Guest Op-Ed : How Did Everett Do It? They Got to Work on Transportation

By Stacy Thompson

“How did Everett do it?” I get this question frequently from city agencies and advocates across the country. Maybe they saw a piece in CityLab or a LivableStreets tweet celebrating the installation of a new bus lane or the launch of a new bike share system. They all want to know how a city they’ve never heard of is undergoing one of the most impressive transportation transformations in the country.

What is so striking to outsiders isn’t necessarily the projects – its the sheer pace of change. Cities ten times the size of Everett are struggling to do what Everett has done in a notably short amount of time. 

Often people want technical answers. “How long is the bus lane?” or “how many bikeshare stations did they add?” The truth is, while the details matter, I tell them Everett is successful because city leadership fully and passionately supports these changes. And those leaders have empowered a creative and determined staff to do everything possible to give the people of Everett a world-class transportation system. 

This hasn’t always been easy. City leaders didn’t bend to predictions of traffic Armageddon upon the opening of the Encore Casino or naysayers who didn’t believe buses and bikes could be a viable alternative to driving. Instead, they got to work.

The results are striking. In a few short years Everett has added miles of dedicated bus and bike infrastructure, launched not one, but two bike share systems and is implementing complete street projects across the city. They’ve worked closely with Encore to encourage employees and guests to leave their cars at home and walk, bike, take transit or water shuttles instead. The traffic Armageddon never did materialize, but a steady stream of cyclists have been spotted on the new Northern Strand Trail connection and on protected bike lanes leading in and out of the city. The Encore shuttles are filled to the brim, and MBTA bus ridership is up 5 percent in the last two years, bucking trends of decline elsewhere around Boston.

Everett could take a break and claim victory.

Instead they are pushing ahead with bolder and more ambitious projects. The city is currently working with partners to build a dedicated bike and pedestrian bridge over the Mystic River, completing the last and most difficult link in a 12 mile trail system between Boston and the North Shore. They also have plans to expand their dedicated bus lane system, constructing a new dedicated bus lane on the lower section of Broadway in two years, with a goal of having Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit from Everett to Boston in five years. 

I am confident Everett will achieve these goals and that I will be fielding calls for years to come. When they ask, “How did Everett do it?”, I’ll say anyone can do it. All you need is a little red paint, some orange cones, an unrelenting commitment to prioritizing people over vehicles, and a belief that everyone deserves great transportation.

Stacy Thompson, executive director, LivableStreets Alliance

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