Category: MIT

Are text-a-thons the future of activism? Cambridge’s Activist Afternoons thinks so.

Boxes of pizza, an aroma of hot coffee and smiling people invested in their phones filled a Cambridge workplace in the heart of Central Square yesterday, but the gathering wasn’t purely social.

As millions of Americans across the country prepared for the midterm elections by reading up on issues and candidates, over 160 volunteers in Cambridge spent the evening before Election Day encouraging voter participation at a text-a-thon hosted by Activist Afternoons.

The gathering was one of many the group has hosted since it launched in the fall of 2017. The first of three around the state, Activist Afternoons hosts weekly events with a different menu of activities – often including meetings, activist training sessions, and text-a-thons – for the Cambridge community at Workbar, a membership-based coworking space on Prospect Street.

Hustling young people to the polls

The members of the five national and local organizations present at the Nov. 5 text-a-thon used Hustle – the texting platform used for Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 presidential election. For three hours they sent personalized messages to registered voters, reminding them to vote on issues, political parties and candidates this Election Day.

Daniel Curtis, community organizer at Activist Afternoons, said the goal of Monday night’s text-a-thon was to motivate or remind residents of Cambridge and others nationwide to participate, especially younger voters.

“The main objective of tonight is to get in contact with as many people as possible and encourage them to vote, ” said Curtis. “A general concern we have is that, historically, young people are the least likely to vote.”

During the 2014 midterm elections, only 17.1 percent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds showed up at the polls. That was less than half the turnout of the population at large – 41.9 percent of whom voted – according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Current Population Survey.

Curtis said he thinks a significant cause of low turnout among young people is the fact that they have never voted before.

The future of activism?

With Gen-Xers and younger generations representing 59 percent of American adults eligible to vote as of April 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, text-a-thon volunteers were hoping that the last-minute mobilization of younger voters has a serious effect on election results.

Among the clicking, tapping and chattering volunteers was state Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who opted to make calls rather than texting during the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. event.

“I couldn’t really figure out how to work the texting, so I went with calling,” laughed Livingstone.

Out of the five Democratic organizations represented at the text-a-thon, Livingstone chose to work with the Environmental Voter Project and Justice Democrats groups. He noted that one of the reasons Democratic organizations specifically tend to focus on mobilizing the younger generations is because they tend to be more worried about social issues and protecting the environment.

“Young people are more concerned about social and environmental issues,” said Livingstone, who represents parts of Cambridgeport as well as Boston. “The way we get the Democratic Party to where it needs to be is by convincing people to vote at events like this one.”

“Texting as a medium appeals to younger people and can easily reach tons of voters,” said Labandibar. “I think we will see more voters turn out as result of these texting events.”

Ian Anderson is a Boston University journalism student writing as part of a collaboration between the Cambridge Chronicle and BU News Service.

http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181106/are-text-a-thons-future-of-activism-cambridges-activist-afternoons-thinks-so

MBTA Focus 40 Comment Letter

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority unveiled a 35-page drafted investment plan, called “Focus40,” which mapped potential improvements and plans for the T. You can read the report here.

I was disappointed that the MBTA had yet again failed to address the possibility of connecting the Grand Junction Rail to Kendall Square via West Station. I was also disappointed that a connection of the Red and Blue lines were not prioritized either. Both connections would be a fantastic boon to the economy of Kendall square by increasing access to the hub. During the comment period, I submitted a letter to this effect, which you can read below:

MBTA_Focus40_Comment_Final

Rep. Fernandes Seeks to Save Threatened Federal Sea Grant Program

BOSTON – A local legislator is defending the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution-based Sea Grant College Program, which could lose funding as part of proposed Trump Administration budget cuts.

Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes co-sponsored a resolution which passed through the House that urges level funding for the program which began in 1966.

The network of 33 Sea Grant programs throughout the country promotes sustainable economic development and oceanic conservation.

“The Sea Grant Program has helped our communities guard against natural disasters, promote our blue economy and develop our oceanic resources in a sustainable way,” said Fernandes.

“The program has been an indispensable asset to our region and eliminating it is unacceptable.”

The resolution was introduced with State Rep. Jay Livingstone, whose district is home to the Sea Grant College Program housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Woods Hole Sea Grant program’s history traces back to 1971 and has since worked with towns to build sustainable aquaculture programs, promote coastal resiliency and educate the public on environmental issues.

An initial budget proposal from the Trump Administration last month would completely eliminate the program.

Fernandes said the program generates about $142 million in economic activity each year.

A copy of the language used in the resolution will be sent to all the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and the White House Office of Budget and Management.

MassDOT Plans to Consolidate Construction on Longfellow

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced implementation of a plan to re-sequence construction on the Longfellow Bridge by combining Stages 4 and 6 – a measure which the contractor White-Skanska-Consigli (WSC) said would result in faster completion of the project in June 2018, three months earlier than previously anticipated.

