Tragedy leads to clarity in South Boston…and maybe citywide?

Vision Zero BostonEveryone concerned about traffic violence in Boston, which touches every part of our city, every day, day-in, and day-out, felt incredible sadness at the tragedy late last month in South Boston in which a crash on L Street between reckless drivers resulted in one of them driving onto the curb and killing a 3 year-old boy and injuring his sister. There have been similar tragedies around the city over the years, taking both the young (such as the 5-month old girl killed on Humboldt Street in Roxbury a couple of years ago) and the elderly (such as one of our own neighbors here in Roslindale in 2016) and everyone in between. For whatever reason, perhaps because with Vision Zero as the city’s adopted policy for the last several years, we all have a better collective vocabulary and understanding that these crashes constitute a form of traffic violence that degrades our public spaces and puts us all under threat every time we venture out onto our streets, this tragedy seemed to hit a particularly raw nerve.

And such is that nerve that first-term District 2 City Councilor Ed Flynn has quickly stepped up his game on safe streets to a level that I think every City Councilor will have to match if they aren’t already. Go read “Flynn Recommends 12 Point Safe Streets Plan” over at Caught in Southie and then consider whether the 12 point safe streets plan he is pushing for in that neighborhood deserves to be rolled out, as quickly as humanly possible, to every street in every neighborhood of this city. Below, I have converted the 12 points he raised to a generic list that could be applied anywhere:

  1. A complete traffic study of ________________ and all high traffic roads. [NOTE: This works only if it’s done in the background while proven traffic calming measures are advanced right away, and isn’t ultimately used as a way to force more vehicular traffic through the neighborhoods at higher speeds.]
  2. Reducing the speed limit to 20 MPH throughout all of ____________. [NOTE: Exactly. The recent shift to 25 mph was a compromise. We really should be at 20 mph.]
  3. Speed humps (permanent or temporary to move for plows) and raised crosswalks along _________ and other high traffic roads, near parks and recreation centers where children and seniors gather. [NOTE: Speed humps should be permanent wherever they go. I continue not to see why plowing in Boston is different than the many other snow belt places in North America and really anywhere else that already have speed humps and raised crosswalks.]
  4. 4-way stop signs along _________ and relevant locations throughout ________.
  5. Additional posting of Speed Board Signs on high traffic roads throughout _________ for feedback to reduce speeds.
  6. Blinking Pedestrian Crossing signs at high traffic areas like we have on _____________.
  7. Bumping out our sidewalks at crosswalks on ___________, school zones and elsewhere to shorten crosswalks, make stop signs more visible & narrow our streets to encourage slower speeds.
  8. Road Diets on ___________, one lane from ____________, and speed humps in appropriate locations.
  9. Increased police patrols in order to reduce speed. Increased fines for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and trucks on ____________. [NOTE: It would be good to have more enforcement, but this fight is ultimately about rectifying decades of bad, unsafe street design. Relying on enforcement also raises concerns about profiling of both people of color and immigrants.]
  10. More delineators in high traffic areas reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians; paint in the roads advising drivers to slow, yield and stop.
  11. A Study to determine if _______________ would become safer if they became one-way streets.  [NOTE: I would not support this in my own neighborhood. Narrow two-way streets, also called “Yield Streets,” are perhaps the most effective method of low-tech traffic calming we have.]
  12. Designated time and space for delivery trucks on ________________ to eliminate double parking. [NOTE: Better curb space management needs to be implemented on essentially every street in our city, but especially on major commercial streets.]

 

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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Vision Zero Steps Up in Roslindale

Vision Zero BostonAs part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero Boston initiative, Boston Public Works will make some significant pedestrian infrastructure improvements in the village this coming week, beginning Tuesday, April 24. We are extremely excited to be officially entering “Phase I” of this process, and appreciate the City’s efforts in engaging with WalkUP and the community at large to help advance our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. The safety upgrades we will see this week were set in motion, at least in part, by our neighborhood Walk Audit back in 2015.

In particular, much of the Square will be re-paved and re-painted this week. If all goes according to plan, we will see two new crosswalks corresponding to some well-tread desire lines — one at the bottom of the steps coming down from the commuter rail station, crossing Belgrade Ave, thus creating a straight shot pedestrian route from the T to the soon-to-open (can’t wait!) Distraction Brewing Company at the corner of Belgrade and Birch (previously Emac and Bolio’s as well as the Select Café space). Another new crosswalk should appear connecting the Taft Hill municipal lot to the Village Market area, crossing South Street mid-block between Taft Hill and Belgrade. Indeed, this archival photo (perhaps from the mid-1980’s, showing then-City Councilor Thomas Menino across from now-753 South Street) shows that we once had a crosswalk here, so it’s great to get it back!

