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Tag: Back Bay

Comments on Planned Development Area for the Air Rights Parcel 12 Project

Comments on Planned Development Area for the Air Rights Parcel 12 Project

July 22, 2019

Aisling Kerr
Boston Planning & Development Agency
City Hall, 9th Floor
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1001

Re: Development Plan for the Planned Development Area for the Air Rights Parcel 12 Project

Dear Ms. Kerr:

WalkBoston has reviewed the proposal for the development of Parcel 12 in Boston’s Back Bay, and believe that it will significantly improve the pedestrian environment on what is now a wind- swept and uncomfortable bridge above the MassPike. The site design shows significant attention to the movement, comfort and amenities of people coming to and through it, and should provide an inviting new space for people to walk and linger. We are pleased that the tunnel under Mass Ave will be reopened allowing people to make intermodal transfers between buses, blue bikes, and walking and the Green Line without crossing Mass Ave. We do have some thoughts about some of the complex pedestrian and bicycle movements that the site must accommodate and would like to share the following comments.

Our Understanding of the Parcel 12 Development Project

The proposed development of Parcel 12, located between Newbury and Boylston Streets, and fronting on Massachusetts Avenue, consists of two towers – an office tower and a residential/ hotel tower on either side of a park located above the Turnpike. The two towers are located partially on existing terra firma and partially on air rights above the Turnpike and the commuter rail tracks. The proposed park, situated primarily on a platform using air rights above the Turnpike, contains facilities for both pedestrians and bicycles.

Public open space for the project totals 28,000 square feet on three levels. The public space facing Mass Ave is likely to be the most heavily used space for pedestrians and is described as a public gathering space where 16,000 square feet on the street level is dedicated to primarily pedestrian activities. The remainder of the open space is located either along Boylston Street or on two raised levels that bridge the space between the two dominant on-site buildings.

In the 16,000 square feet of open space along Mass Ave – a large triangle – a significant number of activities are planned. These include generous sidewalks of varying widths along Mass Ave and along the facades of the two proposed buildings. The open space also contains landscaping, bicycle facilities, bike racks, trash receptacles, lighting, street trees in raised planters, an expanded bus shelter on Mass Ave, a new headhouse (called a kiosk) with elevator and stairway to Hynes Green Line Station via a tunnel under Mass.Ave, and seating elements integrated into the rim of the bicycle path or in treed areas. Outdoor dining areas line two sides of the triangular open space.

The lobby entrance into the hotel-residential building faces this Mass Ave oriented open space, and the lobby entrance of the office building is located on Boylston St.

Access to the frequent buses on Mass Ave is a dominant use of the Mass Ave fronting sidewalk. The existing bus stop shelter is to be replaced next to a wider Mass Ave sidewalk with a larger shelter to serve the 140’ long bus stop on Mass Ave which can serve as many as three buses at a time. A new connection to the Green Line is provided, connecting the Parcel 12 site and the entrance to the subway on the east side of Mass Ave via on-site access to a stairway and elevator that links to an abandoned under-street tunnel for pedestrians. In addition to the Mass Ave sidewalk, a broad and generally parallel sidewalk leads from the Boylston Street entrance to the site to the Newbury Street entrance. A bicycle path is located between this sidewalk and the Mass Ave sidewalk.

Signal timing

The Project will include a full intersection redesign and the installation of new traffic signal equipment at the intersection of Mass Ave and Newbury Street, with a more limited set of intersection and signalization improvements planned for the intersection of Mass Ave and Boylston Street.

  • Per the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Design Guide, pedestrian signal timing near separated bike lanes should include sufficient clearance time for a pedestrian to cross the entire roadway including the bike lanes and street buffers. Both intersections fit this description, and should have that additional time included for people walking.
  • In the Boston Smart Utilities filing (p 584-585), ‘Adaptive Signal Technology’ is referenced as a consideration, “where appropriate, and feasible.” We would encourage the proponent to adhere to the forward-looking signal policies put forth in the GoBoston 2030 plan, since the City of Boston’s current Signal Timing Guidelines do not yet reflect that same vision. ‘Smart Signals’ should be able to ‘see’ and serve the needs of people walking and biking as well as people in vehicles. Likewise, we urge the timing be used to improve bus service along Mass Ave and not be allowed to delay buses along Mass Ave in order to push more vehicles through the Mass/Newbury intersection to access the I-90W ramp.

