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Tag: pedestrian signals

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

Letter to Mayor Curtatone about signal timing & LPIs

Letter to Mayor Curtatone about signal timing & LPIs

Mayor Joe Curtatone
Somerville City Hall
93 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

March 29, 2019

Dear Mayor Curtatone,

We wanted to reach out to you regarding recent signal changes on Beacon Street where exclusively phased pedestrian signals have been converted to concurrent phasing.

We appreciate that both City staff and residents are concerned about pedestrian safety and are pressing for more protections for people on foot. You said it yourself in the Somerville Times in 2015: “When you plan for people, you get walkable neighborhoods that create vibrant communities, with faces you recognize of people walking, pushing strollers and biking.”

LivableStreets and WalkBoston have advocated for years to move to concurrent phasing with leading pedestrian intervals (LPI). We ask that you please support the continued implementation of an overall policy of concurrent with LPI pedestrian signal phasing in Somerville, with limited exceptions applied in locations with (1) high volumes of seniors or children, (2) very high turning movements (250+/hour), or locations where data show a special need for exclusive signals.

We recommend:

  • The Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) be lengthened to give pedestrians a longer head start.
  • No Turns on Red signs be installed to restrict motor vehicles from turning during the LPI.
  • The concurrent walk signal phases should be automatic and not require a button. This is one of the key benefits of a concurrent signal. The shorter wait times for pedestrians are also shown to reduce the number of pedestrians who cross the street against the light.

At the intersection of Beacon Street & Park Street, 100% of vehicles coming from Park are turning. The City should consider whether an exclusive WALK signal is needed for pedestrians to cross Beacon Street or whether the volumes are low enough that a concurrent signal for the Park Street green phase (for pedestrians crossing Beacon) would be appropriate. There could still be a concurrent phase during the Beacon Street green (for pedestrians crossing Park Street or Scott Street) depending on the turning volumes.

At the intersection of Beacon Street & Washington Street, you might look at the signal timing adopted this week in Central Square, Cambridge. A right red arrow is now displayed during an extended LPI  (a “Super LPI”) which eventually turns to a flashing yellow arrow to remind drivers that they must yield to pedestrians and do not have an exclusive turn.

The reasons for, and benefits of, concurrent phasing and LPI are well presented in the brief by the City of Cambridge which implements LPI/concurrent phasing at almost every signalized intersection. There is also some fairly well documented research on LPI safety that is shared by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Jeff Speck in his recent book Walkable City Rules says, “Keep signals simple: most intersections should be concurrent and quick.” (Rule 74, page 176).

It should be noted that while concurrent phasing with LPI is generally safer and more convenient for people walking than exclusive phasing, there are exceptions. Older residents, people with mobility challenges, and small children in particular may feel more at risk. In most cases, when exclusive phasing is used, it is often near schools or senior centers, or locations with high volumes of turning cars (such as Inman Street at Mass Ave in Cambridge).

With the ongoing construction detours around Union Square there is presently the potential for increased vehicle volumes through these intersections and Somerville could consider combining concurrent and exclusive phasing to get the benefits of both for the duration of the detours.

Another option that could be tried is a push-button activated exclusive phase (noted by signage) that could serve the needs of people who feel uncomfortable crossing during a concurrent phase. Automatic concurrent phases would be retained during the balance of the time.

Sincerely,

Brendan Kearney
Communications Director, WalkBoston

Adi Nochur, Somerville Resident & Vision Zero Task Force Member
Project Manager, WalkBoston

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director, Livable Streets Alliance

Mark Chase, Somerville Resident
Urban Transportation Planner

Jim McGinnis, Union Square Resident

Jon Ramos, West Somerville Resident

Charles Denison, Somerville homeowner Ward 5

Steven Nutter, Somerville Resident Ward 4

Alex Epstein, Somerville Resident Ward 6 & Vision Zero Task Force Member

Dennison Crossing Walk Audit – Framingham, MA

Dennison Crossing Walk Audit – Framingham, MA

On Thursday, September 13, 2018, WalkBoston conducted a walk audit at Dennison Crossing in Framingham as part of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s (EOPSS) Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative for High-Fatality Communities. The EOPSS Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative builds municipal staff understanding and awareness of the components of a safe walking environment. WalkBoston is working in partnership with EOPSS to address walking safety concerns in Massachusetts communities with high pedestrian crash rates, with the goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in the Commonwealth. According to data provided to WalkBoston by EOPSS, Framingham has seen 3 pedestrian fatalities and 128 serious pedestrian injury crashes between 2012 – 2017.

Read the full report here:

WalkBoston-DennisonCrossing-Final

Support for “Super LPI” in Central Square, Cambridge

Support for “Super LPI” in Central Square, Cambridge

March 26, 2018

To:
Cambridge City Council,
Cambridge City Clerk,
Joe Barr – Director Cambridge Traffic, Parking & Transportation (TPT)

From:
Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston

WalkBoston believes that TPT’s suggested change for the Central Square Pedestrian Signals will provide improved pedestrian safety. As described in the March 21 Memorandum from Joseph Barr, the Super LPI will provide an effective way of managing this high volume intersection.

WalkBoston agrees with TPT’s analysis of the situation and with the conclusion that a concurrent signal phasing with a longer LPI is the best overall solution. We concur with the finding that an ALL WALK signal phase would not be appropriate for Central Square and would lead to lower levels of service for pedestrians, and confusion among both pedestrians and drivers.

