Last Thursday afternoon at the New England Aquarium, the Coalition for a Resilient and Inclusive Waterfront hosted a Mayoral Candidate Forum.
Of the candidates running for Boston Mayor in the upcoming fall election, John Barros, Annissa Essaibi-George, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu took part in the forum and fielded questions on how to make Boston’s waterfront more accessible, equitable and climate resilient.
While each candidate that participated in last week’s forum all had solid ideas on how to make the waterfront more sustainable and resilient against the threat of climate change and sea level rise, the question on how to make the waterfront more accessible and equitable through a comprehensive water transportation plan was of interest to many in the audience.
The question last week from Alberto Vasallo III, President and CEO of El Mundo Boston, was, “Boston’s congestion is notorious. Our roads are clogged, yet our waterways remain untapped. So, how can the city invest in transportation that better connects residents to the waterfront? This includes but is not limited to public transit, pedestrian access and ferry services or which projects would you focus on to improve affordable access to the waterfront and Harbor Island.
Barros answered, “I was just out on Thompson Island. I spent some time with some youth on Thompsons Island as they were exploring the island. If we had better transportation that ensured there is water transportation so that we can get back and forth to these resources on a regular basis.”
Barros advocated for free water taxi operations that would connect Boston’s waterfront neighborhoods like the North End, Charlestown and East Boston and make them more accessible for all.
Campbell encouraged the audience to check out her transportation plan on her campaign website.
“I really want to encourage folks to take a look at my transportation plan because I put in a lot of work into it with a whole host of stakeholders. I really leaned on those with greater expertise than me. I’m never afraid to say I’m an expert in everything and I’m always honest about where we need to go. This (transportation) really needs to be a comprehensive response so in the plan I talk about greater investment and expanded service while making (public transportation) free at certain moments, or at certain times for particular residents to be able to access certain parts of the city. I live in Mattapan where there are transportation deserts in certain pockets of my district. So expanding access to the subway, ferry lines and buses while thinking about what it means to be able to get around our neighborhoods.”
Essaibi-George said, “We need a comprehensive network when we think about connecting our residents to other parts of the city. Oftentimes when we talk about water transportation we are responding to some of the demands of our tourism industry. While it is the third largest industry here in the city and one that we need to support, My priority as Mayor is to make sure that we are connecting our city’s residents to those opportunities. As we think about those water connections we need to focus on all of our downtown communities. The neighborhoods that exist here are often thought of as commercial and office space, retail space and places where people go to visit but we have a community here. We certainly have a neighborhood in the North End and West End and into Charlestown so we need to make sure that they are connected to each other as economic centers.”
Wu said Boston is “the city that dug the very first subway tunnel anywhere in the country. This is a city that dug in and realized that when we all invest in our shared destinies, the ways in which we intertwine, and share common goals for the public good we’re all better off. When we recognize public transportation in that same category as public education, libraries and parks it truly recognizes the right for each one of us to benefit from all of the amazing amenities and resources all across our city. You should not be confined to your zip code but truly have access to what all of Boston has to offer. That goes for our students. That goes for our families. That goes for our seniors. That goes for everyone. So when it comes to transportation let’s lean in hard with what the city can do. I’m proud of my leadership on fair free transportation, which has resulted in some major steps forward. Let’s lean in and push the state on major projects like an inner harbor ferry transportation system, electrifying the Fairmount Line and the Red/Blue Line Connector, and let’s act with urgency, realizing how connected transportation is to every other issue we face.”