Will the Green Line Extension have a positive or negative impact in Medford?
John Roland Elliott of the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance
The Green Line Extension (GLX) is a once-in-a-century project that will enormously improve the quality of life in Medford by:
• Providing cleaner, economical, dependable, accessible, and more frequent public transportation to and from jobs, schools, health care, shopping, and cultural and recreational venues.
• Reducing traffic, parking demand, and road maintenance, making travel easier and safer for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
• Cutting deadly auto emissions and improving air quality to help reverse Medford’s above-average rates of asthma, heart disease, and cancer deaths.
To maximize these and other benefits, however, the Green Line must be extended to a terminus station at Mystic Valley Parkway (Route 16) and Boston Avenue. Foremost, it is the only location that satisfies the state’s legal obligation to provide Green Line service to Medford Hillside. In addition, Route 16 is wholly more suitable for a terminus station than College Avenue/Boston Avenue, and will:
• Be within a 10-minute walk of more than 10,000 residents of Medford, Somerville, and Arlington, including those from five state-designated environmental justice communities – neighborhoods that historically receive inferior transportation service and disproportionate burdens.
• Increase by 21 percent the number of people using the GLX, with corresponding air quality benefits.
• Create opportunities for neighborhood-scale transit-oriented development and overdue redevelopment, such as rebuilding the Medford Housing Authority’s outmoded Walkling Court complex to modern standards.
With benefits come changes – all progress is change. New travel patterns, commuter parking temptations, real estate value gains, and neighborhood evolution will follow. But with careful and responsible planning, infrastructure investments, parking enforcement (coming this year), and policies and strategies to maintain the affordability of existing and future housing stock for owners and renters, advantages far outweigh risks.
Given the project’s overwhelming benefits, and the fact it is being built in an existing right-of-way requiring no residential property takings, the GLX not surprisingly has strong support from the majority of Medford residents, its municipal administration, state legislative delegation, and major stakeholders such as Tufts University, the city’s largest employer.
Now it is incumbent on the incoming governor and administration to finish the job: seeing the GLX through to completion at Route 16, not in two phases as currently proposed, but as a single project, which will reduce costs and disruption, and maximize and expedite benefits.
The Green Line Extension to Route 16 has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for area residents and help our communities thrive for generations to come.
William Wood of the Green Line Advisory Group for Medford
For Medford, a traditionally working-family oriented city, the predicted impact of forced gentrification and displacement versus natural development around the Green Line Extension far outweighs the transit benefit. Although transit access may be an advantage of the Green Line to Somerville, for Medford it does not benefit all equally.
This project is currently correlated to gentrification and displacement in Somerville/Medford because of the land development criteria that seems to focuses primarily on housing for affluent populations. This is a precursor for the city of Medford. The watchdog group, the Green Line Advisory Group for Medford, predicted this inequity impact based on its social action research report findings to the state on this project. Recently, qualitative data in the Metropolitan Area Planning Council report on the dimensions of displacement has validated our findings, where rents around the Green Line stations are predicted — even in the Medford corridor — to increase by 67 percent and housing prices will see speculative increases.
Economic development benefiting only one economic demographic creates income inequality resulting in the breakdown of communities without acknowledgment of the human impact of the cost overburden to those in the middle to lower income brackets who are forced further out of cities, losing a sense of community and the loss of local support systems that impact familial, community. and healthy well-being.
Considering that Somerville is pushing the state to spend an additional $190 million in flex highway funding to extend the Green Line to Route 16, deeper into Medford, further affordability challenges will await. Somerville and Tufts University plan further development in this area at the expense of well-established Medford neighborhoods. This is particularly true for the historic African-American community located in West Medford, known as “The Ville.” The African-American leadership has publicly announced their lack of support for the abutting proposed Route 16 station, knowing that minority neighborhoods are usually the first targeted for gentrification based upon the widening income gap between whites and minorities.
While Tufts University absorbs immense mitigation funds before a rail is even laid for the Green Line, dollars the Commonwealth will not disclose, Medford residents are facing tremendous real estate pressure from speculators.
The Green Line may benefit a few based on trickle down economic theory of the 20th century but it is not one that addresses the growing reality of income inequality issues in the 21st century.
Globe correspondent Brenda Buote solicited opinions for this exchange. She can be reached at email@example.com.