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.

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.

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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Day 205 @ Washington-Blue Ledge: Just about fully installed!

Vision Zero BostonNo pictures yet, but I went by early this morning and the full reconfiguration/restriping of the intersection at Washington and Blue Ledge is now done. I believe the remaining items to be installed at this point are median strip signs indicating the new crosswalk and the flashing pedestrian sign. Many thanks to BTD/PWD, our municipal elected officials (especially District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy, City Council President Michelle Wu, and City Councilor Sal LaMattina, who chairs the Committee on Parks, Recreation, and Transportation that held a hearing on the Vision Zero program in May), and Mayor Walsh for getting this done. We should also recognize the advocacy around Vision Zero Boston generally from WalkBoston, Livable Streets, Boston Cyclists Union, and MassBike, among others. Lots, lots more to do to improve everyone’s safety on our streets all around this great city.