to the release.

“The City recently awarded $27 million in funding and 143,000 square feet of City real estate, which will leverage more than $200 million in other private and public resources,” the release stated. “Since May, 2015, the Walsh administration has awarded more than $66 million in funding for affordable housing.”

Nick Martin, spokesperson for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, explained in an email that the BRA’s role in creating affordable housing is to collaborate with builders in order to abide by city rules.

“We work with developers to ensure that any new housing proposals comply with the Mayor’s executive order known as the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP),” Martin wrote in an email. “IDP requires that at least 13 percent of units within new developments of ten or more units that require zoning relief, which represents the vast majority of large-scale housing projects in the city, be deed-restricted as affordable.”

Martin also said he was enthusiastic regarding the results of the quarterly report.

“Mayor Walsh established an ambitious housing plan early in his administration, and we have been working collaboratively with other city agencies to deliver upon the Mayor’s vision,” Martin wrote. “In order to meet the needs of Boston’s rising population, we must grow inclusively, meaning we should foster housing opportunities that are accessible to the diverse population of our city.”

James Connolly, a public policy and political science professor at Northeastern University, pointed out developments in the report.

“We can see clear progress made on the market-rate and middle-income units being produced,” he said, “and Boston does a really great job of creating deed-restricted, middle-income units, which means that there are restrictions on the deed on the level of income that a person can have in order to purchase the apartment.”

Connolly also said that while the report shows progress, it also shows that the City of Boston still has a long way to go in terms of low-income housing.

“The city has created funding for more low-income units to come online in the future,” he said, “but given the rapid pace that we’re creating new market rates units in the city, if we don’t keep the creation of low-income units moving on par … then we’re going to end up in a city where it’s only accessible to the wealthy, and it’s going to be difficult for people who don’t have higher incomes to live here.”

Several Boston residents said affordable housing in Boston is often unattainable, while others said they benefited from the city’s housing situation.

Lamya Karim, 31, of Brighton, said she believes Boston housing is too expensive for most residents.

“I don’t think housing is affordable here,” she said. “I grew up in the Midwest, so everything is cheaper and more affordable. But here it’s almost like you need two people to be able to afford one apartment, so living alone is not very feasible here.”

Joanne Demoura, 49, of Brighton, said Boston’s public housing is what has allowed her to live here.

“I have public housing through Boston’s [Department of] Housing and Urban Development, and it’s a lifesaver,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Boston if they didn’t have it.”

Patrick Leonard, 41, of South Boston, said the results of this report are a good step up for the city.

“The housing stock is way too low,” he said. “We need it to be more of a residential city where people are going to live and raise children and really plant roots. We need to get more housing here and keep it affordable so that people can stay and raise their kids.”

Lavanya Prabhakar contributed to the reporting of this article.

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/04/29/mayor-walsh-releases-quarterly-housing-report/

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Mayor Walsh allocates new funds to address homelessness

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ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

By: Amanda Kaufman and Kyler Sumter

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017 includes the allocation of $1.3 million to further the progress of the city’s “Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in Boston,” according to a Wednesday press release.

Walsh stated in the release that he hopes the new funding will help improve conditions for
the homeless population within the City of Boston.

“I’m proud that through thoughtful savings and finding new efficiencies, we are able to increase funding to help our homeless residents and not only find safe, stable housing, but to access the supports and services they need,” Walsh said in the release.

The $1.3 million allocation will fund the formation of a full-time triage staff at the city’s Southampton Street Shelter, provide necessary assistance for homeless families to move them into housing as quickly as possible and cover the cost of resources needed to offer emergency shelter to homeless families who do not qualify for state assistance, according to the release.

The release stated that the budget also outlines an increase of $2 million in federal funding to build permanent housing for the homeless, and an additional $1 million investment to improve safety and services at the Woods Mullen and Southampton Street shelters.

The new allocation for funds is a part of the Walsh administration’s plan to address homelessness within Boston, according to the release.

“The Walsh administration’s action plan to end veteran and chronic homelessness set forth the goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015 and chronic individual homelessness by 2018,” the release stated. “In his January 2016 State of the City speech, Mayor Walsh announced that Boston had effectively ended chronic homelessness among veterans.”

Joe Finn, president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, expressed his support for Walsh’s allocation of funds to end homelessness in Boston.

