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

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 Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

Comment Letter on Kenmore Hotel Project (560-574 Commonwealth Avenue)

June 27, 2019

Brian Golden, Director
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Attn: Tim Czerwienski
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

Re: Kenmore Hotel, 560-574 Commonwealth Avenue, WalkBoston Comments

Dear Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Kenmore Hotel Project.

WalkBoston believes that the re-configuration of Kenmore Square proposed by the proponent will significantly enhance the environment and improve the safety and convenience of people walking to and through Kenmore Square. It will also create new pedestrian-focused civic space that is presently missing from this important Boston crossroads – where many residents, transit users, students, Red Sox fans and Boston Marathon fans will find new space to enhance their experience of Kenmore Square.

We believe that the re-configuration will also significantly improve the safety of bicyclists and drivers, with its simplified pattern of movement. Based on the traffic analysis provided in the DPIR it also appears that the new traffic pattern will improve the levels of service for vehicles, potentially providing a benefit for the many bus riders who pass through the Square each day.

We are very pleased that the proponent has proposed building a hotel without on-site parking or below-grade service access – either of which would require a curb cut interrupting the sidewalk. With Kenmore Square’s good transit access the hotel will truly reflect an urbanist vision for the City which we applaud. While we have not reviewed any financial information about the project, we wonder whether the decision to forgo the construction of parking spaces (@ approximately $25,000 – $30,000/space) has provided the proponent with the financial capacity to build the extensive plaza and streetscape improvements that are proposed. If this is the case, we hope that future Boston development projects will be encouraged by the City to take advantage of this opportunity.

We urge the City to work with the proponent to bring this new vision for Kenmore Square to fruition.

We have several questions and comments about the project that we urge the City to work with the proponent to address.

  1. The new, much safer, bicycle circulation system is an important improvement for Kenmore Square. We urge the design team to carefully design the western edge of the site to actively discourage eastbound cyclists on Commonwealth Avenue from riding through the plaza area rather than taking the New Road-Beacon Street-Commonwealth Avenue bike route that is the intended route.
  2. Based on the wind study results presented at the June 19 public meeting, several spots on the plaza may be quite windy. We urge the proponent to develop designs that both reduce the wind and avoid the use of walls along Commonwealth Avenue. We believe that walls will serve to privatize the feel of the space and may also cause unintended noise impacts (wooshing sounds) as traffic passes by the intermittent walls.
  3. We hope that the plaza will include seating that has a softer feel than that which seems to be illustrated to date – seating that invites people to linger and enjoy the great people-watching.
  4. For how many years has the proponent committed to maintaining and programming the Plaza?
  5. It appears from the site plan that there are two left turn lanes from westbound Commonwealth Avenue feeding into one receiving lane on Brookline Avenue – is this intended, or is the site plan incorrect? In addition, westbound Commonwealth Avenue traffic will need very clear lane markings (and perhaps a tweaking of the shape of the nose of the plaza) to ensure that traffic does not mistakenly head westbound on Beacon Street.

We look forward to a significantly improved walking experience in Kenmore Square when the project is realized.

Please let us know if you have any questions about our comments.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Comments on Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways

Comments on Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways

WalkBoston comments to the Boston Public Improvement Commission regarding:

“A Policy of Guidelines for Outdoor Café within Public Ways, Effective: September 1, 2017”

Submitted August 24, 2017

We would be happy to meet with PIC or other City staff to review and discuss our comments.

1. Pleased that new regulations will allow alcohol to be served on the “far side” of the sidewalk– a good change for the liveliness of the City.

2. Interesting and good to allow the expansion onto the curb and street areas—Curbline and Roadway seating. Again this creates new opportunities.

3. Technical issue: 2f should refer to the seating located within the restaurant’s property, not only that located within the City’s sidewalks. I think they have to approve both.

4. Technical issue: 14 should say “planters and their contents” because a lot of cafes have plant material hanging out far—even up to a foot. That subtracts that distance from the walking right of way.

5. Regulations should provide a simple table that indicates which department is responsible for different elements of the regulations – it might clarify that there are still many, many actors in the process.

6. Minimum dimension for path of travel 4 feet, preferred minimum is 6 feet – exclusive of street furniture or any other obstructions. Minimum should be 5 feet unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

7. Minimum sidewalk dimension to allow any cafe should be at least XXX feet – to ensure adequate POT plus dimension for café. The City should make this determination before finalizing the guidelines.

8. Modify the rule that the café should not occupy more than 50% of the sidewalk because that may not be appropriate for wide areas and may be insufficient for narrow sidewalks where there should be no café at al (see #2 above).

9. Require a minimum of 15 business days of notice for review by the public, and require that the plans available electronically so that upon request they can be reviewed by the public (much as the way in which BPDA now posts filings on line).

10. The cafe must be removed from the sidewalk when not in continuous use. The season can extend beyond May-September, but the cafe equipment and furnishings must be removed from the sidewalk if they are not used for more than ten days.

