The Boston Indicators Project offers new ways to understand Boston and its neighborhoods in a regional, national and global context. It aims to democratize access to information, foster informed public discourse, track progress on shared civic goals, and report on change in 10 sectors: Civic Vitality, Cultural Life and the Arts, the Economy, Education, the Environment, Health, Housing, Public Safety, Technology, and Transportation.
Transportation is the movement of cargo -- people, animals or material goods – from one place to another. Modes of transportation in contemporary life include walking, bicycling, cars, buses, trucks, aircraft, freight and passenger trains, subways, ships and boats.
Children mirror a community’s values, progress and challenges. If a community’s children are thriving, it is likely that the whole community is doing well. The Boston Indicators Project tracks progress through 2030—Boston’s 400th Anniversary - when many of today’s children and youth will be civic, political and business leaders and their children will be in school.
The Greater Boston region has a long history as a birthplace of revolution and innovation and is packed with firsts - the nation’s first public park and public library, breakthroughs in medicine and “green” building. With a newly revitalized waterfront and some of the nation’s - and the world’s - top colleges and universities, the region - with Boston at its core - attracts students from around the world and top-tier talent in all fields to its dynamic and diversified knowledge economy.
Sustainable development refers to patterns of growth that integrate environmental and human health, economic dynamism, and social cohesion and equity. Sustainable development is multi-dimensional by definition: biodiversity health; the availability of jobs at a living age; regional and per capita carbon dioxide emissions; the availability of fresh water and open spaces; etc. All of these factors increase the quality of life.
The Boston Indicators Project’s comprehensive Framework of indicators and measures reflects an intensive, participatory selection process that included hundreds of Bostonians and reviewed by thousands more. Beginning with positive goals for the future, these data-rich indicators and measures provide an objective way to assess current conditions, trends over time and patterns of relationships, as well as outcomes for specific groups, neighborhoods, the City of Boston and the Metro Boston region. The Complete Project Framework can also be re-sorted into crosscutting topics and civic agenda goals.
View the Complete Framework of Indicators
The 2012 Boston Indicators Report shows that standard top-level economic indicators don't tell us everything we need to know about the state of jobs and equity in our local and regional economy. We need to reinvent Boston's innovation economy through greater opportunity and shared prosperity.
The Boston Indicators Project produces biennial reports chronicling Boston's accomplishments and the full array of challenges facing the city and region. These reports build on expert and stakeholder convenings, data analysis, and reviews of recent research. Over the years, they have helped to catalyze an on-going set of conversations throughout the community about our region's economic competitiveness and the key challenges facing Boston.
The Measure of Poverty was released in September 2011. Findings show that the rates of poverty in Boston changed very little over the last twenty years, but is more deeply concentrated in single-parent families in particular neighborhoods. State and local budget cuts due to the recession may have long-term consequences in mitigating the effects of poverty. The Boston Indicators Project released another special report in 2008, Boston’s Education Pipeline: A Report Card, which provided a comprehensive view of the entire arc of Boston’s system of educational opportunities and outcomes, with an update in 2011.
The City of Boston is comprised of 16 Planning Districts and 26 neighborhoods, each with a unique history and identity.
This portion of the site is coming soon. For facts and figures about Boston Neighborhoods see the Boston Neighborhood Topic Crosscut Page.
This portion of the site is coming soon. In the meantime check out the MetroBoston DataCommon for facts and figures about Massachusetts.
What are the best ways to solve the pressing challenges of our city, region, country and planet? The Hub of Innovation profiles a set of breakthrough solutions from the region, nation and world.
Nominate a breakthrough!
