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Category: Comment Letter

Comment Letter for Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Comment Letter for Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Massachusetts State Senate
The State House
Boston, MA 02133

May 16, 2019

Regional Transit Authorities in the FY2020 Budget – Amendment 1136

Honorable Members of the Senate:

We, a group of elected, nonprofit, community, and business leaders who support RTAs and their riders, support amendment 1136, which would provide $90.5 million in base funding for the regional transit authority (RTA) line item (1595-6370) in the FY2020 budget, and identifies separate, additional funding for performance targets and innovations, subject to Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between RTAs and MassDOT. Stable base funding is essential to protect riders from service cuts, and for RTAs to provide predictable service as they continue to improve performance and accountability. We are very pleased that the Senate Ways and Means budget includes language that ties state assistance to RTAs to inflation.

To count any MOU-based funding towards the base, as the Senate Ways and Means budget does, amounts to a cut in service which penalizes riders who are transit-dependent. Here is why: MOUs and the underlying performance targets take months to develop, and the transit service that results is not assured to continue. As an example, the $4 million in MOU-based funding that the legislature voted as part of the FY 2019 budget has still not been released, 10 1⁄2 months into the fiscal year, and several service cuts have not been restored as a result.

Senators may recall that the FY 2019 budget also established the Task Force on RTA Performance and Funding. Constituted in October 2018, the Task Force completed its work and delivered a report to the legislature on April 5, 2019, titled A Vision for the Future of Massachusetts’ Regional Transit Authorities.

This Task Force report included several recommendations to improve service. These included $90.5 million in base funding from the state budget; indexing of future state appropriations to CPI; establishment of MOUs with MassDOT to ensure future performance goals; and other recommendations to promote accountable, statewide public transit.

In conclusion, we cite the first recommendation from Choices for Stewardship, the December 2018 report of the Baker Administration’s Commission on the Future of Transportation:

  1. Prioritize investment in public transit as the foundation for a robust, reliable, clean, and efficient transportation system.

In this spirit, we thank the Senate for making investment in public transit a priority for FY 2020.

Respectfully submitted,

Mayor Jon Mitchell, City of New Bedford

Mayor Daniel Rivera, City of Lawrence

Mayor Alex Morse, City of Holyoke

Mayor Paul Heroux, City of Attleboro

Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale, City of Fitchburg

William F. Martin, Mayor, City of Greenfield

Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director, Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Tim Brennan, Executive Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Frederick Kidder, President/CEO, SouthCoast Chamber

Maddie Ribble, Director of Public Policy and Campaign Strategy, Massachusetts Public Health Association

Andre Leroux, Executive Director, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance

Chris Dempsey, Director, Transportation for Massachusetts

Nancy Goodman, Vice President for Policy, Environmental League of Massachusetts

Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance

Heather McMann, Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence

Mayor Donna Holaday, City of Newburyport

Mayor David Narkewicz, City of Northampton

Mayor Thomas W. Bernard, City of North Adams

Cathy Ann Viveiros, City Administrator, City of Fall River

Thomas Matuszko, Executive Director, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Marc Draisen, Executive Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Jack Lank, President/CEO, The United Regional Chamber of Commerce

Marie Oliva, President & CEO, Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber

Wendy Garf-Lipp, Executive Director, United Neighbors of Fall River

Janet Domenitz, Executive Director, MASSPIRG

Joseph Kriesberg, President, Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

Deb Pasternak, Chapter Director, Sierra Club, Massachusetts Chapter

John MacDougall, Sylvia Parsons and Jack Spence, Co-Chairs, 350Mass Transportation Working Group

Elena Letona, Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston

Scott Zadakis, Director, CrossTown Connect TMA

Judith L. Kirk, Director of Community Impact, YouthConnect Worcester

Kevin McCaffrey, Director of Government and Community Relations and Special Projects, Office of Advancement, Mount Holyoke College

Jim Kolesar, Vice President, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing

Elizabeth Isherwood, Communications Director, Rail to Boston Coalition

Jennifer Lee, Systems Advocate, Stavros

Corinn Williams, Executive Director, Community Economic Development Center

Janie Katz-Christy, Director, Green Streets Initiative

Jessica Collins, Executive Director, Public Health Institute of Western MA

Victoria Waterman, Chief Executive Officer, Girls, Inc. of Worcester

Staci Rubin, Senior Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation

Carolyn Villers, Executive Director, Massachusetts Senior Action Council

Kerry Conaghan, VP Community Impact, United Way of Central Massachusetts

Patty Flanagan, Director of Wellness and Health Equity, YWCA Central Massachusetts

Samuel Masinter, Associate Vice President for College Relations, Smith College

Margaret Coffin, CEO, Center for Living & Working, Inc.