“It’s a very positive, positive thing,” Finn said. “Splitting the money to go to both the needs of housing and services for the chronically homeless is a big step toward ending chronic homelessness in Boston as a whole.”

Thomas Byrne, a professor at Boston University, praised Walsh’s administration for its action plan to end homelessness, and he specifically commended the allocation of funds to develop the rapid rehousing program.

“I think it’s a positive step in the right direction,” Byrne said. “Especially the $900,000 that they’ve pledged to support rapid rehousing, which is essentially a means by which to provide people with financial assistance and a bit of case management to help them exit homelessness as quickly as possible and to get into permanent housing.”

Byrne also said Walsh’s FY17 budget is representative of national trends in solving the problem of homelessness.

“I think what they are planning to do with the money is a really good idea,” Byrne said. “It is in line with a lot of what is emerging nationally as some of the new best practices for dealing with single adult homelessness.”

Several Boston residents expressed their approval for the new funding despite Walsh’s other budget measures.

Margaret Morrill, 74, of Allston, said she agreed with Walsh’s effort to reduce the number of homeless individuals in Boston.

“I think it’s a really good investment,” she said. “It should work, and they should definitely give it a try. I’m in favor of it because I think it’s commendable of the mayor to extend this effort.”

Dusten Pettengill, 29, of Allston, expressed his dissatisfaction with some of Walsh’s practices but approves of the mayor’s plan to end homelessness in the city.

“I think that sounds like a good plan,” he said. “I think it’s great. I’m not a big fan of Walsh, though. He took $20 million out of the public school budget, and I don’t think that was in the best interests of Boston. That’s a great plan, though. Anything for the homeless is awesome.”

Patrick Harrington, 26, of Fenway, said Walsh’s plan to provide housing for homeless individuals is a logical step.

“In theory, it makes sense for the city to be dedicated to getting homeless people to the next step, which is the hardest part,” he said. “The idea of getting people away from homelessness by transitioning them into homes and a more normal, stable life makes a lot of sense to me.”

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/04/24/mayor-walsh-allocates-new-funds-to-adress-homelessness-in-fy17/

City Councilors vote to extend term limits

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PHOTO BY BRIAN SONG/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Boston City Council voted Wednesday to increase its term limits from two to four years, according to a same-day report from the Committee on Government Operations and Special Committee on Charter Reform.

The councilors voted to increase their term limits in order to reduce the amount of money the city spends on biannual citywide council elections, according to the report.

“Having a municipal election every two years where oftentimes voter turnout is low is burdensome on city resources,” the report stated. “Making the term of office for city councillors a four-year term will reduce costs in having multiple elections and will allow the city to operate in a more effective and efficient manner.”

The report mentioned that the bill will not immediately go into effect following the City Council’s vote.

The cost of conducting a citywide election is currently $800,000, while voter turnout for these elections has decreased from 40 percent in 2013 to 12 to 15 percent in 2015, the report stated.

“[Increasing terms] could lower costs of elections, reduce the constant need to fundraise and, most importantly, it would give elected officials on the council more confidence to try ideas that challenge the status quo by having a little bit of security,” said City Councilor Timothy McCarthy, who voted in favor of the bill.

McCarthy also discussed how the two-year terms force elected officials to constantly campaign and fundraise.

“I know that some people will argue that four-year terms tend to get you entrenched, but I would actually argue just the opposite,” McCarthy said. “When you are out campaigning for an entire year and you win and you only have a year off, people always say, ‘You’re kidding me, Tim, you just won.’”

McCarthy also mentioned how increasing term limits would benefit the councilors and their potential opponents in future elections.

“I would argue that it’s more difficult for people to gear up and run against you in a two-year span than it would be in a four-year span,” McCarthy said. “The logic there being … they have four years to get a war chest together or to attend the meetings you’re attending or to start their campaign against you.”

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, expressed support in a Thursday statement for City Council President Michelle Wu, the only councilor to oppose the bill. Wilmot said that for her, the bill goes against democratic values.

“It simply makes no sense for a Boston City Councilor to hold office for four years while state legislators and Members of Congress are elected for two,” Wilmot said in the statement. “For offices that are supposed to represent the people, regular elections at short intervals ensure that politicians talk to voters consistently and can be held accountable to them.”

Wilmot said there are alternative options to help increase voter turnout and lower election costs.

