Recap on District City Councilor January 2018 Forum

About 40 Roslindale residents and business-owners braved the chilly Wednesday evening weather in late January to attend our forum discussion with the three district city councilors whose districts include various parts of the neighborhood: Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6). The discussion was ably facilitated by our own Sarah Kurpiel Lee and lasted about an hour. The councilors had other community events later in the evening–otherwise, it was clear there were enough questions and community interest to continue for at least another hour! In view of the high level of interest, we hope to make these discussions with our elected officials a regular event.

In preparation for the discussion, we prepared a map to show the relationship between the city council districts and the (approximate) neighborhood boundaries, reproduced below:

Roslindale City Council Districts

Roslindale City Council Districts

We livestreamed the whole event on Facebook, and now you can watch the whole thing below:

Some quick highlights from the event:

  • There is widespread community concern about pedestrian safety and infrastructure around the entire Roslindale neighborhood. All three city councilors were receptive to these concerns and are willing to use their offices to make improvements happen. There was a particular focus on improving speed enforcement–notwithstanding the new 25 mph citywide speed limit (which we endorse enthusiastically), many drivers still speed through our neighborhood streets at much higher velocities.
  • The councilors recognized the need for a big redesign and modernization of Roslindale Square. A recent posting in the Keep Roslindale Quirky Facebook group pointed out that this 1984 photo of then-city-councilor Tom Menino shows the sidewalks and street essentially the same as they are today, with no improvements. We’re long overdue for a comprehensive look at how people live and get around in Roslindale today.
  • Councilor O’Malley proposed the idea of a vacancy tax — a creative idea we think is well worth investigating. The idea would be to give some extra incentive for commercial property landlords to find a tenant rather than sit on empty storefronts waiting for a high-rent tenant, while taking a tax deduction that can offset income on other properties. These vacancies negatively impact the community, especially when there are several in the same business district. Some of that cost to the neighborhood should be pushed back onto the property owner.
  • Finally, the councilors were all receptive to more feedback and ideas from the community. Councilor Campbell in particular encouraged community members to bring new and creative ideas to the council — “concrete things that we could be thinking about actually doing do address the issues.”

Both the Roslindale Transcript and the Bulletin had detailed coverage of the evening–check out these articles for the full de-brief:

Finally, thanks to Steven Morris Photography for sending us these photographs from the event. Enjoy!

Community Preservation Forum This Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 6pm at Substation Building

Last year, voters overwhelmingly passed the Community Preservation Act to create a $20 million annual fund for historic preservation, parks, and affordable housing. We’re having our first neighborhood meeting to learn about the Act and provide feedback on priorities and ideas this Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at 6pm in the Substation Building at 4228 Washington Street. We encourage the community to turn out to encourage investment in Roslindale projects. Spread the word!

Contact Alia at Roslindale Village Main Street at 617-327-4065 with questions. The Community Preservation Director is Christine Poff (more info) at 617-635-0277.

Reminder – District City Councilor Forum This Wednesday 1/24/18 6:30pm at RCC – Bring your ideas!

The three district city councilors who represent parts of Roslindale have all committed to participate in our WalkUP forum discussion this Wednesday, 1/24/18 at 6:30pm at the Roslindale Community Center at 6 Cummins HighwayAndrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6). We hope everyone interested in a more walkable Roslindale will attend and join the discussion.

We plan for this event to be more open and participatory than the “at large” candidate forum we held before the election. We want to hear what ideas our representatives have for improving the neighborhood and how we can help make them happen; but this should also be an opportunity for our elected representatives to hear our ideas and for a constructive dialogue between us all. So come with your questions and ideas!

We intend to organize the discussion around the following topics. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments to this post:

Please RSVP on our Facebook Event page and invite your friends and neighbors!

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!

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.

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.

Continue reading

Two Important Events: Hubway Roslindale TONIGHT (10/26) and Green Transportation Rally Saturday (10/28)

First, a reminder that the City is hosting a bike share workshop tonight, October 26, 2017, at 6pm-8pm at the Roslindale Community Center. Details:

Our public bike share system is getting bigger and even better! In Boston, we are adding more than 70 new stations over the next two years.

We need your help finding great places in Roslindale for bike share stations! We will focus on Roslindale and nearby neighborhoods during the workshop. We will have materials available so that you can discuss all neighborhoods under consideration for the expansion.