Tom Menino in Roslindale With Crosswalk

Tom Menino in Roslindale With Crosswalk

Particularly exciting is that we will also be getting our first raised crosswalk in the village, at the corner of Belgrade and Birch Street.

Two additional notes:

  • We expect most of this work to happen late and overnight. While this may be a short-term noise hardship for those living nearby, it means the work will be done much faster — with cooperative weather and no unpleasant surprises, hopefully in less than a week. We support the City’s decision to get this work done quickly, which will allow us to enjoy the benefits quite soon and also minimize daytime impact on village businesses. Earplugs can be purchased at Sullivan’s Pharmacy for pennies a pair!
  • Part of this “Phase I” effort also involves improving the locations of the village bus stops and installing flexposts to better protect “daylighted” areas. For various logistical reasons, these steps will roll out as “Phase I(b)” — not this coming week, but (we hope) in the very near future. Stay tuned for more info on this front.

Implementation of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 is now beginning in earnest

Vision Zero BostonWith 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!

Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition Candidate Survey Results Published

Vision Zero BostonWalkUP Roslindale is an enthusiastic member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition. The Coalition is largely comprised of tax-exempt non-profit organizations or informal associations like WalkUP Roslindale, and does not endorse candidates. We do, however, want to find out where candidates stand on key walking, biking, and transit issues, and to that end distributed a survey to all official candidates in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Springfield, and Lynn to give them a chance to weigh in. The results were made public today.

Rozzie residents should be particularly interested to see the survey results for the Boston Mayoral Candidates, the City Council At Large Candidates, as well as for District 4District 5, and District 6, all of which at least touch on our neighborhood. If you like your candidates’ responses, let them know–and if they didn’t respond, or you see room for improvement, let them know that as well. With elections coming up soon on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, it’s time to start paying attention!

Stonybrook Neighborhood Slow Streets – Pre-Construction Open House – August 25 – 6 to 8 pm @ Curtis Hall (20 South St., JP)

It’s been a long time that this particular set of changes has been in the works. But it sounds like Stonybrook’s Neighborhood Slow Streets improvements will go in next month. Pre-construction meeting to be hosted by BTD/PWD scheduled for Friday, August 25 at 6-8 pm at Curtis Hall in JP (20 South Street).

It will be really good to have slow street improvements actually put on the ground in this city so we can all go see what they’re like and share with our neighbors.

Vision Zero Coalition Letter to Mayor Walsh

On May 16th, 2017, City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was interviewed on WGBH radio. In the wake of the recent fatal hit-and-run crash that killed Rick Archer on Comm Ave and an uptick in pedestrian fatalities in Boston and nationwide, Mayor Walsh urged people who walk and bike in the city to take more personal responsibility. Mayor Walsh said that residents were placing too much blame on his administration to solve the problem.

The following is the Vision Zero Coalition’s letter to the Mayor in response to his comments. WalkUP Roslindale is a Coalition member.

If you would like to respond personally to the Mayor, please contact the Mayor’s office. Vision Zero is about designing streets that can account for human error, not blaming the most vulnerable road users. #VisionZero #StreetsAreForPeople #WeAllWalk

Letter from the Coalition to Mayor Walsh

May 17, 2017

Mayor Martin Walsh
City Hall
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Vision Zero

Dear Mayor Walsh:

When you announced the Vision Zero Action Plan in December 2015, we were proud to be your constituents. You demonstrated leadership when you stated:

“We know how to build safer streets. We know how to protect our most vulnerable road users, who are suffering disproportionately because of speeding traffic and distracted drivers. With this Action Plan, I am saying it’s time to act. It’s time to commit to eliminating fatal and serious traffic crashes from our daily experience.”

Which is why we were dismayed by your comments Wednesday afternoon on WGBH Radio.

On behalf of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition we invite you to work with us to fully fund and implement Vision Zero in Boston. We ask that you join us on Friday morning at 8 AM for a moment of silence for victims of traffic violence on City Hall Plaza. On behalf of those victims, we also ask that you apologize for the comments you made on the air.

