Our 10 Most-Read Stories of 2021
11:00 AM EST on December 29, 2021
StreetsblogMASS launched in the summer of 2019, and in the two-and-a-half years since then, our audience has grown almost four-fold.
A big part of that growth in readership comes from our regular readers, who share our stories on social media and discuss them offline with your friends, family members, and work colleagues. But thanks to the vagaries of search and social media algorithms, some stories end up reaching a much broader audience, and some end up drawing in readers from all over the world. These were our ten most-read stories of 2021:
At the beginning of 2021, the MBTA had expected that the long-awaited Green Line Extension into Somerville would be open by now.
That hasn't happened, but the abstract representation of the project – a longer green line on the official MBTA map – began to make an appearance in MBTA stations in April. That news attracted interest from transit map enthusiasts from all over the world, and became the most-read article (by far) on StreetsblogMASS this year:
Streetsblog reader and North End resident Adam Balsam shared this project with us in February. Unlike the other stories on this list, it didn't get an unusual surge of traffic when we first published it, but it has attracted a steady stream of search-engine traffic ever since. At least a few of this story's readers have built their own versions of the same project (here's one from Centre Street in West Roxbury).
A couple months after the new maps appeared, a more tangible sign of progress on the Green Line Extension came when the T brought several Green Line trains into Somerville for the first time ever. More recently, those trains have started venturing out onto the new tracks of the Union Square branch for testing in advance of the line's anticipated 2022 opening.
Plans to rebuild Rutherford Avenue and turn it into a more pedestrian-friendly boulevard have been in the works for over a decade, and some worry that the current plan, which would reconfigure Sullivan Square with multi-lane, one-way streets and preserve its highway-style underpasses, reflects an outdated, car-focused political worldview that no longer holds sway in the City of Boston.
If it proceeds in its current form, the project would cost $175 million and involve four years' worth of construction, which could begin in early 2023.
This summer, StreetsblogMASS launched a travel guide series to introduce readers to some of the new trails that are opening up across the Commonwealth, and the communities they serve. Juliana Cherston, a PhD student in science and engineering at the MIT Media Lab, has written two of these guides for us so far, and I really enjoy her approach to exploring new trails and the communities she discovers along the way. I also highly recommend her trip report from the growing off-street rail network of Salisbury, Amesbury, and Newburyport.
While most of the region's attention was focused on the Boston mayoral race this fall, there was also a big contest in the Commonwealth's 12-largest city to replace longtime Mayor Joe Curtatone. Claire Wallace, a journalism graduate student at Northeastern University, wrote this overview of the Somerville race and also covered several others during this year's campaign season.
Some colorful details about the race's Trump-supporting fourth-place finisher, William Tauro, probably helped attract readers to this article, but its popularity also suggests that readers are hungry for quality political coverage in the Commonwealth's smaller cities – something we aim to deliver more of in 2022.
In March 2020, the last public meeting I attended in person was a Boston Transportation Department open house about a proposal to create bus lanes on Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square to Grove Hall. Our story from that meeting ended with this sentence: "The city plans to continue design work over the summer, and the project could be implemented in the spring of 2021."
A week later, the Covid-19 pandemic began to shut everything down – including the city's outreach efforts for major transportation projects. The city applied for federal funding to advance the project in 2020, but the Trump administration rejected the request. This year, just a couple weeks after the successful debut of center-running bus lanes on Columbus Avenue in Roxbury, the Biden administration gave the thumbs-up to another funding request to make similar upgrades on New England's busiest bus route.
The city plans to do a lot more outreach for the project in the coming year, and we'll continue to cover this story.
The Green Line Extension wasn't the only high-profile infrastructure project in Somerville that was supposed to happen this year but ended up being delayed 'til 2022. A repaving project scheduled to happen this summer was supposed to reduce the number of lanes on McGrath Highway and create new buffered bike lanes between Lechmere and the Winter Hill neighborhood.
The project went under contract in June, but so far (as far as we know) the paving and reconfiguration work still hasn't begun.
The E Branch of the Green Line had a wild year: last December, it was on the chopping block for service cuts (a story that was among our most-read for 2020); then this summer, the line got brand-new tracks. Now, instead of talking about shortening the line, serious conversations are happening about expanding the tracks to Hyde Square in Jamaica Plain and creating dedicated transit lanes on a notorious transit bottleneck.
In May, StreetsblogMASS focused a week's worth of coverage to stories from Worcester. And while the city's pioneering experiment in fare-free bus service was probably a bigger story this year, this photographic tour of the new "peanut roundabout" in Kelley Square was our single most-read story from central Massachusetts this year.
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