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!
We talk a lot about how smarter, well-designed, and dense mixed-use development will advance our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in all of Boston, but it’s important to remember that high quality and accessible open space is also a critical ingredient for a Walkable Urban Place. Indeed, density and open space are two sides of the same coin. As urban designer and walkability advocate Julie Campoli states in her book Made for Walking:
The structural elements illustrated throughout Made for Walking – streets, blocks, sidewalks, and connected open spaces together with the intricate mixing of uses – make walking and biking convenient and enable mobility with a vastly reduced carbon impact. These qualities, combined with a comfortable streetscape, create the type of pedestrian-oriented environment that lures people out of their cars. A few other physical qualities may not contribute directly to lowering a place’s carbon footprint but are also essential ingredients in a successful urban neighborhood. These elements, which can be designed in a place to add value, include the things all of us need in varying degrees – greenery, privacy, variety, and a sense of spaciousness.
YIMBY Logo (Courtesy Corporation for Supportive Housing)
The so-called “YIMBY” movement has been in the news a lot these days. Many YIMBY community groups, like JP YIMBY, start from a principle of supporting housing development in the interests of fairness, equity, sustainability, and economic vitality, and adopt walkability as an important component of that mission. We at WalkUP Roslindale start from the perspective of improving walkability–our core mission is to make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston–and find that this goal more often than not coincides with YIMBY priorities and ideas. Greater density, when done right, is a critical prerequisite for a walkable neighborhood for a host of reasons. Moreover, YIMBY groups typically do not support car-centric and anti-pedestrian development because (among other reasons) they don’t achieve the goal of making housing available to all in need. We’re typically all on the same page.
When we started WalkUP back in 2015, we were unaware so many other neighborhood groups with similar ideas were simultaneously forming or about to form, including the aforementioned JP YIMBY, as well as A Better Cambridge, Engine 6 (in Newton), Livable Newton, Newton Villages, and Somerville YIMBY (please chime in if we’ve forgotten any!). We now find we are in good company and happy to see this movement developing organically around the region.
To achieve our goal of making Rozzie the most walkable neighborhood in Boston, we need to seize every opportunity to speak up. We are leading some efforts ourselves (such as the Gateway Path initiative) but others require attention, leadership, and vision from our Mayor and City Councilors. Two upcoming events present opportunities to be heard on important walkability issues:
Mayor Walsh recently announced the dates for his 2016 “coffee hour” series, where the Mayor will visit each neighborhood to hear from residents. All participants will enjoy coffee and breakfast provided by Dunkin’ Donuts and fresh fruit from Whole Foods. In addition, each family in attendance will receive a flowering plant grown in the city’s greenhouses and a raffle prize from Dunkin. The Roslindale event is this coming Wednesday, May 18 at Adams Park, from 9:30am-10:30am. Show up and tell the Mayor we need safer streets for walkers, better transit and bicycle infrastructure, improved parks, and the like!
Speaking of coffee: Roslindale just took a big step up, going from zero to two full-blown coffee shops. Both P.S. Gourmet Coffee and the Green T Coffee Shop opened in the past week or so. Be sure to visit both by foot or bicycle and welcome them to the neighborhood!↵
This is big news if you’re in favor of walkability throughout our city.
Stefanie Seskin has just been named as our new active transportation director.
You can read the City’s announcement here, and BostInno’s short take here (it’s the second item). The prior administration’s kind-of analog position was the bike czar, which Nicole Freedman held for 7 years. Nicole did a great job, but much more can and now will be done to expand on the concept of “transportation” beyond specific modes (walk, bike, transit, car) and their designated advocates. Two quotes lifted from the press release:
First, from the Mayor:
“Boston is an active city and we are continuing to invest in our pedestrian and bike infrastructure, encouraging residents to think creatively about how they get from point A to point B. Stefanie brings leadership and talent to this new position, and I thank her for her willingness to serve.”
And from the new Director:
“I am excited to take on this new position as Active Transportation Director for the Boston Transportation Department, and I am grateful to Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Fiandaca to be given this opportunity,” said Seskin. “I love seeing so many people who already walk and bike around the city, and I look forward to working with residents to make Boston even more walk- and bike-friendly.”
So, we have a brand new official ally at the city. No excuses now for not speaking up and letting our local government know what we want to see. What can WUPR suggest to our new active transportation on ways to make Roslindale more walkable?