11. Set a schedule for fees and permitting costs – may be based on size, location, restaurant revenues, etc. but should be transparent.

12. Provide opportunities for pop up cafes for short-term (1-5 days) use.

13. Set a schedule and program for enforcement, including a point person for responding to public complaints when cafes are not following the rules (see attached photo).

Café of Restaurant XXXX on Tremont Street in the South End, little action taken after reported earlier this summer. We include this as one example where encroachment is taking place without being addressed.
Comment Letter: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report MEPA #14900

Comment Letter: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report MEPA #14900

November 23, 2016

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office
Analyst: Erin Flaherty
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Tremont Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Report  MEPA #14900

Dear Mr. Beaton,

WalkBoston has reviewed the DEIR for the Tremont Crossing proposal in Roxbury. We believe that the very auto-oriented proposed development is inconsistent with the urban character of the neighborhood and needs to be substantially modified to benefit its neighbors.

Parking Spaces Proposed are Excessive
The development calls for a multi-level parking garage of 1,371 spaces that will generate 8,000 vehicle trips per day.  WalkBoston questions the need for such a large garage given that the development will be less than two blocks from Roxbury Crossing and Ruggles Transit Stations, and within a 10-minute walk of Dudley Square that is served by twenty bus lines.

By comparison the two large Target Stores in the Fenway (Boston) and Cambridge have only a couple of hundred parking spaces.  Numerous parking studies of big box stores and shopping malls throughout the country have shown that parking lots/garages are underutilized.

The emphasis on parking and downplaying of the use of transit suggests an imbalance for so large a project in the heart of the city.   As stated in the 2012 comment letter from Boston Transportation Department a consistent supply of available parking will counteract efforts to encourage alternative travel modes.

Tremont Street Should Not Be Widened
To accommodate the large number of vehicles accessing and exiting the proposed development Tremont Street is projected to be widened to eight or nine lanes.  Such a wide roadway at this location is incompatible with the urban character of the street and will create safety hazards to the pedestrians and bicyclists moving to and from the transit services, residences and institutions.

Also, the environmental review should include an assessment of the impact of increased traffic on the busway at Ruggles.  Numerous buses leave Ruggles headed for Dudley and WalkBoston has concern that at peak hours buses will be waiting through numerous traffic signal cycles to exit unto Ruggles Street.  The result could be a backlog of congestion from Ruggles to Malcolm X Boulevard.

Roxbury Crossing Development Should be Integrated into the Neighborhood
As currently designed, the development will be an island, separated from its neighborhood setting.  The proposed development has the opportunity to contribute to the street by creating easy walking access from the transit stations as well as nearby residential developments (Madison Park and Whittier Housing) and institutions (Northeastern University).  The Tremont Street Development is located in an area where Transit Oriented Development is particularly appropriate.

Proposed Project Could Acknowledge Changing Retail
The retail environment has changed since the project was proposed 4 – 5 years ago.  More and more shopping is done on line and traditional walk-in retail is struggling.  Evidence of this is in Dudley Square, the heart of Roxbury.  WalkBoston would like to see the City devote greater efforts to supporting viable retail in Dudley.  Promoting retail within a 10-minute walk of Dudley will only further depress the market for shops in Dudley Square.  However even within the proposed development the liveliness of the retail is questionable given that the proposed network of bridges will connect the garage on the second floor, discouraging patronage of the ground level retail.

Ensure Safety of Major Pedestrian Crossings.
The major pedestrian crossings of Tremont Street will take place at intersections with Ruggles/Whittier Street, South Drive and Prentiss Street. The primary crossing is likely to be at Ruggles/Whittier Street, because of the direct access it provides to the Ruggles MBTA Station. Care should be taken to provide for significant numbers of people wanting to cross Tremont Street at this location. Retention of the median strip in the center of Tremont Street would be useful as a refuge for pedestrians who may not be able to cross the entire width of a widened Tremont Street in one signal cycle. Similarly, leading pedestrian signal intervals should be incorporated to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings at the intersection. Analysis should also be undertaken to determine if a crosswalk is truly needed at South Drive, in view of the nearby Prentiss Street crossing.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this proposal. Please feel free to contact us with questions you may have, and we look forward to hearing how our suggestions are incorporated into subsequent revisions to this plan.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Dorothea Hass
Sr. Project Manager

cc: Councilor Tito Jackson
Byron Rushing, State Representative
Deirdre Buckley, MEPA Director
Dana Whiteside, Boston Planning and Development Agency
Kay Matthews, Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard (FMCB)
Marah Holland, FMCB
Alison Pultinas, FMCB


Comments on The Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP) 11/18/16

Comments on The Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP) 11/18/16

November 18, 2016

Mr. Richard McGuinness
Deputy Director for Waterfront Planning
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

Dear Mr. McGuinness,

We write to you with comments regarding the Draft Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (DTW MHP), with particular reference to the relationship of that plan to the future of the existing historic Northern Avenue Bridge.

Several elements of the draft plan are particularly relevant to our comments, and we have attached a number of citations from the DTW MHP and the Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines that underlie our comments.