Sustainable development refers to patterns of growth that integrate environmental and human health, economic dynamism, and social cohesion and equity. Sustainable development is multi-dimensional by definition: biodiversity health; the availability of jobs at a living age; regional and per capita carbon dioxide emissions; the availability of fresh water and open spaces; the number of miles of sidewalks and bike paths; equitable access to public transit; vehicle miles travelled; the level of income inequality; social capital. Investing in sustainable development not only protects our ecological surroundings by reducing greenhouse gases and global warming, but also provides for equitable access to healthy choices for community members, which can increase the quality of life. This cross-cut filter provides a framework for understanding patterns and trends in Greater Boston’s commitment to sustainable development and the impact of Bostonians’ everyday choices on the future of the region's ecological, economic and social environments.
A number of resources are available in Boston for those of all abilities, including:
Institute for Human Centered Design, formerly Adaptive Environments, is a Boston-based design and advocacy organization promoting universal design locally and globally.
City of Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities oversees all ADA compliance in the Boston and provides access to resources in housing, travel, employment, education and community outreach;
Mass Office of Travel and Tourism lists all accessible travel and points of interest that are accessible to people with disabilities
Massachusetts Office on Disability supports key state initiatives such as ADA compliance, Community Access Monitor Training, the Model Employer Initiative and more.
The burning of fossil fuels for cars and trucks, heating of homes and other buildings, running machines, computers and factories is the primary sources of C02 emissions in industrialized regions. Methane, the other major greenhouse gas (GHG), is emitted when garbage and waste decomposes in landfills. Greenhouse gases are also emitted from agriculture, particularly cattle raising and mining. In addition, deforestation removes a carbon sink, as plants consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, contributing to increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon.
The city of Boston's total greenhouse gas emissions fell to 7,880,000 metric tons in 2010 from 8,365,000 in 2005, with per capita emissions falling from 13.7 metric tons per person in 2005 to 12.8 in 2010.
The largest share of all GHG emissions come from commercial and industrial uses which fell from 4,510,000 metric tons in 2005 to 4,110,000 in 2010. Emissions from the second largest contributor, transportation, fell from 2,340,000 metric tons in 2005 to 2,280,000 in 2010. Residential emissions fell slightly from 1,480,000 metric tons in 2005 to 1,460,000 in 2010.
Commercial & Industrial: Between 2005 and 2010 commercial and industrial energy use generally fell with a shift in the type of energy used. Use of fuel oil declined by 10% from more than 35 million gallons to 31.5 million gallons. Use of natural gas, on the other hand, increased by 6% from more than 195 million therms to more than 206 million therms. Electricity use spiked in 2007 at 5.5 million kw/hour before falling in 2009 to 5.3 million kw/hour and jumping to 5.48 million kw/hour in 2010. Total waste disposal energy use fell 10% from 634,000 tons in 2005 to about 571,000 tons in 2010.
Residential: In the City of Boston, residential use of fuel oil fell from more than 36 million gallons in 2005 to about 33 million gallons in 2010 while use of natural gas increased from about 55 million therms in 2005 to more than 81 million therms in 2010. Total waste energy use declined from 253 million tons to 206 million tons. However, residential electricity usage spiked in 2010 to more than 1.3 billion kw/hour after falling every year from 2005 to 2009 when energy use was 1.23 billion kw/hour.
Reducing consumption is the most effective method of waste management. Reusing items by repairing, donating them for others to use, or selling them also reduces waste. Reusing is preferable to recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before being used again, but recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources and new products and it provides a host of environmental, financial, and social benefits.
Boston's total trash and waste tonnage fell to 202,000 tons in 2010 from more than 208,000 in the previous year while the total tonnage of recycling more than doubled from 21,000 tons in 2009 to more than 46,000 tons in 2010. This works out to 0.8 tons of trash and 0.2 tons of recycling per household served in Boston in 2010.
In Greater Boston, the highest concentration of environmental hazards are located in cities and towns with higher poverty rates and larger concentrations of children, such as Chelsea with 188 per square mile, followed by Cambridge with 167, Everett with 165.5, Somerville with 135 and Boston with 121 per square mile.