Plaza level bicycle path

The bicycle path is a potential problem for people circulating throughout the new plaza, raising several issues:

  • Both north and south of the boundaries of Parcel 12, the bicycle lane is a protected lane located behind a row of parked cars along Mass Ave on the west side of the street. On the proposed plaza between Newbury Street and Boylston Street, the proposed bicycle path leaves the street and crosses the land included in the new park provided by Parcel 12. Although this appears to have been planned to avoid having bicycles compete with buses on-street, it results in bicycles having to compete for space with pedestrians.
  • Bicycles on the bike path will intersect at a right angle with an important pedestrian route between the bus stop and access to the Green Line in the new kiosk. At this location, many transit riders are changing modes (bus to Green Line, Green Line to bus). People who are connecting between these two transit services will be required to cross the bicycle path to make the connection, unless they cross Mass Ave midblock illegally or use the Boylston St. or the Newbury St. crosswalks. We are concerned that the large pedestrian volumes in this area, and especially the potentially large groups of people transferring between buses and the Green Line, may result in conflicts between people walking and biking. We would encourage a close examination of this issue with the use of projected bus transfer, pedestrian and bicycle volumes.
  • There are potential bicycle/pedestrian conflicts at the crosswalks on Newbury and Boylston Streets. Bicycles make the move from the street-based bike route north of the site into the on-site bike path across pedestrian flows on the crosswalk at Newbury Street and leave the Parcel 12 site by crossing pedestrian traffic on the Boylston Street crosswalk to reach the street-based route of the bicycle path on Mass Ave south of the site. We would encourage making the spaces for pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross the street generous, to discourage further conflicts and enable efficient crossings.
  • The proposed open space containing the Mass Ave sidewalk, the bicycle path, the wider sidewalk between Newbury and Boylston Streets, the bus stop and the kiosk leading to the underground tunnel to the Green Line Hynes Station comprises a 16,000 square foot destination. We urge you to compare the proposed space with the downtown park at the intersection of Washington Street and School Street, sometimes called “Readers Park.” The plaza and street area in both locations are roughly similar in dimensions. The Downtown plaza is occupied by outdoor tables, landscaping, benches, the Irish Famine Memorial, benches and street trees. A wide sidewalk stretches along Washington Street, and an even wider sidewalk fronts onto Walgreens. Both are flooded with pedestrians every day, and the plaza seems to offer little space where a bike path could be threaded through it. It would be interesting to compare projected numbers of pedestrians in Parcel 12 with the actual numbers at Readers Park.

We encourage the proponent to consider some options that could minimize potential conflicts between the on-site bicycle path and pedestrians including the following:

  1. Keep bicycles on-street on Mass Ave. This could be a shared bus/bike lane allowing a direct continuous path for cyclists on Mass Ave since southbound cyclists north and south of Parcel 12 are already in the street and not potentially conflicting with pedestrian space on the sidewalk.
  2. A separated, on-street bike lane with a floating bus stop. As an alternative, consider the possibility of a separated, marked bike lane on-street with a floating bus stop: similar to what is being built in the Commonwealth Ave Phase 2A Project, even if it means taking space from the plaza. This would avoid requiring cyclists to leave the Mass Ave pavement, and cross several different pedestrian paths at north and south crosswalk entrances to the Parcel 12 development to get to a 260’ long bicycle path through this busy plaza.
  3. Move the Green Line kiosk and stairway east, to be closer to the bus stop. It may be possible to reposition the kiosk with access to the Green Line via elevator and stairs closer to the bus stop. This shortens and makes the route more direct between the bus stop and the kiosk, and would allow the bicycle path to be moved a bit further away from potential conflicts with transit riders making connections between buses and the Green Line, but bicycles would not be trying to move through the group of people making the connection.
  4. Design the proposed bicycle path 2”-3” lower than the pedestrian areas. A 2”-3” vertical difference drop with angled edges would emphasize the path, and make its edges less abrupt. There would need to be one or more raised crosswalks, especially for the potentially heavily used route between the bus stop and the Green Line access kiosk. The raised crossing would clearly help direct pedestrians while signaling to, and slowing down, bicycle riders as they pass through the pedestrian crossing. There may need to be warning signs to avoid pedestrians tripping at the edge of the path. The proponent could add tactile longitudinal strips to guide visually impaired people and further warn pedestrians near the bike path. The proposed parallel row of bollards helps to define the bike path, but some cyclists view bollards as dangerous if one needs to jump in or out of the bike path.
  5.  Make sure that there is a back on the “bench” that is next to the cycle track behind the bus stop to eliminate people sitting facing Mass Ave with their legs going into the cycle track.

