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Comment Letter Re: MassDOT and MBTA Focus40

Comment Letter Re: MassDOT and MBTA Focus40

August 28, 2018
Stephanie Pollack, Secretary of Transportation
Luis Manuel Ramírez, MBTA General Manager
State Transportation Building
Boston, MA 02116

Re: WalkBoston comments on Focus40

Dear Secretary Pollack and General Manager Ramirez:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the investment plan for the MBTA.

From a system-wide perspective, we applaud the effort to provide a framework for expanding the reach and efficacy of the transit system.

However, we have concerns that more specific investments have not been identified within that framework. As just one example:

  • How will Salem, identified as a place needing better service, have its MBTA service improved?
  • What is the process to examine specific places and identify and evaluate specific improvements?

We are pleased to see walking mentioned a number of times in the document, and that walking considerations are included in the framework for future investment. Transit literally cannot function without being paired with safe, accessible and convenient walking conditions.

Our comments on the ways that walking should be more holistically addressed in the Final plan are as follows.

In proximity to existing high travel stations and bus routes and in the priority places identified in the plan, the next draft of Focus40 should address how the MBTA and MassDOT will work to:

  1. Engage municipalities in walking-to-transit safety and accessibility improvements including safe street crossings, accessible stations and bus stops, and connected sidewalk networks.
  2. Tie state investment in walkability to local incentives and approval for “better bus” implementation.
  3. Fix the issue of sidewalk snow clearance – an accessible, year-round system needs to address this. Consider higher capital investments if they could yield significant improvement for example: more extensive roofing to keep stops clear; installation of
    pavement heaters for sidewalks (WalkBoston will provide information on this possibility in the near future).

Based on questions that are called out in the document we have the following suggestions.

Leveraging data:
– Identify the cost benefits that derive from improved accessibility – higher ridership and reduced paratransit costs.
– Work with all transit providers such as councils on aging, school bus systems, and private shuttle services to coordinate services, make best use of fleets, reduce redundancy, improve services, and make better use of operating dollars.
– Review pedestrian crash data to identify MBTA rail and transit stations with pedestrian crash clusters and coordinate with MassDOT to carry out Road Safety Audits in those locations to identify safety improvements and secure safety funding to ameliorate them (e.g. Park Street, Jackson Square, Forest Hills).

Trends that should affect the long-term investment strategy:
– Where are the places that the number of older residents is growing fastest – invest in serving those residents with the basic transit system.

Specific comments on Programs
– Add safe pedestrian street crossings to Green Line accessibility improvements
– Under partnerships for improved first-mile/last mile connections:

• Consider embedding the employer focused program within MassDOT’s employer commute program
• Add pedestrian safety to the mix of efforts
• Focus the program on the locations with the highest job or residential densities

– Add improved pedestrian connectivity and safety as a program element of Bus2040

WalkBoston would be pleased to work with the MBTA and MassDOT to answer any questions and flesh out additional walking issues.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

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