Comment Letter on Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (361 Belgrade)

We sent a comment letter today to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in support of the proposed move of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School to 361 Belgrade Avenue. We believe the proposed development is consistent with our core principles and primary goal of making a more walkable neighborhood. As discussed in more detail below, this development should be a catalyst for long overdue walkability and transit improvements to Belgrade Avenue, and we urge all the stakeholders to work together to make sure these happen. As a side note, we recognize there has been outspoken support for and opposition against this project from a variety of perspectives; as a community group focused on walkability, we take no position on education policy or various debates relating to charter schools generally or this school specifically. Our interest is in insuring that students, staff, and the community at large can enjoy safe and vibrant streets with easy and convenient access by sustainable modes of transportation.

The full text of our letter is reproduced below.

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More of this please: District 6 Councilor Matt O’Malley to hold MBTA office hours – 19 Feb 2019

This is a welcome new way to communicate with constituents that we hope catches on for all of our councilors (also recognizing that Councilor Wu has been directly communicating through social media about her personal MBTA experiences for some time now). According to Go Boston 2030, the transit mode share for Roslindale residents’ work trips exceeds 25%, so this appears to be a great investment of the councilor’s time and a way to meet and take the pulse of this substantial slice of the neighborhood (a portion of which Councilor O’Malley does represent). We encourage everyone to attend, and tell us how it went in the comments!

Your 2018 WalkUP Roslindale year in review!

WITH 2018 having drawn to its inevitable close, now seems like a decent enough time to look back on another year in the life of WalkUP Roslindale, your neighborhood walk-bike-transit-Y/QIMBY (Yes/Quality in My Backyard) citizens advocacy group. In the opinion of one member of group management, here are the top 10 things that happened this year. Comments, corrections, and additions are always welcome!

