WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane

We recently sent an official comment letter to Boston’s Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, expressing our strong gratitude and support for the city’s implementation of a morning inbound bus lane on Washington Street between Roslindale Village and Forest Hills. This improvement has greatly improved the commuter experience for transit-riders and cyclists alike, at extremely low cost. We’d like to see much more of this in and around the City of Boston!

We also took this opportunity to raise a couple of concerns: first, compliance with the morning bus lane has been inconsistent, and a few parked cars blocking buses and bikes ruins the experience for everyone. We need to see better enforcement to insure the lane doesn’t become a half-solution at best. We also want to get the ball rolling on an afternoon/outbound dedicated bus lane, as studies show that the evening outbound rush hour commute encounters more traffic and is slower for bus riders than the morning route was before the bus lane.

Our full letter reproduced below; you can also download a PDF version.

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Blue Bikes Finally Comes to Roslindale

Our long wait for the arrival of the Blue Bikes (f/k/a Hubway) Bike Sharing system in Roslindale is finally over. The city recently announced the imminent installation of 19 new stations, including five in Roslindale. (We understand a total of 60 new stations will be added throughout the city over the entire year of 2018, and another 30 next spring.) The new Roslindale locations are shown on the map below, including two right in the main street area, one near Archdale, one near Centre and Weld, and one at Belgrade at Walworth.

This is a good start and we expect these bikes will be much-used, especially once a Forest Hills station goes in (delayed, likely subject to construction completion), making for better access to the Orange Line and the Southwest Corridor.

While we applaud the City and Blue Bikes for extending the network further out into neighborhoods like Roslindale, we’re a bit disappointed and surprised to see no station planned at the Commuter Rail which is would be a very logical inter-modal destination. While the other village stations are not far from the Commuter Rail, we suspect that bikeshare right at the station would encourage more people to avoid driving to the T. Another gap in the system is any stations in Eastern Roslindale — down Cummins Highway, Metropolitan Avenue, and Hyde Park Avenue/American Legion Highway. Bike share in this areas could enable many people who are currently poorly served by transit to reach the Orange Line, Commuter Rail, and major bus stops without driving.

Our hope is that the new stations get so much use right off the bat that the City will add these other locations in 2019. If you haven’t joined Blue Bikes yet, now is the time! Note that many employers sponsor a Blue Bikes membership, and income-eligible folks can get a significantly discounted membership.

Tragedy leads to clarity in South Boston…and maybe citywide?

Vision Zero BostonEveryone concerned about traffic violence in Boston, which touches every part of our city, every day, day-in, and day-out, felt incredible sadness at the tragedy late last month in South Boston in which a crash on L Street between reckless drivers resulted in one of them driving onto the curb and killing a 3 year-old boy and injuring his sister. There have been similar tragedies around the city over the years, taking both the young (such as the 5-month old girl killed on Humboldt Street in Roxbury a couple of years ago) and the elderly (such as one of our own neighbors here in Roslindale in 2016) and everyone in between. For whatever reason, perhaps because with Vision Zero as the city’s adopted policy for the last several years, we all have a better collective vocabulary and understanding that these crashes constitute a form of traffic violence that degrades our public spaces and puts us all under threat every time we venture out onto our streets, this tragedy seemed to hit a particularly raw nerve.

And such is that nerve that first-term District 2 City Councilor Ed Flynn has quickly stepped up his game on safe streets to a level that I think every City Councilor will have to match if they aren’t already. Go read “Flynn Recommends 12 Point Safe Streets Plan” over at Caught in Southie and then consider whether the 12 point safe streets plan he is pushing for in that neighborhood deserves to be rolled out, as quickly as humanly possible, to every street in every neighborhood of this city. Below, I have converted the 12 points he raised to a generic list that could be applied anywhere:

  1. A complete traffic study of ________________ and all high traffic roads. [NOTE: This works only if it’s done in the background while proven traffic calming measures are advanced right away, and isn’t ultimately used as a way to force more vehicular traffic through the neighborhoods at higher speeds.]
  2. Reducing the speed limit to 20 MPH throughout all of ____________. [NOTE: Exactly. The recent shift to 25 mph was a compromise. We really should be at 20 mph.]
  3. Speed humps (permanent or temporary to move for plows) and raised crosswalks along _________ and other high traffic roads, near parks and recreation centers where children and seniors gather. [NOTE: Speed humps should be permanent wherever they go. I continue not to see why plowing in Boston is different than the many other snow belt places in North America and really anywhere else that already have speed humps and raised crosswalks.]
  4. 4-way stop signs along _________ and relevant locations throughout ________.
  5. Additional posting of Speed Board Signs on high traffic roads throughout _________ for feedback to reduce speeds.
  6. Blinking Pedestrian Crossing signs at high traffic areas like we have on _____________.
  7. Bumping out our sidewalks at crosswalks on ___________, school zones and elsewhere to shorten crosswalks, make stop signs more visible & narrow our streets to encourage slower speeds.
  8. Road Diets on ___________, one lane from ____________, and speed humps in appropriate locations.
  9. Increased police patrols in order to reduce speed. Increased fines for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and trucks on ____________. [NOTE: It would be good to have more enforcement, but this fight is ultimately about rectifying decades of bad, unsafe street design. Relying on enforcement also raises concerns about profiling of both people of color and immigrants.]
  10. More delineators in high traffic areas reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians; paint in the roads advising drivers to slow, yield and stop.
  11. A Study to determine if _______________ would become safer if they became one-way streets.  [NOTE: I would not support this in my own neighborhood. Narrow two-way streets, also called “Yield Streets,” are perhaps the most effective method of low-tech traffic calming we have.]
  12. Designated time and space for delivery trucks on ________________ to eliminate double parking. [NOTE: Better curb space management needs to be implemented on essentially every street in our city, but especially on major commercial streets.]