You do not need to be a resident of Roslindale to attend this workshop.

Second, City Councilor-at-Large (and Candidate) Michelle Wu is hosting a Get Out the Vote Green Transportation Rally this Saturday, October 28, 2017, at 2pm, starting near the Stony Brook MBTA stop on the Orange Line. Details:

Join us at 2pm on Saturday 10/28 for our GOTV Green Transportation Rally! Join climate justice advocates, safe streets champions, healthy community activists, and supporters as we celebrate the accomplishments of the last four years, and share our ideas for improvements we can make in the future. Halloween costumes and bicycles encouraged.

After a brief speaking program, we will go on a bike ride and walk to a local eatery in JP.

While WalkUP Roslindale doesn’t take official positions on candidate elections, we can certainly get behind an event where safe street champions will share ideas for improvements to Boston streets.

Hope to see you all at both events. Spread the word.

Two October Meetings for a Better Roslindale: BPL 10/17 6pm and Hubway (at RCC) 10/26 6pm

Two weeks from today, on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6pm, there will be a public meeting to provide information and solicit feedback on Hubway bike-share locations for Rozzie, at the Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway. Bike-sharing provides a key connection between other sustainable modes of transportation–we envision it as being especially helpful in facilitating travel between Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, as well as the Arboretum in between. Show up and show your support!

Also important is a meeting next week, on Tuesday, October 17, at 6 pm: the Boston Public Library will host the first community advisory committee meeting to discuss the design for the estimated $6.4 million renovation of the Roslindale Branch at our branch location at 4246 Washington Street. We are very much looking forward to this long-needed investment in our community! The library is a vital meeting place and anchor of Roslindale Square. Please attend and provide your input.

WalkUP-sponsored city councilor forum a success

WalkUP was thrilled to host an engaging forum on Tuesday night with the incumbent councilors and candidates for Boston City Council At-Large. All eight candidates were in attendance: Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu, and challengers Domingos DaRosa, Althea Garrison, William King, and Pat Payaso. We appreciate their unanimous participation as well as the packed room and viewers on our Facebook livestream! It’s clear our neighborhood is very engaged in local politics and passionate about the issues discussed.

The forum focused on transportation and housing issues pertinent to Roslindale. One consensus point was the need for a robust and safer bike system in Roslindale and Boston. Candidates expressed particular support for the Arboretum Gateway Path and planned expansion of Hubway bike sharing to Roslindale. No candidate, however, explicitly said he or she would support the removal of parking spots to create such protected bike lanes where necessary. Another consensus point was the need to significantly improve the American Legion corridor pedestrian and bike experience. Several candidates gave credit to the community advocates along American Legion for their work and recent Slow Street neighborhood designation.

Although all eight candidates agreed on the urgency of our ongoing housing crisis, they disagreed on how to treat parking at new developments. Several candidates expressed a view that more parking is needed at each new development. They also want each individual parking spot ‘bundled’ with a corresponding housing unit, which significantly raises the overall cost of the unit–a decent ballpark estimate is about $50,000 in development costs for each additional space. WalkUP is of the belief, based on data and experience, that a better strategy is to price parking separately so that only unit owners who need a space are required to purchase one. This helps keep the overall cost of the units down for those who do not need a vehicle and reduce the overall number of cars at a site. To the concern that individuals will just park on nearby public ways, some candidates want the city put a price on its resident parking permits. Currently, the city provides as many resident parking stickers as a resident wants for no charge. Councilor Wu, for example, wants the city to charge for the permits and cap the amount of permits per resident to better manage these public parking resources.

We also learned some interesting tidbits about the councilors and candidates. Councilor Pressley does not own a car and that informs her view of the need for better public transit across the city as a social equity issue. Candidate King lives on American Legion Highway and sees firsthand the need to improve it. Councilor Essaibi-George owns a small business in Dorchester which informs her concern for the negative effects an Amazon headquarters could have in Boston. In fact, all the candidates interestingly expressed reservations about efforts to attract Amazon to the city.

Our neighbor Adam Gaffin attended the forum and provides his review on Universal Hub. We appreciate his attendance and that of other media members! Stay tuned for a forum later this month with the district councilors who represent Roslindale.