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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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:

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!

IT IS ON: WalkUP Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative Version 1.4

We have already exceeded the 4″ (10.2 cm) benchmark for being called into action, so WURSCC v. 1. 4 is very much on for this evening and we will be looking to clear key bus stops at HP/Cummins and in/around Roslindale Square in anticipation of getting back to business and school tomorrow.

Accordingly: Meet either

(i) Rob Guptill TONIGHT, March 13 @ 7:30 pm, at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway (RCC); or

(ii) Matt Lawlor TONIGHT, March 13 @ 7:30 pm, at the northwest corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway (Atlas Liquors).

Please dress warmly and bring your own snow/ice clearance equipment and supplies (shovels, picks, icemelt, etc.) to the extent you can. Thanks and hope to see you there tomorrow morning to do some more community service this winter.

UPDATED: WE ARE A GO – WalkUP Roslindale Key Bus Stop Clearance Version 1.3 (Ros Sq TONIGHT 7 pm, HP/Cummins TOMORROW 7 am)

Snowfall from last night/this morning’s storm has exceeded our 4″ (10.2 cm) benchmark, so we are going to check on and, if necessary, clear our identified key bus stops:

Accordingly: Meet either

(i) Rob Guptill TONIGHT, March 8 @ 7:00 pm, at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway (RCC).

(ii) Matt Lawlor TOMORROW, March 9 @ 7:00 am, at the northwest corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway (Atlas Liquors); or

Please dress warmly and bring your own snow/ice clearance equipment and supplies (shovels, picks, icemelt, etc.) to the extent you can. Thanks and hope to see you there tomorrow morning to do some more community service this winter!

The Take the T Pledge

LINK HERE: Take the T Pledge

There are reasons for elected officials at the local and state levels not to take this pledge and ride the T for 5 consecutive work days before May 31. It’s just that those reasons can all be dealt with or planned around and the pledge’s central notion — that you value, at a fundamental level, something more and know better its pluses and minuses when you actually experience it on a regular, sustained basis — cannot be denied. Check out the website, and if you agree, reach out to your own local and state elected officials and encourage them to take the pledge. We’ll all benefit.

And many thanks to Brendan Halpin, our neighbor over in Jamaica Plain, for coming up with the idea for the pledge.

Recap on WalkUP Roslindale Key Bus Stop Clearance Collaborative – Version 1.2

Overall, and no surprise to anyone, but there was a lot of snow out there this morning. The vehicular portions of streets were generally in good shape thanks to the city’s long-standing practice, so thanks go to the city’s own crews and their team of contractors responsible for plowing those areas. The sidewalks and the bus stops on them were another matter. The stops themselves on Hyde Park Avenue were in decent shape, though plowed in. At the other stops we cleared, the conditions at the start ranged from bad to horrendous. Clearly, more advocacy and work are needed to bring more attention and resources to clearing the walking and transit-related portions of streets — the sidewalks and bus stops — that are the city’s responsibility and enforcing the obligations of private property owners on the balance of our sidewalks. Plenty of folks we saw out this morning either walking or waiting for the bus were doing so in the cleared vehicular parts of the streets because the sidewalks and bus stop areas were unusable. This is hardly news if you’ve walked around Roslindale after a major snowfall. But it’s now 2018, combating the manifest impacts of climate change on this coastal city should be a top priority, and we need to move faster to encourage the shift to more walking and transit use that GoBoston 2030 is meant to promote. More needs to be done a lot faster.

So, my crew (Greg Tobin and yours truly) started the morning at Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. The first bus stop we hit was on Hyde Park Avenue going northbound:

 

Sidewalk was clear on the other side of this. Pretty good start.

Next, we confirmed Greg’s good shoveling out on Cummins going westbound before Hyde Park Avenue and on Hyde Park Avenue going southbound after Cummins:

Then things started to significantly deteriorate. We walked up Cummins from Hyde Park Av., over the bridge over the MBTA/Amtrak tracks (the sidewalks on the bridge were shoveled and treated – right to the presumed property line),  and dug out the 2 bus stops (east and west on Cummins) — neither of which or the sidewalks leading to them had been touched. Plowed in and completely unpassable, so the best we could do was create landing pads for the 2 stops:

 

We then made our way over to Roslindale Square to join Steve Gag and Rob Orthman and finish up their work at the major bus stop at Washington Street, heading northbound, at Cummins, in front of the Roslindale Community Center. When I passed by in the morning, the sidewalk had been partially shoveled but the shelter hadn’t been cleared and there was no way to access buses when they stopped – plowed in. Here we can see Steve and Greg working on clearing the corner and several shots of the cleared bus shelter and paths to board buses, and then below that, the cleared stop in front of the florist on South Street:

Finally, on the way home, I first walked up South Street and encountered a massive, sidewalk-blocking snow mound on South Street abutting the Village Market parking lot. Hopefully this has been cleared by now.

