Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Green Line Extension Community Visioning Project

Mystic Valley Parkway Green Line Extension - Community Visioning Project

In 2011, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) was hired by the MA Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to evaluate the possible benefits and impacts associated with a potential extension of the MBTA Green Line from College Avenue to Mystic Valley Parkway in the cities of Medford and Somerville.  MAPC was specifically tasked with analyzing the potential for land use, zoning and development changes, and estimating future economic development benefits that could be derived from those changes.  To that end, MAPC led a community visioning process to examine how a future Mystic Valley Parkway station could foster transit-oriented development in the area, while minimizing negative impacts to the local community. 

MAPC asked the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) to be a partner on the project in designing and facilitating a series of community engagement events. MOPC provided neutral meeting facilitation and planning for MAPC’s public engagement efforts, which included five public meetings, targeted community outreach meetings, and individual/small group stakeholder meetings that drew in residents, business owners, property owners, concerned citizens, community organizers, legislators as well as other stakeholders. Additional public participation was encouraged through such outreach and informational strategies as website postings, emails, social media sites, city email listservs, community group lists, reverse 911, media press releases, public notices in newspapers, direct mailings, and flyers, all of which was conducted by MAPC staff.

These public engagement efforts allowed participants to express concerns and identify opportunities. Questions about traffic and parking, air quality, land acquisitions, property tax increases, housing affordability, and displacement were raised.

MAPC and MOPC used a variety of interactive technologies, including computer-assisted modeling and keypad polling to gather public opinion, ideas and reactions to a variety of options. MOPC assisted MAPC and MassDOT in designing the public engagement components and to manage the complexity of the public process in a way that would minimize conflict while maximizing opportunity for input.

Based on feedback from the public, MAPC was able to present a variety of possible scenarios for the extension of the Green Line to Mystic Valley Parkway which included   “a well-connected, walkable, bike-able, neighborhood scale transit-oriented development node that provides new opportunities for mixed-income housing job creation, increased tax revenue, and access to quality public transit [and affordable housing and quality jobs]… that are knit into the fabric of the existing neighborhood….”

The visioning process led to recommendations for implementing a vision that were responsive to the expressed concerns and identified opportunities yet were also tailored to the different sites. Thus, the proposals ranged from preserving and expanding senior citizen housing in one area, to increasing mixed use development and open public spaces in a second area, to adopting mixed use zoning, stronger parking ordinances and anti-displacement strategies in the two cities.

Project Website

Sources:

Metropolitan Area Planning Council. February 2010. Mystic Valley Parkway Green Line extension community visioning process: ,Final_Report Retrieved May 14, 2012.