Recent UEP graduate Tony Lechuga, MA ’17, shares his work and new role as the Emerald Network Program Manager for the Cambridge-based nonprofit LivableStreets Alliance.
LivableStreets Alliance envisions a world where streets are safe, vibrant public spaces that connect people to places where they live, work, and play. One of LivableStreets’ initiatives, the Emerald Network, is a vision for 200 miles of seamless greenways throughout the Metro Boston area – connecting homes, jobs, schools, and recreation.
As the Emerald Network Program Manager, my job is to advocate and provide project oversight and technical assistance for expanding the network. As the Boston area continues to grow in population, it’s generally recognized that car commutes and MBTA services are worsening and holding back the local economy. With congestion choking our region and climate change battering our shores, it’s imperative that we think about adapting our transportation system for better connectivity and mobility.
The Emerald Network is currently a patchwork of amazing but disconnected paths. When complete, this web of uninterrupted linear parks and trails will get you where you need and want to go – providing powerful benefits to quality of life, the economy, climate resilience, and equity.
The largest barrier to full implementation, however, is political will to move beyond the status quo. Despite the growth in population and jobs within Boston, limited action has been taken to improve infrastructure and transportation services on a large scale. Notwithstanding the commitments made in municipal planning documents, there needs to be an equal commitment to funding truly adaptive changes at a rate that is commensurate with population growth and demand. The old system that operated during decades of urban decline is no longer appropriate for a time of growth and changing cultural expectations.
I came into this job after working as an intern at WalkBoston while I was in UEP. The combination of experience I acquired from that internship and my general studies at UEP was essential for filling a role that involves both advocacy and technical knowledge. It wouldn’t be enough to have a background in transportation planning because so much of this work intersects with housing, schools, and the environment. By allowing me to take a range of courses, UEP provided me with the necessary wide-ranging knowledge of urban and environmental planning.
We are currently pushing forward with a 25% design of the Roslindale Gateway Path that connects Roslindale Village with the Forest Hills T Station, the first study of which was done by a 2016 UEP Field Projects team. We are also advocating for the development of the Somerville Community Path along the Green Line Extension – also a 2015 Field Project. Through 2018, our priorities include connecting the South Bay Harbor Trail to Melnea Cass Blvd., the redevelopment of Morrissey Blvd., and the connections between the Somerville Community Path, the Grand Junction Path, and the Dudley White Path.
We are a small staff, but a large community. We are always looking for people to join our advocacy committee, which meets once a month, and volunteer Street Ambassadors to work at our public events. We have some exciting upcoming events including an open streets day on May 12th showcasing a connection that would connect the Southwest Corridor and the Emerald Necklace via a greenway from Ruggles Station to the Fens. We are also hosting a panel discussion at the Boston Public Library on May 31st as part of their summer series through the Leventhal Map Center.
If this vision is something that interests you, consider joining our advocacy committee, attending our events, or coming to any of our StreetTalks. You can learn more about our work on our website and sign up to receive our e-blasts and newsletters, or you can always email me.