 

An important milestone to our south – NY’s Plaza Program Turns 10

There’s an excellent piece linked over at Public Square celebrating the 10th anniversary of the pathbreaking NYC program that has turned excess pavement into plazas at dozens of locations throughout the city. Check it out at “Reflections on 10 years of the NYC plaza program.” It’s a pretty short read and draw your own conclusions, but I was reminded, yet again, of three things about this program:

  1. It really has been wildly successful. If you’ve been to Times Square in the last 5 years, you’ve been treated to the marquee example of the program in the several blocks of pedestrian areas that were inserted into a “square” that had been, for many decades, little more than the meeting of 3 major traffic sewer mains. I grew up in NY and can well attest that it was a shock when I heard that something was finally happening there. The pedestrian experience had been so horrible for so long that I had long since given up any real hope that it would ever change. But change it did. And not even Bill DeBlasio’s 2015 bizarro flirtation with scrapping it in his car-culture-fever to protect New Yorkers and the tourists who flock to Times Square from – gasp – risque costumes could make an impression on a place so instantly loved and vigorously defended.
  2. It has demonstrated the value of tactical urbanism many times over. Tactical urbanism is perhaps the most significant innovation in urban planning and design in this century. Briefly stated, the approach calls for making fast, incremental, light, inexpensive changes in the public realm, observing how they work, adjusting, and then working on long-term interventions based on those results. Here again, Times Square is a worthwhile poster child – the initial intervention there consisted of cones, cheap beach chairs, and movable planters, placed overnight to open up several former blocks of Broadway to pedestrians. Nothing fancy, but people on foot absolutely ate it up. They stood, they sat, they lingered, they chatted. It was instantly amazing.
  3. We here in Boston have lagged, but we are starting to get with this program. As I write this post, the Boston Transportation Department is putting the finishing touches on a TU-based intervention on Franklin Street downtown. You can find pictures and a play-by-play on twitter from Marc Ebuna at Transit Matters. BTD is working on several others and is also getting set to roll out a public-private partnership program very similar to NYC’s in the next few months. More to come!

New Neighborhood Slow Streets Round announced for 2018 – Deadline is August 24, 2018

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) has just announced the 2018 Neighborhood Slow Streets (NSS) process and is inviting applications. In brief, applications are due August 24, 2018, and there’s a streamlined process this time, especially for areas that submitted last year. We here at WalkUP Roslindale were actively involved in encouraging all parts of our neighborhood to apply for the program in its initial phase and were delighted when the Mt. Hope/Canterbury area garnered a selection. We heartily encourage everyone who applied last year, but didn’t receive the nod (we’re looking at you, LANA, Lower South Street, and the Cornell Street area) to go for it again. As we have said more than once here at WalkUP Roslindale, the program really should go to every neighborhood citywide asap. Be that as it may, as long as we have the current system, everyone who can pull together the requisite focused area and community support should absolutely throw their hat in the ring and see what happens!

And we should take heart from the below images of the installed results over in the Stonybrook area of Jamaica Plain – one of the 2 initial pilot areas for NSS along with the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle in Dorchester. All of these elements – speed humps, diverters, and daylighted crosswalks – would be of use in every single residential neighborhood of this city. Every. Single. One. Anyone interested in applying should feel free to contact us at info@nullwalkuproslindale.org. We will be happy to help your application in any way we can, whether it’s through peer-to-peer technical assistance or anything else we can do. Thanks!

Photo 1 – Crosswalk daylighting.

Photo 2 – Diverter to prevent wrong-way cut-through traffic.

Photo 3 – A recently-installed speed hump (there are several in this area)!!! Would, however, prefer the sign to be located in a way that it didn’t take up sidewalk, but that’s a minor quibble right now.

Major Step Forward for the Gateway Path – Possible Funding from the Commonwealth

The Roslindale Gateway Path — the linchpin of a multiuse off-road trail to connect Roslindale Square with Forest Hills — took a significant step forward earlier this month when our Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, ensured that complete funding for the path was included in the House’s Environmental Bond Bill. You can find the authorization — for $3 million — right there on line 378, page 19 of the bill! Based on our preliminary estimates including the 10% design study, we believe this state funding coupled with city support and cooperation from the MBTA will be sufficient to design and build the entire path, including the Blackwell Path Extension on the Forest Hills/Jamaica Plain side, as well as the Gateway Path starting at the Roslindale MBTA Commuter Rail Station and extending into the Arboretum.

