City Councilor Dennis Carlone is a Catalyst for Cambridge’s Transportation Transformation


by Nick DeLuca for BostonInno

Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Carlone

Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Carlone

It could be argued that transportation in Cambridge is in the midst of a renaissance. From vehicle side guards to bike and pedestrian safety, to the Grand Junction bike path, behind much of these initiatives you’ll find City Councilor Dennis Carlone.

A Cantabrigian for more than four decades, Councilor Carlone knows what it takes to implement smart transit strategy. With extensive experience in urban planning and architecture, he realizes that in a city as densely populated as Cambridge, transportation can be the driving force behind reimagining the cityscape.

And, believe it or not, he actually think the MBTA does a great job, despite what some of you think.

Nick DeLuca: Are you originally from Cambridge?

My wife Katie and I have lived in Cambridge for the past 40 years—basically our entire adult life. After moving here for graduate school, we both fell in love with the city and decided it would be a great place to raise our family. We still consider ourselves lucky to call Cambridge home.

Describe your background in urban planning, transportation, and local government.

Urban planning

I am an architect/urban designer in private practice since 1978, with a focus on creating sustainable, contextually-designed buildings and public spaces. Perhaps my most well known effort is the East Cambridge Riverfront Project, a nationally recognized urban design strategy that transformed 40 acres of underutilized industrial land on the Charles River into a mixed-use neighborhood that encircles the Lechmere Canal.


Transportation, the movement of people and goods, is the largest form-giver of cities and an integral part of urban design. It can be in balance with city life, or it can overwhelm it. Needless to say, my goal is to strategically maximize transportation’s benefits while at the same time minimizing negative impacts. Transit gives great value and meaning to a place, but if uncontrolled it can make a neighborhood less inviting and less enjoyable.

Municipal government

In addition to my private practice, I also spent thirty years as an architect/urban design consultant to the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Planning Board. Over that length of time, I witnessed many good things happen, but I also saw areas that could be improved. This experience inspired me to run for City Council last year on a platform of pushing for a new, citywide Master Plan. I am grateful to report that after some big debates at City Hall this year, we’ve finally reached consensus on the need for a citywide plan, and the work is now moving forward.

How do you commute to work?

I usually drive or walk, but I always look to schedule constituent meetings around council hearings to cut down on my transit time. My private practice clients are all out of town, so I drive or take the T to those meetings. Recently, I downloaded the Uber app, and I have to admit—the technology is pretty incredible.

Have you ever taken a road trip and if so, what describes a memorable moment.

I love to travel and explore new places, so it’s hard to pick a single moment. I’d say the most memorable was when Katie and I traveled through England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland early in our marriage. We were walking the medieval walls in York, England, and while photographing an ancient city gateway, it struck me how much I loved the beauty and importance of civic structures. I saw how city design could actually nourish society. That moment was the beginning of my desire to study urban design. It changed my life.

Do you think the MBTA is as bad as people make it out to be?

Given that the legislature has failed to provide sufficient funding for many years, I think the MBTA is actually doing a good job overall. Having said that, a lot more could be done to improve the system. In Cambridge, for example, many commuters need to get over to the Longwood Medical area, but the traffic is difficult during rush hour, and then it can be hard to get a bus during off-peak times. I am interested in dedicated bus lanes and better use of data to inform and improve the user experience. When it comes to the Red Line, the big problem is capacity during rush hour, especially as Kendall Square continues to grow. Not only do we need new subway cars, but we also need a new signaling and power system to enable the trains to run at more frequent intervals.


Dennis Carlone is on the Advisory Board of the Charles River Conservancy. Read the original article here.

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