Thursday, March 10, 2011

SomerStat analyst to present at Urban Affairs Conference

For those who did not see the press release, our own John Harding will be presenting a very well-researched paper on the relationship between public transportation and economic development at the upcoming Urban Affairs Conference. Below is John's thesis, from which he will derive his presentation, and a press release about the event. We are fortunate to have such a skilled analyst!

SOMERVILLE - Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced that John Harding, an analyst with the City's SomerStat Department, has been selected to present at the annual Urban Affairs Association (UAA) Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana later this month.  The UAA is an international scholarly organization that publishes the Journal of Urban Affairs, an academic journal dedicated to urban research and policy analysis.  A recent graduate of UMass Boston's Master of Science in Public Affairs program, Harding submitted a proposal based on his recently completed Capstone project, titled "Public Transit in Boston: A Catalyst for Economic Development?", and was selected by the UAA to present at a panel discussion focusing on the topic.

In his report, Harding used statistical methods to evaluate the economic impact of the MBTA's public transit network vis-à-vis local property sales, a topic inspired by Somerville's Red Line-adjacent Davis Square neighborhood.  Harding found that, despite ongoing criticism, Greater Boston's transit system has played a vital, catalytic role in local development.  He noted in the report, "By taking a ride on an MBTA line during rush hour periods, one can see that public transit plays an active, vital role in facilitating such [economic] activity-a virtual circulatory system within the city's anatomy ... These results substantiate common anecdotes in Boston, indicating that the MBTA has indeed catalyzed economic activity in the city."  Given this economic relationship, Harding further asserted that new rail service and "transit-oriented development" projects should be pursued aggressively across the metropolitan area.

These findings are particularly germane to Somerville, where the long-awaited Green Line extension and Assembly Square Orange Line projects are slated for completion in coming years. "In addition to providing direct rail access to over 85 percent of Somerville residents, substantial economic development will be a hugely beneficial byproduct of both the Green Line Extension project and the addition of an Orange Line stop at Assembly Square," Mayor Curtatone said.  "John's report provides useful insight and support of the planning processes we've undertaken in recent years, relative to our City's development and transit future.  He is another example of the bright, talented employees we have here in City government, and I am excited that he's been granted this opportunity."
It is anticipated that such development will be realized in the form of good local jobs, livable neighborhoods, reduced traffic congestion, and a general quality of life boon for the City's 75,000 residents. 

John Harding joined Mayor Curtatone's staff as a SomerStat Analyst this past fall, where he has used similar quantitative methods to analyze a variety of city programs and policies.  For more information regarding the SomerStat Department, please visit  Further information regarding the UAA can be found at

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