However, the number of extreme heat days in Boston is projected to rise considerably over the next century. Based on a high emissions scenario, between 2000 and 2099, Boston could experiences an average of 37 days above 90 degrees and 10 days above 100 degrees, with some projections showing as many as 80 days above 90 and 40 days above 100 degrees in a single year. Even based on a low-emissions scenario, Boston could experience and average 23 days and as many as 51 days above 90 degrees in a single year and an average of 4 days with as many as 13 days above 100 degrees in a single year.
Green building incorporates design, construction and operating practices with a strong focus on reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of natural light and non-toxic renewable materials. The growing number of green buildings has been driven in part by voluntary standards created by the US Green Building Council, which developed a series of green building rating systems under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The growing inventory of green buildings is a positive sign that new construction is being designed to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
As of 2012 here were 179 LEED certified or registered buildings in Boston--80 certified buildings up from 53 in 2008 and 99, up from 81, that are registered but not yet certified with the US Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Of certified buildings, 21 have achieved Silver status, 34 achieved Gold status and 7 achieved Platinum status.
According to the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, "Development consumes two acres of open space each hour in Massachusetts. About 88 percent of this land is going to new housing, and of this, 65 percent is for low-density residential development." Massachusetts General Law 40R, was written to encourage Smart Growth zoning in Massachusetts that allow for higher density, transit-oriented development.
As of 2012, 30 cities and towns in Massachusetts had approved 40R Smart Growth Zoning Districts with 11,570 units permitted. This is an increase from 16 40R districts and 9,800 units approved in 2007. Boston has approved 578 new units under 40R which will be used to increase high density, transit oriented development.
In Boston more than 7,300 of the 31,600 acres are multi-family residential and an additional 4,500 are zoned as high density residential areas. The third largest land use purpose is 3,400 acres for transportation. Despite such high density development, Boston has a large area of open, natural spaces including more than 2,450 forrested acres, nearly 600 open space acres, 567 acres of sandy beach areas and 350 acres of saltwater wetland.
Transit-oriented development—or dense, comprehensive development with a mix of housing, retail and services around transit stations—has garnered attention among planners, environmentalists, and public health advocates. These developments allow walking and bicycling within neighborhoods for healthier and less sedentary lifestyles, and they reduce auto dependency, which translates into lower consumption of fossil fuels, less air pollution, and lower spending on transportation. The concept of transit-oriented development is not new to Boston, a city that created streetcar suburbs in the 19th century and still continues to function best along transit lines.
There are more than 1 million people and 466,000 households located within 1/2 mile of an MBTA subway or Commuter Rail station and more than 886,000 people are employed at a location withing 1/2 mile of a station.
Green and open spaces provide residents and children the opportunity to experience the natural world in the heart of the city, engage in healthy outdoor recreation and exercie and contributes to the ecological integrity of an urban area.
The Trust for Public Land,2009 City Park Facts reporting onthe state of park land and open space in the 77 most populous cities in the US found that Boston has 5,040 acres of public parkland and ranks 5th among high-density cities in parkland as a percent of total land area (16.3%), 2nd in acres per residents (8.3), 9th in playgrounds per 10,000 residents (3.6) and spent $101 per resident on Parks and Recreation in FY07.
The City of Boston contains 5,518 acres of open space, including 3,251 acres of parks, playgrounds, squares and outdoor malls, 240 acres of protected ‘urban wilds;’ and 62 acres of community gardens. The Boston Parks and Recreation Department oversees 2,200 acres of parkland, including 215 parks and playgrounds, 65 squares, urban woodlands and street trees, three active cemeteries, 16 historic burying grounds, and two golf courses. The balanced distribution of greenspace is a critical component of neighborhood quality. Over the last 10 years, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department has implemented a $120 million rehabilitation of the city’s park system, targeting every tot lot and the majority of ball fields and courts.
