Transport allows for increased mobility and access however the levels of mobility and access are not necessarily always equal. Boston illustrates how mobility can contribute towards increasing levels of social and economic inequalities. In 2017, the Brookings Institution stated that Boston suffered “from the worst income inequality of a major US city (Clauss, 2017). Boston’s transport system has been named one of the worst transport systems in the USA, in 2019, the Boston Globe reported that the “Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has steadily amassed one of the nation’s worst safety records” (Coleman and Rocheleau, 2019). In regard to train derailments, “MBTA trains derailed 43 times over the last five years, the second highest total of any metro transit system in the country, federal records show” (Coleman and Rocheleau, 2019). Neighborhoods in Boston such as East Boston are made of predominantly working-class residents who are very often forced to take these unreliable forms of transport as they cannot afford a luxury of having and maintain the cost of having a car. As well as having to rely on the unreliable transport network, the residents of East Boston have also had to deal with rising house prices and the possibility of displacement as a result of transport and residential projects that primarily attract “the cultural class” (Florida, 2006) and essentially contribute towards ushering in the process of gentrification. East Boston is home to over “40, 000 residents” (Statisticalatlas. com, 2020). Residents of a Hispanic background make up approximately “56.2%” of the population of the neighborhood (Statisticalatlas.com. 2020.) East Boston has also been branded as one the most unsafe places to live in Boston, in 2020, travel blog ‘Roadsnacks’ published a list of the 10 worst places to live in Boston and East Boston came in at number 4 on the list (White, 2020). East Boston has undergone a multitude of projects in the last decade as an attempt to rebrand itself, these projects have been met with opposition in the form of neighborhood resistance. The development projects have not necessarily prioritized public transport and this has contributed to a lack of access and mobility for residents on a lower income. This essay will explore how projects such as the Boston Greenway project have impacted the residents of East Boston.
East Boston has recently undergone many infrastructure developments, these infrastructure development plans have been met with resistance as they don’t prioritize the needs of the general neighborhood. The needs of future residents are being prioritized over the needs of the current residents. It has been argued that “residents are feeling the effects of development in myriad ways from crowded Blue Line trains to sliced up trees in backyards to make more room for more condos” (Acitelli, 2020). This suggests that the developers are further advancing their desire to accumulate wealth by enticing the buyers of the condos and are not catering to the transport needs of the current population and are instead contributing towards worsening them. This is arguably why there is now neighborhood resistance to any further development, some East Boston residents called for “a halt to new development in the neighborhood until the city can come up with a plan to better regulate it”, some locals have also “pushed for a development moratorium in the neighborhood” (Acitelli, 2018). This reveals that infrastructure projects are being put in place without much consideration for the residents, the impacts of the infrastructure projects are not only contributing to worsening patterns of geographic inequality but are also having impacts of the everyday lives of the residents in East Boston. As well as the complaints regarding the overcrowding on the Blue Line trains, long-time residents have also reported that all the see from recent developments is “more traffic and the arrival of five and six story buildings” (Rios, 2019). East Boston residents are not being positively impacted by the developments, those who can afford to have and maintain the cost of having a car are forced to sit in traffic, the increased levels of traffic are not only an inconvenience to the everyday lives of the residents, it contributes to the acceleration of climate change as “road traffic emissions produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and the absence of a plan to protect the entire neighborhood from flooding” (Environmentalaw.orguk. 2020). Boston is “known to flood during heavy rains” (Acitelli, 2018). The people that are most likely to be impacted by these floods are the poorest residents, this emphasizes that these development plans are not contributing towards ameliorating inequalities, this is partly the reason for resistance. A report published by the Union of concerned scientists reported that “communities of color in Boston are 66% more likely to exposed to tail pipe emissions” (Horan & Jonas, 1998). The tail pipe emissions can also lead to health problems such as asthma, poor residents are more likely to feel the health impacts and may not have the health care in place to deal with the issues. The residents that most likely to be impacted by the consequences of global warming are also those on the lowest incomes in the neighborhood, this further contributes towards widening geographic inequalities. Furthermore, another consequence is the overcrowding on public transport systems such as Blue Line that are already under pressure, poorer residents in the neighborhood are reliant on public forms of transportation, this suggests that money is being pumped into residential areas but the same cannot be said for transport infrastructure. The focus on residential infrastructure means more residents are coming into the neighborhood but the provisions are not being made to increase public transport, so access and mobility is not increased for all residents, this partly explains why development plans are increasingly being met with resistance from the residents of East Boston.