David Connell, Vice President/Chief Human Resource Officer, YMCA of Central Massachusetts

Gordon Hargrove, Executive Director, Friendly House, Inc.

Alan Dallmann, Coordinator The Coalition to End Hunger

Justin Lawson, Fund Mass RTAs

Samuel Martin, Executive Director, Worcester Youth Center

Susan Moriarty, MASS Central Regional Coordinator, Mass Advocates Standing Strong

K. Lev Ben-Ezra, Executive Director, Amherst Survival Center

Deb Fastino, Executive Director, Coalition for Social Justice

Christopher M. O’Keeffe, Vice President for Programs, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

Drew Grande, Clean Energy Program Director, Massachusetts Climate Action Network

Joyce Mandell, Founder and Director, Jane Jacobs in the Woo

Lew Finfer, Co-Director, Massachusetts Communities Action Network

Adam Thielker, Transportation Advocacy Coalition

Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Worcester

Joe Bellil, VP of Public Affairs & Youth Services, Easter Seals of Massachusetts

Mary Haroyan, Bay State Council of the Blind

Ali, Amrana and Shabaz Soofi, Worker-Owners, WooRides

Scott Avedisian, CEO, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority

Comment Letter RE: MEPA 16015 Mystic River Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossing

Comment Letter RE: MEPA 16015 Mystic River Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossing

May 13, 2019

Kathleen Theoharides
Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: MEPA 16015 Mystic River Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossing

Dear Ms. Theoharides:

WalkBoston has worked closely with other community and advocacy groups in support of this proposed bridge over the Mystic River. Because of its critical location at the junction of several lengthy riverside paths, it is of regional significance as a key element in the area’s network of pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfares – a system of facilities that WalkBoston has long supported. The critical nature of the connection is magnified by its potential service as a major walkway between a high traffic generating facility (the casino in Everett) and public transportation (the Assembly Station in Somerville). This new walkway will provide a three- minute walk to public transit (as opposed to a twelve-minute existing walk) and encourage a reduced amount of vehicular traffic in the area.

The Casino operators have supported the proposed bridge with investments of $2,000,000 to date, and have committed to help with further capital funding. We are grateful for this assistance and hope that this provision of private funding will encourage the state to fund a portion of the capital costs, giving the project a higher priority than it now has.

We were surprised that the proposed bridge width has been reduced from 15 feet to 12 feet. Given the impending opening of the casino, the bridge will see a great deal of use by cyclists and walkers who need to share the limited space. Nearly all other pedestrian bridges recently built or under construction by MassDOT exceed this reduced width, adopting a standard that is 14′ or wider. We urge you to adopt the more generous standard that reflects the design standards for 21st century bike and pedestrian bridges. When it is constructed, the bridge will be the only safe, off-road non-vehicular connection between North Shore communities and Boston.

Sincerely,

Stacey Beuttell
Deputy Executive Director

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Commissioner Leo Roy
Department of Conservation and Recreation

May 9, 2019
Dear Commissioner Roy,

As part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Memorial Drive Phase III redesign between Eliot Bridge and the B.U. Boat House we ask that you consider a car-free option in the planning process.

As recently highlighted by Governor Baker’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, 40% of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation infrastructure and vehicles, half of which come from passenger vehicles alone. The pressing need to limit passenger vehicle trips, in concert with the City of Cambridge’s 1992 Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance, justify consideration for a car-free Memorial Drive.

This planning process allows the State a unique opportunity to enhance regional park access by connecting adjacent parks (Riverbend Park, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Riverside City Park, Riverside Press Park, Magazine Beach, and others) to the Charles River. Creating truly safe and accessible connectivity between walking and biking facilities along the Charles River and adjacent neighborhoods will have lower positive impact then a car- free option. By limiting vehicle infrastructure, the State will be expanding space for new parkland and an expanded tree canopy. Limiting car access to Memorial Drive will align with ongoing climate resiliency initiatives by reducing GHG emissions, increasing green space, but also by establishing space for further flood mitigation, an ongoing issue near Magazine Beach and Micro Center.

