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Tag: MassDOT

Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

Comment Letter Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

April 13, 2019

To: MassDOT Highway Division
10 Park Plaza, Suite 6340
Boston, MA 02116 kelleysqproj.worcester@dot.state.ma.us

Re: Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project

To the Project Team,

On behalf of the LivableStreets Alliance Advocacy Committee and WalkBoston, we would like to provide you with some feedback regarding the Worcester Kelley Square Improvement Project, particularly in response to the design presented at the February 27, 2019 Public Meeting.

Overall, we think the project is moving in a very positive direction. In particular, we are very supportive of the hybrid roundabout, which uses less pavement than traditional signalized intersections and also creates a calmer, safer environment for all roadway users. We are also pleased about the attention that is being paid to placemaking and transforming Kelley Square into a place for people rather than just a place mainly for cars. However, we have some significant concerns about pedestrian safety and bicycle facilities in key portions of the project.

Please consider the following suggestions:

1. The roundabout and Madison St should be one lane in each direction rather than two.

We recognize that for traffic capacity reasons and to better accommodate large trucks, MassDOT has chosen to make the roundabout and Madison St two lanes in each direction. However, this has significant downsides:

Pedestrians face a double threat risk at every unsignalized crossing of more than one lane. ​While we agree that signals are not desirable at these locations, the double threat of a vehicle in one lane yielding to a pedestrian who is crossing while a vehicle in the second lane fails to yield is very real. In Boston, there have been multiple pedestrian fatalities on roads with this type of design in recent years. As such, the Boston Transportation Department is working to redesign these roadways with a single lane in each direction instead. It would be negligent for MassDOT to build more of these types of roads given the threat they pose to pedestrians.

A two-lane roundabout design is confusing for drivers, and will draw their attention away from pedestrians who may be crossing.​ With the current design, drivers must choose the correct lane prior to entering the roundabout. Given the multiple exits from the roundabout, it would not be surprising to see drivers choosing incorrectly, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area. These drivers may then illegally change lanes within the roundabout. Furthermore, drivers who are entering the roundabout from either Harding St entrance or from Green St who wish to travel further around it will need to cross one or more lanes of roundabout traffic in order to do so. This is a very challenging maneuver to make, especially when traffic is heavy. All of these complex movements that a two-lane roundabout requires will draw drivers attention away from pedestrians (or bicyclists) who are crossing at various locations around the roundabout.

Providing two lanes in each direction on Madison St means that there is not room for appropriate bicycle facilities there.​ The proposed shared use paths along either side are an inappropriate facility for an urban street like Madison St, and room is needed to provide bicycle facilities that are separate from the sidewalk. (We will discuss this further below.)

Therefore, we would strongly urge MassDOT to consider a single lane roundabout and a single through lane in each direction on Madison St. This may have some negative impact on traffic capacity during peak times, however we think the safety benefits are well worth that tradeoff. Furthermore, we are confident that large trucks can be accommodated with a single lane roundabout by using mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout and at intersection corners, as well as recessed stop lines where needed​.​ Both of these elements are recommended by the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide.

2. Physically separated bike lanes should be provided around the roundabout, on Madison St, and on Vernon St

Around the roundabout, the current design proposes shared use paths. ​While shared use paths may be appropriate in some contexts, we feel strongly that this is not one of them. We recognize that it is often recommended practice to design for shared use around a roundabout, however, this may not work as well in urban areas with high pedestrian activity. We therefore ask that you provide physically separated bike lanes around the roundabout. This type of design was considered for Inman Square in Cambridge.

Here is an illustration of the Inman Square, Cambridge proposal. Note the mountable truck aprons in the center of the roundabout:

On Madison St, the current design proposes shared use paths in place of traditional sidewalks. As with the roundabout, we feel very strongly that this is not an appropriate context for shared use paths.​ Madison St is an urban street with buildings at the street edge, and especially once the nearby ballpark opens, will have significant pedestrian activity. Having pedestrians and bicycles share the same space in this type of environment is not desirable and will result in much conflict. We therefore recommend that protected bike lanes that are separate from the sidewalk be provided along Madison St. (A design similar to the contraflow protected bike lane on Harding St may be appropriate. Please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide for best practices.)

