The last 10 days – Eventful

They’ve been a bit crazy, truth be told, as follows:

  1. “Le Green T est arrivé!!!” For those of us in Peters Hill, the arrival of Green T to the intersection of Walter and South a week ago Thursday means that we now have a community front porch. By all accounts, including their own, the Green T folks were genuinely surprised at the immediate response of our neighborhood to having somewhere to enjoy good coffee, smoothies, and sandwiches in a well-crafted space open to the street. But there you have it. Yours truly (Matt) was patient zero of this particular viral event – I was there promptly at 5:30 am on opening day and I was not disappointed – a tasty latte and a flaky croissant and off we went. The first 4 days were supposed to be a soft opening, but soft it most certainly was not. We have been desperate for something like this, and we were not to be denied the pleasure IMMEDIATELY. It has become an instant focal point over here, the place that fills in the blank for “Meet me at ________ for coffee.” I personally live 2 blocks down and will attest that foot traffic has picked up significantly since the shop opened. Sarah Kurpiel Lee: We most certainly need bike parking asap. Please identify the appropriate location.
  2. Open Streets? In my own capacity as president of the WalkBoston board of directors, I was caught up in the debate over the possibility of open streets in Boston after the Mayor’s twitter chat last Wednesday raised the issue. Due to various conflicts (the ED was traveling and the communications director had a command performance), I ended up on the local news urging that Newbury Street (and various other streets in town) be considered for temporary, one-day closure this summer along the lines of what recently happened in Paris with the Champs-Élysées and has been happening on Memorial Drive in Cambridge since the 1970s. You can see the piece here. For the record, I think the folks they found on the street said it most directly and effectively. It’s just a good idea. Plain and simple.
  3. And then there is Vision Zero Boston. I attended the City Council hearing last Monday, but couldn’t stay, so our written comments had to stand as our testimony, as has been reported separately on this webpage. A WalkUP group followed up at the Mayor’s Roslindale coffee our by stressing to his honor how concerned we were about the slow pace of Vision Zero implementation, especially as it applied to Washington at Blue Ledge. It appears that the rapid response at this location may turn into something of a test case for what needs to be done going forward at that location and many, many others around town. As we said in the comment letter, everyone in this city deserves to feel safe on the street on which they live. Everyone. No exceptions. Old, young, rich, poor, all ethnicities. It is one very meaningful way to measure a city’s fairness in dealing with its citizens. And as the post from earlier in the week said, we will need to stay on the city’s various actors (mainly BTD, but also PWD and the BRA) on these issues. The right thing won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for it.

RVMS Bike Corral Ribbon Cutting June 6, 2016 6pm by Fornax

After many months of effort and advocacy, Roslindale is finally getting its first bicycle corral, to be installed near Fornax Bakery at 27 Corinth Street. The corral is fashioned out of recycled shipping pallets and steel pipe and will be stationed alongside the Fornax parklet. It will be dedicated to Roslindale resident and prolific bicycle advocate George Ulrich, who passed away earlier this year. George was a stalwart of Rozzie Bikes and frequently staffed the free bike repair and bike information tent at the RVMS Farmers Market.

Aside from bringing much-needed bike parking to the village, the corral will also send a message to everyone that bikes are welcome, and that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is and start investing in real infrastructure for active transportation. This is one step of many that are needed to achieve our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston.

Please join RVMS, Street Ops, Rozzie Bikes, and others for a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 6, 2016, at 6pm. After celebrating the installation with music and refreshments, there will be an informal gathering and drinks afterwards at Sophia’s Grotto.

Official WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter – Roslindale Bicycle Corral Installation

Corner of Corinth and Cohasset, Proposed Location for Bike Corral (Image Courtesy Google Maps)
Corner of Corinth and Cohasset, Proposed Location for Bike Corral (Image Courtesy Google Maps)

Yesterday, we sent an official comment letter to the City in support of a long overdue bicycle corral installation in Roslindale Square, specifically at the corner of Cohasset Street and Corinth Street in front of Fornax Bakery. We encourage anyone who also supports real bicycle infrastructure in our neighborhood to also voice their support via email to Boston’s Active Transportation Director, Stefanie Seskin.

The content of our letter is reproduced below.