“Low voter turnout in council elections is a problem, but there are more direct ways to solve that issue, such as shifting city elections to even years to be held concurrently with state elections,” Wilmot said in the statement.

Several Boston residents said the City Council’s decision seemed unreliable, while others said they understood the motives behind the decision.

Adam Barsoum, 36, of Jamaica Plain, said he finds it difficult to trust the City Council.

“If there’s evidence that they’re just trying to extend their time to make money, I’ve never seen any good reason to trust them,” he said. “I haven’t seen them do any of the things they always talk about doing.”

In light of the councilors’ vote to raise their own salaries, Ryan Marvin, 22, of the North End, said he believes the City Council only makes decisions for its benefit. In November, the City Council voted 9-4 to raise the salary of its members, The Daily Free Press reported on Nov. 3, 2015.

“I’m disappointed that City Council would increase the amount of money they’ll make instead of [putting] money into the community,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with them voting to extend their terms, I just have a problem with it when they also voted to raise their own pay.”

Barry Walker, 38, of Back Bay, said he understands why the City Council wants to move toward four-year terms.

“These days, every campaign process seems to start earlier and be more involved,” he said. “A two-year term is short, and you’re going to constantly be in a campaign cycle and it may be more difficult to govern and make decisions outside of your desire to be reelected.”

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/04/11/city-council-votes-to-extend-term-limits/

MBTA to eliminate cash payment option

 

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PHOTO BY ERIN BILLINGS/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority plans to eliminate cash payments for its services, MBTA spokesperson Jason Johnson stated Wednesday.

Johnson wrote in an email that the MBTA’s goal is to update the payment system to align with the technology of the current generation.

“The goal is to develop a system that would allow riders to pay with phones, contactless credit cards or a next-generation Charlie Card,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also mentioned how the MBTA is trying to mirror fare collection systems present in other metropolitan areas.

“Similar automated fare collection systems are in place in London, Salt Lake City and Chicago,” Johnson wrote. “Riders will tap their card or phone on a reader as they board a bus or enter a fare gate.”

Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, explained the reasons behind the change in the fare payment system.

“The MBTA has been trying to get cash out of its fare system ever since they adopted the Charlie Card,” Regan said. “It’s more efficient for the MBTA and it’s faster for the customers because it cuts down on the time it takes to board the bus and allows the bus to stay on schedule.”

Regan also pointed out that one major consideration is how to accommodate low-income riders who often rely on using cash to pay for MBTA services.

“How can you handle the rider who doesn’t have the kind of resources to buy multiple smart passes or to store a lot of money on a card?” Regan asked. “Those people are going to have to be protected, because that’s a sizable proportion of the bus ridership.”

According to Regan, the MBTA is still figuring out exactly what the new payment system will look like, but it is looking to the next generation to create solutions.

“The genesis of this is that the system that the T has now, the Charlie Card system, is aging,” Regan said. “The Control Board is thinking hard about what the next generation for fare payment is going to be. There are a lot of problems that currently exist in the system, and they’re hoping that the next generation will fix [them].”

Charlie Ticotsky, the policy director for Transportation for Massachusetts, said the potential advantages of the new system would better the customer experience.

“We’re interested in learning more about how the new system will benefit riders,” Ticotsky said. “There’s definitely some reasons to be encouraged by the new system, and that includes some operational advantages with faster boarding and flexibility.”

Ticotsky also said a lot of standing issues must be resolved before the new system takes effect.

“We want more detail on how the new system will work in regards to elimination of cash fares and how that will impact those who are unbanked,” Ticotsky said. “There are going to be a few years before it’s live, so we’re hoping that those questions will be resolved, and ultimately, that the system is a good thing for riders.”

Several Boston residents shared their opinions on the new cashless system.

Jamal Pinnock, 26, of Mattapan, said he disagreed with the MBTA’s decision to switch over from cash payments.

“I understand the Charlie Card is supposed to make it easier and it has, in a sense,” he said, “but taking away the cash value for public transit is not going to help.”

Daniel Moore, 33, of the South End, said this new system will encourage riders to engage in illegal activity for rides.

“[The new system] is going to make lower-income riders do things they wouldn’t normally do because they don’t have the income to be able to pay the fares with cards,” he said. “People will try to cheat the system and essentially rob them by finding ways to sneak in or piggyback behind someone going in because they’re not going to have a credit card or phone to be able to make the payments.”

