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.
With 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!
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.
Yes. That’s Keytar Bear from the Roslindale Craft Beer Cellar opening earlier this year!!
Friends, it’s going to be a busy few weeks upcoming. So, as we close out April and start into May, here are 5 eminently worthwhile events to put on your calendar. We hope to see you at all or at least some of them:
ITEM 1 – Sunday – May 7 at 1 pm – Jane’s Walk – We’ll meet in the southeastern corner of the Arboretum, just down the short slope from the Mendum Street gate and then wind our way northward along the contemplated route of the Roslindale Gateway Path and the Blackwell Path extension, stop and consider ways to work with our neighbors on cleaning up the area around the Arboretum Road underpass, and get a tutorial on the upcoming end-state for walking and cycling connections in the Arborway-Casey area.
ITEM 2 – Monday – May 8 at 6:30 pm – Roslindale Gateway Path Conceptual Design Study Presentation – This will take place at the Arboretum’s Weld Hill building. More information at the link. Pushing the concept to the point of seeing how it might lay out on the ground is an important milestone, and those of us who have been steering this grassroots effort so far are eager to continue the community conversation we started last spring.
ITEM 3 – Tuesday – May 16 at 9:30 am – Mayor Walsh’s Neighborhood Coffee Hour and Fallon Field Playground Ribbon-Cutting – This will be a great opportunity to connect with the mayor and his staff (including our own Dan Murphy from ONS) to thank them for their work on the new playground and discuss other ways we can work together to make our neighborhood a better place.
ITEM 4 – Thursday – May 18 at 7:00 pm – Fun-Size Target Meeting – It’s now official: Staples is closing and Target is proposing to bring their smaller-size store model into our neighborhood. Lots of upside and downside to discuss. To be held at the RCC, this one promises to be interesting.
ITEM 5 – Friday – May 19 at 7:10 am – Bike to Work Day – With Councilor Tim McCarthy! – May 19 is bike to work day throughout the city and the country, and if you work downtown, you can have an extra special treat on this day because our own district city councilor has accepted Rozzie Bikes’ invitation to ride into town from Roslindale Square. The West Roxbury/Roslindale convoy starts at Adi’s Bike World on Centre Street at 7:00 am and then departs Roslindale Square at 7:10 am. The ride ends at an early-morning festival on City Hall Plaza. Be there with your 2-wheeler and join in the fun!
They’ve been a bit crazy, truth be told, as follows:
- “Le Green T est arrivé!!!” For those of us in Peters Hill, the arrival of Green T to the intersection of Walter and South a week ago Thursday means that we now have a community front porch. By all accounts, including their own, the Green T folks were genuinely surprised at the immediate response of our neighborhood to having somewhere to enjoy good coffee, smoothies, and sandwiches in a well-crafted space open to the street. But there you have it. Yours truly (Matt) was patient zero of this particular viral event – I was there promptly at 5:30 am on opening day and I was not disappointed – a tasty latte and a flaky croissant and off we went. The first 4 days were supposed to be a soft opening, but soft it most certainly was not. We have been desperate for something like this, and we were not to be denied the pleasure IMMEDIATELY. It has become an instant focal point over here, the place that fills in the blank for “Meet me at ________ for coffee.” I personally live 2 blocks down and will attest that foot traffic has picked up significantly since the shop opened. Sarah Kurpiel Lee: We most certainly need bike parking asap. Please identify the appropriate location.
- Open Streets? In my own capacity as president of the WalkBoston board of directors, I was caught up in the debate over the possibility of open streets in Boston after the Mayor’s twitter chat last Wednesday raised the issue. Due to various conflicts (the ED was traveling and the communications director had a command performance), I ended up on the local news urging that Newbury Street (and various other streets in town) be considered for temporary, one-day closure this summer along the lines of what recently happened in Paris with the Champs-Élysées and has been happening on Memorial Drive in Cambridge since the 1970s. You can see the piece here. For the record, I think the folks they found on the street said it most directly and effectively. It’s just a good idea. Plain and simple.
- And then there is Vision Zero Boston. I attended the City Council hearing last Monday, but couldn’t stay, so our written comments had to stand as our testimony, as has been reported separately on this webpage. A WalkUP group followed up at the Mayor’s Roslindale coffee our by stressing to his honor how concerned we were about the slow pace of Vision Zero implementation, especially as it applied to Washington at Blue Ledge. It appears that the rapid response at this location may turn into something of a test case for what needs to be done going forward at that location and many, many others around town. As we said in the comment letter, everyone in this city deserves to feel safe on the street on which they live. Everyone. No exceptions. Old, young, rich, poor, all ethnicities. It is one very meaningful way to measure a city’s fairness in dealing with its citizens. And as the post from earlier in the week said, we will need to stay on the city’s various actors (mainly BTD, but also PWD and the BRA) on these issues. The right thing won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for it.
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.
As part of our effort to spread the word and gather more support for the Arboretum Gateway Path concept, I was excited to have the opportunity to do a 7 minute presentation at LivableStreets Alliance’s 10-in-1 Street Talk last Wednesday night at the Old South Meeting House downtown. This is the 10th anniversary for these talks, and they’re a great way to connect with folks who have similar interests and advocating for making our streets and public places better and safer for everyone. LivableStreets has posted some photos from the event on their facebook page. I’ll share the video of the whole thing as soon as I see it posted in a public forum, but I was most struck during the evening by the presentation from Mark Chase of Somerville Neighborways. You should check out the images on the website, especially the concept of stressing the importance and local ownership of key intersections with resident-organized and applied graphics painted directly on the pavement. Pretty impressive and something that we should look into doing here in Roslindale – I have my own thoughts on where, and I’m sure others in our neighborhood do as well.
The evening got off to a great start with the semi-surprise of the Mayor’s announcement of the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan in a short video, which was followed by reinforcing remarks from BTD Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. Chief of Streets Chris Osgood was also personally in attendance to emphasize the importance of the announcement. The whole action plan is worth looking at and taking part in as it moves forward. But I would say that among the most interesting and important early action items is the institution of neighborhood slow speed zones in the Talbot-Norfolk triangle near Codman Square in Dorchester and between Washington Street and Franklin Park in Jamaica Plain’s Stonybrook section. My own understanding is that this is mainly a matter of lowering the speed limit from 30 to 20 mph and highlighting that fact with signage and enhanced crosswalk treatments and related measures. Bottom line: The pilots are a great idea, long past due, yet fundamentally every residential area in the city should get the same treatment, as soon as the city can get the standard package set next spring and summer through the pilots and then roll them out. The data on vehicle speed vs. fatality rates for pedestrians are uniform on pointing to the shift from 30 to 20 pm as being absolutely essential. If we can get actual vehicle speeds to that lower level on our neighborhood streets, we will have accomplished something of real and lasting value.