Read More

Late-addition to the Roundup List: Arboretum Gateway Path

Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)

I have fielded more than one note that I left the Arboretum Gateway Path off the top-of-mind list for WUR’s 2015 roundup. This is an accurate critique and so: mea culpa. The AGP was a major initiative in 2015 and, I strongly suspect, will be a major initiative this year and going forward until it’s done. In brief: We love this idea of a new Arboretum gateway and path at the Roslindale commuter rail station that would provide an alternate ped/bike path to the South/Archdale bridge area, where it would link to an extension of the existing Blackwell/Bussey Brook path (and on to Forest Hills and the Southwest Corridor path) and allow for a new, more welcoming entrance to the Arboretum at Archdale as well. We are furthermore delighted at the receptive potential partners we’ve found in our own City and State government, the Arnold Arboretum, the Arboretum Park Conservancy, RVMS, Livable Streets, and our friends at Tufts University’s environmental program who are currently conducting an initial feasibility analysis for the path. It’s also been a great way to connect early with our friends at Rozzie Bikes.

So — as we head into 2016, expect the Arboretum Gateway Path to be something we continue to talk about and organize around, a lot.

20 Taft Hill Rendering

Taft Hill Development Up Next

20 Taft Hill Rendering
20 Taft Hill Rendering

Everyone is encouraged to attend the upcoming community meeting on the proposed new development at 20 Taft Hill Park, next to the municipal parking lot just north of the Square. Per the BRA, which will be hosting the meeting, essential details are as follows:

Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Time: 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Location: Roslindale Community Center, corner of Washington and Cummins

Information on the proposal as submitted by the developer can be found on the BRA’s website HERE.

Basic project numbers shown there are as follows:

  • 19 residential condominium units in 2 buildings (6 units/13 units).
  • Unit mix is 2 1BRs, 15 2BRs, 2 3BRs.
  • 19 off-street parking spaces (1 per unit).
  • Bicycle storage for 34 bicycles.
  • $2,000 car-sharing service credit to each unit buyer.

Five things to consider/watch for in the meeting and in discussions over this project:

  1. Generally speaking, this is a project that fits within WalkUP Roslindale’s principles and is likely to gain our support. The location is adjacent to the square, and so walkable to its services, restaurants, shops, and transit options, and the design and program appear interested in making use of that walkability. To get the most out of this project as a neighborhood, we will want to focus much of our attention on the quality of the urban design here so that we end up with something much closer to the substation redevelopment as opposed to, for example, the redevelopment of the former Roslindale Pub site. The initial renderings suggest that this will be more like the substation, even if it is a bit of a departure from typical residential architecture in the neighborhood.
  2. According to the application, the project will require zoning relief (in this case, variances) because the site is zoned 2F-5000, a subdistrict previously discussed at this blog. Given the project’s size, it will also be subject to the city’s inclusionary development policy, also previously discussed here. That means that at a minimum 13% of the units will need to be affordable under the policy’s definition. WUR is already on record through our principles that we think this percentage is low given the scope of the need and it further doesn’t address the broader workforce housing challenge that has occupied so much of the Walsh administration’s attention and bubbled up just a couple of days ago in a slightly different context dealing with the city’s housing and jobs linkage fees. This is an issue that will need to be on the table.
  3. The developer’s decision to include bicycle parking and car-sharing credits shows a willingness to engage on encouraging active transportation in our neighborhood. To WUR, this presents the opportunity to work constructively and proactively on promoting walking, bicycling, and transit infrastructure, very much along the lines of the City’s recently released draft vision for GoBoston 2030, especially the “health”  section. New development that smartly leverages our neighborhood’s existing active transportation assets should be thinking about ways to concretely support their improvement and expansion.
  4. The 1-to-1 off-street parking ratio will be a topic of discussion and deliberation. The multiple intersecting issues that are bound up in parking were identified as needing thoughtful consideration in an early post here. Clearly, there are different sides to this issue and spillover effects on generally available on-street parking from households that own more cars than they have off-street parking spaces to put them in can have impacts. On the other hand, simply imposing a higher rate of off-street parking has multiple impacts of its own, including increasing motor vehicle traffic, taking up valuable space that could be devoted to other, more productive uses, and driving up the cost of housing to provide an “amenity” that many residents may not want. These are just a few of the considerations about parking that I’m sure will be voiced through this process.
  5. Finally, a note on process: This will be a public community meeting required as a result of the developer’s Small Project Review application. There may be more than one such meeting for this process and there will also be an accompanying written comment period that the BRA project manager will identify at the meeting. Conclusion of this BRA process with a BRA Board vote will then be followed by a process with the Board of Appeal for the variances that would almost certainly include a further public community meeting and then a hearing before the Board. In other words, there will be multiple points at which to plug into this process, be heard, and be counted.

