Dedicated Bus Lane Test Run Stunningly Successful

We were thrilled to see the City of Boston and MBTA test out a trial run of a dedicated bus lane on Washington Street inbound this morning. WalkUP has strongly advocated for the City to implement this bus lane concept along the very congested Roslindale Village-to-Forest Hills corridor. Reports were universally positive — to get some flavor of the community reaction, check out our Twitter feed for dozens of retweets of reactions and photos. We’ve also include a gallery of photos below.

Members of the WalkUP Steering Committee were out and about along the route to inform riders of this lane and explain the process behind it. The City plans to test this dedicated lane again next Tuesday, December 19, during the morning commute. Dedicated bus lanes are proven methods for significantly improving bus commute times and encouraging more people to take public transportation. During the morning and evening rush hour, almost 60% of all travelers on Washington St are riding a bus –these riders need a faster way to reach their destinations and go to-and-from the main subway line at Forest Hills. And if the bus lane operates as successfully as it appeared to do, many more are likely to switch to the bus to save time, thus even further increasing the percentage of travelers on mass transit.

We should note that we are also very pleased to hear from cyclists who used this dedicated lane today of the ease of their commute and lack of any bus-bike conflict. There was some concern going into the test about this issue, but at least today’s data points suggest the cycling experience will be much improved rather than diminished. We will continue to monitor the cyclist experience in this dedicated lane and believe it can be a boon for bike riders in addition to bus riders.

WalkUP will continue its strong advocacy to the City of Boston to implement a full multi-week pilot of this dedicated bus lane in 2018 to fully gauge its effectiveness and effects. The full pilot should consist of a dedicated lane inbound to Forest Hills in the morning and a dedicated lane outbound to Roslindale Village in the evening. We’d really like to make this happen as soon as possible–tomorrow is not too soon!

Please contact Mayor Walsh, City Councilor Tim McCarthy, and our At-Large City Councilors (Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu) to express your support for this dedicated bus lane and request a full multi-week pilot as soon as possible in 2018. You can also respond to this tweet from BTD or email them at btd@nullboston.gov. It is very important that our city officials hear from us on this. We appreciate their willingness to test this out and want them to know many Roslindale residents support this concept!

We look forward to seeing this dedicated bus lane in action again next Tuesday!

Let’s dedicate a bus lane!

Proposed Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane

Proposed Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane

For people who want to walk more and drive less in Roslindale, and encourage others to do so as well, the stretch of Washington Street from Rozzie Square to Forest Hills has long been an extreme pain point. The Commuter Rail makes the trip in less than five minutes but is infrequent and too expensive for many. We believe the cost for getting downtown from Roslindale should be the same, or nearly so, whether on Commuter Rail or bus/subway, but changing that will require political will at the state level and so far we’re not seeing much in that direction.

Meanwhile, this corridor is well served by buses — nearly ten different lines from points south and west converge here, so in theory the wait should always be short and the one-mile trip to the end of the Orange Line quick. But these buses share a single lane with traffic, making the entire route indistinguishable from a parking lot at rush hour. This isn’t right and it’s time to fix it.

The GoBoston 2030 study found that an average of 19,000 bus riders pass along this corridor every day, and more than half the people traveling along Washington Street between Forest Hills and Roslindale Square are in a bus. With heavy mixed use development going up around Forest Hills as well as a growing population in Roslindale and points south, this route is only going to become more well traveled, but it’s physically impossible to accommodate hundreds or thousands more people trying to make this trip in single-occupant vehicles[1]. Moreover, if the bus trip were faster and more convenient, it’s near certain that many more would opt for that mode, making it an overwhelming favorite.

A potential solution has been on the radar for years and it’s time to give it a try. Several groups, including the City of Boston itself, have proposed removing a lane of parking and turning it into a dedicated bus lane — inbound in the morning, and outbound in the evening. A similar experiment was quite successful last winter in Everett and we’d like to see how it works here. Community feedback on the idea has been overwhelmingly positive thus far and we’re hopeful to get a trial going soon to see how much it reduces the bus commute time, and to gather information on how it might impact other users of the road. Once we have real data in hand, we can have a well-informed conversation about the trade-offs involved in this sort of dedication of our street space.

One concern is the bus lane will likely have to be shared with the bike lane. This arrangement works well on the Silver Line route in the South End, but this stretch of Washington Street is much tighter. In some future enlightened world, the City will remove parking on both sides of Washington Street to provide separate dedicated bike and bus lanes for the public good, but short term this project makes imperative the rapid funding and construction of the Roslindale Gateway Path as a completely off-street alternative. We’re also intent on making sure the bus drivers on this route are well-trained and sensitized to the shared use with cyclists to maximize peaceful coexistence.

