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Tag: Boston

WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

July 24, 2020 | WalkBoston Comments on the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan

To:
Brian P. Golden, Director Boston Planning & Development Agency
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets
Councilor Wu, Chair Planning, Development and Transportation
Councilor Flynn, District 2

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to comment on the plan and are glad to see that a broad set of options are under consideration. We also are glad that a diversity of perspectives is represented by the four criteria used: Expand, Rely, Respect and Equalize.

We offer the following comments and look forward to hearing from you with responses to our comments and the opportunity to comment again as the plan is advanced.

  1. We are pleased that Improving Pedestrian Connections has emerged as one of the top candidates for short term implementation and agree that this strategy will serve many people and improve transit access and use for a broad range of users and locations.
  2. After reviewing the options for short term strategies that are now under consideration, we believe that an evaluation that gives greater weight to Equalize as a value would better serve the needs of the District and of Boston as a whole.

The strategies with the highest Equalize ratings are:

  • Expand Off-Peak Transit Service 100 points
  • Dedicated Transit Corridors 70 points
  • North Station – South Station – South Boston Seaport Direct Bus or Shuttle Service 61 points
  • Bus or Shuttle connection from Nubian Square to South Boston Seaport Link via Broadway 60 points
  • Bus or Shuttle connection from Central Square to South Boston Seaport via LMA and Nubian Square 58 points

While we are pleased that Expanding Off-Peak Transit Service has been flagged as one of the top strategies, we are concerned that Extend Private and Consolidated Shuttles on A St to Broadway has also been given a top rating as this is the ONLY strategy among all of those evaluated that received a negative rating for Equalize, and that it actually increases travel time for many transit users.

We believe that the Bus or Shuttle connection from Nubian Square to South Boston Seaport Link via Broadway or the Bus or Shuttle connection from Central Square to South Boston Seaport via LMA and Nubian Square (# 2 and 3 in overall ratings) should be included as one of the strategies to be advanced. These two options also directly serve some of Boston’s neighborhoods with the greatest number and density of people of color.

  1. There seems to be a disconnect between this BPDA Plan and the work of the Public Works Department on the Northern Avenue Bridge. As WalkBoston and a number of our fellow advocates have commented, we strongly disagree with the plan to allow shuttle buses to use a new Northern Avenue Bridge because it will negatively impact people walking and biking on the bridge, will require that the bridge be very large and expensive, and because it provides very little benefit to shuttle users.

None of the numerous bus service improvements suggested and reviewed in the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan (short or long term) are shown to be using a future Northern Avenue Bridge. The bridge itself is called out as a strategy, but it is not incorporated into any of the other strategies – all of the routes that cross the Fort Point Channel are shown using the Summer Street or Congress Street Bridges. We urge the Public Works Department to look again at its proposal and eliminate the use of the bridge for shuttle buses.

WalkBoston looks forward to working with you as this plan progresses.

Comment Letter on Recommendations around the Role of Police Enforcement in Vision Zero and Removal of Captain Danilecki from the Vision Zero Task Force

Comment Letter on Recommendations around the Role of Police Enforcement in Vision Zero and Removal of Captain Danilecki from the Vision Zero Task Force

June 9, 2020

Mayor Martin J. Walsh

1 City Hall Square, Suite 500

Boston, MA

Dear Mayor Walsh,

As members of the Boston Vision Zero Task Force, we urge you to reform the way the Boston Police Department engages with the City’s Vision Zero program and to remove Captain Danilecki from the Vision Zero Task Force. 

In your comments to the press on Thursday, June 4, you committed to making Boston a leader when it comes to battling racism, saying: “We are listening — I am listening — to the voices and the messages of our black neighbors who are harmed by systemic racism every single day. As elected officials, it’s time to listen and learn and keep those voices at the center of the conversation.” As many have noted already, listening isn’t enough. Our Black and brown communities need concrete actions from our elected officials. Central to these conversations is the role of our transportation system in perpetuating racism. 

Boston has a legacy of destroying vibrant Black communities to make space for highways, creating barriers between certain neighborhoods and critical resources. Many streets in Black and brown communities act as conduits for cars to pass through quickly, without regard for the effect this has on people who live there. BIPOC communities often don’t have sufficient walking or biking infrastructure and lack access to high quality public transit, which in turn leads to well-documented public health disparities. Layered on top of these injustices is the violent reality of policing on our streets. 

We have long been concerned by the attitude and role that the various Boston Police Department representatives demonstrate at monthly Vision Zero Task Force meetings. When reporting on the details of fatal car crashes, officers have consistently engaged in victim-blaming, either suggesting or outright attributing a person’s death to their own fault. This attitude runs counter to the very concept of street safety and Vision Zero that the Boston Police Department is supposed to uphold. On top of this, it is clear that not all officers at Task Force meetings are trained or even aware of the Vision Zero program. 

Any conversation about moving away from enforcement as a community must include moving away from enforcement in transportation as well — and we should start with fundamentally rethinking the role of police and enforcement in Vision Zero. 