Boylston Street Access

  1. Another design issue that we believe should be re-considered is the Boylston St. vehicular access to the office building. At the loading zone and vehicle entrance to the office building on Boylston Street, trucks may have to back into the loading zone area, creating a difficult safety issue for pedestrians walking along the street, as well as the traffic disruption that backing vehicles may cause on Boylston St. Requiring police units to help trucks or parkers seems to indicate that a certain level of difficulty in using this space is anticipated and the difficulty cannot be resolved in the present design. Perhaps the proposed parking spots along Boylston St. could become truck loading zones to alleviate the problem.
  2. The proponent and the City should evaluate requiring all vehicles exiting the parcel to turn right on Boylston Street. We believe that left-turning vehicles would pose a hazard to pedestrians walking along the sidewalk and would also disrupt traffic on Boylston Street. We do not believe that the proponent will be able to have a police officer directing traffic at all times.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on this important project.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

1000 Boylston Street Comment Letter

1000 Boylston Street Comment Letter

March 8, 2018

Michael Rooney
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201

RE: WalkBoston comments on 1000 Boylston Street

Dear Michael:

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) for the proposed development at 1000 Boylston Street in the Back Bay. This project will significantly improve the pedestrian realm by activating a currently desolate stretch of sidewalk with new ground-floor retail uses and streetscape improvements.

We encourage the proponent to clarify their plans for crosswalk improvements. The orientation of pedestrian ramps to crosswalks is not clearly discernable from Figure 3.35 in the DPIR (“Streetscape Improvement Plan”), but several crosswalks as depicted appear to utilize apex ramps, meaning that a single ramp at a street corner serves two crosswalks at a 45-degree angle to both. Such ramps can have the unintended consequence of directing people with visual impairments or mobility aids into the middle of the intersection, posing hazards to their safety. To avoid this WalkBoston recommends the utilization of two perpendicular ramps at street corners, such that each ramp serves one crosswalk at a direct approach. We urge the proponent to explicitly incorporate such perpendicular ramps into their streetscape designs at the intersections of Boylston/Dalton/Hereford Streets and St. Cecilia/Cambria Streets, and to adjust the placement of crosswalks accordingly as needed.

In addition, the southeast corner of the intersection of Boylston/Dalton Streets, as depicted in Figure 3.35, appears to have a wider turning radius for motor vehicles than the southwest corner of the intersection. Wide turning radii induce motor vehicles to travel at high speeds, posing safety risks to pedestrians. We urge the proponent to extend the curb at the southeast corner of the intersection to narrow the turning radius, thus calming traffic and also reducing crossing distances for pedestrians.

Thank you for considering these issues and please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: Vineet Gupta, Boston Transportation Department Charlie Denison, LivableStreets Alliance

Comments on the Supplemental Information Document for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project

Comments on the Supplemental Information Document for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project

October 5, 2017

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Planning and Development Agency
ATTN: Michael Rooney
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-­1007

RE: Comments on the Supplemental Information Document for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project dated August 18, 2017

Dear Mr. Golden:

WalkBoston has reviewed the documents for Back Bay/South End Gateway Project many times. Although the proponent has made efforts to address some of the issues we raised in our prior comments, we continue to have concerns about the project impacts to the extremely busy pedestrian environment around the project area, and to several of the design elements suggested by the proponent.

We have reviewed the letter submitted by South End resident Ken Kruckemeyer and would like to concur with his comments and his very thoughtful suggestions about how to remedy some of the problems that he describes.