Finally, any loss of on-street parking will inevitably touch a nerve with some. A critical upside of the trial run is that we’ll then have data to inform this discussion: if we can move 20,000 or more people in half the time it currently takes, is that worth sacrificing real estate that is currently dedicated to a few dozen vehicles for free?

Moreover, last year the Metropolitan Area Planning Council researched the corridor’s parking patterns, including by analyzing license plate registration of parked cars. They found that “the Washington Street corridor between Forest Hills station and Roslindale Square has the highest rates of bus utilization in the entire MBTA service district, with 60% of travelers utilizing an MBTA bus during the AM and PM peak hours.” The report also documented low parking usage during the peak travel times, especially during the early morning, and that over 80% of parked cars were from outside the neighborhood driven in by people heading to the Forest Hills T-station. If these spots go away, these people from outside the neighborhood (and presumably most from outside the city) will have to find an alternate commute–perhaps this will stimulate a virtuous circle where these people opt for commuter rail closer to their home once their “free” parking alternative is limited. That’s an outcome we at WalkUP Roslindale can support.

If you want to help make this happen, spread the word to you neighbors and reach out to your City Councilors and the Mayor to express your support. We’re optimistic there will be good news about the trial run soon.

Press coverage and more information:

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Unless those single-occupant vehicles happen to all be bicycles. That would be fortunate!

Some thinking about walkable neighborhoods and why “affordable” neighborhoods are about more than just housing costs…

 

Why walkability is not a luxury

This is a longish read from Rob Steuteville at Public Square and it glosses over some of the deeper issues on disinvestment in our cities in the second half of the 20th century and the hard set of issues that arise from displacement as demand and investment return. But I commend it to help frame the ongoing debate here in Boston and in Roslindale about growth, walkability, and what makes a neighborhood affordable.

If you concentrate on just housing costs, you’re missing half of the direct cost picture and much of the indirect environmental and public health costs. To know if a neighborhood is truly affordable, both housing and transportation costs need to be considered, and then environmental and health impacts have to be layered in on top of that. On this basis, one finds that neighborhoods that seem expensive really aren’t that expensive and neighborhoods that seem affordable really aren’t that affordable. Discuss.

SAVE THE DATE: Roslindale District Councilor Forum set for January 24, 2018

City CouncilCity CouncilCity Council

It took a bit longer than anticipated at first, but we have now scheduled the Roslindale district councilor forum. January 24, 2018 will be a Wednesday evening and we will be pleased to gather with Councilors Campbell, McCarthy, and O’Malley to discuss the new council term and share our mutual vision and collective priorities on the active mobility issues that matter to Roslindale.

Time and place are currently TBD, but stay tuned – they will be announced soon!

Vision Zero World Day of Remembrance this Sunday Nov. 19, 2017 at 12pm Copley Square/1:30pm Boston Common/2pm State House

WalkUP Roslindale is a proud member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, which seeks to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from car crashes in the Commonwealth. We encourage everyone to join us for World Day of Remembrance this Sunday, November 19, 2017. This will be a day of actions to remember those who have been injured or lost to traffic violence, and to demand safe streets for everyone in our communities.

World Day of Remembrance is an annual event taking place in cities around the world. In Massachusetts, we gather each year on the steps of the state house in Boston, to show our legislators that traffic fatalities are still unacceptably high, and we need more cities and towns to commit to ending traffic violence now.

We know that crashes are not accidents – they’re the tragic, preventable results of inadequate planning, policy, and unsafe behavior. While people make mistakes; our streets must be designed so those mistakes are not fatal. Please join us to ensure that these lives are not forgotten and to demand safe streets for all.

In the wake of the fatal crash that took the life of 19-year old Antawani Wright Davis, who was hit and killed by a dump truck while riding his bike, and the two people killed while biking in Cambridge last year while biking — all involving large trucks — we are asking our state legislators why they have not yet passed a bill in the State House that would mandate additional truck safety measures.