  • Remove police enforcement as a tenet of Vision Zero effective immediately. Law enforcement nationwide often make race-based stops and searches which further inflict harm, violence, and trauma in communities of color.

  • Instead of relying on police, use automated enforcement to address speeding, which is the cause of most fatal crashes. We are calling on you to champion state legislation that would allow automated enforcement explicitly built on equity principles (see attached FAQ for more details). 

  • Work with the City Council to pass an ordinance banning facial recognition technology in Boston communities. This would also establish necessary civil liberty protections for the use of automated enforcement in the future.

  • Ensure adequate long term funds for crash data collection and analysis. It is shameful that it took two years of advocacy from our organizations and several City Councilors to secure funding for a single civilian research and crash data analyst position within BPD after grant funding for the position ran out. 

  • Reduce the BPD budget and reallocate resources for social programs designed to strengthen communities. Follow the calls from organizations such as the Muslim Justice League, Families for Justice as Healing, Youth Justice and Power Union, and others.

  • Create a diversion program for any nonviolent traffic- and transportation-related infractions. For example, the City can provide front and rear lights to cyclists who may be traveling without them after dark or offer educational opportunities in lieu of fines for other similar minor and non-violent offenses. 


And lastly, in addition to changing the relationship between streets, enforcement, and Vision Zero, we are calling on you to condemn the actions of Captain Danilecki, who currently serves as the BPD designee on the City’s Vision Zero Task Force. 

Captain Danilecki’s violent actions against protestors exercising their right to gather peacefully at a white supremacist rally in Boston on August 31, 2019 are well-documented. More recently, Captain Danilecki was filmed acting in an aggressive, escalatory, and unacceptable manner towards peaceful protestors on May 31, 2020. 

We understand there has been at least one formal complaint filed with the BPD internal affairs division based on a video of Captain Danilecki’s behavior from that recent demonstration, and we hope that he is held accountable through that process. In the meantime, we are calling for the immediate removal of Captain Danilecki from the Vision Zero Task Force. It is unacceptable for an officer who engages in brutal tactics against civilians to be the liaison between BPD and those of us who are fighting to make our streets safer. 

We believe Boston is capable of achieving zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries on our streets. However, we will not have achieved our goal of safe streets if officer-initiated enforcement remains a tenet of Boston’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and furthermore, if Boston police officers are not held accountable for engaging in racist and aggressive tactics. We hope you agree and will take immediate action. 

Sincerely,

Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union

Stacy Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance 

Stacey Beuttell, WalkBoston

Cc:
Chief of Streets Chris Osgood,
Transportation Commissioner Greg Rooney,
Chief of Police William Gross,
Boston City Council

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Budget Hearing on Public Works and Transportation

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Budget Hearing on Public Works and Transportation

Testimony as prepared for City of Boston City Council Budget Hearing on Public Works and Transportation, May 7, 2020 conducted via Zoom.

Thank you for the chance to speak today. My name is Brendan Kearney, and I’m the Deputy Director of WalkBoston. 

Earlier this week, MassDOT reported that the rate of fatalities on Massachusetts roadways doubled in April: with 50% less traffic on the road, 28 individuals died in crashes, compared with the month of April 2019 when there were 27 deaths on roadways in the state. This highlights why the safety projects identified for funding here are important. 

The BTD staff expansion over the last two budget cycles is now showing dividends: Many projects those team members started on are moving to implementation. There is a need to keep working to make our streets safer for people walking; safety projects in the public works and transportation budget are moving us in the right direction.

I wanted to highlight a few things from the budget & Transportation Priorities overview:

  • 1st: Great to see Tremont Street has construction dollars in the coming year.
  • 2nd: Very glad to hear that “$2 million for a Safety Intervention Program on Neighborhood Streets, which will help us evaluate and act on all resident 311 safety requests” is part of the budget. It would be great for more clarification around this, and how it will be equitably implemented similar to sidewalk repairs in the Walkable Streets Program. This could be a way for spot improvements like speed humps at dangerous intersections or on streets that may not be a good fit or eligible for the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program. 
  • 3rd: Thank you for continued work toward accessibility for all, with “Newly expanded pedestrian ramp plan that doubles number of ramps installed” & adding an ADA Coordinator to Public Works. 
  • 4th: We’re hopeful on the item “$150,000 to improve the Pedestrian Signal Retiming Program in order to retime more of our most dangerous intersections in a more equitable manner.” This could be a step in the right direction of the GoBoston2030 goal of pedestrian-prioritized signals, especially good to hear about the goal of POLICY changes. 
  • Finally, echoing Eliza and Louisa about the Northern Ave Bridge: WalkBoston, LivableStreets, and the Boston Cyclists Union asked last night that the City commit to a bridge design that is only open to pedestrians, bicycles, and emergency vehicles. That was not reflected in last night’s meeting. We are asking City Council not to approve the Northern Ave Bridge project in the budget until this commitment has been made. The scale of funding for the safety projects I just mentioned throughout the city pale in comparison to the estimated dollars for the current iteration of this proposed bridge.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

POSTPONED: Upcoming City of Boston Transportation Department Open Houses 

POSTPONED: Upcoming City of Boston Transportation Department Open Houses 

Update, 3/13 11:00am – OPEN HOUSE SERIES POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
We are postponing our series of Open Houses scheduled for the Tremont Street Design Project. We apologize for any inconvenience.