Lastly, the lack of any kind of bicycle facility on Vernon St is a big problem​, in our opinion. The current proposal contains a single through lane in each direction that is to be shared by bicycles and motor vehicles. This is not an acceptable design. There are a limited number of streets for which people bicycling can cross I-290, and it is essential that they all be safe and inviting for them to do so. Rather than providing a 4 lane cross section, we recommend a 3 lane cross section along with separated bike lanes.

Therefore, around the roundabout, and on Madison St and Vernon St, we urge MassDOT to use physically separated bike lanes for bicycle accommodation.​ The separated bike lanes should be designed with proper intersection treatments to keep bicycles, pedestrians, and motor vehicles separate. (Again, please refer to the MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Guide.) This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the excellent guidance that MassDOT has created for physically separated bike lanes, and for the City of Worcester to be at the cutting edge of safe and accessible streets for people of all ages and abilities.

Some examples from the guide:
Roundabout with separated bike lanes and mountable truck apron

Protected intersection of two major streets with mountable truck apron and recessed stop line

Protected intersection with side street and raised crossing

3. Use small curb radii and provide two curb ramps at all corners rather than a single apex ramp

There are some intersections that are part of this project that have large curb radii or where there only a single apex ramp is provided on certain corners (for example two of the corners at Millbury St and Endicott St.) This is not good for people in wheelchairs, as it points them into the street an an angle rather than in the desired direction of travel. ​We ask that you adjust the curbs at these corners to provide two ramps, one for each crossing.

Thank you for considering our comments as this project moves forward. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have further questions or comments on our ideas.

Sincerely,

Charlie Denison
Board Member, LivableStreets Alliance

Wendy Landman
Executive Director, 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

New state Pedestrian Plan is a positive step

New state Pedestrian Plan is a positive step

By Adi Nochur/Project Manager, WalkBoston

As the largest single investor in the state’s roadway and pedestrian system, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] has a critical responsibility to take pedestrian safety, accessibility, and convenience seriously in all of its actions and investments. With its release of a draft Massachusetts Pedestrian Transportation Plan last fall, the agency has expressed a strong commitment to addressing these issues.

The Plan recommends policies, programs, and projects for MassDOT to guide decision-making and capital investments. It also provides a Municipal Resource Guide for Walkability to support cities and towns in their efforts to improve walkability on local streets. The Plan advances a vision that all people in Massachusetts have a safe and comfortable option to walk for short trips.

The Plan further outlines goals of eliminating pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries and increasing the percentage of short trips made by walking. It is rooted in principles of treating people walking the same as people driving, focusing on systematic safety improvements, and supporting municipalities to do the same. We are especially pleased that MassDOT is using the Plan to improve its own practices and lead by example — an approach that WalkBoston encouraged throughout the development of the Plan.

We support the Plan’s vision, goals, and principles and applaud several of its action items, including research on the impacts and benefits of automated speed enforcement, construction of safe crossings to connect bus stops to destinations, piloting a winter snow and ice removal initiative on pedestrian facilities, and collection and analysis of pedestrian-focused data. Please see our comments on the draft Plan: walkboston.org/tag/pedestrian-plan.

WalkBoston also offered several recommendations to strengthen the Plan. These included preparing in-depth analysis of pedestrian injury patterns across the state and by race, creating an annual review process with advocates and peers outside MassDOT to ensure continuous improvement, and providing more in-depth state-level tracking and municipal guidance around pedestrian signals.

We look forward to seeing a final version of the Plan in 2019. As part of the Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, we will play an important role in guiding the Plan’s implementation. Through continued collaboration with partners from the advocacy community, and state and local government, we will continue to make steady progress toward the goal of a more walkable Massachusetts for all.

For more info on MassDOT’s Pedestrian Plan, head to: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/pedestrian-plan

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s February 2019 newsletter.
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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

WBUR – “Proposed T Fare Hikes Get Pushback From Community At Hearing”

WBUR – “Proposed T Fare Hikes Get Pushback From Community At Hearing”

WBUR: “Proposed T Fare Hikes Get Pushback From Community At Hearing

Brendan Kearney of the group WalkBoston said policymakers need to rethink the way transit is funded rather than always resorting to fare hikes.

“This problem has been studied extensively — what is lacking is the political will,” said Kearney. “We encourage the MBTA to work with MassDOT and other stakeholders to find new sources of revenue to equitably invest in the 21st century transportation system we all deserve.”

This segment aired on February 28, 2019.