The State We’re In: Can Western Mass Alleviate Boston’s Housing Crisis? | Connecting Point

The State We’re In: Can Western Mass Alleviate Boston’s Housing Crisis? | Connecting Point


>>AREA VISITORS’ BUREAUS LIKELY
OWE STATE SENATOR ERIC LESSER A DEBT THIS WEEK AFTER A BOSTON
GLOBE OPINION PIECE ABOUT THE REGION AND HIS PRIORITIES FOR
IT CAUGHT THE ATTENTION OF MANY THE HEADLINE “THE SOLUTION TO
BOSTON’S HOUSING AND CONGESTION CRISIS? WESTERN MASS.” WHY SHOULD OTHERS GET ON-BOARD
WITH THIS IDEA? SENATOR LESSER SAT DOWN IN THE
STUDIO WITH ME TO EXPLAIN.>>THE BIG TAKEAWAY OF THE PIECE
IS THAT OUR REGIONS ARE ACTUALLY COMPLEMENTARY, THAT YOU CAN
UTILIZE THE WHOLE STATE TO SOLVE EACH PART OF THE STATE’S
DIFFERENT CHALLENGES. SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THE SINGLE
BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE GOT IN THE METRO BOSTON AREA IS NOBODY
CAN AFFORD TO LIVE THERE. THE COST OF HOUSING IS
SKY-ROCKETING. RENTS ARE SKY-ROCKETING. AND NOBODY CAN GET AROUND. THE TRANSPORTATION IS BREAKING
DOWN, THE T. IS IN A TERRIBLE STATE AND THE TRAFFIC IS JUST
GETTING WORSE AND WORSE AND WORSE. WE ACTUALLY OFFER A
COMPLEMENTARY CHALLENGE. OUR CHALLENGE IN WESTERN MASS IS
IN MANY WAYS THE OPPOSITE. WE’VE GOT GREAT QUALITY OF LIFE,
WE’VE GOT A LOT OF AFFORDABLE COST OF LIVING, BUT WE DON’T
HAVE THAT FAST GROWING ECONOMY THAT’S ATTRACTING PEOPLE AND
ATTRACTING NEW JOBS AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES SO LET’S WORK TO
CONNECT THE TWO REGIONS AND YOU SOLVE BOTH ISSUES AT ONCE. WESTERN MASS GETS ACCESS TO THE
FAST-PACED JOB MARKET IN BOSTON AND BOSTON GETS ACCESS TO THE
GREAT QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE AFFORDABLE COST OF LIVING HERE
IN WESTERN MASS. IT LIFTS BOTH REGIONS AND BY THE
WAY, INITIATIVES LIKE RAIL SERVICE WOULD TAKE TENS OF
THOUSANDS OF CARS OFF THE ROAD. IT WOULD PROBABLY BE THE SINGLE
BIGGEST REDUCTION IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS THAT OUR STATE
COULD EVER UNDERTAKE AND IT WOULD CREATE THOUSANDS AND
THOUSANDS OF JOBS IN THE PROCESS SO I THINK REALLY THE THRUST OF
THE PIECE WAS, YOU KNOW, THERE’S SO MUCH COMMENTARY RIGHT NOW,
ESPECIALLY IN THE BOSTON AREA AROUND WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THE
CONGESTION ISSUES? WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THE PRICE
OF HOUSING? AND ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE JUST
BEEN TRYING TO GET ACROSS TO REALLY EVERYONE AROUND THE STATE
IS LET’S THINK ABOUT THESE ISSUES IN A COMPLEMENTARY WAY. THE SOLUTIONS TO BOSTON’S
CHALLENGES COULD ACTUALLY BE FOUND NOT THAT FAR DOWN THE MASS
PIKE SO TO SPEAK HERE IN WESTERN MASS.>>AND IN THE ARTICLE, IT
TRENDED ONLINE FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS. IT WAS VERY WELL READ AND
THERE’S THIS GREAT GLOBE ILLUSTRATION WHERE IT LOOKS LIKE
YOU’RE DRIVING A TRAIN OR BEING HIT BY IT DEPENDING ON THE
PERSPECTIVE. YEAH, BUT ONE OF THE POINTS IS
THAT WITH HIGH-SPEED RAIL PLUS A MAJOR ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT,
