Walter and Bussey Intersection Slated for Redesign – Let’s Make It Better!

Bussey and Walter Intersection

Bussey and Walter Intersection

We recently learned that the city plans to rebuild the intersection of Walter and Bussey Street, a problematic spot for pedestrians and bicyclists at the edge of the Arnold Arboretum adjacent the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and not far from the Sophia Snow House on Centre Street. Although the new design represents an improvement, it is a long way from achieving Complete Streets standards and moving us toward Vision Zero: that no one should die or be seriously injured from transportation on our public ways. We are also troubled by the apparent lack of public notice and comment on a project like this that has significant impacts on our quality of life and would benefit from community input.

New Proposed Design for Walter-Bussey Intersection

New Proposed Design for Walter-Bussey Intersection

Fortunately, our close allies from the Livable Streets Alliance have sent a detailed letter to the City’s new Chief of Streets, Chris Osgood, detailing problems with the new design. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we are reproducing LSA’s letter below, which we endorse wholeheartedly. If you want to help make this intersection better, please contact your City Councilors and neighborhood liaisons and demand that the Department of Public Works hold public meetings and hear from the neighborhood before plowing ahead with this project. Although the plans appear to be final, this should not be a done deal. The work hasn’t started yet, so let’s make it better.

Finally, to dispel any confusion, note this is not the same intersection nor the same process currently underway regarding the Walter-Centre Street intersection. That project is under DCR control; we’ll have an update on the recent community meeting in Rozzie about this shortly.

Update: WalkBoston has also sent a comment letter.

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Living on Earth and Complete Streets in Boston

Cambridge Street Bridge

Cambridge Street Bridge with cycle track

Excellent Living on Earth piece this week about the “Complete Streets” movement, focused on Cambridge Street in Allston. The segment features an interview with then-deputy director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Stefanie Seskin, now Boston’s Director of Active Transportation. Also interviewed is Vineet GuptaBoston Transportation Department head of policy and planning.

It’s been nearly 75 years since World War II ended, yet much transportation planning is still based on that obsolete paradigm. The Living on Earth piece concludes on a hopeful note that the pace of change is picking up:

SESKIN: Post World War II, we embarked in the United States and in many other countries, on a massive infrastructure investment to move goods really across the country. And that had a lot of really important and good changes to the way that we built our roads in terms of safety when you’re travelling at high speeds, when you’re thinking about trucks and how they move.

LUCAS: But Seskin says while wide lanes make highways and other high-speed roads safer for traffic using them, they were never meant for cities and town centers. And yet city streets were built the same way as those high-speed roads. Vineet Gupta of Boston’s Transportation Department says that post-war engineering mentality explains why Cambridge Street is so bad for pedestrians today.

GUPTA: In those days, all they cared about was moving traffic and making traffic flow more efficient, and really not focusing on what cities really are, and what makes them livable.

LUCAS: That’s where people-oriented complete streets are different.And the idea has been gaining traction around the country.The National Complete Streets Coalition says that the number of places with complete street policies leaped from 86 in 2008 to 610 last year. Stephanie Seskin has noticed.

We haven’t seen much of this progress yet in Roslindale. It’s our job to push both elected and appointed officials to bring Complete Streets to our neighborhood sooner rather than later. We should be leading rather than trailing.