Possible garage exit ramp across the Dartmouth Street sidewalk adjacent to the Station
We remain vitally concerned about the possibility of an exit ramp from the project garage onto Dartmouth Street into the heaviest pedestrian traffic in the area. Back Bay Station Orange Line, Commuter Rail and Amtrak service presently serves approximately 64,000 passenger trips (alighting and boarding) each day. Many more pedestrians are simply walking by the site, arriving on buses, via cabs and in automobiles. The MBTA, MassDOT, and all people concerned with the continued economic vitality of the Boston area and a more sustainable transportation system, hope that this number will rise significantly over the coming decades. The Back Bay/South End Gateway Project must be designed and managed in such a way that the transit and transportation functions of the station are enhanced.

WalkBoston does not think that a project design that includes a garage exit ramp that requires cars to cross the Dartmouth Street sidewalk is acceptable. Putting the interests of drivers above those of the tens-­of-­thousands of pedestrians who use this sidewalk is not an appropriate use of public space. Given the intensity of sidewalk use, and the overlap of peak transit and garage use, we do not believe that the ramp can be designed and/or managed acceptably. Asking pedestrians to wait while single cars exit the garage is not a reasonable solution.

We are very concerned about the changes proposed for the station, the bus layover and the sidewalks and interior passageways, but we believe the exit ramp onto Dartmouth Street is a potentially disastrous step to take in such a congested area. We urge the BPDA to recommend that further consideration of the project as presently designed be delayed until this issue is resolved favorably with no garage ramp exiting across the Dartmouth Street sidewalk.

We would appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack City Council President Michelle Wu City Councilor Josh Zakim Ellis South End Neighborhood Association Bay Village Neighborhood Association Neighborhood Association of Back Bay Ken Kruckemeyer

Comments on the FEIR for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project MEPA: #15502

Comments on the FEIR for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project MEPA: #15502

August 11, 2017

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
ATTN: Alex Strysky, MEPA Office
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Planning and Development Agency
ATTN: Michael Rooney
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

RE: Comments on the FEIR for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project
MEPA: #15502

Dear Sirs:

WalkBoston has reviewed the FEIR for Back Bay/South End Gateway Project. While we appreciate the proponent’s efforts to address some of the issues we raised in our DEIR/DPIR comments, we continue to have concerns about the project impacts to the extremely busy pedestrian environment around the project area, and to several of the design elements suggested by the proponent.

We have reviewed the letter submitted by South End resident Ken Kruckemeyer and would like to concur with his comments and his very thoughtful suggestions about how to remedy some of the problems that he describes.

Per our own quick review of MBTA data, Back Bay Station Orange Line, Commuter Rail and Amtrak service presently serves approximately 64,000 passenger trips (alighting and boarding) each day. Many more pedestrians are simply walking by the site, arriving on buses, via cabs and in automobiles. The MBTA, MassDOT, and all people concerned with the continued economic vitality of the Boston area and a more sustainable transportation system, hope that this number will rise significantly over the coming decades. The Back Bay/South End Gateway Project must be designed and managed in such a way that the transit and transportation functions of the station are enhanced.

Our key comments and concerns are as follows.

1. Possible garage exit ramp across the Dartmouth Street sidewalk adjacent to the Station
The project proponent and MassDOT support, and are eagerly awaiting, the decision of the FHWA about the closing of an I-90 on-ramp which would allow the project to locate the garage exit elsewhere.

WalkBoston does not think that a project design that includes a garage exit ramp across the Dartmouth Street sidewalk is acceptable. Putting the interests of drivers above those of the tens-of-thousands of pedestrians who use this sidewalk is not an appropriate use of public space. Given the intensity of sidewalk use, and the overlap of peak transit and garage use, we do not believe that the ramp can be designed and/or managed acceptably. Asking pedestrians to wait while single cars exit the garage is not a reasonable solution.

We urge MEPA to recommend that further consideration of the project as presently designed be delayed until this issue is resolved favorably with no garage ramp exiting across the Dartmouth Street sidewalk.

2. Route and layover location for Bus 39
The proponent seems to have reached a reasonable set of recommendations for much of the routing of Bus 39. However, in order to provide accessible and weather protected transfers for people wishing to use the Orange Line, Commuter rail or Amtrak services, the route should include a stop at Back Bay Station on both its inbound and outbound routes. This is particularly important because the Green Line is not fully accessible for people with disabilities and people with strollers.

The FEIR does not provide any details about layover for the Route 39 buses, a critical issue to keep this very busy route operating with reasonable service levels.

Until these questions are resolved, we do not believe that the transportation planning for the project has been adequately addressed and request that the proponent be directed to work
with the MBTA and the City of Boston to find fully workable solutions.

