July 16, 2018
Thank you for leading this hearing on the zoning initiative and master plan and for inviting me to testify here this evening. As the Director of Water Transportation at Boston Harbor Now, I am submitting the following written testimony regarding transportation.
Boston Harbor Now is managing a Comprehensive Water Transportation Study for the Boston Region with support from MassDOT, Massport, the MCCA, and the Seaport Economic Council of the Office of Housing and Economic Development. I hope that this study can inform the East Boston master planning process.
As someone who has worked on or contributed to many recent planning efforts, I want to emphasize that the transportation component of the East Boston master plan already has a strong foundation of existing plans to build off of including the business plans that will come out of the ferry study as well as Go Boston 2030, Imagine Boston 2030, and the MBTA’s Focus 40. It would be incredibly valuable if this planning process and document included a prioritization of proposed projects and carefully developed steps for implementation.
Unlike the land-use components of this neighborhood plan, transportation extends beyond the boundaries of Bennington Street, the bridges, or the water’s edge. Some decisions made on local streets affect the region while transit proposals like a Red-Blue Connector or ferry service that are geographically outside of the neighborhood will have a significant impact on residents.
Within East Boston, the Comprehensive Water Transportation Study initially included three potential ferry terminals – the existing dock at Logan Airport, which provides MBTA ferry service today to Hingham, Hull, and Long Wharf; Lewis Mall just south of Maverick Station, where an existing dock needs further investments to support ferry service; and Liberty Plaza behind the Shaws in Central Square, where a ferry dock has been proposed. Given the current population density of residents and the places that they travel to for work and school, the study determined that the most promising of these three docks for new inner harbor service is Lewis Mall, which will be included in a business plan for a new route that connects East Boston with Charlestown’s Pier 4 and with Fan Pier in the Seaport via stops at Long Wharf. Details of this plan will be released later this summer or in early fall, and we look forward to working with partners at the city and elsewhere to implement this new route.
Certainly, the subsidized water taxi rides provided by new waterfront developments, the free launch connecting the Reel House restaurant to Pier 6 in Charlestown, and the new water taxi between the ICA and its Watershed demonstrate the appeal and convenience of traveling across the harbor by boat to and from East Boston, but developing a reliable, affordable, financially sustainable, and ADA accessible transit system for this neighborhood will require careful planning, political leadership, and ongoing community support.
It is also imperative that ferry service be well-integrated into a multimodal network both physically and in its fare structure. Access on foot and by bike and connections from transit should be welcoming and user-focused with quality infrastructure, way-finding, and accommodations for waiting passengers.
Boston Harbor Now looks forward to working with you to better provide multimodal connections to the waterfront for East Boston’s residents and to bring ferry service back to the neighborhood. We are also available to provide expertise and assistance with parks and open space, urban design, development, working port, resiliency, and climate issues as needed.