This concept of a car-free Memorial Drive is not new, but a logical extension of the existing weekend Riverbend Park Street closures, which demonstrate the desire for this type of expansive riverfront parkland. While recognizing that over 1,000 vehicles use Memorial Drive during peak hours, we believe that ongoing transportation initiatives including the Green Line Extension, the Allston I-90 Multimodal Interchange, West Station, the Grand Junction path and regional rail concepts, and the MBTA’s Better Buses initiative will provide viable alternatives in the long-run, significantly reducing the need for Memorial Drive as a private vehicle throughway.

The existing sub-standard conditions of the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path along Memorial Drive currently have high usership. There are currently over 1,000 daily bike commuters and over 1,000 daily runners and pedestrians. The existing conditions do not provide safe accommodation for existing users, and with future expansion of the regions multi-use paths, including the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and the Grand Junction Path, this section of paths will see increased daily users. Providing safe and reliable accommodations for sustainable transportation and recreation modes should be the highest priority of the DCR.

There is precedence for a project of this scope, as when a two-mile stretch of a busy highway along the Seine in Paris, France, was permanently closed to cars in 2016, and turned into a bicycle and pedestrian promenade. This type of project could prove to be similarly iconic for the Charles River.

This is a complicated project. We recommend, along with The Charles River Conservancy and Magazine Beach Partners that a task force or advisory group be created to help better inform decisions throughout the process. The groups listed on their letter can help you provide better transparency and inclusiveness in the project. While early in the planning phase it is important to consider this highly impactful, once in a lifetime opportunity to restore Cambridge’s public shoreline. Thank you for your consideration of this unique opportunity to prioritize climate resiliency and public health.

Sincerely,

Tony Lechuga, LivableStreets
David Read, Longwood Area Cyclists
Alex Auriema, Memorial Drive Bicycle Group
Nathanael Fillmore, Cambridge Bicycle Safety
Janie Katz-Christy, Green Streets Initiative
Steven Nutter, Green Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

Boston Globe: I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Boston Globe: I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Boston Globe: “I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Is it legal to ride these e-scooters on the sidewalk? Also a bit hazy, according to Brendan Kearney of the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston.

Posted April 12, 2019

Extra reading:

There are currently 8 bills before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation that deal with scooters & micro-mobility devices. We testified before the committee on March 28th: “At the most fundamental level, we believe that in areas of the Commonwealth where there is more than occasional sidewalk use by pedestrians, motorized scooters should be accommodated on-street or in separated bike/scooter lanes where they will not conflict with people who are walking on the sidewalk.” Read our full testimony.

Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

April 13, 2019

To: MassDOT Highway Division
10 Park Plaza, Suite 6340
Boston, MA 02116 kelleysqproj.worcester@dot.state.ma.us

Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

To the Project Team,

On behalf of the LivableStreets Alliance Advocacy Committee and WalkBoston, we would like to provide you with some feedback regarding the Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project, particularly in response to the design presented at the February 27, 2019 Public Meeting.

Overall, we think the project is moving in a very positive direction. In particular, we are very supportive of the hybrid roundabout, which uses less pavement than traditional signalized intersections and also creates a calmer, safer environment for all roadway users. We are also pleased about the attention that is being paid to placemaking and transforming Kelley Square into a place for people rather than just a place mainly for cars. However, we have some significant concerns about pedestrian safety and bicycle facilities in key portions of the project.

Please consider the following suggestions:

1. The roundabout and Madison St should be one lane in each direction rather than two.

We recognize that for traffic capacity reasons and to better accommodate large trucks, MassDOT has chosen to make the roundabout and Madison St two lanes in each direction. However, this has significant downsides:

Pedestrians face a double threat risk at every unsignalized crossing of more than one lane. ​While we agree that signals are not desirable at these locations, the double threat of a vehicle in one lane yielding to a pedestrian who is crossing while a vehicle in the second lane fails to yield is very real. In Boston, there have been multiple pedestrian fatalities on roads with this type of design in recent years. As such, the Boston Transportation Department is working to redesign these roadways with a single lane in each direction instead. It would be negligent for MassDOT to build more of these types of roads given the threat they pose to pedestrians.