While the bill still needs to get through the Senate and be signed by the Governor, we are delighted by Rep. Sánchez’s leadership on this important sustainability issue. We expect Senator Michael Rush, who represents much of Roslindale in the Senate and serves as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, will also go to bat to help see this through.

At this point, we have no immediate action item for path supporters (other than to thank our elected officials when you get a chance!), but we will be keeping a close eye on the bill as it moves through the Senate. We expect the authorization will come up in the Senate some time before the end of July.

WalkUP Roslindale Support Letter for FY2019 Transportation Department Budget – Hearing Tonight

Earlier this spring, the Walsh Administration announced next year’s transportation budget, which included a substantial increase for Vision Zero and walkability. We sent a letter at the time in support of the budget. Tonight (Tuesday, May 22) the City Council holds a hearing on the budget. We encourage everyone to speak up for safe streets and better transit at the hearing:

Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing
Tuesday, May 22, 5 pm – 7 pm
@ Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Iannella Chamber
1 City Hall Square, Boston

Last year, hundreds showed up at the BTD Budget Hearing, and it had a direct impact on securing more funding for the Neighborhood Slow Streets program. It’s critical to keep the momentum going in 2018, so please show up and support the proposal!

WalkUP also submitted an additional support letter today in anticipation of the hearing, which we will deliver in person tonight. The full text of the letter is included below.
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Give Washington Street Bus Lane Feedback

Washington Street Bus Lane

Washington Street Bus Lane (Image Courtesy Universal Hub)

We’re now a couple weeks into the Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane pilot run and all reports are that it is going swimmingly for bus riders, bicyclists, and car drivers alike. The bus commute time from Rozzie Square to Forest Hills has been shortened for many from as long as half an hour or more to just a few minutes, making the bus a much more practical alternative to the commuter rail (which is infrequent and too expensive for many) or individual driving (we’ve already heard several anecdotes about people who have switched to save time and avoid traffic angst).

It’s now time to make sure the City hears feedback from the community about the pilot–if we don’t speak up, there is no guarantee that they will be able to justify continued investment in the resources necessary to keep the morning rush hour bus lane in place permanently, and ultimately to expand to an evening rush hour bus lane as well (when peak outbound traffic is even worse than in the morning).

So please drop a note right now to the Boston Transportation Department at BTD@nullboston.gov with your thoughts about the bus lane. It need not be lengthy–a sentence or two will do–but just let them know what you think. Lots of people are watching and this could be the start of big pro-walking/bike/transit changes in Roslindale and around the City of Boston, and it’s critical we seize the momentum.

Some press coverage below:

Vision Zero Steps Up in Roslindale

Vision Zero BostonAs part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero Boston initiative, Boston Public Works will make some significant pedestrian infrastructure improvements in the village this coming week, beginning Tuesday, April 24. We are extremely excited to be officially entering “Phase I” of this process, and appreciate the City’s efforts in engaging with WalkUP and the community at large to help advance our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. The safety upgrades we will see this week were set in motion, at least in part, by our neighborhood Walk Audit back in 2015.

In particular, much of the Square will be re-paved and re-painted this week. If all goes according to plan, we will see two new crosswalks corresponding to some well-tread desire lines — one at the bottom of the steps coming down from the commuter rail station, crossing Belgrade Ave, thus creating a straight shot pedestrian route from the T to the soon-to-open (can’t wait!) Distraction Brewing Company at the corner of Belgrade and Birch (previously Emac and Bolio’s as well as the Select Café space). Another new crosswalk should appear connecting the Taft Hill municipal lot to the Village Market area, crossing South Street mid-block between Taft Hill and Belgrade. Indeed, this archival photo (perhaps from the mid-1980’s, showing then-City Councilor Thomas Menino across from now-753 South Street) shows that we once had a crosswalk here, so it’s great to get it back!

Tom Menino in Roslindale With Crosswalk

Tom Menino in Roslindale With Crosswalk

Particularly exciting is that we will also be getting our first raised crosswalk in the village, at the corner of Belgrade and Birch Street.

Two additional notes:

  • We expect most of this work to happen late and overnight. While this may be a short-term noise hardship for those living nearby, it means the work will be done much faster — with cooperative weather and no unpleasant surprises, hopefully in less than a week. We support the City’s decision to get this work done quickly, which will allow us to enjoy the benefits quite soon and also minimize daytime impact on village businesses. Earplugs can be purchased at Sullivan’s Pharmacy for pennies a pair!
  • Part of this “Phase I” effort also involves improving the locations of the village bus stops and installing flexposts to better protect “daylighted” areas. For various logistical reasons, these steps will roll out as “Phase I(b)” — not this coming week, but (we hope) in the very near future. Stay tuned for more info on this front.

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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