3. Dartmouth Street Sidewalk
The width of this critical sidewalk – critical because of its role as a major element of the Back Bay transportation system that serves well in excess of 70,000 pedestrian trips/day – is
constrained by the introduction of a wide furnishing zone and the filling in of the walking area in the weather-protected arcade beneath the station arcade and the existing garage overhang.
We urge the proponent to continue to modify the sidewalk plan so as to maximize the walking area. A 13-foot sidewalk (at the station) and a 17-foot sidewalk at the new commercial frontage (where the existing garage is located) are each narrower than the existing sidewalk and are not adequate in this location. The arcade could be kept open to walkers, the first floor of new commercial building could be set back, and the large planters shown should be removed (especially important along this street frontage where people will be getting picked up and dropped off).

 4. Pedestrian Bridges across Stuart Street and Trinity Place (outside the project site)
We urge the proponent to delete the pedestrian bridges (other than the one internal to their site) as unnecessary and deleterious to the active street life that makes Boston a walkable and lively City. We disagree with the proponent’s contention that “the pedestrian bridge(s) will …further enhance transit access, pedestrian safety, and neighborhood connectivity.” In fact we believe that such bridges diminish all of these characteristics.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.

Sincerely,
Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack
Laura Brelsford, MBTA Assistant General Manager, System-Wide Accessibility
City Council President Michelle Wu
City Councilor Josh Zakim
Ellis South End Neighborhood Association
Bay Village Neighborhood Association
Neighborhood Association of Back Bay
Ken Kruckemeyer

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Comments on Beacon Street Redesign

Comments on Beacon Street Redesign

June 30, 2017

Gina Fiandaca, Commissioner
Boston Transportation Department
1 City Hall Sq., Suite 721
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Beacon Street Redesign

Dear Commissioner Fiandaca,

WalkBoston strongly supports the re-­design of Beacon Street to slow vehicular traffic and improve pedestrian safety. As the neighborhood expressed at the Public Meeting on June 12, 2017, the narrowing of the street will reduce the numerous traffic crashes, including pedestrian fatalities in the past several years. Moreover, the improvements will be implemented in the near term.

WalkBoston Supports Alternative 1, Option A
WalkBoston supports Alternative 1, the Preferred Design, which the neighborhood endorsed at the Public Meeting. This design calls for the removal of a travel lane, two one-­way travel lanes, a bicycle lane and parking on both sides of the street. The buffer between the bike and parking lanes will not only increase bicyclist safety, but also make cycling more comfortable.

Alternative 1 has two options at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue/Beacon Street. Of the two options, WalkBoston strongly supports Option A, which will retain the protected bike lane to Massachusetts Avenue and also preserve parking. Option B mixes bicycles and vehicles in order to provide a right hand turn for motorists. We believe the vehicle volumes do not necessitate this vehicular right turn and will be very dangerous for cyclists.

Traffic Signals Should Be Automatic with LPIs
Traffic signals in this downtown neighborhood should be automatic (no pushbuttons) and on throughout the 24-­hour period (except when signals are in flashing mode). WalkBoston also understands that leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) will be incorporated at all signalized locations. Finally, WalkBoston has noted that throughout the City, the concurrent green is on for a relatively short period of time. We request that the concurrent WALK remain throughout the concurrent vehicle green.

Increase Crossing Safety by Establishing No Right Turn on Red and Installing Tactical Medians
The City has installed No Right Turn on Red (NTOR) at intersections throughout the City where there are large volumes of pedestrians. We are pleased to see that the City is calling for NTOR at all intersections in this re-­‐designed section of Beacon Street.

Medians or refuge Islands provide safety at intersections for crossing pedestrians. WalkBoston requests that the City consider temporary medians through paint and flex posts at all crossings.

Re-­Assess Visitor and Resident Parking
At the Community Meeting many attendees asked that the City re­assess the assigned parking, which was established in the 1980s. The City expressed interest in working with the neighborhood to assess how curb space is currently used, and how a balance can be found to meet current resident, visitor, and delivery needs.

In summary, WalkBoston strongly supports the Alternative 1, Option A Design and looks forward to working with the City to implement and evaluate the design. Thank you for consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

Dorothea Hass
Sr. Project Manager