Eric Buehrens, 62, of Back Bay, said eliminating cash payments will have a negative impact on many T riders.

“I understand the point of trying to get people on and off the bus more quickly, but a lot of people who take the bus either don’t have a credit card or don’t have a smartphone,” he said. “They pay with nickels, dimes and quarters.”

David Franco contributed to the reporting of this article.

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/04/01/mbta-to-eliminate-cash-payment-option-for-services/

 

 

BU students and staff safe after Capitol shooting incident

March 28, 2016

After reports of shots fired at the United States Capitol Visitor Center, all BU students and staff in Washington D.C. are safe, BU spokesperson Colin Riley said.

“There was a shelter-in-place instruction in the Capitol, and that order has now been lifted,” Riley said. “We’ve checked, and all of our students are fine.”

Riley said there are several BU students interning in the House office building and one interning in the Senate building, and they are all accounted for. It is unknown if they were in the buildings at the time of shooting.

U.S. Capitol police locked down the entire U.S. Capitol Complex due to a potential security threat, according to an email sent to those working in the complex.

Those working in the Capitol received emails Monday at around 8 a.m. that informed them that there would be shelter-in-place drills for actions they would take if a shooting occurred, according to the email. The drills only applied to the Capitol and not the Capitol Visitor Center.

CNN reported that when the suspect went through a metal detector in the Capitol, an alarm sounded and he drew his gun. The male suspect was immediately shot by Capitol police this afternoon.

The suspect is now in custody and was injured by shrapnel, according to CNN. A female bystander was also injured.

According to the Senate sergeant at arms, the lockdown has been lifted and the Capitol is open for official business only. The Capitol Visitor Center remains closed, and road closures have been put in place.

The D.C. Police Department confirmed that there is no longer an active threat to the area. “There has been an isolated incident at the US Capitol,” the department tweeted. “There is no active threat to the public.”

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/03/28/bu-washington-dc-capitol-shooting-incident/

Uber Boston introduces late-night flat rate

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PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Uber Boston introduced a new late-night, flat-rate fare of $5 for uberPOOL rides near Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority stations, according to a Friday press release.

UberPOOL riders who request an Uber within one block of a T stop on the Red, Orange, Green or Blue lines to travel to another T stop from 12:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights will be eligible for the $5 rides, according to the release.

According the release, the flat fares were announced in response to the MBTA’s decision to cancel Late-Night Service.

“In an effort to continue connecting Bostonians to the places they love, we’re offering $5 uberPOOL rides along T subway lines during late night hours for four weekends,” the release stated.

The flat-fare service will run on Fridays and Saturdays from March 20 to April 9, according to the release.

Barbara Jacobson, programs director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said the private market has reacted positively to the cancelation of the Late-Night T service.

“Uber’s response is a really interesting way that the private market is reacting to the demand that the public sector isn’t able to maintain with getting rid of the Late-Night MBTA Service,” Jacobson said. “I think that this creates an opportunity for other private markets and service providers to expand upon this model.”

Jacobson also said private markets have recognized what is important for residents, and she hopes to see more responses like this.

“It’s interesting that the private market has reacted so quickly to this demand,” Jacobson said. “It showcases that these are important destinations for people, and we’re definitely going to see more of this.”

Charlie Ticotsky, policy director at Transportation for Massachusetts, said Uber is using a smart marketing strategy, but it may not be enough to help residents who depended on the Late-Night Service.

“It’s a smart marketing strategy by Uber to try to fill some of the void that will be left by the cancellation of Late-Night Service,” Ticotsky said. “There are definitely some opportunities in ride-sharing and microtransit to fill in some of the gaps that public transportation doesn’t serve, but we are not convinced that that it will fully fill the void of the cancelation of service.”

Ticotsky said T4MA is excited to see how groups adapt to provide alternatives to Late-Night Service to residents.

“It doesn’t sound like the T will be financially subsidizing private Late-Night Service, but we are interested in learning more about what some of the innovative ideas are out there,” Ticotsky.

Several Boston residents voiced their support for Uber’s new flat fares.

Christina Carter, 27, of Brighton, said she’s glad there’s an alternative to the Late-Night Service.

“The Late-Night Service was a really important way to get around because other forms of transportation are really expensive,” she said. “I’m just glad that Uber is trying to provide an affordable option for people to get home.”