A two-lane roundabout design is confusing for drivers, and will draw their attention away from pedestrians who may be crossing.​ With the current design, drivers must choose the correct lane prior to entering the roundabout. Given the multiple exits from the roundabout, it would not be surprising to see drivers choosing incorrectly, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area. These drivers may then illegally change lanes within the roundabout. Furthermore, drivers who are entering the roundabout from either Harding St entrance or from Green St who wish to travel further around it will need to cross one or more lanes of roundabout traffic in order to do so. This is a very challenging maneuver to make, especially when traffic is heavy. All of these complex movements that a two-lane roundabout requires will draw drivers attention away from pedestrians (or bicyclists) who are crossing at various locations around the roundabout.

Providing two lanes in each direction on Madison St means that there is not room for appropriate bicycle facilities there.​ The proposed shared use paths along either side are an inappropriate facility for an urban street like Madison St, and room is needed to provide bicycle facilities that are separate from the sidewalk. (We will discuss this further below.)

Therefore, we would strongly urge MassDOT to consider a single lane roundabout and a single through lane in each direction on Madison St. This may have some negative impact on traffic capacity during peak times, however we think the safety benefits are well worth that tradeoff. Furthermore, we are confident that large trucks can be accommodated with a single lane roundabout by using mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout and at intersection corners, as well as recessed stop lines where needed​.​ Both of these elements are recommended by the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide.

2. Physically separated bike lanes should be provided around the roundabout, on Madison St, and on Vernon St

Around the roundabout, the current design proposes shared use paths. ​While shared use paths may be appropriate in some contexts, we feel strongly that this is not one of them. We recognize that it is often recommended practice to design for shared use around a roundabout, however, this may not work as well in urban areas with high pedestrian activity. We therefore ask that you provide physically separated bike lanes around the roundabout. This type of design was considered for Inman Square in Cambridge.

Here is an illustration of the Inman Square, Cambridge proposal. Note the mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout:

On Madison St, the current design proposes shared use paths in place of traditional sidewalks. As with the roundabout, we feel very strongly that this is not an appropriate context for shared use paths.​ Madison St is an urban street with buildings at the street edge, and especially once the nearby ballpark opens, will have significant pedestrian activity. Having pedestrians and bicycles share the same space in this type of environment is not desirable and will result in much conflict. We therefore recommend that protected bike lanes that are separate from the sidewalk be provided along Madison St. (A design similar to the contraflow protected bike lane on Harding St may be appropriate. Please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide for best practices.)

Lastly, the lack of any kind of bicycle facility on Vernon St is a big problem​, in our opinion. The current proposal contains a single through lane in each direction that is to be shared by bicycles and motor vehicles. This is not an acceptable design. There are a limited number of streets for which people bicycling can cross I-290, and it is essential that they all be safe and inviting for them to do so. Rather than providing a 4 lane cross section, we recommend a 3 lane cross section along with separated bike lanes.

Therefore, around the roundabout, and on Madison St and Vernon St, we urge MassDOT to use physically separated bike lanes for bicycle accommodation.​ The separated bike lanes should be designed with proper intersection treatments to keep bicycles, pedestrians, and motor vehicles separate. (Again, please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Guide.) This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the excellent guidance that MassDOT has created for physically separated bike lanes, and for the City of Worcester to be at the cutting edge of safe and accessible streets for people of all ages and abilities.

Some examples from the guide:
Roundabout with separated bike lanes and mountable truck apron

Protected intersection of two major streets with mountable truck apron and recessed stop line

Protected intersection with side street and raised crossing

3. Use small curb radii and provide two curb ramps at all corners rather than a single apex ramp

There are some intersections that are part of this project that have large curb radii or where there only a single apex ramp is provided on certain corners (for example two of the corners at Millbury St and Endicott St.) This is not good for people in wheelchairs, as it points them into the street an an angle rather than in the desired direction of travel. ​We ask that you adjust the curbs at these corners to provide two ramps, one for each crossing.

Thank you for considering our comments as this project moves forward. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have further questions or comments on our ideas.

Sincerely,

Charlie Denison
Board Member, LivableStreets Alliance

Wendy Landman
Executive Director, WalkBoston