  1. District City Councilor Forum – Although scheduling conflicts kept us from hosting this particular forum in 2017, we did manage to pull off a gathering of the three district councilors who represent various parts of Roslindale – Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6) – that resulted in a lively discussion on a wide range of topics hosted by our own Sarah Kurpiel Lee. You can read the post-mortem at Recap on District City Councilor January 2018 Forum.
  2. Washington Street Bus & Bike Lane – After the 2-day pilot at the end of 2017 and then a full 4-week pilot in May and June of this year, the Mayor announced that the Washington Street bus and bike lane improvement project – which allows for a bus and bike only lane northbound on weekday mornings (5 to 9 am) and has significantly improved travel times for riders on the 9 separate lines that run between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills – would be permanent. This was a big win for better transit in our neighborhood and a significant step forward for better bus service across the region. We were proud to partner with Livable Streets Alliance on surveying riders and building support for the project and reported on it in May in Give Washington Street Bus Lane Feedback and in October in WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane.
  3. Safer Walking and Cycling in Roslindale Square – Around the same time that the bus/bike pilot was going on and being made permanent, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) planned and then the Public Works Department resurfaced the key loop of South/Belgrade/Corinth/Poplar in Roslindale Square and installed a targeted set of new crosswalks, daylighting areas, in-street bike lanes, and relocated bus stops. With this set of improvements, a significant majority of the changes we advocated for in our December 2015 Walk Audit with WalkBoston have now been implemented. You can find coverage at Recent Safety Improvements in Roslindale Square – An Explainer and Letter of Support for Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Calming Improvements in Roslindale Square.
  4. Significant Progress on the Roslindale Gateway Path – In late June, we teamed with the Arnold Arboretum and Horsley Witten to release the 25% design for the MBTA-owned section of the path, running from the commuter rail station to the Arboretum border. The meeting was well attended and led to the T’s relatively swift determination that the proposed path route was conceptually approved through its internal canvassing process. Mid-year also saw funding progress as the commonwealth’s legislative session drew to a close in July. First, future funding to the tune of $3 million for path construction was included in the statewide Environmental Bond Bill. Securing these particular funds will require more work going forward, but the good news was just getting started. The FY2019 budget also included $100,000 in earmarked funding to help complete the path’s overall design. And then, to top off the funding story for the year, the city, through BTD, was able to obtain $90,000 in federal grant funding to move to 100% design for the initial extension of the path from its current terminus at the end of the Blackwell Path to the Arboretum Road underpass. An application to the city’s Community Preservation Act committee to fund construction of this extension was submitted in September. Coverage can also be found at Major Step Forward for the Gateway Path.
  5. Y/QIMBY Support and YIMBYtown – We continued to support new projects and concepts that we believed make sense, including 3-7 Poplar (732 South) and RVMS’ Poplar Street Improvements and the possible redevelopment of the Taft Hill Parking Lot. We also participated on the host committee of YIMBYtown 2018, the third annual national YIMBY conference held here in Boston in September. Perhaps the emblematic moment at YIMBYtown was the demonstration by housing justice advocates led by City Life/Vida Urbana at the closing plenary of the conference, voicing concerns about displacement of poorer people and people of color from neighborhoods experiencing an influx of new residents. WalkUP Roslindale hopes to partner with the housing justice initiative at RISE in the coming year to find a unified way forward in our neighborhood. More to come on this topic.
  6. FY2019 BTD Budget – WalkUP Roslindale was truly excited about the passage of an expanded BTD budget for FY2019 that calls for hiring a slew of new planners and engineers focused on issues such as coordinating MBTA service in the city, implementing Vision Zero, and expanding our city’s bike network. While we are still awaiting these new hires, we hope that they will be made soon.
  7. Neighborhood Slow Streets in MHMC – Progress continued on our neighborhood’s winner of the 2017 NSS sweepstakes. Conceptual plans are anticipated to be released in late winter. More information can be found at “Mount Hope/Canterbury” on BTD’s vision zero site.
  8. Blue Bikes in Roslindale! – We finally got our first 4 Blue Bikes stations in Roslindale in late summer – 2 stations in the square, one Belgrade and Walworth, and a fourth at Washington and Archdale. Now, if we could only find a way to get the long-delayed-due-to-construction and now completely inexplicably delayed station slated for Forest Hills, we’d really be talking. You can read more at “New Hubway (Blue Bikes) Locations Announced in Roslindale” and “Blue Bikes Finally Come to Roslindale.”
  9. Walter Street Traffic Calming – After sustained advocacy over many years by members of the Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association, 3 new crosswalks were finally installed in the stretch of Walter Street running from Bussey to South. The crosswalks were also accompanied by daylighting and flexposts on Walter itself and on certain of the side streets on Peters Hill. This kind of treatment can and should be extended to all of our major streets.
  10. Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative 1.0+ – Finally, our volunteer snow clearance collaborative had plenty of chances to flex our muscles and get in a good work out shoveling out key bus stops in and around the square and at the key intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. The shoveling in the square even included the contested sidewalks surrounding the MBTA commuter rail station on Belgrade. We gave the last installment – Collaborative v. 1.5 – a lighthearted touch with a photo of the Boston yeti.

Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative – 2018-2019

January 6, 2019 update: please sign up on our snow clearance page at http://walkuproslindale.org/snow if you’re interested in helping, and spread the word!

After a fair amount of success during the winter of 2017-2018, we here at WalkUP Roslindale are standing ready to launch the Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative once again for the upcoming winter of 2018-2019. By way of reminder, the RSCC focuses on clearing snow and ice from bus stops on key routes in and around Roslindale Square and at the major intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. This year, we will look to clear bus stops in those same key locations, but we’re also going to see if we can incentivize participation by partnering with our very own Roslindale Village Main Street and District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy, as follows:

  • Anytime there’s a snow event greater than 4” (just over 10 cm), we will pick a suitable morning or evening time as soon as possible after the snow stops flying to meet up at the 2 locations (NW corner of Hyde Park/Cummins and in front of the Roslindale Community Center on Washington) and then descend on and shovel out the identified stops.
  • With the help of our friends Councilor McCarthy and RVMS, the incentive we’re offering will be $10 Rozzie Bucks coupons for everyone who shows up and lends a hand.
  • BTW, Rozzie Bucks are a great deal — good at many stores and restos in the square and the farmers market to boot!!

Astute observers of the urban scene here in SW Boston will recognize that this is akin to the program District 6 City Councilor O’Malley has developed for shoveling out neighborhood fire hydrants where he drums up support by giving out JP Licks gift certificates. We hope to do the same with bus stops and Rozzie Bucks and with Councilor McCarthy contributing an initial investment of $300 and the Roslindale Business Group (yes, the second best RBG) underwriting a further $100, we are hopeful that we’ll see success this year. If it snows, we hope you’ll join us!!!

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.