The Rozzie Arboretum Gateway Path

A top WalkUP Roslindale initiative is a new multi-modal “gateway path” into the Arnold Arboretum directly from Roslindale Square. An introduction to our vision is below; you can also print this PDF flyer as a quick introduction to the project.

Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
Rozzie Gateway Path Entrance (image courtesy Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)

The Arnold Arboretum is not only Roslindale’s greatest park, but among the most beautiful urban open spaces anywhere. In 1880 Frederick Law Olmsted wrote: “On (these) acres much the best arboretum in the world can be formed.” Today, some of Olmsted’s “emerald necklace” plan has been realized, but much remains to be done.

We envision a new entrance to the Arboretum close to Roslindale Square, to make the park more visible and accessible to residents and visitors. The Rozzie Gateway Path would start adjacent to the commuter rail platform, and continue at grade into the park, allowing access to the open space without the need to surmount the large hill that lead to the Mendum Street gate.

The Path will continue straight parallel to the commuter rail tracks toward Bussey Street, and then connect up with the Bussey Brook Meadow path and on to Forest Hills.

Key Benefits

  • Better access to the Arboretum from Roslindale Square (and thus to transit node, businesses, Farmers Market, etc.)
  • Washington Street lacks pedestrians amenities [1] and is unsafe for bicyclists; the Gateway Path will provide a better alternative to reach Forest Hills, where walkers and cyclists can avail themselves to the many amenities around Forest Hills; continue on to the Southwest Corridor Park; or board the Orange Line. And of course vice-versa — folks coming down the Orange Line or the Southwest Corridor will have a superior route to visit Roslindale Village.
  • Current routes from Roslindale to Forest Hills through the Arboretum have steep hills and are more than twice as much distance as the proposed path
  • Hubway Bike-Share stations could be available at both ends, providing a quick, easy, low-stress route to connect Rozzie with JP and the Orange Line
  • Possibilities for improved Arboretum access from underserved neighborhoods, particularly the Archdale area

Discussion of the full route is still very much open. The crossing at South Street and Bussey presents the biggest challenge, although not an insurmountable one. For the penultimate section on the north side of South/Bussey, the route could proceed on either side of South Street subject to consideration Boston Water and Sewer Commission and flood-plain issues. With these caveats, below is one of the paths we are considering:

Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)
Rozzie Gateway Proposed Route (one of many!)

We have made significant progress in moving from idea to reality; if you’d like to learn more, please join our email list or contact us directly. We’d love to hear your suggestions or other feedback!

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. An earlier version of this post (pre-3/9/16) suggested Washington Street is “unpleasant” for pedestrians. We discovered some people misinterpreted this statement as derogatory; the intent was to summarize the lack of crosswalks, benches, curb cuts, as well as the occasionally overly-narrow and poorly-maintained sidewalk space, rather than to suggest there is anything inherently wrong with or undesirable about this corridor. We intend to push hard for better walkability along this corridor, and the path effort is no substitute for that.

First Official WalkUP Roslindale Comment Letter – 100 Weld Street

Sketch Plan showing WalkUP Roslindale Proposal for Weld/Centre Intersection
Sketch Plan showing WalkUP Roslindale Proposal for Weld/Centre Intersection

We’re pleased to announce WalkUP Roslindale has submitted its first comment letter, providing some feedback on the proposed 100 Weld Street development. 100 Weld has been at least a bit controversial because of its scale (17 units replacing a defunct former gas station). While the proposed development is imperfect (concerns articulated in our letter, text reproduced below), we believe on balance the increased density and revitalization of vacant space benefits Roslindale–residents and business-owners alike–and housing is sorely needed in and around Boston. See below for our complete analysis.