And then, to finish off the WURSC Collaborative 1.2, I dug out a landing pad for the stop where multiple buses come in at Robert/Belgrade/Corinth, on the same side as the commuter rail station. As can be seen from the photos, the sidewalk on Belgrade was completely plowed in and I can report that no clearing had occurred this evening. It is to be hoped that this sidewalk and bus stop will be cleared as soon as possible.

2017 – WUR’s year in review

With the books now closed on 2017, let’s take a moment to reflect on another year in the life of WalkUP Roslindale, your neighborhood walk-bike-transit-Y/QIMBY (Yes/Quality in My Backyard) citizens group. In the opinion of your humble correspondent, below are the top 7 highlights of the year just concluded. Comments, corrections, and additions are always welcome!

  1. Washington Street Operational Bus Improvements Pilot – It came late in the year (and on just 2 Tuesday mornings in December). But the first test of a bus-only lane (shared with people on bikes as well) on Washington Street from Roslindale Square to Ukraine Way from 7 am to 9 am was a widely-hailed successful proof of concept. Bus riders saved significant time, people riding bikes in the corridor generally approved of the shared lane, and the Boston Transportation Department and the MBTA showed they could work quite well together on the first such test case in an outlying neighborhood. It is hard to overstate how big a deal this is — there are several corridors around Boston that desperately need the kind of low-upfront-capital but meaningful time-saving improvements to bus service that was demonstrated for the first time in this city here in Roslindale. A full 2-week pilot is reportedly planned for the spring. Dates and specifics are still TBD. WalkUP Roslindale will do everything it can to support the full pilot and ultimately implementation of a permanent set of improvements. We appreciate the advocacy and support of the proposal from City Councilors Wu and McCarthy as well as BTD’s strong performance on the 2 days of the operational pilot. Special thanks are also owed to LivableStreets Alliance for their persistent advocacy, particularly their Street Ambassadors, who teamed with certain WUR diehards (Messrs. Tedrow, Gag, and Tobin come to mind) on outreach this fall and then during the operational pilot.
  2. Mt. Hope-Canterbury gets Roslindale’s nod for the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program – A grand total of 47 applications were submitted to BTD’s program to install new neighborhood slow streets areas around Boston. Five applicants were picked, and our own Mt. Hope-Canterbury area in eastern Roslindale made the cut. We look forward to seeing the work of MHC stalwarts Lisa Beatman and Rick Yoder and their neighbors in that part of our neighborhood come to fruition in their new NSS by year-end. And herewith our periodic reminder that everyone in Boston deserves to live on a safe street. Everyone on every street in every neighborhood.
  3. Roslindale’s First Street Mural – Our neighborhood’s first street mural was laid down in June at the intersection of Conway and South streets, on the Peters Hill side of the MBTA commuter rail station. This was a great community building event and collaboration with the Mayor’s Mural Crew staff (especially Heidi Schork), BTD, Roslindale Village Main Street, Cornell Coley (Roslindale’s Artist-in-Residence), and our own Rachele Rosi-Kessel, Rebecca Phillips, Mandana Moshtaghi, and Ann-Marie Lawlor.
  4. At-Large City Councilors and Candidates Forum on Active Mobility Issues – WUR was significantly gratified to pull together a forum featuring all 8 current councilors and candidates in October to discuss active mobility issues affecting Roslindale and the city at large. Attendance was strong and we were able to livestream the forum as it was progressing. Particular thanks are due for this event to the Roslindale Community Center for making their downstairs meeting room available for an extended period on the evening of the forum.
  5. Green Shoots Pedestrian Improvements in Roslindale Square – WUR’s late 2015 collaboration with WalkBoston on a walk audit of Roslindale Square finally bore fruit in the spring of this year when key improvements were made to the Basile/Washington crosswalk (including fix the blinking yellow light, installing a handicapped accessible ramp and daylighting with flexposts) and Belgrade/South (including no parking in the area between the crosswalks and daylighting with flexposts). In addition to these major changes, we also saw a new crosswalk near the Robert Street underpass for the MBTA and a new crosswalk center delineator on Belgrade near Robert/Corinth. We hope to see more improvements around the square in the coming year.
  6. Roslindale Gateway Path continues to make progress and draws major foundation support – The early spring saw the release of the 10% design for the Roslindale Gateway Path at a community meeting at the Arnold Arboretum’s Weld Hill research facility, followed a couple of months later by an announcement of formal collaboration with the Arboretum Park Conservancy on a combined Roslindale Gateway/Blackwell Path project. The combined path effort then had the good fortune, with support from LivableStreets Alliance, the Arboretum and BTD, to obtain funding from the Solomon Foundation for advancing the design to the 25% level. Look for the release of the 25% design at some point this spring.
  7. Smarter residential development continues across the neighborhood – Last, but not least, WUR advanced our Y/QIMBY agenda in support of residential development that we thought worthwhile, especially 874-878 South Street (around the corner from your correspondent’s house), 32 Cummins Highway (down the block from the post office), and 4281 Washington Street (the Brayton’s Upholstery building). Our city is growing and need to welcome new residents by building new units form them instead of making them compete with existing residents over existing units.

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!