Kerry Jones, 44, of Allston, said he doesn’t agree with the MBTA’s decision to cut service but supports Uber’s new service.

“I don’t like that the MBTA is raising the fares when they’re going to stop the Late-Night Service while the college kids around here don’t start going home until like 2 or 3 in the morning, when the bars close,” he said. “I’m all for the Uber service. And as far as I’m concerned, the T is raising their prices and then giving us no service for it.”

Dawit Yosief, 24, of Brighton, also said he disagrees with the MBTA’s decision to cut Late-Night Service.

“It’s fascinating that the MBTA was willing to cut something that was working so well for so many people,” he said. “A lot of people will tell you that one of the major problems with this city is that can’t do anything after 12 because the T shuts down.”

Yosief added that he believes the new Uber service will be helpful for residents.

“It’s amazing that Uber is doing $5 rides. It’s going to improve a lot for residents,” he said. “I’ll definitely be taking one of those rides.”

BU Theatre on Huntington Avenue sold after six-month-long process

By: Kyler Sumter and Sadiah Thompson

The Boston University-owned BU Theatre on 264 Huntington Ave., which was put on the market in October, was sold after a six-month-long process, according to BU’s Senior Vice President of Operations Gary Nicksa.

The $25 million dollar revenue from the property will go toward the new theater art facility on Commonwealth Avenue.

“Right now, we’re in the early stages of the design and just beginning the public approval process,” Nicksa said. “What we’re planning on doing there is building theater arts production space — scene shops, paint shops, lighting studios — and a 250-seat studio performance theater, a black box theater. We’re not replacing the big proscenium main stage.”

Nicksa said the new location of the facility will be more convenient for students.

“The production and the studio performance space that will be located here on Commonwealth Avenue will allow theater students to attend classes here rather than having to take the bus and go to Huntington Avenue,” Nicksa said.

The sale will take up to 45 days to complete, according to BU spokesperson Colin Riley.

Dave Sebastian contributed to the reporting of this article.

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/03/21/bu-theatre-sale-huntington-avenue/

Mayor Martin Walsh creates business opportunities for women and minorities

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PHOTO BY SAVANAH MACDONALD

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh signed an executive order Wednesday to ensure equal opportunity for women- and minority-owned businesses, according to a Wednesday press release.

According to the release, the order takes several steps to “address racial and economic disparities” in Boston.

“This Executive Order sets spending goals for minority and women owned businesses competing for contracts in construction, architecture and engineering and professional services,” the release stated. “Additionally, the City will provide training and assistance to minority and women owned enterprises to encourage successful bidding and performance on City contracts.”

Karilyn Crockett, director of economic policy and research for the City of Boston, explained the importance of increasing the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in getting city contracts.

“There are more than 40,000 small businesses in this city, and it’s really important that we support and nourish the growth of these businesses,” Crockett said. “For businesses owned by women and people of color, it’s really important that the city has a way of engaging these businesses so that they can grow their bottom line and increase their capacity so that they’re able to compete for larger and larger city contracts and contracts with the state as well.”

Efforts to aid women- and minority-owned businesses in the contracting process have been successful in the past. According to Crockett, Walsh and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker partnered in November to create a streamlined cross-certification process for businesses owned by women that made it easier for them to navigate and take advantage of public contracts.

According to the release, the order will pave the way for a new disparity study that will analyze racial, ethnic and gender bias in city procurement. The study is expected to launch by the end of this year and will lead to further examination of policies and goals that encourage the use of minority- and women-owned businesses.

Constance Armstrong, executive director of the woman-leadership advocacy group The Boston Club, praised the mayor for his efforts toward making city contracts accessible for all.

“The Boston Club applauds Mayor Walsh’s efforts to level the playing field for minority and women-owned businesses competing for city contracts,” Armstrong wrote in an email. “The Club, whose research since 2003 has consistently found significant gender disparities on the boards and in C-suites of the top public companies in the state, welcomes the city’s disparity study to analyze racial, ethnic and gender bias in City procurement.”

Several Boston area professors shared their thoughts on the new order. Carrie Preston, director of Boston University’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, wrote in an email that she supports the mayor’s order but also thinks more needs to be done to fix gender bias in the city.

“Boston has a terrible history of racial, ethnic, and gender bias, as well as a reputation for cronyism and inequity in awarding city contracts and jobs,” Preston wrote in an email. “Mayor Walsh is taking important steps towards improving Boston, but much more needs to be done to achieve the necessary cultural transformation. That’s going to take partnerships between the city and other local institutions, including universities.”

