What does your mind conjure when you hear the phrase “tiny house” or “micro-apartment”? As housing prices continue to climb in major cities, Boston has not been spared. Trying to achieve balance between creating enough housing while ensuring affordability is a difficult task, and one that no city has solved perfectly quite yet.
Here in Boston, the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab is seeking answers to those questions with their newly built Urban Housing Unit, or uhü (pronounced “yoo-hoo”) for short. The uhü is a 385 square foot prefab that is fully furnished. It will travel to neighborhoods throughout Boston for the remainder of this year to spark conversation amongst residents about the palatability of smaller space living.
The uhü just arrived in Roslindale at the upper lot of the MBTA commuter rail station on Conway St and installation will be complete tomorrow, August 16th.
WalkUP Roslindale supports creative solutions to our housing crisis, and believes smartly-designed increased density is an important ingredient to a vital, walkable neighborhood. We are happy to see the city start to think “outside the box” on ways to advance housing (or perhaps “inside the box” is more appropriate in this particular case), but we also believe that land use innovation must be linked with transportation innovation and investment lest efforts to build a sustainable, livable city fail or, worse, backfire. If we are going to accommodate micro-apartments like the uhü, it must be in parallel with a strong push for safer walking and biking infrastructure, as well as better transit options in Roslindale and throughout Boston. At this point, Boston’s modest experiments in the transportation realm lag progress in housing, and we’d like to see them catch up. A final critical element to smaller private spaces is richer, vibrant common spaces–including both open space/play space and a variety of walkable commercial/retail amenities.
This is a great opportunity to discuss what implications units like the uhü could have on our city. We encourage Roslindale residents to stop by and chat with team members from the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab to share thoughts.
Events will be held at the uhü on:
Thurs, August 18th, 2016 from 5:00pm-8:00p for Family Night
Saturday, August 20th, 2016 from 9:00aa-1:00pm during the Roslindale Farmers Market
Thurs, August 25th, 2016 from 5:00pm-8:00pm for a community celebration
Not Random. The reconfiguration at Washington & Blue Ledge is part of the City of Boston’s ongoing effort to implement the Vision Zero Policy adopted about 18 months ago. Under this policy, which several cities have adopted around the US, our city has set a goal of reaching zero deaths among all users of our streets – drivers and passengers in motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others in alternative forms of wheeled/motorized transportation – by the year 2030. A major focus of the policy’s implementation is to respond to each crash involving serious injury or death by examining their location and making changes to improve safety. Washington@Blue Ledge is where Roslindale resident Silvia Acosta was killed by a speeding hit-and-run driver while in a crosswalk in mid-January of this year. The reconfiguration that is now under way seeks to reduce motor vehicle speeds and the so-called “double-threat” in the part of the crosswalk that crosses the northbound direction of Washington Street. Reducing vehicle speeds has a huge impact on whether pedestrians survive a motor vehicle crash — your chances of dying increase from
under 10% at 20 mph, to over 50% at 30 mph, to over 80% at 40 mph. The double-threat is something I’m sure we’ve all experienced, where a crosswalk crosses two lanes in the same direction, the car in one lane stops, while the car in the second lane can’t see the pedestrian for whom the stop is being made, posits that they are stopping for no reason, and goes around them, hitting the pedestrian in the process. This is a big step forward for this intersection.
Not Done. The reconfiguration at this location is not yet done. Boston PWD’s contractor should soon be installing (a) flex posts and bollards to delineate both the painted bump out on the southbound side and the pedestrian median, and (b) a push-button activated flashing beacon signal for the new crosswalk. Those of us who are focused on improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety in our neighborhood are intensely interested in this intersection and will be watching closely in the next few days to make sure these final actions are taken as soon as possible.
Not Adjusted to Overnight. Observations have been made that the new configuration has not yet taken hold and some drivers are still using the new bike lane as if it remains a motor vehicle lane. While unfortunate, this is not surprising. The installation isn’t done yet, and the experience around town is that getting drivers to comply with new roadway configurations takes time and patience. If vehicle speeds are slowing as drivers adjust, see point 1, above. The intent is that the new configuration will reduce vehicle speeds permanently by narrowing the travel lanes and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
We last reported on this important location a couple of weeks ago, when construction notices went up and we were eager to see the thoughtful plan that BTD had prepared become a reality. Now, as we hit 210 days and counting, we are still at the stage where nothing has happened within the street to physically address the crash that killed one of our neighbors. As you can see from the photo, the last two weeks brought wheelchair-accessible ramps at 2 corners where a new crosswalk is to go, and bases for the poles that will hold the crosswalk flashing beacon equipment. All of the construction signs and cones/barrels have been moved out and we are again wondering exactly how much longer this will have to wait. I asked this question of PWD on Friday via Twitter, and informed that their contractor “is scheduling remaining work” and they will “update when the schedule is available.” I think we can all agree that we hope the work is done very, very soon – in other words, in a matter of days. We are now well over six months since this tragedy occurred, and this response has been painfully slow in arriving.
read the intro, and then watch the short video — I believe that’s a 4 minute time commitment in total — you’ll find it worth your while. An excellent summary of what makes a place walkable, how it’s achieved, and what it’s good for. Enjoy and then get out there and get to it!
Construction cones went out yesterday, and the signs on the cones indicate that work will take place starting today and last the next two weeks. This is great to see and we will monitor progress here as the improvements take place. Thanks to BTD/DPW for getting this underway.
Still nothing further to report. We’re down to 6 days to go to what we understand is the deadline and we’ve risen to 179 days since the crash. As we are documenting here and as the Vision Zero Boston Coalition is documenting on its website, what the city has said about the priority of the rapid response at this location and the others where fatal pedestrian crashes have occurred is not being matched with action on the ground (other than the reported posting of 7 speed boards at 5 locations across the city).
Nothing much further to say about this milepost. We’re down to 20 days to go what we understand is the deadline, and we’ve risen to 165 days since the crash. We remain hopeful that this response will happen when we’ve been told it will. It has been delayed far too long already.
We (your co-hosts, Alan Wright and Matt Lawlor) were honored with the presence and commentary of Nina Brown from the Arboretum Park Conservancy, who spoke about APC’s efforts on extending the Blackwell Path, and from Matthew Jordan (Director of Finance) and Andrew Gapinski (Manager of Horticulture) from the Arnold Arboretum, who gave us a sense of the Arboretum’s perspective and continued support for the RAGP concept. Peter Sutton, from MassDOT Planning, represented the LandLine Coalition.
We started at the northern end of the Blackwell Path, across from Forest Hills station, and wound our way down the Blackwell Path, its proposed extension route, and then up Peters Hill and into the densely-wooded MBTA property adjacent to the Needham Line tracks to the shelter at the southern end. We owe special thanks to Peter and key MBTA staff, especially Mark Boyle (Director of Real Estate), for allowing us to access this portion of the route on very short notice. We concluded our tour at the recently-installed bike corral on Cohasset Street in Roslindale Square, which is getting brisk use along with the adjacent parklet. We look forward to more opportunities to walk/bike the proposed Gateway Path route with neighbors and friends from Roslindale and around the region.
Just a reminder that WalkUP Roslindale members Alan Wright and Matt Lawlor will be leading a ride/walk along the approximate route of the proposed Arboretum Gateway Path this coming Friday, June 24, 2016 starting at 4 pm at the Forest Hills entrance to the existing Blackwell Path. The ride/walk is part of MAPC’s LandLine summer rides. More info can be found here. We would love to see a strong turnout for this event!