Erica Simmons

2012 Rappaport Public Policy Fellow

May 24, 2012

Graduate School:Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Undergraduate School:Stanford University
Areas of Interest:Transportation Issues
Mentors:Kathy Kottaridis, Historic Boston, Inc. and Stephanie Groll, Cambridge Department of Parking and Transportation
Placement:City of Boston Transportation Department
Supervisor:Charlotte Fleetwood, Transportation Planner
Project Description: This summer Erica worked for the Boston Transportation Department on two main projects. The first project was to research how the City of Boston can evaluate projects designed based on the City’s Complete Streets Guidelines, which call for streetscape projects to be multimodal, green and smart – safely accommodating multiple users (e.g., automobile drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit), as well as incorporating sustainable construction techniques (such as permeable pavements and stormwater drainage) and smart technologies (such as electric vehicle charging stations or smart phone technology). For this project, Erica researched best practices from other cities’ streetscape evaluation efforts and collected baseline data prior to the construction of the planned East Boston Central Square Redesign.

Her other project was to develop Boston Playways, a program to promote small-scale, recurring, neighborhood-organized street closures for active recreation. The goals of the playways project are to help neighborhood residents rethink their streets, while bringing physical activity to the streets where children live. She coordinated with several different city departments to develop policy recommendations to streamline the permit process and sustain a long-term program and partnered with a neighborhood association in the Bowdoin-Geneva area of Dorchester to organize a pilot event.

Erica says that through this summer, I learned how to develop a project from an initial idea into a pilot. "I also learned a lot about how different departments in Boston work, and how to organize an interdepartmental project. This was a particular challenge for me: when I started the summer I found the act of cold-calling professionals intimidating, but I had to learn how to reach out to a diverse range of professionals working for the City and for other organizations throughout Boston. Through this process, I learned that most people are very helpful and have valuable expertise, and that you can accomplish a lot through interdisciplinary collaboration. I also got a sense for how diverse and complex urban neighborhoods are, and for the importance of working with neighborhood residents to make sure a city initiative is appropriate to the needs and desires of the people who live there. My summer as a Rappaport Fellow has been a wonderful experience, and I have really appreciated the opportunities the fellowship has provided, both through my work at the Boston Transportation Department and through the weekly enrichment events the Rappaport Institute organized."