WESTERN MASS COULD BE GREATER BOSTON’S NEW HOT NEIGHBORHOOD,
THAT WAS KIND OF THE SUBHEADLINE. AS YOUR OFFICE RECEIVED PUSHBACK
ABOUT THAT? I CAN SEE RESIDENTS READING AND
LOOKING AND SAYING WE LIKE THE SLOWER PACE AND THE AMOUNT OF
CONGESTION THAT WE HAVE THAT’S NOT ALL THAT BAD.>>I’M GLAD YOU ASKED ABOUT
THAT. THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE TRYING TO
DO AT ALL. THE GLOBE HEADLINE REALLY AND
THE PIECE IF YOU READ THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT MIMICKING ANY ONE
PLACE. WE’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS ON THE
SHOW BEFORE. THE GOAL HERE IS NOT TO TURN
WESTERN MASS INTO BOSTON. THAT’S THE LAST THING WE WANT TO
DO QUITE FRANKLY, NOR IS THE GOAL TO TURN BOSTON INTO WESTERN
MASS. EACH REGION HAS A DISTINCTIVE
IDENTITY AND IT SHOULD STAY DISTINCTIVE BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT
MAKES EACH PLACE UNIQUE. BUT WE DO HAVE SOME REALLY
SERIOUS CHALLENGES THAT IF WE DON’T THINK CREATIVELY ABOUT
TAKING ON, WE’RE GOING TO — WE’RE GOING TO BE IN A
TRAJECTORY THAT’S VERY BAD. WE’RE LOSING POPULATION IN
WESTERN MASS. WE’RE LOSING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. THEY’RE LEAVING BECAUSE THEY
CAN’T FIND GOOD JOBS. THEY CAN’T FIND THE GOOD PLACES
TO WORK. WE’VE GOT TO REVERSE THAT TREND. SO IT’S ABOUT LEVERAGING WHAT
WE’VE GOT, WHICH IS GOOD PROXIMITY TO SOME REALLY
HIGH-GROWTH AREAS AND ALSO, YOU KNOW, A REALLY GREAT HOME-GROWN
TALENT POOL RIGHT HERE. SO THAT’S WHY IT’S NOT JUST
RAIL. IT’S ALSO REMOTE WORKING,
LEVERAGING REMOTE WORKING ACCESS. IT’S ALSO INVESTING IN OUR
MANUFACTURING SECTOR, CLOSING THE WAITING LISTS AT OUR
LOCATIONAL EDUCATIONAL SCHOOLS, FILLING THE GAPS IN THE JOBS
THAT ARE ALREADY HERE. IT’S ABOUT INVESTING IN THE LIFE
SCIENCES CLUSTER SO THAT WE HAVE RESEARCHERS AND BIOLOGISTS AND
ACADEMICS RIGHT HERE IN WESTERN MASS STAYING HERE AND DOING
THEIR RESEARCH HERE RATHER THAN GOING TO BOSTON OR GOING
SOMEWHERE ELSE. SO I THINK THAT’S A
MISPERCEPTION. THE GOAL HERE IS CERTAINLY NOT
TO MAKE US LIKE ANYWHERE ELSE OR ANYWHERE ELSE LIKE US. WE’VE GOT A DISTINCTIVE IDENTITY
HERE, BUT WE’VE GOT TO BE CREATIVE ABOUT CONTINUING TO
BUILD JOBS AND OPPORTUNITY.>>BUT SPEAKING TO THAT IDENTITY
IT’S KIND OF A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD AS SHE POINTS OUT IN HER
OPINION PIECE. AND DON’T THINK OF IT AS A MERCY
MISSION, THINK OF IT THE WAY LESSER DOES AS AN INTRODUCTION
TO THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY. SO I THINK THE SUBTEXT THERE IS
THAT MANY PEOPLE IN THE EASTERN PART OF THE STATE SORT OF
WRINKLE THEIR NOSE AT THE IDEA OF COMING THIS FAR WEST.>>I THINK THAT THAT’S VERY
IMPORTANT, LOU SHERIDAN HAD A QUOTE IN THE ARTICLE AS WELL
WHERE HE TALKED ABOUT THE SINGLE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WE’VE GOT IS
PERCEPTION. QUITE FRANKLY, IN THE METRO
BOSTON AREA PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW, THEY HAVE NO OPINION ABOUT
