Living in the city can often lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and grumpiness, especially during the dog days of August. Therefore, I thought I’d be the optimist for once and mention several of the things that are making me happy right now (well, mostly), courtesy of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the good people at City Hall.
Food trucks – There are now fifteen food truckslocated around the city. Food trucks serve hot, tasty food similar in quality to what you'd find at any two/three-star restaurant in Boston; in other words, these are definitely not glorified ice cream trucks.
I've seen five or six of the trucks located around the city and they often seem to gather a good-sized crowd. The Kick-*ss Cupcakes truck was on Boylston Street last week, and tourists were crowding the window. Unfortunately, the Grilled Cheese Nation truck outside the Museum of Fine Arts was without customers, but it was 2:30 on a hot, summer afternoon.
The food truck program has been up and running for just over a month. If some of the current locations don't work, no doubt they can be moved to more lucrative spaces.
On the flipside, I don’t think I’d be very happy if I was a brick-and-mortar restaurant and suddenly I had a new competitor right outside my door. Additionally, I hope the city is going to make sure it collects meals taxes on all the food truck sales and that the city's Inspectional Services Division is on-site, checking for cleanliness.
Hubway bicycle sharing program – The Hubway Bike Share program allows you to rent a bike by the hour, making it popular with residents looking to run errands and with tourists wishing to explore our city.
Mostly, I hate bicycles in the city. I’m not the only one. Actually, we don’t hate bicycles; we hatebicyclists.
Pretty much, you walk around the city for more than a couple hours and you’re bound to encounter an aggressive/hostile bicyclist, one who doesn’t obey traffic laws. Many times, bicyclists are annoying.
But, the bike share program is still kind of cool. For a casual user (say, if you plan on only using it once per month or less), you don’t need to sign up online (it costs $60 for annual membership, if you do).
You go directly to a Hubway station, put in your credit card (Mastercard and Visa only, as I discovered a bit too late), and within minutes, you’re off on a bike. It costs $5 each time you use a bike, plus a per hour charge after the first half-hour.
We'll still be subject to poor biker etiquette, and there is sure to be an accident or two made grizzly by novice cyclists riding without helmets, but overall, the program will improve the city experience.
Sugary drinks – In June, the Mayor announced he wanted to ban “sugary sodas and juices” from all city-owned buildings. City agencies have six months to comply.
I like that the Mayor's not just focused on sodas; many fruit drinks have ridiculously high levels of sugar and can lead to obesity, too.
I say, go one step further. Boston should require restaurants and delis to list nutritional values for all prepared foods. You’d be surprised at how many calories (and fat grams and carbohydrates) there are in your McDonald’s hamburger and Starbucks’ bacon and egg sandwich.
Citizens’ Connect – Do you like to complain? I do. So, when the city started this program, I was overjoyed.
Citizens Connect is a way for residents to report when things aren't working in the city. You can use your smart phone or log-in online, reporting potholes, broken street lights, missed trash pickups, unswept streets, etc. Just about anything. I’ve used it probably 10 times during the past eight months.
Complaining is fun, but the real payoff is that the city actually fixes the things you complain about. And, you can track your request and follow your complaint online and others' complaints, on Twitter.
Social media – The city has embraced social media. There are multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as several RSS feeds. You can certainly get your fill of updates on what’s happening at City Hall and around the city. And, the city and the Boston Public Library have put many historic photographs online, on Flickr.
Emergency alerts – You can sign up online to get email, phone, or text alerts anytime something serious happens in the city. You can also sign up for reminders about street sweeping schedules andcity events.
The Mayor and the Boston City Council have seen the light and moved the city into the 21st-century. If you haven't tried out all the services I mention above, I recommend you do. You'll really enjoy them.