Kamran Dadkhah, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, wrote in an email that there are potential limitations of the order.

“Diversity and ensuring equal opportunities for women and minority owned businesses are lofty goals,” Dadkhah wrote in an email. “One disturbing aspect of Mayor Walsh’s executive order is that it seems to establish a quota system. Quota systems are wrong tools and policy options for fighting discrimination or trying to ensure equal opportunities. Indeed, in the long run quota systems harm the interest of those it was intended to help, that is, women and minorities.”

Several Boston residents shared their opinions of the order.

Jamie Ahu, 31, of Back Bay, said while she believes it’s a good idea to give women more opportunities, they shouldn’t be pushed into certain industries.

“I think that if women are interested, then we should definitely encourage them to do so and provide the opportunities,” she said. “But if women aren’t flocking to a certain industry, I don’t think that it’s something that we should push them into if it’s not something they want to do. What if you start excluding people that are more qualified than these women or other minorities … because they’re a white male? Then you don’t give them that opportunity?”

Kevin Hartman, 58, of Kenmore, said he supports the order’s efforts to make things more equal.

“I think the order will level the playing field a little more for those who don’t know how to bid [for city contracts] and those bid all the time and know how to,” he said.

Juanita Duran, 31, of Brighton, said she hopes more people find out about the order.

“The city should publicize it more so that more people are informed,” she said. “As a minority woman, I think the order is great for the city.”

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/02/29/mayor-martin-walsh-creates-opportunities-for-businesses-owned-by-women-and-minorities/

MBTA removes Late-Night Service hours from operators’ work schedules

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PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority removed Late-Night Service hours from employees’ schedules for the month of March, according to MBTA spokesperson Jason Johnson.

“MBTA bus and train operators have begun picking their work for the spring timetable, and the schedules from which they choose their work do not include late night service routes,” Johnson wrote in an email.

Johnson said the removal of the service from schedules is only a precaution and not symbolic of a decision to end Late-Night Service.

“The schedules were posted without the late night routes because it is less difficult to add service than it is to remove it,” Johnson wrote in an email. “If the operators pick work today that doesn’t exist in the spring, they are still entitled to be paid for it. If a decision is made to maintain the service in the spring, the MBTA will see to it that the service is indeed provided.”

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board will meet to consider the Late-Night Service Feb. 29, according to Johnson.

Peter Furth, a professor at Northeastern University, explained why the MBTA would remove the service from schedules before making a final decision about the future of the service.

“Once schedules are made, you have to pay people for their schedules and if you say, ‘OK, we’re not running that service,’ you still have to pay those people,” Furth said. “Every operator is guaranteed eight hours of work.”

Furth also discussed the economic need to cut Late-Night Service.

“When the fare that a person pays is always going to be the same, [riders are] paying $2 for a subway ride, but the average cost of providing that subway ride becomes $10 or $15,” Furth said. “It’s just not worth it, because the person is only paying $2. Now who’s paying the other $8? It’s all of us collectively, by subsidizing.”

Barbara Jacobson, programs director for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said the MBTA should focus on its riders and providing them with the services they need.

“By limiting service while increasing the price per ride, it sends a negative message to the user base, and in order for sustainable transportation, public transportation to be taken seriously,” Jacobson said. “Issues of accessibility and maintenance need to be the forefront of the discussion. So ensuring that the MBTA continues to deliver service to people who need it the most should be at the forefront of the discussion.”

Jacobson emphasized the importance of the service for restaurant employees and patrons.

“If the Late-Night T Service is cut, it would have a negative impact for a variety of users throughout the City of Boston, notably people who work in the restaurant industry who need to use the subway to get to and from their jobs, as restaurants close later than other businesses throughout the city,” Jacobson said. “It will also negatively impact patrons to businesses throughout the city as well.”

Several Boston residents shared their opinions on the decision.

Kelly Daigle, 27, of East Boston, said Late-Night Service benefits restaurant customers but not the workers themselves.

“For restaurant workers, it doesn’t run all week, which is when I would need it,” she said. “And usually if you’re working in a restaurant as a bartender, you might even be getting out later than the late-night T runs. [The T] is for the people who are going to restaurants and staying until it closes, not necessarily for the people who work there.”