The postponed Open Houses are as follows:

Open House #1: Monday, March 16, from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Revolution Hotel, located at 40 Berkeley Street
Open House #2: Saturday, March 21, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the South End Branch Library, located at 785 Tremont Street
We will reschedule the Open House series as soon as we can.
We look forward to meeting with you again in the near future!

AVISO EN ESPAÑOL

ENGAGING WITH YOU ELECTRONICALLY
As we continue to take precautions around public gatherings, we are working on ways to engage with you electronically. We will update you via email when we have more information. You can also check the Tremont Street Design Project webpage and @BostonBTD on Twitter for updates.

Previous Update, 3/11 12:30pm – the March 11th Open House for Connect Downtown has been postponed due to COVID-19 precautions. No decision has been made about Saturday’s Open House or the Tremont Street meetings.

There are upcoming Boston Transportation Department open house meetings scheduled for the Connect Downtown Project and the Tremont Street Design Project.We encourage you to attend and weigh in positively about the important changes that will make downtown safer for people walking!

An open house meeting is designed to make it easier for you to stop by for a short time to look at project boards, ask questions, and give feedback. Sign up for updates for either project on the project page.


Connect Downtown

PROJECT VISION: Walking will be pleasant and easy. Safe, separated bikeways will serve and connect residents, employers, and local businesses. Families will explore Boston’s neighborhoods and iconic parks together, from the Esplanade to the Boston Common to the Southwest Corridor.

Through this project, BTD will:

  • Improve pedestrian crossings along the route
  • Provide comfortable, reasonably direct routes for bicyclists, and
  • Enhance pedestrian access to the Public Garden and Common.

March 11, 6-8pm
Hill House
127 Mt Vernon St

March 16, 1-3pm
Boston Public Library
Orientation Room
230 Dartmouth St

Additional office hours available at 3 Boston Public Libraries (see full schedule)


Tremont Street Design Project (South End) 

Boston Transportation Department is designing changes to make Tremont Street safer for everyone with an emphasis on pedestrian safety at intersections. Tremont Street is in the top 3 percent for pedestrian crashes on City-owned streets. In recent years, two people lost their lives while attempting to cross Tremont Street at one of the many four-lane crosswalks. Data show that 53 crashes resulted in an EMS response in the last 3 years. This includes 19 that involved people walking. BTD is currently focused on Tremont Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Herald Street.

March 16, 6-8pm
Revolution Hotel
40 Berkeley St

March 21, 11a-1pm
Boston Public Library
South End Branch
785 Tremont St

Snow clearance: my view (and queries) from my wheelchair

Snow clearance: my view (and queries) from my wheelchair

By Amy Hunt/South End resident

I’m a wheelchair-using paraplegic. Over the next few months, you may spot me on the streets, in traffic, traveling alongside cars, cabs, buses, trucks and Ubers. It’s risky, but it’s where the City of Boston puts me after it snows.

After a storm, the plows push mounds of snow onto street corners, covering curb ramps—the slopes at the end of sidewalks that make it possible for wheelchair users to cross the street. Without curb ramps, I’m going nowhere. So I make my way into traffic.

And I have questions.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates curb ramps. But does the ADA have an opinion about ramps getting covered by four feet of snow?

The City expects residents who live closest to street corners to clear the snow piles it creates when contractors plow the street. According to Boston.gov, corner residents have three hours after a storm ends to get it done. That doesn’t consider the possibility of a 72-year-old Aunt Mae living in the corner property.

Snow piles can grow to four, five, even six feet tall and wide. Even if Aunt Mae can afford to pay someone to clear snow all winter, can the piles really be moved by a human with a shovel? Moved to where exactly?

These types of questions knock around my head while I travel in traffic. And another: If I get flattened out here, whom do my survivors take it up with? The Aunt Mae rule would appear to indemnify the City. But it’s never been tested.

Of course, some wheelchair users simply stay home, under house arrest, until the snow and sludge melts. They shouldn’t have to, and I can’t. I have a job and a 7-year-old.

I remember some years ago when Boston started installing curb ramps. There were intense neighborhood discussions around the ugly yellow plastic pads, a negotiated brownish-orange agreement, and a lawsuit by the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Association, until they settled on brick-red cast iron pads that didn’t alter the historic district’s sidewalks.

I think it’s time to talk again. Maybe Boston needs a few pieces of specialized snow removal equipment. Maybe it needs to keep the first and last parking spots on every street available for snow mounds. Maybe it needs to better communicate with residents better about their responsibilities.

ADA-mandated curb ramps covered under piles of snow and wheelchairs traveling in traffic are not inevitable natural events. They’re about policy.

WalkBoston followed Amy around 5 days after a storm. In just 3 blocks, she encountered 6 impassable curb cuts. Watch the video: walkboston.org/clearcurbcuts

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s January/February 2020 newsletter.
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