According to the City of Boston Parks Department, Central Boston and the South End have about 2 acres of green space per 1,000 people, the least in the city. Fenway, Back Bay, and Dorchester have about twice that amount. Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and West Roxbury have the most open space per capital.
The state and the Boston region have many outstanding parklands - and maintaining them requires a regular infusion of funding. As in other areas, deferred maintenance often leads to higher costs, and in the case of parkland, the lack of maintenance also often leads to disuse for recreational purposes and a transition to unwelcome and unsafe use.
Funding for Parks and Recreation statewide has also fallen steadily over the last few years, to $71.5 million in FY12 from a peak of $139 million in FY06. However, funding in FY12 was higher than the low in FY05 of $71 million.
The ideal is to create a range of housing affordability within each of Boston’s neighborhoods and the region's city and town centers to provide for a healthy mix of residents – including seniors, singles, young families, and people of many backgrounds and all incomes.
Chapter 40R encourages Massachusetts communities to create smart growth overlay zoning districts where denser, transit-oriented affordable housing can be built as as-of-right.
The quality of life for people who live and work in Boston and the Metro region depends in large part on their ability to get from one place to another for increasingly diverse purposes.
Car ownership is outstripping population growth nationally, regionally and locally. Massachusetts has more than one motor vehicle for every licensed driver, two vehicles for every household, and 1.5 vehicles for every job in the state. The increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) due to rising automobile ownership rates and dispersed development patterns is unsustainable and contributes to air, noise and water pollution.
There were more than 236,000 registered passenger vehicles in the city of Boston, equal to about 1 per household. By comparison, a majority of cities and towns in Massachusetts that are not accessible by the MBTA have more than 2 cars per household.
Within the city of Boston, the largest concentration of no-car households were in high-density neighborhoods such as Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Downtown Boston and Fenway where more than half of the households have no car. The lowest concentration of no-car households were in outer neighborhoods such as Brighton, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Roslindale and South Boston.
Vehicles are the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Most buses, trucks, and construction vehicles use diesel fuel, which produces particulates and nitrogen oxides. Alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles contribute lower GHG emissions than traditional vehicles using gasoline and electric vehicles do not produce local emissions.
As of 2010 there were 71,106 alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles registered in Massachusetts, with 4,855 registered within the city of Boston--the most in the state--followed by 1,739 in Newton, 1,584 in Cheshire, 1,414 in Canton and 1,027 in Worcester.
Municipalities with the highest concentration of AFV's were Cheshire and Clarksburg--smaller communities in Western MA--with 45 per every 1,000 cars registered. Within greater Boston, the highest concentrations were in Lincoln with 30 per 1,000, Westford with 26.7 per 1,000 and Lexington with 25.8 AFV's per 1,000 cars registered. In Boston there were 7.9 AFV’s per 1,000 cars.
Human activity has begun to alter the balance of atmospheric gases and thereby change global climate. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (the principal ones are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) can increase the global climate slowly but dramatically. The primary greenhouse gas emitted by fossil fuel combustion is carbon dioxide, or C02. Although trees and other vegetation absorb carbon dioxide, they cannot keep up with the rapid increase in C02 due to industrialization. Every gallon of gas burned by a vehicle releases approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide; an average American car can emit its weight in C02 every year.
City of Boston greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have fallen from 2.34 million metric tons in 2005 to 2.28 million metric tons. Statewide, almost all (97%) greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts consist of carbon dioxide released in fossil fuel combustion. According to data from the US Energy Information Administration compiled by Environment Massachusetts, 30% of these energy-related C02 emissions were generated by the transportation sector
Park Score ranked Boston as nation's third best city for parks and spaces based on total acreage and park size, access to open space, and the city's overall investment in services to public parks and play spaces.
Hubway is Boston's nationally recognized bike-sharing program with more than 60 stations and 600 bikes across the city.
Introducing our new Blog, Shaping the Future, where we hope to engage in dialogue about where we hope to be and see ourselves, our neighborhoods, city and region in the year 2030