Our streets are in crisis.

In 2016, fifteen people died while walking on Boston’s streets; a record-breaking high for pedestrian fatalities. We are on track to see even higher numbers in 2017. Crashes overall are up. On average, at least two to three people walking are hit in a crash that results in an EMT call every day.

We need action from you and your administration, not victim-blaming. When you said on the air, “Pedestrians need to put their head up when they’re walking down the street, take your headphones off … you’ve got to understand, cars are going to hit you,” you were reiterating a narrative that doesn’t stand up to the crash data your administration collects.

Most of the people killed while walking were children or older adults. In 2016, of the 10 pedestrian victims whose ages we know, four were older than 60 and two were younger than 3 years old.

This Coalition and your constituents look to you for action.

A week ago, hundreds of people attended the City Council’s FY18 budget hearing for the Boston Transportation Department to call for increased resources to make streets safer for everyone. After the hours of questions from the council and public testimony, it’s clear from all sides – Boston is falling behind.

In your interview with WGBH, you said that the city is doing “everything we can,” but we know Boston is being eclipsed by peer cities in both resources and implementation. The City of New York spends about $20 per person on Vision Zero annually, and San Francisco spends $75 per person annually. Both cities have seen declines in overall traffic fatalities despite a troubling rise in fatal crashes nationwide. Boston is spending less than $5 per person, this is not enough.

Forty-seven neighborhood groups applied for Neighborhood Slow Streets, a signature program of Boston’s Vision Zero initiative. Your FY18 budget recommendation only provides resources to implement two to three in the coming year.

At the current rate of implementation it will take more than 20 years to respond to just the first round of applications. Safety should not be a privilege afforded to only some Boston neighborhoods.

We recognize that there are many competing budget priorities and that rapid change on our streets will cost money. This year we suggest drawing on the parking meter fund. In the long term, we are here to work with you to diversify and increase the revenue streams available for transportation, for example through increased parking revenues.

Simply put, the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, and the thousands of people we represent, feel strongly that the 2018 transportation budget as currently proposed is insufficient to reduce the number of fatalities and serious crashes on our streets.

We hope you will take this opportunity to recommit to leading Boston as a Vision Zero city.

Thank You,

Vision Zero Coalition
Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition members

CC: Boston City Council
Chief of Streets Chris Osgood
Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca
Chief of Staff Dan Koh
Press
Public

Slow Streets Community Meeting Successful

Neighborhood Slow Streets Application PacketDespite inclement weather, we had a good turnout for Monday night’s Slow Streets info session. For anyone who was unable to make it, please check out the slides from the presentation.. Let’s put Rozzie on the map as the next neighborhood to take this important step toward Vision Zero!

Neighborhood Slow Streets — They’re coming, so learn about how to participate!

2/13/17 storm update: note changed location to 20 Belgrade Avenue!

On Monday, February 13, 2017, at 6:30 pm at 20 Belgrade Avenue, Unit 7 (2nd Floor) the Roslindale Community Center (Washington St & Cummins Hwy), WalkUP Roslindale will host a community organizing and informational workshop on the Boston Transportation Department’s new program on Neighborhood Slow Streets and how our neighbors throughout Roslindale can come together and go about preparing for and applying to become part of the program.

Learn more about the program here: https://www.boston.gov/transporta…/neighborhood-slow-streets

Here are the stakes for the FY2018 Boston Vision Zero Budget

Take 5 minutes to:

  1. Read this article in the Herald: Battle for safer streets: Nine pedestrians hit in Boston in 1 day.
  2. View this local TV news piece from WCVB: Steps being taken in Boston to curb pedestrian crashes.

Here’s the upshot: Policy and aspirations in this city around walking and cycling and safer streets for all are not being met with resources. When the Herald takes note and publishes a front page article on the 9 pedestrian crashes that occurred on a single day last week and then local tv devotes as much time as they just have to the same issue, it begins to feel like the time may finally have come to really do what needs to be done to make our streets safer and better for all users. The municipal fiscal year starts every July 1. The FY2018 budget will be developed and approved in the next handful of months. The Vision Zero line item in the current FY2017 budget is $3.1 Million for a city of about 670,000 people. As the TV piece indicates, that’s woefully inadequate. On a per capita basis, it’s on the order of a third of NYC’s vision zero budget and 1/25th of San Francisco’s. Let that sink in. More to come on this.