Bikes, buses, and bottles: How Cambridge residents chose to spend $600,000

Eric Levenson
December 18, 2015

Transportation and bike safety were at the center of Cambridge residents’ minds when they voted on how to divvy up $600,000 in funding last week.

The city of Cambridge on Thursday announced the results of its Participatory Budgeting program, in which residents voted from Dec. 5 to 12 on how to spend public funds. From a list of 23 pre-approved options, residents chose to fund a total of seven programs.

Three approved options dealt with increased safety for bikers, as residents chose to move bike lanes to between street parking and the sidewalk ($50,000), paint green bike lanes through intersections ($40,000), and add lane markings and signs along Massachusetts Avenue ($70,000).

Residents also voted to speed up the MBTA’s No. 1 bus line, which runs along Massachusetts Avenue, by equipping it with a Transit Signal Priority system that would allow buses to extend green lights ($250,000).

In addition, residents chose to create a food rescue freezer to feed the hungry ($48,000), to build five water bottle refill stations ($40,000), and to purchase new chairs for area schools ($102,000).

Cambridge said 4,184 residents voted on how to spend the money as part of a program called Participatory Budgeting, a 53 percent increase over last year. The city received a total of 540 project ideas, and a volunteer group then pared those down to 23 options and their expected costs.

This was Cambridge’s second foray into the Participatory Budgeting program, which The New York Times has called “revolutionary civics in action.” Last year, residents voted on what to do with $528,000, most of which went to a $320,000 public toilet in Central Square.