WESTERN MASS BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW IT
EXISTS. SO ONE OF THE CHALLENGES AND IT
IS A VERY IMPORTANT CULTURAL CHALLENGE IS SOUNDING THE ALARM
SO TO SPEAK AND GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT ALL THE OPPORTUNITIES
THAT ARE RIGHT IN PEOPLE’S BACK DOOR AND I WOULD ALSO ADD WE
HAVE TO HAVE SOME CULTURE CHANGE IN WESTERN MASS, TOO. I THINK A LOT OF TIMES WE RESIGN
OURSELVES TO OUR REGION BEING SLOWER OR NOT GROWING AS FAST OR
NOT HAVING THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES. I THINK A LOT OF TIMES OUR YOUNG
PEOPLE HAVE RESIGNED THEMSELVES TO NOT HAVING THE SAME OPTIONS
AS A YOUNG PERSON IN A DIFFERENT ZIP CODE. THAT ATTITUDE NEEDS TO CHANGE
ALSO. ONE OF THE MESSAGES I TRY TO
BRING WHEN WE’RE OUT IN THE COMMUNITY IS WE NEED TO HAVE
SOME SELF-ESTEEM AS A COMMUNITY AND AS A REGION AND SAY YOU KNOW
WHAT? WESTERN MASS DESERVES THE SAME
INVESTMENT, THE SAME ATTENTION AS EVERY OTHER REGION OF THE
STATE AND BY THE WAY, WE HAVE A LOT TO OFFER TO THAT EQUATION,
AS WELL. AND I’LL TELL YOU ON THE LAND OF
OPPORTUNITY, THAT WAS MY FAMILY — I WASN’T BORN IN
WESTERN MASS. I WAS BORN IN QUEENS, NEW YORK. MY PARENTS WERE WORKING THEIR
WAY THROUGH THEIR DEGREES WHEN I WAS YOUNG. WHEN I WAS SEVEN WE MOVED TO
WESTERN MASS WHERE MY PARENTS BOTH STARTED THEIR PROFESSIONAL
CAREERS AND IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM AND FOR
THEIR KIDS AND FOR NOW, MY FAMILY. SO WE’VE GOT TO GET OUT THERE
AND TELL THE STORY THAT WESTERN MASS REALLY IS A MAG ISN’T, IT’S
NOT A PLACE YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVE, IT’S A POLICE PEOPLE WANT TO BE.>>THIS WEEK WHEN GOVERNOR BAKER
GAVE HIS STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH ADDRESS, HE TALKED
A LOT ABOUT TRANSPORTATION, MONEY FOR THE MBTA. GOT A LOT OF HEADLINES. HE DID NOT MENTION EAST-WEST
RAIL CONNECTION AT ALL IN THE SPEECH. THAT’S THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW
THAT HE HASN’T MENTIONED IT. ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT THIS IS A
BACKBURNER ISSUE FOR THE GOVERNOR?>>I AM CONCERNED. THE GOVERNOR IS HERE TODAY. HE’S GOING TO BE AT UNION
STATION. IN FACT, I SAW HIM AT THE REST
STOP ON THE MASS PIKE ON THE WAY OVER HERE. HE’S GOING TO BE AT UNION
STATION TODAY ANNOUNCING THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PLATFORM TO
COMPLETE THE RENOVATION OF THAT STATION. THAT’S A WORTHY ACHIEVEMENT AND
WE NEED TO CELEBRATE THAT ACHIEVEMENT, NO SMALL THING TO
HAVE UNION STATION REOPEN BUT THE NEXT PIECE OF THIS IS WE
NEED TRAINS COMING IN AND OUT OF UNION STATION OR IT’S NOT GOING
TO DO US MUCH GOOD AND I’M VERY CONCERNED THAT QUITE FRANKLY, IT
WASN’T IN HIS STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH. WE DO HAVE THE RAIL STUDY GOING
ON. THERE’S —
>>IN WHICH HE SUPPORT MONEY.>>EXACTLY, WHICH HE’S PUT
SIGNIFICANT MONEY OVER $1 MILLION INTO THAT STUDY. IT DOES LOOK LIKE THE FINDINGS
ARE GOING TO BE DELAYED A LITTLE BIT, WHICH IS CONCERNING AND WE
NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO, BUT, YOU KNOW, THEY’RE STILL VERY
ENGAGED IN GETTING THE RESULTS OUT. SO I THINK WE NEED TO PAY
ATTENTION AND I THINK WE NEED FOLKS AT HOME, PEOPLE IN WESTERN
MASS PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PROGRESS HERE TO MAKE SURE THAT
IT DOESN’T MOVE DOWN THE PRIORITY LIST.>>WHAT’S DRIVING THE DELAY THAT
YOU JUST MENTIONED?>>IT’S A GOOD QUESTION. WHAT MASS DOT HAS TOLD US, THEY
GOT INUNDATED WITH COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK WHEN THE FIRST SIX
ALTERNATIVES WERE PRESENTED BACK IN JULY SO THEY’VE BEEN WORKING
THROUGH ALL OF THAT FEEDBACK. THEY’VE BEEN WORKING THROUGH ALL
OF THOSE COMMENTS THAT ARE NOW GOING TO TRY TO PRESENT TO US IN
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, THREE OPTIONS, THEY’RE GOING TO NARROW
DOWN THE SIX OPTIONS TO THREE OPTIONS. SOMETHING THAT I THINK IS VERY
IMPORTANT IS WE REALLY WANT TO PUSH FOR RAIL, ALL THE WAY
THROUGH FROM PITTSFIELD TO BOSTON THROUGH SPRINGFIELD. AND THE OTHER THING THAT I THINK
IS VERY IMPORTANT IS WE’VE BEEN PUSHING THEM TO OFFER A ONE-HOUR
OPTION. WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE? JUST GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT WE
NEED TO DO TO MAKE A ONE-HOUR TRIP FROM SPRINGFIELD TO BOSTON
HAPPEN. I’LL TELL YOU ONE ALTERNATIVE
THAT THEY ALREADY PRESENTED IS AN 80-MINUTE D 80-MINUTE TRIP. PEOPLE SHOULD THINK ABOUT THAT. IMAGINE IF YOU HAD 16 TRAINS A
DAY GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN SPRINGFIELD AND BOSTON. WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR OUR
COMMUNITY? THINK ABOUT THE JOBS IT UNLOCKS,
THINK ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. THINK ABOUT THE NEW BUSINESSES
IT WILL HELP SPUR. I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING THAT
WOULD TRANSFORM OUR REGION MORE.>>WHEN THE GOVERNOR DID MENTION
RAIL IN HIS STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH LAST YEAR, IT WAS
FOR FALL RIVER AND NEW BEDFORD, AND HE POINTED OUT, THEN THAT IT
TOOK 30 YEARS FOR THAT TO HAPPEN. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THAT
HERE?>>I AM CONCERNED. YOU KNOW, FRANKLY, RAIL IS
SOMETHING PEOPLE HAVE TALKED ABOUT FOR A LONG, LONG TIME. BUT IT REALLY, YOU KNOW, IS
SOMETHING I CAMPAIGNED ON IN 2014 AND WE JUST PUT — WE JUST
PUT THE HEAD TO THE GRINDSTONE OR WHATEVER ANALOGY YOU WANT TO
USE TO MOVE IT FORWARD. AND I’LL SAY IT’S BEEN — IT’S
BEEN HARD BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME STRONG INTERESTS ALIGNED TO
BLOCK IT AND FRANKLY, IN WESTERN MASS, GETTING INFRASTRUCTURE
INVESTMENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN HARD, BUT ON THE BRIGHT SIDE I THINK
PEOPLE SHOULD APPRECIATE HOW MUCH PROGRESS WE’VE REALLY HAD. FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE STATE OF
MASSACHUSETTS IS DOING A REAL FEASIBILITY STUDY WITH A REAL
BLUEPRINT FOR HOW TO MAKE RAIL BETWEEN WESTERN MASS AND BOSTON
A REALITY. THAT IS A BIG DEAL AND IT’S NOT
