We recently sent an official comment letter to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, expressing our strong support for recent pedestrian safety and traffic calming improvements around Roslindale Square. These improvements represent an important step forward in realizing our vision of a truly walkable neighborhood where everyone who prefers to get around without a car can do so easily, and those who need to drive share the space fairly and safely with everyone else. Much remains to be done. Toward that end, below we express our support for the changes made so far, and offer ideas for next steps.
Yesterday, we sent an official letter to Mayor Walsh in strong support of his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 transportation budget, specifically in view of several major steps forward on our most important goal for Roslindale and the City of Boston: walkability! The full text of our letter is below; we encourage everyone to drop a quick note to the Mayor and their elected representatives on the City Council to insure the active and mass transportation aspects of the budget are enacted. Once implemented, we expect residents and business owners will immediately appreciate major returns on these investments in walking, bicycle, and bus infrastructure, which will then lay the groundwork for even bigger progress in the future.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
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.
To this end, we are happy to support the Healy Field Community Garden effort. After several years of outreach and dozens of meetings, the Friends of Healy Field are poised to create a garden space for children and adults, including a gathering space for community-wide events. The friends have gotten support from Healy Field abutters and neighbors, over 500 Roslindale petitioners, 60+ participants in the community design process, Boston’s Parks Department and Boston’s Mayor Walsh. Now MassDevelopment is offering to match the $25,000 FOHF plans to raise through this campaign. Please consider contributing whatever you can toward this major $25,000 matching grant, and spread the word!
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.
Commonwealth Magazine‘s Podcast, aptly named The Codcast, recently ran an episode all about the YIMBY phenomenon, featuring two guests from JP Yimby, Eric Herot and Meg Wood. It’s definitely worth a listen to get perspective on the movement and how it connects to walkability–there’s even a shout-out to WalkUP Roslindale about halfway through the episode.
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.
Finally, this article from today’s Bay State Banner, Can Boston build a way out of the housing crisis? is worth reading as an in-depth survey of the current state of affairs with housing in Boston, and provides perspective from both supporters and critics of the current mayoral administration. Perhaps a preview of debates to come for the city elections this fall.
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!
- The City Council hearing on the city’s Vision Zero efforts is scheduled for this coming Monday, May 16th, at 3pm in the Iannella Chamber, 5th Floor, City Hall. The order for hearing was sponsored by Councilor Matt O’Malley. The docket to be discussed is item 0509, “order for a hearing regarding traffic calming measures and the Vision Zero Boston program.” Show up to testify if you can; written comments may also be made part of the record and available to all councilors by sending them to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?