The Boston Green Links program “aims to connect people in every neighborhood to Boston’s greenway network by installing new paths, new bike facilities and safer road crossings” (Acitelli, 2018) in places such as Roxbury, Lower Roxbury, East Boston and the South End. It illustrates how transport infrastructure program can contribute to creating unequal access to mobility Although plans such as the Boston Green Links program suggest that the government is trying to increase mobility and access in the city, the project does not necessarily immediately cater to the needs of residents of poorer income. Projects such as the Boston Green Links program cater to the needs of a middle-class population as the majority of people using public transport are very often of a lower income because they cannot afford other alternative methods of transport such as a car and Boston as a city is still very much geared to the needs of car owners. It has been argued that “cycling can exacerbate inequality because it fits into the sustainable lifestyles of new urban elites who are closely associated with re-urbanization and gentrification processes” (Vith & Mössner, 2017). Local governments need to be proactive about tackling climate change however biking mobility plans arguably fuel and perpetuate social inequalities as it is a way to attract more affluent residents. The people that are more likely to be affected by climate change are people on lower incomes, money should be put into public transport first before its invested in areas such as cycling. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council reported that “Latinx riders spend 10 hours per year onboard MTBA buses compared to their fellow white passengers” (Pressley et al., 2019), this illustrates the ethnic minority residents are still reliant on public transport. The infrastructure for cycling is very much concentrated in “economically prosperous neighborhoods and in neighborhoods that are currently undergoing processes of gentrification” (Anguelovski et al., 2019). This means that cycling is not widely accessible to everyone, emphasizing that lower income residents in East Boston are not necessarily the target audience of these projects, mobility and access is still limited as a result and it puts more pressure on the already underfunded public transport systems.
Green infrastructure projects such as 2018 Resilient Boston Harbor plan and the East Boston Greenway demonstrate how transport infrastructure has not been prioritized in regard to East Boston. Although green infrastructure projects such as Piers Park and the East Boston Greenway benefitted residents to a certain extent as they were put in place to mitigate and help “to buffer against sea level rise flooding” (Anguelovski et al., 2019), the green infrastructure projects also demonstrate geographical inequalities and climate injustice. East Boston being part of the 2018 Resilient Plan which aimed to “deploy green infrastructure projects”. “These projects included elevated berm landscapes and resilient parks along the 47 miles of Boston shorelines” (Anguelovski et al., 2019). Mitigating the effects of sea level rise as a result of climate change benefits all residents in East Boston however by not putting additional money into transport infrastructure, issues such as increased traffic are not addressed so air pollution will continue to rise and further exacerbate the process of climate change and will continue to cause health problems for residents. Those who will be affected the most in the neighborhood at the ones that have the lowest household incomes. A key difference between the Boston Harbor Plan and other previous infrastructure plans regarding East Boston is that there were attempts to include the residents, part of the plan had a focus on “inclusivity through community led planning that addresses lower income and minority residents” (Anguelovski et al., 2019). On the surface, this is a positive thing and has the intention of increasing mobility and access and reducing social exclusion however the plan was not necessarily executed in this way due to financial constraints, the city had to turn to private financiers to cover the costs of the green infrastructure, this meant that as a result, “the interests of socially vulnerable groups of class and racial/ethnic minorities quickly became lower priorities” (Anguelovski et al., 2019). This illustrates how residential infrastructure is prioritized over transport infrastructure, “Boston neighborhoods designated for green infrastructure – South Boston, Charlestown and East Boston are recognized by real estate developers as worth investing in” (Anguelovski et al., 2019). However, the issue with this is that the needs of socially vulnerable groups continued to be ignored in favor of appealing to more, wealthy middle class potential buyers, this results in an increase in house prices and this contributes to the displacement of current residents as they are unable to afford to live there. For example, Clipper side Wharf is described on as bringing “an elevated waterfront experience to Boston Harbor” (Clippership Wharf | Neighborhood Information, 2020). The rent starts at “$2300 per month” (Anguelovski et al., 2019), this further confirms that this is not affordable housing and it is targeted at a certain type of person, i.e. the cultural class. It demonstrates how money is being invested into residential development projects as opposed to being invested in transport thus contributing making inequalities worse.