Daigle also discussed why it might appear that the service isn’t commonly used.

“It just wasn’t around long enough for people to develop habits around using a late-night T,” she said. “If they were better at advertising what the hours were and giving people a more predictable schedule, we might be using it more readily.”

Helen Anis, 67, of Allston, noted that cutting Late-Night Service would also affect those arriving at the airport.

“If they shut it down, it would impact airport workers who have to come in in the middle of the night, students who go out partying and the rest of us who just like to go out to shows and things,” she said. “People who are delayed at the airport and come in at like 1 in the morning will have to take a cab.”

Leo Gomes, 33, of Kenmore, said even though he has never used Late-Night Service, it is still important.

“When I go out, I usually take an Uber or something like that,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to shut it down. I think it’s much better for the whole population for the T to work longer hours.”

Originally published here: http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/02/18/mbta-removes-late-night-service-from-employees-work-schedules/

Uber Boston partners with accessibility advocates

February 10, 2016

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PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Uber Boston announced last week that it would partner with three accessibility advocates in Massachusetts to help better accommodate the disabled community, a press release stated last Wednesday.

Uber will be partnering with the Disability Law Center, the Disability Policy Consortium and the Boston Center for Independent Living to provide increased mobility for all riders, according to the release. The groups will meet with Uber in the coming months to discuss how Uber can accommodate transportation options for all.

“As we look to the future for Uber Boston, we’re excited about the increased mobility and freedom our technology has afforded both riders and drivers with accessibility needs, and we’re proud to have partnered with accessibility advocates and leaders to introduce product innovations that facilitate greater economic opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers,” the press release stated.

Karen Schneiderman, a community outreach worker at the Boston Center for Independent Living, said BCIL’s partnership with Uber is meant to provide an alternative to The Ride service for passengers with disabilities.

“The reason for [an Uber partnership] is that it is less expensive for the state than subsidizing The Ride, which is the paratransit service that people with disabilities use if they can’t use buses and subways,” Schneiderman said. “The cost of using the ride is expensive and you also have to call days in advance to schedule it, but with Uber, you can call the same day.”

John Winske, executive director of the Disability Policy Consortium, wrote in an email statement that the DPC is enthusiastic about its partnership with Uber.

“Uber and the DPC are innovative organizations,” Winske wrote. “I’m sure that working with our partners we will find ways to improve accessibility to persons with disabilities while respecting Uber’s unique structure and business plan.”

Christine Griffin, executive director of the Disability Law Center, said it is important to create solutions for existing transportation issues in the disabled community.

“We are looking forward to working with the [disabled] community to find out what their needs are and then brainstorming with Uber about the ways that they can make sure that they provide full access for everybody, since everyone who uses Uber seems to love the service,” Griffin said. “The disability community deserves to have a quick and reliable component of transportation.”

Several residents shared their thoughts on Uber’s commitment to making transportation more accessible.

Anya Burzynski, 24, of the South End, said Uber becoming more accessible would impact all citizens, disabled or not.

“I used to work at a dental clinic and we had a lot of people who needed The Ride, but they were always late because they were understaffed,” she said. “So if there was some way that Uber could be more accommodating to those people and it was affordable, that would make a huge difference not only for the people taking those rides, but also for providers and practitioners who are waiting on the other.”

Kate Martens, 30, of Brighton, said Uber’s goal to provide better disability services is a complex issue with many matters to consider.

“It’s so complicated because I think, of course, people with disabilities need to be accommodated and need to be accounted for, but on the other hand, I think Uber is taking a service that’s been standardized and top-down and corporate, and making it by the people, for the people,” she said. “So it’s harder to have that infrastructure when it’s a little bit more ad hoc.”

Martens added that Uber now has a responsibility to ensure accessibility because of its popularity amongst city residents.

“It’s an interesting issue, but again, as Uber becomes more and more ubiquitous and it’s what everybody uses, it’s certainly what I use,” she said. “I think they do need to catch up and think about everybody, and not just the people who are usually represented.”

Laney Monsey, 27, Back Bay, applauded Uber for expanding its customer base.

“It’s great that they’re doing that,” she said. “I think Uber realized they had some issues when they first started out being customer friendly across all dimensions and having a diverse customer base. I think it’s great that they’re doing more to reach those who need those rides and providing affordable options for them.”