The Northern Avenue Bridge is an important contributing element to the downtown waterfront, and in fact, is a critical piece of the existing Harborwalk. Yet, the Bridge was seldom discussed at the public meetings. Mention of it was consistently dismissed or put on hold citing the City’s sponsored competition and unclear future plans for the fate of the historic bridge.

Part of the Downtown Waterfront vision included in the public realm plan includes clearly defined connections with well-­‐organized, high quality, and walkable pedestrian links. Failure to include a meaningful discussion of benefits and proposed interim connections to the Northern Avenue Bridge, we feel is shortsighted. As made clear from decades of resident and visitor use, the Bridge is key to enhancing pedestrian access and should be included and acknowledged in the Municipal Harbor Plan.

  •  The Bridge is a critical element of the walking environment providing the most convenient, attractive and harbor-­‐connected way for people to walk between the waterfront, downtown and the South Boston Harborwalk. This connection is called out as a core component of the MHP. Because the bridge is flat, is directly adjacent to the Harbor, and provides at-­grade connections to the street grid it is uniquely well suited to serve pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • The Bridge’s historic character is one of the most important contributors to District’s sense of place and connection to Boston’s industrial past. As stated in the DTW MHP (page 10), “Boston’s history and development are inextricably linked to the Downtown Waterfront District.” What better way to provide continuity than to keep the historic Bridge as a lively and well-­‐used element of the Harbor and Harborwalk.

We urge the City to include the Northern Avenue Bridge in the revisions to this draft Municipal Harbor Plan, with a discussion of the relevance of its flat profile, the proximity to the water surface that it provides for Harborwalk users, and the contribution of its industrial superstructure to the downtown waterfront environment. Not doing so is a conspicuously missing piece of what is otherwise an excellent draft plan.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the draft plan.


Greg Galer, Boston Preservation Alliance
Jill Valdes Horwood, Boston Harbor NOW
Paul Farrell, Michael Tyrrell, Dan McNichol, Friends of the Northern Avenue Bridge
Sara McCammond, Joe Rogers, Fort Point Neighborhood Association
Wendy Landman, WalkBoston

Cc Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary, EEA
Bruce Carlisle, Director, CZM
Ben Lynch, Waterways/Chapter 91 Program Chief, DEP
Brona Simon, SHPO, Massachusetts Historical Commission
Susan Goldberg, Circuit Executive, First Circuit Court of Appeals

Relevant citations from the DTW MHC and Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines

From page 5 of the DTW MHP: “The DTW MHP implements the goals established in the Request for a Notice To Proceed (“RNTP”). The six goals in the DTW RNTP are to: 1. Continue to Develop the District as an Active, Mixed-­‐Use Area that is an Integral Part of Boston’s Economy; 2. Promote Access to Boston Harbor, the Harbor Islands and Water Transportation; 3. Improve Waterfront Wayfinding and Open Space Connections; 4. Enhance Open Space Resources and the Public Realm; 5. Create a Climate-­‐Resilient Waterfront; and 6. Implement the Greenway District Planning Study Wharf District Guidelines.”

And, from page 30 where the goals for the plan are described: “Connectivity: Strengthened connections from Downtown to the Harbor, Downtown to the South Boston Waterfront, from the Greenway to the waterfront, and from north to south. Boston has an incredible wealth of linear park systems and paths, from the Freedom Trail to the Walk to the Sea to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. This plan is an opportunity to enhance these connections and their relationship to the waterfront, and strengthen the Harborwalk and the Greenway—to draw people along the water’s edge and along one of the great park systems of the city. The key priorities are:

  •  North-­‐south connections, along both the Harborwalk and the Greenway. • East-­‐west links between the Greenway and the waterfront, building on the
  • Crossroads Initiative.

o  Connections from Northern Avenue to the South Boston Waterfront.
o Increasing water transit opportunities and connections, both within the Inner
o Harbor and beyond to neighboring communities.
o  Increasing accessibility by all modes, with a special emphasis on the pedestrian.

As noted above, the DTW MHP includes as one of its goals the implementation of the Greenway District Planning Study Use and Development Guidelines that include the following Wharf District Guidelines:

“The Hook Lobster Site (15 Northern Avenue), the U.S. Coast Guard Building and 400 Atlantic Avenue together frame important new connections to the emerging South Boston waterfront. These include the Old Northern Avenue Bridge, a part of the Oliver Street/Northern Avenue Crossroad, and the Moakley Bridge. While these sites are limited in size and development potential (particularly the Hook site), they nonetheless offer the possibility of increased legibility for both pedestrians and motorists where it is currently lacking. These parcels should contribute to the continuity and accessibility of the Harborwalk, which presents a significant challenge where the Moakley Bridge ramps up above grade. (Page 20)

“All developments in the Wharf District should enhance the continuity and accessibility of the Harborwalk by providing additional points of connection from the Greenway and by “repairing” breaks in the community caused by grade changes and buildings or other obstructions.” (Page 21)