Tag: Mass Ave

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.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

South End Patch – “Pedestrian Killed In Crash On Mass Ave Connector, Prompts Delays

South End Patch – “Pedestrian Killed In Crash On Mass Ave Connector, Prompts Delays

South End Patch: “Pedestrian Killed In Crash On Mass Ave Connector, Prompts Delays

“There are multiple jurisdictions at this intersection, which complicates Boston being able to do something to fix it,” said Brendan Kearney communication director at WalkBoston.

And that’s a problem all across the state. Some of the most dangerous intersections are not actually controlled by the local jurisdiction, he said.

Although MassDOT gives Complete Streets funding for communities to make fixes to problem areas within their communities, and more than 200 communities have come up with plans on how to improve roadways, that money can’t go toward fixing areas under MassDOT or DCR jurisdiction.

“It’s not like MassDOT or DCR doesn’t make changes, they do,” said Kearney. “But the question is how can they do it quicker and not have to wait for a fatal crash to get it done?”

June 24, 2019

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

September 19, 2016

Mayor Martin Walsh, Boston
Mayor Denise Simmons, Cambridge
Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation
Tom Tinlin, Massachusetts Highway Administrator
Leo Roy, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Conservation and Recreation
Monica Bharel, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Public Health

Re: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Dear Friends:

Boston and Cambridge have declared themselves Vision Zero cities. The Healthy Transportation Compact has united our state agencies in concerted efforts to increase active transportation and improve safety for walking and bicycling.

DCR is on track to add a new Charlesgate Path and a signalized pedestrian/bike crossing of the Mass Ave Bridge to connect the Esplanade with the Back Bay/Kenmore neighborhoods (the crosswalk will be located where the Mass Ave. Bridge crosses the open space between inbound and outbound Storrow Drive). The new Charlesgate path, and the enhanced connection between the Esplanade and Charlesgate via the new crosswalk will generate significant new use by people walking and biking.

These are wonderful developments for people from across Massachusetts and the world who commute, amble and sightsee on the Esplanade, along Memorial Drive, and across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge! And, they are all leading to more people on foot and bike on the bridge.

As we see the increase in people walking and biking, the lack of safe biking accommodation on the Mass Ave Bridge is leading to large numbers of bicycles on the sidewalks of the Bridge – an unsafe and uncomfortable situation.

We ask that MassDOT, DCR, Boston and Cambridge explore the re-purposing one of the outbound Mass Ave Bridge vehicle travel lanes to provide space for a protected bike lane on each side of the bridge, with access provided from the Esplanade and Charlesgate paths that will connect to the Bridge.

Based on a very preliminary look at the traffic volumes and lane use on the Bridge, we believe that improving the network by adding low-stress, protected bicycle lanes could be accomplished without significant impacts to vehicle operations. Providing protected bike lanes will both improve the safety of people on bikes and improve the safety of pedestrians by removing bicycles from the Bridge sidewalks.

We look forward to working with you and your staff to explore this suggestion.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Tani Marinovich, Executive Director, The Esplanade Association

Cc Senator Will Brownsberger
Senator Joseph A. Boncore
Representative Jay Livingstone
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets, City of Boston
Gina Fiandaca, Boston Commissioner of Transportation
Joe Barr, Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, City of Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance
Richard Fries, Executive Director, MassBike
Herb Nolan, Solomon Fund
Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy
Peter Furth, Northeastern University
Suzanne Walmsley, Boston Athletic Association

Arlington Massachusetts Avenue Redesign Regional Advocate Comment Letter

Arlington Massachusetts Avenue Redesign Regional Advocate Comment Letter

To: Richard Davey

Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation

From: Phil Goff, Co-Chairman, East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition
David Watson, Executive Director, MassBike
Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Charlie Denison, Advocacy Committee Chair, LivableStreets Alliance
Chris Hart, Director of Transportation Projects, Institute of Human Centered Design
Pete Stidman, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union

Re: Arlington Mass Ave Corridor Plan redesign project
Date: March 28, 2013

Dear Secretary Davey:

As a group of neighborhood and regional advocacy organizations that promote Complete Streets, safer walking and bicycling, and sustainable transportation planning policies, we are unanimous in our support of the Town of Arlington’s current plan for the reconstruction of Massachusetts Avenue from the Cambridge line to Arlington Center. The Town’s current plan includes the reconfiguration of the de facto four-lane street into a three-lane roadway with striped bike lanes, wider sidewalks, improved crosswalks with refuge islands and an assortment of streetscape enhancements. We are collectively writing to express our concern that MassDOT may give too much weight to a non-binding ballot question on the local ballot in Arlington that contradicts state policies and guidelines.

