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Tag: MassDCR

Joint comment letter regarding Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

Joint comment letter regarding Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

Department of Conservation and Recreation
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

CC: Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Nika Elugardo, Representative Liz Malia, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood

July 10, 2020

Dear Mr. Jeff Parenti and DCR staff,

Thank you for hosting another meeting concerning the Arborway Parkway Improvements Project We are glad that DCR is prioritizing this project and dedicating time and money to implementing short-term improvements and embarking on a rapid “long-term” process to dramatically improve the way the Arborway functions for vulnerable road users, especially in Murray Circle and improve park access for all.

In addition to the comments we provided in December 2019 and this spring, we propose the following suggestions to the short-term improvements and overall planning process from the meeting on June 24:

1) Changes to the proposed short-term improvements

We are pleased to see an aggressive timeline to have a design by the start of 2021 and construction to begin in 2021 — don’t let up! However, we are concerned about short-term bike accommodations not being implemented this year. We want to be sure this opportunity is used to create a safe, connected route to and through the Emerald Necklace Parks. As stated in our previous letter last December, short-term improvements should calm traffic and reduce crashes while also encouraging greater usage by people walking and biking. Toward that end, we reiterate our request for short-term improvements to include a lane removal on the carriage roads between Murray and Kelley Circles to accommodate a physically separated bike lane in the reclaimed space. We also remain concerned about the lack of a plan to improve safety for people biking through Murray Circle. Murray Circle is a critical gap in the network, and is plagued by crashes that impact safety of all road users.

2) Concern About CTPS Modeling Projections

We are concerned that this project is planning to accommodate an increase in vehicular traffic despite a 2019 study showing a decrease in daily traffic volumes since 2014, and despite Boston and Massachusetts’ goals to shift mode share away from personal vehicles.

In last month’s meeting about this project, DCR cited a CTPS study showing a slight increase in morning traffic. However, that same study found a decrease in evening traffic. As a result, we are deeply skeptical of the CTPS model projecting an increase in overall volume from 2020-2030. We would like to remind you that traffic models have again and again overestimated future volume. In one notable example, in 2018 CTPS projected that inbound traffic on the Longfellow Bridge would double from pre-construction levels once the bridge fully reopened that year; in reality, traffic volumes fell by almost 30% during the morning rush hour relative to 2008. The projection for outbound traffic was even further off-base. CTPS estimated a morning rush of 2,121 vehicles — nearly five times more than the actual peak of 442 measured in September 2018. We also would like to remind you that we must build for the future we want to see! Designing this road to accommodate more traffic will only create more induced demand for driving at a time when that’s the last thing needed on Boston’s already congested roadways.

As you move forward conducting traffic studies, we encourage you and the consultant team to not only consider current vehicle demand to predict future behavior, but to take into consideration that a design that encourages walking/biking can actually get people out of their cars. Both the Commonwealth, under the Global Warming Solutions Act, and the City of Boston have ambitious goals (e.g., Boston reducing emissions and car traffic in half by 2030) that relate to reducing the number of cars on the roads. Emissions from the transportation sector have stayed steady in the state and are not meeting the reduction goals set; as a State agency who has custody and control of the roadways, DCR must be a critical partner in meeting these goals.

3) A robust public engagement process

Especially given the history of previous planning processes for the Arborway and the frustrations expressed by the public at the first meeting, we suggest extra communication and time with the public and believe that this will lead to the most successful process and outcome. We appreciate, for example, the robust public comment period held during the first meeting and are glad to hear that there is a communications and facilitation team for meetings moving forward.

We ask for a publication of a timeline for the project that outlines expected meetings, other public engagement opportunities and milestones (25% design, construction, etc) as soon as possible and for you to stick to the promised dates and timelines. We strongly feel that this will go a long way in building trust and transparency with area-residents. We hope the process is as concise as possible and includes regular communication so residents continue to engage productively in the planning and discussion.

Finally, we suggest including walks — which can be planned in a way to allow for safe social distancing — as a public engagement tool. We have seen that people who currently only drive through the area have a very different understanding of the safety and connectivity needs when walking or riding a bike there.

4) Coordination

a. Given resident concerns about traffic being diverted to side streets, we suggest including those neighborhood side streets in Jamaica Hills and the Jamaica Pond neighborhood in traffic studies and projected traffic patterns to demonstrate to residents the hopefully minimal impact it will have on their streets.

b. Thank you for the coordination and communication you have had with the City of Boston around this project. We hope this will continue so the City can partner around implementing some traffic calming at intersections or side streets that will be impacted.

c. We understand that Centre/Walter St and Arborway are proceeding at the same time. We ask that DCR consider the impact one project will have on the other and ensure that both consultant teams are sharing information and plans. We ask that public meetings on either project share consolidated updates on the other related process.

5) Other overall comments

We are glad to see one of the goals of this project is to “Create a continuous and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian connection between the Arboretum and Pond”. We ask that the bicycle facilities be physically separated the entire length, regardless of whether they are a shared-use path, off-road or on-road facility. Protected or physically separated bike lanes have been shown to improve safety for not only people who bike, but for all road users. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico found protected bike lanes reduced injury risk to cyclists by 90%, while reducing fatal crashes overall by 44%. Moreover, countless studies have found that a majority of Americans are interested in biking, yet the primary reason why people don’t bike is the fear of being hit by a car. To create a truly “comfortable” bike route that encourages many more people to ride bikes, you must implement protected/separated bike lanes.

Thank you for your consideration of our suggestions. We look forward to continuing to work together around our shared goals for this project.

