ACE Blog

MBTA 'bailout plan' will help riders, service

October 24, 2008

The Town Meeting on Public Transportation this Wednesday, sponsored by On the Move (OTM): The Greater Boston Transportation Justice Coalition, addressed issues of the MBTA’s staggering debt. The coalition consists of Boston-based community organizations , including TRU, that have been working together since 2000 for environmentally friendly, reliable public transit that is committed to first class service for all neighborhoods.

On the Move Coordinator Bob Terrell speaks in favor of MBTA debt relief at the public forum

Right now OTM is working on legislation that would relieve the T of the $1.8 billion debt that resulted from the Big Dig. This debt originated when Massachusetts was required to improve public transportation to counter the increase in air pollution and traffic congestion the Big Dig caused. The T, a separate entity that is still part of the state government, was given the debt burden by the legislature without adequate funding to pay the debt.

This year the $444 million annual debt payment will be passed on to riders, as it has been since 2000 through a series of fare increases. Another may be announced as early as summer 2009 if the state doesn’t take back the Big Dig debt. Read more...

Zero waste: Fueling the economy, not the incinerators

October 23, 2008

ACE and other environmental groups are concerned that the Patrick administration may lift the decade-long moratorium on new incinerator capacity in Massachusetts when it revises the state’s Solid Waste Master Plan. We believe that keeping the moratorium in place is an environmental justice issue because incinerators, landfills, and trash transfer stations are too often located in lower income communities and communities of color.

A zero waste plan would prevent trash from being burned and contributing to the air pollution in EJ communities

There are no rules preventing those types of pollution sources from being placed in already overburdened environmental justice communities.

True sustainability includes ending the throw-away mentality where certain people and land are seen as expendable. In our environmental justice vision, justice and sustainability are inextricably linked. Putting the state on a zero waste plan (reduce, reuse, recycle, and producer take-back) would provide green jobs, help fuel a green economy rather than incinerators, protect public health and be an important step toward sustainability for all. Read more...

Sustainable neighborhood development must be pedestrian centered

October 22, 2008

Over the course of a month this summer, three pedestrians were struck and injured by cars along Washington Street between Dudley Square and Melnea Cass Blvd. These tragedies are common and indicative of the unsafe conditions that traffic congestion creates in Dudley Square. Pedestrians from nearby parks, schools, stores, and housing must contend with cars and buses, often speeding down Ruggles Street, Washington Street and Shawmut Avenue (which bound ACE’s office at 2181 Washington Street).

There are few crosswalks between the Dudley Square Bus Station and surrounding streets, putting riders and pedestrians at greater risk when navigating traffic

The numerous red lights around this area create a great deal of stop-and-go traffic; on Washington Street, cars in one direction are often stopped while those heading in the opposite direction speed recklessly. Pedestrians, faced with a lack of clearly delineated crosswalks or signage, are often forced to weave through both stopped and speeding vehicles. This is dangerous and unacceptable in such a vibrant, pedestrian-based commercial district. Traffic congestion, through the danger, noise, blight, and localized pollution it creates, undermines the commercial viability of Washington Street in Roxbury.

Yet, from our decade of working in offices along Washington Street, we believe that the solution to this problem will not come from a car-centered approach. Read more...

Proposed Silver Line bus tunnel expensive and unnecessary

October 21, 2008

The financially strapped MBTA is planning an $1.2 billion expansion of the Silver Line bus that would connect the Waterfront and Washington Street routes with a tunnel under the city. The project, supported by business interests, is meant to connect the waterfront and Back Bay with a bus tunnel. However, more efficient transportation alternatives are being overlooked, even though they are significantly less costly.

Rally for light rail service instead of the Silver Line bus on Washington Street

While the project may be eligible for federal funding, the T will still be putting up at least $500 million. The MBTA is already in financial crisis and the expansion will only lead to further debt. Even the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, Paul Reagan, said in a recent Globe article that the MBTA does not have that kind of money.

"The people that rely on the T the most, people of low income and communities of color, would mainly be the ones paying for this project, and they can't afford it," ACE member John Cater said in the Globe. Read more...

Public forum to discuss transit issues, MBTA debt relief

October 20, 2008

In this time of financial uncertainty, lower income communities of color are more reliant on public transportation than ever before. As private vehicles and fuel costs can be prohibitively expensive, many of us depend on the MBTA to get to work and buy groceries for our families. With three fare increases over the past six years, transportation is now the second highest cost for Boston residents, exceeded only by housing. Bostonians cannot afford to pay more for substandard public transit especially with winter heating costs still ahead.