SOMETHING THAT HAS HAPPENED EVER, AT LEAST IN MY MEMORY. THERE HAVE BEEN KIND OF
PERIPHERAL STUDIES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS DONE SOME STUDIES
BUT FOR THE STATE TO STEP AND IN SAY THIS IS SOMETHING WE’RE
GOING TO PUT A BLUEPRINT TOGETHER TO MAKE HAPPEN IS A
VERY BIG DEAL, AND IT’S GOING TO BE ON ALL OF US COMMUNITY
MEMBERS, BUSINESS COMMUNITY, EVERYDAY PEOPLE GOING OUT THERE
AND SAYING WE WILL BE VOTING BASED ON THIS ISSUE. THIS IS IMPORTANT. WE NEED THE INVESTMENT. WE NEED THE RAIL. AND ALSO VERY IMPORTANTLY, AND I
THINK THE GLOBE ARTICLE GOT TO THIS IS THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR
BOSTON, TOO. THIS IS NOT JUST A PROJECT FOR
WESTERN MASS BECAUSE FRANKLY, BOSTON IS GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS
IF THEY DON’T GETS THE CONGESTION ISSUES AND HOUSING
PRICE ISSUES UNDER CONTROL. RAIL IS GOING TO HELP BOTH ENDS
OF THE STATE. IT’S GOING TO LIFT EVERYONE AND
THAT’S WHY YOU’RE SEEING MOMENTUM.>>WE HAD OUR POLITICAL
CONSULTANT ON EARLIER AND HE WAS SPEAKING ABOUT HOW THE DAY AFTER
THIS ARTICLE WAS DROPPED, HE HAS HEARING FROM MANY PEOPLE IN THE
TRANSPORTATION SECTOR LIKE TESLA AND OTHERS REPRESENTING THOSE
TYPES OF BUSINESSES. HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE SOMETHING
LIKE THAT?>>I MEAN, THERE’S IMMENSE
OPPORTUNITY. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, WE’RE
REALLY AT A HINGE MOMENT IN TERMS OF TRANSPORTATION, IN
TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY. SO MANY THINGS. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, JUST A
FEW YEARS AGO NOBODY EVEN KNEW WHAT UBER WAS AND NOW, IT’S
SOMETHING THAT EVERYBODY — EVERYBODY KNOWS. YOU KNOW, THERE’S SO MUCH
OPPORTUNITY. YOU THINK ABOUT LAST MILE
CONNECTIVITY, RIGHT? SO IF YOU HAVE THE TRAINS COMING
IN AND OUT OF UNION STATION, WHICH IS A FEW STEPS FROM WHERE
WE SIT RIGHT NOW, WELL NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU’VE OPENED UP
ALL THESE OPPORTUNITIES FOR RIDE SHARING SERVICES, FOR ELECTRIC
VEHICLES, FOR THE ELECTRIC SCOOTERS, FOR BIKE SHARING. YOU NAME IT.
AND I WOULD ADD THE NEW NUMBERS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF THE
CONNECTICUT RAIL SERVICE SHOW THE DEMAND, OVER 1 MILLION RIDES
ON THE C.T. RAIL, WHICH IS NEW
HAVEN TO SPRINGFIELD. IMAGINE IN A FEW YEARS IF YOU
HAD EAST-WEST CONNECTIVITY GOING FROM SPRINGFIELD TO BOSTON
INTERSECTING WITH NORTH-SOUTH SERVICE UP AND DOWN THE
CONNECTICUT RIVER FROM GREENFIELD ALL THE WAY TO NEW
HAVEN AND INTO NEW YORK. THAT IS TRULY A GAME CHANGER FOR
US. ♪

2 thoughts on “The State We’re In: Can Western Mass Alleviate Boston’s Housing Crisis? | Connecting Point

  • January 27, 2020 at 3:27 pm
    Permalink

    No one is trying to drive from Worcester to Boston ….

    Hunty we need trains 🚞
    We need better infrastructure and routes

    Reply
  • January 28, 2020 at 1:33 pm
    Permalink

    We need the Vanderbilt's to help push trains/rail cars again.

    Reply

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