Becca Wolfson Boston Cyclists Union
Ambar Johnson, LivableStreets Alliance
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

Comments on proposed MassDCR amendments 302 CMR 11 + 12

Comments on proposed MassDCR amendments 302 CMR 11 + 12

July 24, 2019

Laura Dietz
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02114

Dear Ms. Dietz,

WalkBoston has reviewed the amendments to “302 CMR 11.00: Parkways, Traffic, and Pedestrian Rules” and “302 CMR 12.00: Parks and Recreation Rules,” and attended the public hearing on July 2, 2019 in Brighton.

This process should be put on hold until laws on micro-mobility and e-bikes are established by the legislature so there is cohesion between the law and regulations.

We also have some questions and comments based on our review:

  • What data are these proposed changes based on?
  • Are there any successes or failures in other states that MA is trying to emulate or avoid?
  • We have concerns about setting a limit of 20mph for shared use pathways. How was that speed limit established, and what is it based on? We need context sensitive speed limits, not one limit for all places. A 20mph limit is a speed limit that is recommended on residential streets, which include sidewalks for separation.
  • There are long section of definitions including BOULEVARD, PARKWAY, ROADWAY, STREET, but there is no definition of the different types of trails. Some of the suggested regulations describe ‘improved or natural surface trail’ vs. other types of trails; with no easy definition, this could lead to confusion.
  • Section 12.12(4) states they are ‘not permitted on improved trails less than 8 feet,’ would this mean certain sections of contiguous trails would allow/prohibit use?
    • Additionally, while we recognize the intent to create safe areas where there could be conflict, we fear that setting a regulation by width could have unintended consequences for future trail development.
  • The section on Violations/Fines/Penalties only includes info about parking.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments.

Brendan Kearney
Communications 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

WalkBoston testimony on traffic calming in Somerville

WalkBoston testimony on traffic calming in Somerville

Below is a written version of WalkBoston’s comments on traffic calming in Somerville, which Adi Nochur delivered verbally at the Council hearing on Wednesday, April 3.

April 3, 2019
Somerville City Council
City Hall
93 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

RE: WalkBoston comments on traffic calming in Somerville

To the Somerville City Council,

My name is Adi Nochur and I am testifying before you as an East Somerville resident and a member of Somerville’s Vision Zero Task Force. I am also commenting as a Project Manager at WalkBoston, a statewide pedestrian advocacy organization. WalkBoston is a signatory to the traffic calming petition that spurred today’s Council hearing.

I want to briefly comment on three issues, as follows:

  1. Speed Limits: WalkBoston supports efforts to reduce speed limits on residential streets in Somerville to 20 miles per hour. Achieving this goal is a fundamental issue of roadway design. WalkBoston also supports state legislative efforts to align speed limits on MassDOT and DCR roadways with local speed limits (H.3092/S.2042). As an illustrative example, we know high traffic speeds are an ongoing concern on Route 16/Alewife Brook Parkway.
  2. Equitable Enforcement: Data gathering is critical to ensure equity in traffic enforcement. Concerns over racial profiling are front and center in the current state legislative debate over hands-free/distracted driving legislation and local enforcement efforts also need to demonstrate sensitivity to these issues. State legislation that would enable automated enforcement (S.1376) can be part of a potential solution here.
  3. Concurrent Signalization: WalkBoston supports concurrent pedestrian signalization with a leading pedestrian interval at most signalized intersections. Our stance on this issue is further detailed in a letter we submitted to Mayor Curtatone on March 29, which is included as an attachment to these comments.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues. WalkBoston looks forward to continuing to work with the City Council to help Somerville achieve its Vision Zero goals.

Sincerely,
Adi Nochur
Project Manager

Cc: Mayor Joe Curtatone
Brad Rawson, Director of Transportation and Infrastructure

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

March 28, 2019

Joint Committee on Transportation
Joseph A. Boncore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 112
Boston, MA 02133

Joint Committee on Transportation
William Straus, House Chair
State House, Room 134
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

Dear Chairman Boncore and Chairman Straus,

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ main pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. We write to provide the Committee with our comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters.

We understand the need for state legislation to guide the roll out of scooters in Massachusetts and support the efforts of MassDOT, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and a number of the state’s municipalities to provide a statewide framework for these new mobility devices. We also believe that scooters may positively add to mobility options for Massachusetts’ residents.

  • 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.
  • As reporting is beginning to emerge from cities where scooters have been operating the number of pedestrian injuries attributed to scooters on sidewalks is significant, with 8% of “scooter” injuries in Los Angeles being pedestrians who were hit by scooters or tripped over scooters on sidewalks.
  • After many years of work to meet the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) we are only beginning to approach an accessible sidewalk system. WalkBoston is very concerned that allowing the use of scooters on sidewalks will result in scooters blocking sidewalks and curb ramps. We recommend that municipal regulations require scooters to be locked to appropriate bike racks or corrals, as other communities around the country have started to consider.

Our comments are focused on H3073/S2049 because this is a comprehensive bill that has been drawn up with the active participation of the agencies noted above.

  1. We are pleased that the bill limits scooters to a speed of 15 miles per hour, although this will be very fast if it is happening on a sidewalk where pedestrians are walking at 2-3 miles per hour.
  2. We are pleased that the bill requires scooters to have front and rear lights and turn signals.
  3. As currently drafted the act would allow motorized scooters on all shared use paths operated by MassDOT or the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) including such places as the Southwest Corridor, the Esplanade, the Mass Ave and Longfellow Bridge sidewalks, and the Cape Cod Rail Trail. We do not believe that these heavily used paths that double as linear parks with significant numbers of young children, people with disabilities and seniors should be used by motorized scooters unless they are operated at a significantly lower speed (5 mph).

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important piece of transportation safety legislation.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Carol Steinberg
WalkBoston Board Member
Wheelchair user and 9-year member of the MA Architectural Access Board