When Environmental and Social Policy Converge: The Case of Boston’s Fairmount Line

  • Jeremy R. LevineEmail author


In February of 2010, the federal Office of Sustainable Communities selected five pilot projects to serve as exemplars of the United States’ new sustainable urban policy. One of the pilots, the expansion of the Fairmount commuter rail line in Boston, integrates social needs and environmental benefits within a coordinated strategy of community development. In this chapter, I detail the case of the Fairmount line in Boston. First, I discuss the process of collaboration between grassroots social policy and environmental policy advocates. Through an effective framing of the problems facing inner-city residents, disparate advocacy groups joined forces to advocate for a single policy outcome, seeing the transit expansion as simultaneously socially and environmentally beneficial. But the Fairmount case also involved a political evolution from above: Local and regional policymakers reimagined the initial social policy as an environmental policy, ultimately recognizing the interdependent social and environmental benefits of transit expansion. Sustainable policy development requires integrated partnerships, and I conclude with lessons for policymakers and practitioners alike.


Affordable Housing Public Transit Sustainable Community Grassroots Organization Community Development Corporation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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