Public support for the Mass Ave project is strong throughout East Arlington and among a number of businesses in the Capitol Square business district. This has been made clear in numerous meetings in the past three years, including MassDOT’s 2011 25% design hearing where over 60% of the public comments were made in support of the three-lane plan. More recently, MassDOT’s Feb 26th 75% hearing drew hundreds of supporters from throughout the Town and public comments in support ran 3:1 versus those opposed. The Arlington Board of Selectmen unanimously supports the plan and would like to see the four-and-a-half year process come to a conclusion soon.

Similar to other projects that promote a reduction in the available space for motor vehicles, opposition has formed among some neighbors and businesses. For the past four years, the opposition group has become more entrenched and has tried to delay or stop the project on numerous occasions. Most recently, opponents to the current three-lane plan gathered enough signatures to place a non-binding referendum on the April 6th ballot for Town elections. The question simply asks if Arlington voters desire to “retain four lanes on Mass Ave in East Arlington as currently practiced.”

The question discusses none of the safety benefits of the three-lane plan, whether four lanes would accommodate MassDOT design guidelines or the potential impact on funding of a “yes” vote. While we respect the use of a ballot referendum to guide local decision-making, the simplicity of the question is an inappropriate response to a complex roadway design and engineering project. A resulting “yes” vote to recommend a four-lane plan would contradict MassDOT guidelines for safe bicycle accommodations and puts numerous pedestrian safety features at risk. Four travel lanes would also contradict the goals set forth in the Healthy Transportation Compact, the GreenDOT policy, the Governor’s “Way Forward” and the Mode Shift Goals to triple the share of walking, bicycling and transit use by 2030.

The Board of Selectmen has made clear their support for the project and, short of an extremely-unlikely lopsided vote, will continue to support a three-lane design in accordance with state policy and guidelines. However, in both individual meetings and at the 75% hearing, Town officials and community members have received mixed messages from MassDOT staff about the potential results of the referendum. This included hints that a majority “yes” vote for four lanes could endanger state support and funding for the current three-lane plan. This possibility is a serious concern to our organizations as a worrisome precedent to future roadway reconstruction projects that incorporate pedestrian and bicycle enhancements that may be controversial.

In conclusion, we strongly encourage MassDOT to maintain support and full funding for the reconstruction of Mass Ave in Arlington no matter the results of the simplistic non-binding referendum. To abandon support would send a message that MassDOT is unwilling to stand behind its own Complete Streets policies, guidelines and goals, and would encourage opposition to Complete Streets in projects throughout the Commonwealth.

CC: Tom Broderick, Chief Engineer, MassDOT
Kim Sloan, Project Manager, MassDOT
Senator Ken Donnelly
Representative Sean Garballey
Representative Dave Rogers
Kevin Greeley, Chair of the Arlington Board of Selectmen Adam Chapdelaine, Arlington Town Manager Congressman Ed Markey

Massachusetts Avenue Reconstruction Regional Advocate Comment Letter

Massachusetts Avenue Reconstruction Regional Advocate Comment Letter

As a group of neighborhood and regional advocacy organizations that promote Complete Streets, safer walking and bicycling, and sustainable transportation planning policies, we are unanimous in our support of the Town of Arlington’s current plan for the reconstruction of Massachusetts Avenue from the Cambridge line to Arlington Center. The Town’s current plan includes the reconfiguration of the de facto four-lane street into a three-lane roadway with striped bike lanes, wider sidewalks, improved crosswalks with refuge islands and an assortment of streetscape enhancements. We are collectively writing to express our concern that MassDOT may give too much weight to a non-binding ballot question on the local ballot in Arlington that contradicts state policies and guidelines.

Read the letter here: