WalkUP Official Letter of Support for Mayor’s FY2019 Transportation Department Budget

Yesterday, we sent an official letter to Mayor Walsh in strong support of his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 transportation budget, specifically in view of several major steps forward on our most important goal for Roslindale and the City of Boston: walkability! The full text of our letter is below; we encourage everyone to drop a quick note to the Mayor and their elected representatives on the City Council to insure the active and mass transportation aspects of the budget are enacted. Once implemented, we expect residents and business owners will immediately appreciate major returns on these investments in walking, bicycle, and bus infrastructure, which will then lay the groundwork for even bigger progress in the future.

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Implementation of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 is now beginning in earnest

Vision Zero BostonWith yesterday’s announcement by the Mayor’s Office and the Boston Transportation Department that BTD’s requested budget will be increased by $5 million annually starting in FY 2019 (i.e., July 1 of this year), we can all now safely say that the implementation of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030, the major mobility policy and plan that took the better part of the administration’s first term to develop and adopt, has begun in earnest.

Check out the full announcement, Mayor Walsh announces transformative investments. There are quotes from the Mayor, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Roslindale’s own City Councilor at Large Michelle Wu, Sam Tyler from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and BTD Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. There is also what I view to be the money quote from Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, as follows:

To manage our region’s growth, to address climate change, and to increase equity, we know we need to transform our transportation system. Building off the Go Boston 2030 plan, this set of investments is a major step towards that goal. It increases investment in the basics of our streets, such as well-timed traffic signals, smooth roads and good sidewalks, and it builds out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot.”

As can be seen, this really is a big step forward and worth the attention it’s getting. The additional funding, proposed to be generated by increasing the penalties associated with a carefully constructed list of major parking and traffic violations, is significant. (And we here at WalkUP Roslindale are excited to see the Roslindale Gateway Path cited as a key GreenLink eligible for some of the new capital funding.) But even more significant is what much of the new funding is intended to be spent on – “building out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot” – a team that includes:

  • 6 new staff to form a “Transit Team” led by a “transit coordinator” that will plan, facilitate, implement, and maintain bus improvements like the Washington Street pilot in several more corridors across the city;
  • One new traffic signal engineer to manage and re-time traffic signals to increase safety, and reduce traffic congestion and related vehicle emissions;
  • Two new traffic signal mechanics to keep signals working as designed;
  • Two new planners and two new engineers to focus on designing and implementing key Vision Zero programs, such as Neighborhood Slow Streets, and efforts to make quick improvements to some of Boston’s most challenging intersections; and
  • Up to four new maintenance & operations personnel to ensure that infrastructure added to improve street safety, such as pedestrian delineators and flex posts, are kept in a state of good repair.

All of that new dedicated staff should be music to anyone’s ears who was concerned that the combination of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 were more ambitious undertakings than BTD had staff or resources to implement. It is now clear that the Mayor and his administration intend to make good on the promise the policy and plan embody. He and they are to be applauded and thanked for taking this important step. We here at WalkUP Roslindale look forward to supporting the budget request before the City Council and then doing everything we can to help the Mayor and BTD implement both Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 in our neighborhood. We recommend that you do the same!

WalkUP Comment Letter on City Request for Information on Developing the Taft Hill Parking Lot

The Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab (part of New Urban Mechanics) recently put out a “request for information” (or RFI) regarding housing with public assets–a public process intended to “allow the city to explore new ideas without committing resources to a particular concept.” Specifically, the City is interesting in improving its core city assets–libraries, fire stations, community centers, and municipal parking lots–to help address the housing crisis and make a dent in the goal of adding 53,000 new units of housing in Boston by 2030.

The City of Boston owns hundreds of parcels of land and hundreds of buildings that could play in a significant role in achieving this goal. Among these is the Taft Hill parking lot right in Roslindale Square. From our “Walkable Urban Place” perspective, the lot has several attractive features: it is literally yards away from our main street shopping district that would be enhanced by greater density of residents who would frequent the shops on foot, and the only location closer to the commuter rail station is the commuter rail lot itself. Moreover, we’d like to see more land dedicated to housing people and businesses, rather than serving as dead “free” car-storage all day. We are thus quite interested in helping lead dialogue with the city on this idea.

On the other hand, we’ve seen several smaller developments in recent years in and around Roslindale which have gradually increased population and density. While we’ve generally applauded this increase in housing supply, the inescapable fact is that the City has done far more on housing than on transportation, and unless we change course immediately, the lack of meaningful coordination between transportation and land use will take a real toll on livability and likely engender strident community opposition to any further development. In short, Boston can and should accommodate 100,000 new residents, but not 50,000 new cars.

To that end, we’ve sent the letter below to respond to the City’s RFI on developing the Taft Hill lot. The focus here is not any specific development proposal for the lot–a process which is still some a ways off, but rather an urgent call to arms to start putting the right sustainable transportation pieces in place now, so that when it comes time to evaluate specific development proposals, we will have some assurance that these will enhance the neighborhood’s walkability and vitality and not result in increased gridlock, pollution, and harm to the pedestrian environment.

If you share our concerns and our vision, be sure to reach out to all the officials listed below and let them know!


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New Hubway (“Blue Bike”) Locations Announced in Roslindale

The Boston area’s bike share program (which will soon be known as Blue Bike) just published its proposed locations for its upcoming expansion. We are delighted to see several spots in and around Roslindale Village. Importantly, this infrastructure investment will allow people who live nearby to get to and from the shopping district, the commuter rail, and bus stops, with a 5 minute bike ride who might previously have driven. It should also increase access to and from the neighbor from nearby areas, especially Forest Hills which will soon have thousands of new residents. When paired with the Gateway Path, the new bike share locations will greatly improve our connections with our neighbors.

Be sure to take the survey (once it becomes available–at the time of this posting Survey F is marked as “coming soon”) to provide your feedback, and leave comments on the post. The Roslindale locations are shown below — an “a” and “b” spot number reflect alternatives, click through for a larger version:

Proposed Roslindale Bikeshare Locations

Proposed Roslindale Bikeshare Locations

And here’s the whole map of proposed locations:

A short video on how municipalities should manage their central asset – land

Offered essentially without commentary, other than to say that a central city like ours has what amounts to both a moral and fiscal obligation to its citizens to plan, regulate for, and choose more intense, higher return use of its land base every time the opportunity arises unless there is an overriding, demonstrable ecological or social reason not to do so. This is another reason to YIMBY/QIMBY.

Next “Blue Bikes” (f/k/a Hubway) Roslindale Meeting set for April 12, 2018 6pm-8pm at RCC

Hubway LogoIn case you missed it, Boston’s trusty Hubway bike share program is getting a new name, a makeover, and (hopefully) a substantial expansion. The City of Boston has partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts for the rebranding (and sponsorship). Of particular interest to WalkUP Roslindale folks should be the upcoming “open house” to discuss the planned bike share location(s) in Roslindale, set for Thursday, April 12, 2018, 6pm-8pm at the Roslindale Community Center, 6 Cummins Highway. Hope to see you there!

The Right to Walk

Our friends at Streetfilms offer The Right to Walk for your viewing pleasure. It’s 4:53 of to-the-point, quick-hit, smart thinking about why walking is so critical to every city’s health. And is also does make me wonder what percentage of the total transportation budget in our own city of Boston is devoted to walking, cycling, and transit?

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!

The time has come to consider a user fee for on-street resident parking permits

With the new Boston City Council term officially underway as of Wednesday, At-Large Councilor, Transportation Committee chair, and Rossident Michelle Wu has made good on her statement late last year to start the discussion on collecting a user fee for something that is currently given away — on-street residential parking permits. Universal Hub has a short summary of Michelle’s council-approved request to hold a hearing on the concept soon: “Time to start charging for Boston parking permits, some councilors say.” Many issues will be in the mix, including how much to charge, whether to limit the number of permits, and how to deal with visitors and critical home care providers. As the discussion gets going and the hearing date nears, we’ll look to make this space a place for discussion of the intersecting policy and community issues at stake. While WalkUP Roslindale’s steering group hasn’t yet formulated an official policy on the issue, I can personally state for the record my complete support for implementing a user fee plan with details tbd this year. The time has come. – Matt Lawlor

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!