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Politics / government

Can this man save Boston’s streets?

The city has smarter parking meters, better bike lanes, and, soon, artsier streetscapes, thanks to its first chief of streets, Chris Osgood.

Boston, MA--4/20/2017 - Chris Osgood (cq) is the "Chief of Streets" (cq) for the City of Boston. He spearheaded new meters across the city. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Topic: 051417osgood Reporter: Andrew Ryan
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Chris Osgood.

Chris Osgood went to Harvard Business School to make cities better. Osgood is soft-spoken, maybe a little nerdy, but no cocky MBA bro. For years, he was known (often behind his back) as one of the “smaht guys” at Boston City Hall. His real title was new urban mechanic, which meant using technology, data, and design to improve city services.

But 2016 marked Osgood’s first full year in a new role: the 40-year-old is Boston’s first chief of streets. That puts him in charge of public works and transportation. The mayor wanted a comprehensive strategy, Osgood says, for how the 48-square-mile city thinks about its 9 square miles of streets and sidewalks. That means a focus on basics — plowing snow, fixing cracked pavement, replacing street lights. But there’s more.

After a year of work, new dynamic parking meters went live in January in the Seaport, raising prices on busy blocks to encourage drivers to free up spots. Cyclists have a protected bike lane on a treacherous stretch of Massachusetts Avenue. And new streetscapes are in the works with an eye toward artsy design. “We think of streets as anchors for creating great communities,” Osgood says. “I’m a firm believer that one of the things that makes a great city is great streets.”

Andrew Ryan is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.