Overall, in the case of East Boston, development plans such as the Boston Green Links program demonstrate the city’s attempts to try and improve transport in the area thus increasing the mobility and accessibility for residents. However, these development projects do not necessarily have the residents in mind that are on a lower income and this is illustrated in the fact that money is not being invested into the public transport systems that residents on a lower income are dependent. Furthermore, in some cases money is being invested into residential development as opposed to the development of transport infrastructure which attracts more middle class, affluent residents. This does not only put pressure on the existing transport systems but also pushes poorer residents out because they can’t afford the rising house prices. To reduce patterns of geographic inequalities, more focus needs to be put on supporting residents in East Boston that on a lower household income. The lack of mobility and access for poorer residents only helps to perpetuate the cycle of poverty as they are unable to use the transport to get to other places in Boston that act as the location for higher paying jobs.
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- Anguelovski, I., Connolly, J., Pearsall, H., Shokry, G., Checker, M., Maantay, J., Gould, K., Lewis, T., Maroko, A. and Roberts, J., 2019. Opinion: Why Green “Climate Gentrification” Threatens Poor and Vulnerable Populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(52), pp.26139-26143.
- Acitelli, T., 2020. 7 Boston-Area Neighborhoods Everyone Should Be Watching. [online] Curbed Boston.
- Acitelli, T., 2018. East Boston Residents To City: Don’T Let Us Become The Seaport. [online] Curbed Boston.
- Clippership Wharf. 2020. Clippership Wharf | Neighborhood Information. [online].
- Coleman, V. and Rocheleau, M., 2019. MBTA Among Nation’S Worst For Derailments, Records Show – The Boston Globe. [online] BostonGlobe.com.
- Clauss, K., 2017. Boston’s Income Inequality, Visualized. [online] Boston Magazine.
- Environmentlaw.org.uk. 2020. Air Pollution – Road Traffic. [online].
- Florida, R. (2005). Cities and the Cultural Class. Routledge. (1): 6-11.
- Horan, C. Jonas. A (1998) Governing Massachusetts: Uneven Development and Politics in Metropolitan in Economic Geography, Vol. 74, Special Issue for the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Taylor & Francis, pp. 83-95.
- Lopez, R. (2005) Racial Segregation and Transportation Justice in an Urban Community: The Case of the Boston T riders
- Pressley,A. Wu,M. Thompson,S. (2019) Don’t Just Fix the infrastructure, Lets Rethink Our Transit Policies. Boston Globe.
- Rios, S., 2019. When Resillence Meets Resistance. [online] New America.
- Statisticalatlas.com. 2020. [online].
- Vith, T. A., & Mössner, S. (2017). Contesting Sustainable Transportation: Bicycle Mobility in Boston and Beyond in Cities and the Politics of Urban Sustainalbity. Journal of the Geograhical society of Berlin, 148(4), pp. 229-237
- White, C., 2020. These Are The 5 Worst Boston Neighborhoods. [online] RoadSnacks.