Liberate the riverfront
Compared with the riverfronts of other cities (Paris, London, Amsterdam), Boston’s is inhospitable and desolate. It’s dominated by roads and has few noteworthy destinations of its own. Instead, it is merely a noisy conduit. Boston should permanently close Storrow Drive and Soldiers Field Road and convert them to pedestrian- and bicycle-only areas, thus enlarging the Esplanade and joining it to the rest of the city.
Similarly, I-90 is an east-west scar through the city that needlessly separates Boston’s neighborhoods and iconic landmarks. I-90 should be deleted, covered up with a park, and replaced with high-speed rail.
Andrew T. Martens
Storrow Drive should never have existed — the state Legislature disregarded Helen Storrow’s wishes when she gifted the land and, in the ultimate cowardly move, approved the thoroughfare after she died. Expanding the Esplanade to include the area where Storrow Drive runs now would transform a relatively narrow strip of parkland into a community gathering spot. Critics will argue that the traffic will spill over onto city streets or that suburban residents simply will not come into Boston. I would argue that we discount how resilient and adaptable we humans are; when changes are made, we adjust.
Achieving Olmsted’s dream
Make the Emerald Necklace whole again. Frederick Law Olmsted designed a green loop from the Common to the Arboretum to Franklin Park Zoo to City Point Beach. We brag of it often here in Boston. But the section running from the zoo to City Point and Columbia Road has been encroached on or destroyed. Dorchester and South Boston have suffered from the lack of green space. And from so much more: the legacy of busing, the location of public and affordable housing, the exodus of the working class, the reluctance of my Black friends to visit Southie, the reluctance of Southie folks to cross through the Black areas. An investment here in parkland would benefit a great number of people and restore the vision.
Ideas for more transit access — on the ground and in the air
Want more people to take public transportation? Make it enjoyable. Free Wi-Fi everywhere, free charging stations at every seat, free water-bottle-filling stations in every train car. Let’s add cool artwork and eliminate annoying ads. Allow pets and bikes — and make it easy to bring them along. Be kind to ride-share options at both ends of public transportation, with free parking at stations.
Let’s address the needs of every generation. How about adding specific train cars for students? Silent cars? Cars for people in wheelchairs or on crutches, with dedicated real people to assist? And make it easy to know which train car meets which needs!
Eliminate school buses — make public transportation the norm for getting to school at all ages. Make entrances to stations and train cars accessible to parents with strollers — yes, this is different from wheelchair access. From young to old, public transportation can be successful for everyone if we are attentive to their needs. Let’s start to change public perception now. It might take 20 years.
If you’re pushing a baby in a stroller, or using crutches while recovering from surgery, or finding stairs and your knees are incompatible, the T is not your friend.
It is, however, something of an IQ test. Like the intrepid Phileas Fogg prepping to go “around the world in 80 days,” you have to plot your course carefully. You must ascertain which stations have elevators, which have escalators, and which have insurmountable stairs. You can do this by going online and entering your departure and destination points.
Let’s say you’d like to see a movie at the AMC Boston Common theater. The closest T stop is Boylston, but Boylston Station is not accessible. So you’ll have to get off at Park or Arlington, a third to a quarter of a mile away from the theater. Not a long walk — unless you’re using crutches or a walker. Then it’s a marathon.
We encourage people to use public transportation because it’s better for the environment, and we bemoan the fact that more people don’t use it. Then we make using it impossible for many.
What to do with the next batch of infrastructure money? Simple. Make the MBTA accessible to all — at last.
How about we fix one of Boston’s most glaring deficiencies while providing a landmark attraction for both locals and visitors? The Sky Hub: an aerial tram that connects North Station with South Station. It can soar over the lovely Rose Kennedy Greenway, connect Boston’s two major transportation centers, and provide amazing views.
Just two stops. Or add a third at the Convention Center. The present transportation options to the Seaport District are blatantly inadequate. Everyone who can drives a car there.
Gerard H. Wolf
Housing by land and by sea
My idea is borrowed from Vienna a century ago, when that city had a major housing shortage: Take unused public land and turn it into apartments to be rented at 30 percent of residents’ monthly income — regardless of their income level. Residents would be a mix of lower to higher earners.
Across Massachusetts, there is unused public land. A city or town could offer a not-for-profit housing agency a 99-year lease at $1 a year. The state pays 80 percent for construction, the agency funds 20 percent — and if the feds paid into this all the better. More affordable apartments would help everyone.
We could build a new city atop sea walls stretching from Swampscott to Hull. In South Korea, New Songdo City was built into the sea by the grandson of Boston’s Mayor Hynes. Here a new “Middlesea County” would address both the housing crisis and the flooding to come. Don’t retreat! Grow east and meet the ocean before it meets us.
Ian Maxwell MacKinnon