Please join us for any or all of the following memorial actions:

  • 12pm – Join us and dozens of others for the Ride for Remembrance, gathering at 12:00 pm in Copley Square. The group will depart at 12:15 pm for a one-hour ride, passing the sites where people have been killed walking and biking over the past year, remembering them and committing to action so their deaths were not in vain. The ride will end at Beacon and Charles in time to join the walk to the State House.
  • 1:30pm – Join the Memorial Walk and Vigil, gathering at 1:30 pm on the Boston Common at the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street for a walk to the steps of the State House.
  • 2pm – Gather on the steps of the State House for the Memorial Vigil. We’ll be joined by city and state officials, family and friends of people who have been killed or injured in traffic crashes, and other residents and advocates, to call on our elected leaders to do more to put an end to these preventable crashes.
  • 3pm – Warm up with refreshments at a post-vigil gathering at CIC Boston, just a few blocks away at 50 Milk Street.

Event details:
World Day of Remembrance
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Several activities taking place between 12:00 and 5:00 pm
@ Copley Square, Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, and CIC Boston

Please wear yellow in remembrance of those we’ve lost due to traffic violence.

Help us spread the word via social media by using the following hashtags before and during the event: #WDR2017 #CrashNotAccident #SafetyOverSpeed
#VisionZero and RSVP and spread the word on Facebook.

Fall 2017 Pool Mini-Tourney with 21st-ranked All Time Urbanist Jeff Speck!! 11/9 @ 8:30 pm at Napper Tandy’s Roslindale

We’ll gather at approximately 8:30 pm on Thursday, November 9, at Napper Tandy’s in Roslindale for some pool and discussion with our friend and fellow Boston region resident Jeff Speck. Jeff is the highly respected author of The Walkable City and other popular works on the urban condition, including Suburban Nation, which he co-wrote with new urbanist giants Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Jeff was also recently ranked 21st on planetizen.com’s ranking of all-time great urbanists. Bring quarters and your thoughts about how we can make Roslindale a more walkable,  bikeable, and transit-friendly community.

WalkUP Roslindale Key Bus Stop Snow Clearance Collaborative – Version 1.0

Will you join us?

WalkUP Roslindale is looking to organize a collaborative group of neighbors who will help us clear snow from a handful of our neighborhood’s key bus stops whenever we have more than 4″ of snow this winter.

As we all know, snow clearance is often an issue at bus stops throughout the region. That doesn’t mean we should ignore it and hope that our seniors, young people, and everyone in between miraculously manage to safely board their buses at stops rendered unsafe by snow and ice.

The key bus stops we’re proposing to focus on this winter are:

  1. Cummins Hwy @ Hyde Park Av/30 & 14 toward Mattapan/Hyde Park
  2. Cummins Hwy @ Hyde Park Av/30 toward Roslindale
  3. Hyde Park Av @ Cummins Hwy/34 toward Hyde Park
  4. Hyde Park Av @ Cummins Hwy/34 toward Forest Hills
  5. Belgrade Av @ Robert/Multiple outbound buses
  6. Washington St @ Cummins Hwy/Multiple inbound buses

That breaks down geographically into 2 collaborative teams – one in Roslindale Square and one at the intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. Rob Guptill (email: rguptill2000@nullyahoo.com) has volunteered to be the team coordinator for the Roslindale Square group and Matt Lawlor (your correspondent, email: matthew.j.lawlor@nullgmail.com) has volunteered to be the team coordinator for HP/Cummins. The plan is to blast a call to snowshoveling arms over our email list and social media accounts whenever we make the call for the collaborative teams to shovel the following morning. That said, both Rob and I would love to hear directly at the email addresses above from anyone who is interested in helping us provide this important service to our neighbors so we can be sure of a core group of ready and willing collaborators. We would love your support for this effort!! 

WalkUP Roslindale now supports 874-878 South Street, Up for Hearing at Zoning Board of Appeal Today (10/31/17)

Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering

Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering

Back in late August, WalkUP Roslindale reluctantly withheld its support for a proposed project at 874-878 South Street. Although we believe additional housing supply is badly needed around Boston and in Roslindale in particularly–one of our seven founding principles is to support mixed housing that promotes walkability–we are not an uncritical “YIMBY” group that will necessarily say “yes” to any development whatsoever, no matter its defects. The original design proposed for this development was sorely lacking, and we offered what we hoped would be constructive feedback to make this development a more positive contribution to the neighborhood.

Fortunately, the developer took several of our comments to heart and has now proposed a revised design which, while not perfect, is much improved. In view of these improvements, WalkUP now supports the proposed project’s request for zoning relief, which will be heard today, October 31, 2017, at 9:30am at City Hall, Room 801. You can read the developer’s response to our letter and see the revised design here.

Our detailed comments below, also available as a PDF letter.

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