Read More

Boston City Council Public Hearing on Bicycle Infrastructure 9/14/15 at 4pm

City Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu reported in her August 12, 2015 council meeting notes that fellow Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley called for a hearing on cycling infrastructure in the wake of the Anita Kurmann tragedy:

Cycling Infrastructure: Councilor Pressley called for a hearing on planned and ongoing improvements to the city’s cycling infrastructure. She noted the need to follow up on the 2013 report identifying dangerous intersections in the city, especially after the recent fatal crash at Beacon St and Mass Ave, and wanting to understand how the new Chief of Streets and Transportation Director roles fit into cycling infrastructure planning. The matter was assigned to the Committee on City & Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.

That matter has now been set down for a public hearing on Monday, September 14, 2015, at 4pm in the Christopher Iannella chamber at City Hall. Councilor Pressley is particularly interested in the personal experiences of cyclists in the city. Although there has been a lot of focus on downtown issues of late, we need to speak up and make sure Rozzie is represented!

If you’d like to speak at the hearing, please drop a note to James Sutherland. They will also accept written testimony if you can’t make the hearing live.

Complete details reproduced below; copy of official notice linked here. There’s also a Facebook page for the event. Spread the word. Read More

City hires new Active Transportation Director!

This is big news if you’re in favor of walkability throughout our city.

Stefanie Seskin has just been named as our new active transportation director.

You can read the City’s announcement here, and BostInno’s short take here (it’s the second item). The prior administration’s kind-of analog position was the bike czar, which Nicole Freedman held for 7 years. Nicole did a great job, but much more can and now will be done to expand on the concept of “transportation” beyond specific modes (walk, bike, transit, car) and their designated advocates. Two quotes lifted from the press release:

First, from the Mayor:

“Boston is an active city and we are continuing to invest in our pedestrian and bike infrastructure, encouraging residents to think creatively about how they get from point A to point B. Stefanie brings leadership and talent to this new position, and I thank her for her willingness to serve.”

And from the new Director:

“I am excited to take on this new position as Active Transportation Director for the Boston Transportation Department, and I am grateful to Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Fiandaca to be given this opportunity,” said Seskin. “I love seeing so many people who already walk and bike around the city, and I look forward to working with residents to make Boston even more walk- and bike-friendly.”

So, we have a brand new official ally at the city. No excuses now for not speaking up and letting our local government know what we want to see. What can WUPR suggest to our new active transportation on ways to make Roslindale more walkable?

Rozzie Bikes “Hidden Parkway” Event This Sunday, June 14, 2015

RozzieBikesVia our friends at RozzieBikes, a ride this weekend to explore Roslindale’s “hidden” parkway. This kind of event is great both for regular urban cyclists as well as those who may not be entirely comfortable biking on public ways as the group can provide security and protection. The total ride should be around 5 miles with “no significant hills”, so easy enough even if you don’t have a fancy Lycra collection.

Exploration of Boston’s ‘hidden’ parkway by bicycle!

Date: Sunday, June 14 (raindate Sunday June 28)
Time: 7:30am meeting time for 8am departure – return by 10am
Location: Stop-n-Shop plaza (Walgreen’s end)
American Legion Hwy near intersection with Hyde Park Ave.

This 2.5 mile corridor that borders Roslindale and Mattapan has opportunities for large and small green recreational projects, including bike & walking paths, parks, tot-lots, picnic areas, and protected urban wild. However, this area is extremely vulnerable to destruction from both pending and proposed development. Once these pockets of green are gone, they are gone forever. Did you know that the 4500′ open Canterbury Brook that winds on either side of American Legion Highway is one of only five open brooks in Boston?

A 2-hour, 5-mile exploration by bicycle will introduce this corridor of opportunity, and you will get to share in the vision of residents and neighbors who are passionately working to preserve and enhance a vibrant community and fragile greenscape. Periodic stops will provide ample opportunity for discussion and engagement. We will finish in time for you to enjoy brunch or Sunday services, and the rest of your weekend.

Bring your bicycle, helmet, water bottle and sunscreen, and your curiosity! The ride will be casual with multiple stops and no significant hills, and so is appropriate for riders of all abilities.

We look forward to riding and sharing with you.

Email Laura Smeaton with questions.