Come out to the public forum on transportation, Wednesday, October 22 at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square

However dire the economic situation, fare hikes and service cuts remain a constant threat in our communities. The MBTA has been swimming in debt with over $8 billion and counting. $1.8 billion is from Big Dig projects required by the state government, yet the state has not accepted any responsibility for this cost. Fare hikes force riders to bear the burden of debt payments that include projects benefiting car owners. Read more...

Outraged residents pack bioterrorism lab public forum

October 17, 2008

30 p.m., the starting time for the biolab public forum

More than 300 people crammed into Hibernian Hall in Roxbury for a public hearing on Boston University's (BU) proposed bioterrorism lab on Tuesday. So many showed up that police closed doors to the public just minutes after the meeting began.

The bioterrorism lab, located in the South End/Roxbury area and funded in large part by federal tax dollars, will house experiments into biological agents including infectious diseases that can be used in biowarfare. Biolabs in the U.S. are classified into four levels according to the danger of pathogens researched. BU's will include a Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4), the highest grade, allowing scientists access to ebola and other deadly viral hemorrhagic fevers for which there are no treatments. As the first BSL-4 to be built in a densely populated urban area, residents are worried that human error could expose thousands to hazards such as deadly airborne viruses.

Though the hearing was supposed to be a public forum, it seems that many people never got a chance to voice their opinion. Read more...

Protect yourself from high heating oil prices

October 16, 2008

Worried about home heating costs this winter? Join Co-op Power's home heating oil buying group!

Save money this winter with Co-op Power's heating oil cap service -photo from Wikimedia Commons

Co-op Power and Greater Four Corners Action Coalition are creating a home heating oil cap service to ensure protection from unexpected price spikes this season. This service acts as a group insurance plan for Co-op Power members and Affiliate Members. Co-op Power membership fees vary, and you can become an Affiliate member for just $25 per year!

After months of research, Co-op Power has found the best way for members to get fair and stable prices for home heating oil. Instead of signing a pre-buy contract as in the past, a cap service would better benefit folks because prices are actually decreasing right now. Members in Co-op Power’s home heating oil buying group don’t want to be locked into a price that’s too high if the market price goes down, but are also concerned that prices may spike due to extreme weather conditions or other unanticipated events. Read more...

Opposition to Biolab grows; community forum next week

October 10, 2008

While plans for Boston University's (BU) Biolab won't be evaluated until 2010, opposition to this project remains strong. A recent letter to the editor published in the Herald draws attention to the many risks of the project. Attorney Laura Maslow-Armand of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and ACE Board member Dr. Daniel Goodenough authored the piece, highlighting wide security gaps in BU's plan.

Residents protest Boston University's Bioterrorism lab built in an EJ community

Among the laughable safety measures is the assertion that having two UPS or FedEx drivers instead of one handling the transportation of deadly viruses would be adequate to protect against an outbreak. BU also claims that using a "buddy system" in the laboratory would safeguard against "the risk of human error, inattention, and negligence."

Potential blunders at the lab, already built in a densely populated lower income community of color, would be catastrophic in a neighborhood that historically has low access to transportation and medical care. It would be the first Bio Safety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab in the nation to be located in a city center. BSL-4 labs are the highest level of biolabs and deal with the most dangerous pathogens known. Read more...

Ballot questions 2 and 3 tackle marijuana possession, dog racing

October 8, 2008

This Election Day, there is more to be determined then the next President of the United States.


Massachusetts voters have three ballot questions to decide upon: Question 1 concerns the state income tax, and Questions 2 and 3 asks people to establish a stance on marijuana possession and dog racing. (We'll be writing more about Question 1 soon.)

Question 2 seeks to decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, turning it into a civil offense. This will include being under the influence of the chemical tetrahydrocannibinol or THC. This does not change any other aspect of the law - selling marijuana or driving under the influence will still result in criminal charges.

Decriminalization will enforce fines for those cited with possession. The revenue will be given to the city where the offender was apprehended. An additional drug education program will be required for those under the age of 18 to prevent future or continuous drug abuse. Read more...

Boston's 'mini-Katrina' demands a government response

October 7, 2008

During heavy rains in June and July of this year, homes in Dorchester and South Boston were flooded with storm water and raw sewage that filled the streets, damaged parked cars and flowed into basements. Possessions were lost and heating systems ruined. Those homes had not been flooded during previous rainstorms and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) refused to provide reimbursement for losses.

Boston City Councilors Stephen Murphy and Charles Yancey with storm victims

On September 23, the Boston City Council Committee on Public Safety, at the request of City Councilor Charles Yancey, held a heating about the flooding. The residents testified about the floods and their losses of property. Some do not have money to replace their wrecked hearing systems and are facing a frigid winter. Councilors Yancey and Murphy closely questioned representatives of the BWSC and Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). Neither agency accepted any responsibility or agreed to assist the residents whose possessions were destroyed. Read more...