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Imagine Boston 2030 calling via Legos, texts, bus ads

Planning effort's plan to reach every citydweller includes Legos, text-to-vote, bus ads.

In one way or another, you’ll be coming acrossImagine Boston 2030pretty soon.

Such is the ethos of the city-funded group’s aggressive campaign to reach everyone who “lives, works and plays” in the city, said Sara Myerson, its executive director.

Results of the two-year, $2.8 million effort, Myerson told Metro, would be the fuel behind a plan for the next 15 years that would help guide how the city spends money, what kinds of building projects it green-lights or what it prioritizes when it comes to schools, public art and resources like parks and roads. 2030 is Boston’s 400thbirthday.

“What we’re doing is asking for all Bostonians to participate by identifying what their vision is for the future and collecting big ideas for the city,” said Myerson. “We are growing as a city – where do we grow, how do we grow?”

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By late last week, the group claimed, it had already heard from 3,100 people.

There are lots of bells and whistles in Imagine Boston’s arsenal for this, the first major city planning effort in 50 years

Organizers planned to supplement typical town hall-style meet-ups with other approaches, like interactive maps, 3D modeling, ballot boxes, social media chatter, “placemaking” demonstrations using Legos and the soon-to-be-released “visioning kits,” packed with take-home tools to come up with ideas in living rooms and at dinner tables. Coming soon, Myerson said, would be a campaign to place ads on high-traffic areas like bus shelters and T stops and on billboards. There had been talks of hosting a festival, she said.

“I hope that once we have advertisements going up around the city and a wide variety of meetings, in some way we touch everyone over the next two years,” said Myerson, 32, who this year served as executive director of the city’s Office of Olympic Planning before Boston’s Olympic bid fizzled this summer.
She said lessons learned during Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games would inform the process this time around. She also vowed the process would be transparent.
The first major Imagine Boston outreach effort to launch was atext-to-vote tool called Textizen, which went live in October. Basically, city-dwellers were asked to select from alist of nine topics the one most important to them(“housing I can afford,” “better transportation options”), then text their response to the city at (617) 860-3745.

“It’s a tool that is allowing Bostonians to interact with us just with the technology that’s in their pocket every day,” Myerson said.

Textizen is accessible in English and Spanish.
All the input, no matter how it makes its way back to Imagine Boston, could be put to use immediately after the plan is done in 2017, Myerson said, and the goal is to make a plan that the city can actually put to use on the relatively short-term.
“Fifteen years isn’t that far away,” she said.
Metro asked commuters at South Station what they thought Boston should prioritize for 2030.
Education should be a top priority, said Peter Egan, 23, of Hyde Park.
“Boston Public Schools is struggling right now,” said Egan.
He said he was grateful for the education he got at the selective Boston Latin Academy, but knew other students in Boston not in top schools weren’t so lucky and would benefit from more funding.
“If you’re not at one of those schools, you’re really at a disadvantage,” Egan said.
Martin Kessler, 65, a cyclist from Lynn who said he comes to Boston every day, had a pretty specific request.
“I would like to have half-price senior rail passes, which they don’t have,” he said. Discounted senior fares on the commuter rail only come in 10-ride packages. “It’s ridiculous.”
Stephanie Barnes, 29, of Chinatown, meanwhile, said safer neighborhoods were at the top of her list.
Barnes said she wasn’t sure she felt comfortable raising a family in many parts of Boston, and said city leaders should “try to get control of the drug situation and make it safer to walk late at night.”
 
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