This announcement follows a robust public process, which included a stakeholder briefing and two public meetings in Boston and Cambridge in August. MassDOT has begun the multimodal shifts to accommodate the combined stages

Under this plan, WSC will simultaneously rehabilitate the bridge under the MBTA outbound track (Stage 4) and reconstruct the downstream roadway and sidewalk (previously planned for Stage 6). With this modification, the contractor anticipates having all modes of travel in their final configuration by June 2018. Stage 5 will be performed after the combined Stages 4 and 6.

“It’s no secret that the rehabilitation of this historic bridge posed significant challenges in the early stages of construction, but by working with and challenging our contractor to think creatively, we are happy to see a significant time savings and bring this project to completion sooner,” MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin said. “This response to challenges faced demonstrates MassDOT’s commitment to delivering the highest quality projects that respond to the needs of all modes and types of travelers.”

State Rep. Jay Livingstone said, “I’m pleased that MassDOT and its contractors continue to look for ways to shorten the reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge. I fully support MassDOT’s newest plan, which will again shorten the reconstruction by months. MassDOT’s willingness to keep all critical stakeholders fully informed has been extremely helpful throughout the entire process”

State Rep Tim Toomey said, “MassDOT and the Longfellow Bridge contractor are clearly working hard to get the project completed at an earlier date. I appreciate their efforts to consistently provide residents and stakeholders with the latest information about the project, and they’ve been doing a great job at coming back to the community on a regular basis to provide updates and answer questions.”

To accommodate this time saving work, all modes of travel will use the upstream side of the bridge, pedestrians will use the upstream sidewalk for travel in both directions; inbound bicyclists will use the new 5-foot wide designated bike lane on the upstream roadway; and outbound bicyclists will share the upstream sidewalk with pedestrians.

While outbound cyclists may ride their bikes on the sidewalk, MassDOT asks that cyclists and pedestrians use caution and respect the rights of everyone to use public infrastructure in this temporary shared configuration.

Also, MBTA and emergency response access across the bridge will be maintained at all times.

Visit the project Web site to learn more about the Stage 4 ans 6 bike routes and to view the bike route maps for the Boston Approach and the Cambridge Approach.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using the existing signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway (Route 28)/Charles River Dam Road and Land Boulevard.

View the Stage 4 and 6 Graphic for travel space configuration along the Longfellow Bridge. Learn more about Stage 4 and 6 in the Construction Updates section of the project Web site.

The Longfellow Bridge restoration project began in 2013. White-Skanska-Consigli Joint Venture is the contractor for the project.

MassDOT Installs Two Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons To Improve Pedestrian Safety In Cambridge

For Immediate Release
September 2, 2016
Contact
MassDOT Press Office: 857-368-8500

MassDOT Installs Two Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons To Improve Pedestrian Safety In Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced the installation of two new pedestrian hybrid beacons at the intersection of Land Boulevard and Cambridge Parkway which are intended to improve pedestrian safety in the area.

A pedestrian hybrid beacon is designed to warn drivers at an unsignalized location that they are at a crosswalk location so that drivers slow down and pedestrians are assisted in crossing a roadway. The new beacons are part of the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project.

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A 2010 study by the Federal Highway Administration indicated use of the beacons decreased total crashes by 29 percent and pedestrian crashes by 69 percent.

MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin says,

“The new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are another tool MassDOT is using to promote pedestrian travel to and from work, home and other events that will help keep them safe. Proper use of the beacons has become an effective method in reducing pedestrian crashes.”

State Representative Jay Livingstone applauded MassDOT for emphasizing pedestrian safety, “I’m pleased that MassDOT has prioritized pedestrian safety by expediting the installation of these Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons so that people can safely cross this dangerous intersection.”

State Representative Timothy Toomey thanked Administrator Tinlin for working to get the new beacons installed, “High speeds and poor visibility can make Land Boulevard a dangerous area for pedestrians, and the new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons will go a long way toward remedying that.” Toomey added, “I am thankful to Administrator Tinlin and his staff for working with Representative Livingstone and me to deliver these improvements earlier than was originally anticipated.”

City of Cambridge Assistant City Manager for Community Development Iram Farooq said the new beacons will help connect pedestrians to the Charles River area, “Cambridge is pleased that the state was able to implement the signal as part of the Longfellow Bridge project. Improving the pedestrian crossing at this intersection supports the City’s sustainable and active transportation goals, better connects residents and workers to the Charles River and supports our commitment to safety and Vision Zero.”

Brendan Kearney, of WalkBoston, added, “WalkBoston is pleased that walking and running safety measures have now been added in the project area, instead of waiting until the end of the construction process.”

The two beacons cost approximately $270,000.

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Rep. Livingstone speaking at the event unveiling the new pedestrian signals.