WalkBoston also appreciates TPT’s plan to review operations after the Super LPI is installed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this signal revision.
Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

January 25, 2018

Mayor Brian Arrigo
ATTN: Robert O’Brien, Director of Economic Development
City of Revere
281 Broadway
Revere, MA 02151

Secretary Matthew Beaton
ATTN: Page Czepiga, MEPA Analyst
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Director Brian Golden
ATTN: Tim Czerwienski, Project Manager
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201

RE: WalkBoston comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Dear Mayor Arrigo, Secretary Beaton and Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HYM Investment Group’s proposed redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston and Revere. WalkBoston looks forward to working with the City of Revere, EEA, BPDA, HYM, and other agencies and project stakeholders to help advance the proponent’s stated goal of “creating a vibrant, mixed-use walkable community.”

Leveraging connections between walkability and transit

The proponent’s Expanded Project Notification Form (EPNF) reflects a strong commitment in principle to walkability and multimodal transportation connectivity. The proposed Phase 1 project emphasizes new pedestrian connections at the Suffolk Downs Blue Line station on the MBTA, and the Master Plan project is similarly premised upon pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line at Suffolk Downs and Beachmont Stations. Overall the Suffolk Downs site is wellpositioned for walkable transit-oriented development, which is reflected in HYM’s high anticipated mode shares for walking and transit for the Master Plan project. (The projected mode shares for walking range from 10.9% for office uses to 19.6% for residential uses; the projected mode shares for transit range from 45.4% for residential uses to 54.7% for hotel uses.)

The Phase 1 project has a much lower projected transit mode share of 37.5%, as well as a 44.4% projected mode share for single occupancy vehicles. We are concerned that this will create significant auto dependency from the onset of this project that will affect the future Master Plan development as well. The proponent states that “while there will be emphasis to support a high proportion of alternative trip making by the Phase 1 Project, this more conservative mode share profile has been utilized given the Phase 1 buildings are being analyzed as a standalone project without the benefit of a mixed-use environment.” We urge the proponent to aim for more ambitious transit, walking and biking mode share goals for the Phase 1 development to maximize the site’s potential for transit-oriented development.

The proponent also anticipates over 54,000 new transit trips per weekday, including over 4,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 5,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This number is very high relative to current Blue Line ridership levels. As part of their transit analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), HYM should detail how they arrived at this number and how Blue Line ridership will change as the Master Plan project is phased in over time. This analysis should be accompanied by the proponent also clarifying their plans to invest in capacity upgrades along the Blue Line as part of a broader package of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies.

Exploring opportunities to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and parking spaces

While the high projected transit mode share and ridership are positive attributes of this development proposal, the proponent still projects over 33,000 new vehicle trips per weekday, including over 3,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 3,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This increased vehicular traffic has the potential to significantly affect congestion and pedestrian safety within the project site and along surrounding roadways. Given that vehicular access to the site is limited to just two intersections (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way), the proponent should clarify how the project site and surrounding streets will handle this traffic in the DEIR. Significant mitigation measures will be necessary to address 33,000 new vehicles on already congested streets.

While HYM does not specify how many new parking spaces will be needed to accommodate these vehicles, WalkBoston calculates that between 10,800 and 16,200 new spaces will be necessary, depending on the development program and parking ratios used. (The proponent states that the following parking ratio ranges should adequately support the Master Plan project’s parking demand into the future: residential, 0.5 to 1.0 spaces per unit; office, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; lab, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; hotel: 0.5 spaces per room; retail: 0.5 spaces per 1,000 SF). We are encouraged by the relatively low proposed parking ratios for the residential units, as well as HYM’s broader recognition that auto trip rates are likely to decrease over time. The final residential parking ratio should be as close to 0.5 spaces per unit as possible and we look forward to reviewing HYM’s TDM plans as part of the DEIR. Any strategies and mitigation measures proposed must further enhance walkability, bikeability and transit access, while reducing single occupancy vehicle use and the associated need for parking.

Exploring opportunities for bus/shuttle connectivity and related pedestrian access

HYM notes that there are several MBTA bus lines (450, 459 and 119) along Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue within a half-mile walk of the project site, and that “there are opportunities to expand MBTA bus service into the project site and provide for internal site transportation/shuttle to further improve access to public transit” as the Master Plan project is built out. The proponent should further explore and detail these options as part of their TDM plans in the DEIR, as increased utilization of MBTA buses and/or shuttles can reduce single occupancy vehicle use. An analysis of bus/shuttle options should examine the potential for increased service on existing MBTA bus lines and associated changes in ridership, as well as the potential to service the neighborhoods surrounding the project site. The proponent should also clarify their plans for investing in such services, whether through funding the MBTA or their own shuttles.

Ensuring that pedestrians can safely and comfortably walk to and from bus/shuttle stops is critical to ensuring that these services will be utilized. Ideally bus/shuttle stops will be located within a quarter-mile of the project site to maximize their usage. We appreciate HYM’s commitment to improving sidewalks adjacent to the project site to meet ADA standards and to include street trees if feasible, as well as their acknowledgement of the need for mitigation measures and infrastructure improvements at the site’s primary vehicular access points (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way). The proponent states that “geometric and traffic signal improvements will be recommended at both of these intersections to optimize traffic operations.”

Improvements at these locations must also address pedestrian safety and traffic calming. HYM plans to widen Tomasello Way and Route 1A as part of the Master Plan improvements, yet there are no crosswalks across Route 1A near the project site and the crosswalk across Tomasello Way at Route 1A is already 140 feet wide with minimal pedestrian refuge. Any signal and roadway upgrades at this location and near other shuttle/bus stops must provide safe pedestrian crossings and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. Long crossing distances should be reduced as much as possible using curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges should be created and enhanced to provide protected waiting areas. In extreme circumstances, the proponent might consider working with the MBTA to relocate bus stops to more pedestrian-friendly locations.

Creating a walkable project site that meets Complete Streets standards

In addition to leveraging pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line, the proponent has integrated walkability and pedestrian connectivity into many other aspects of their redevelopment proposal. These include creating a new interior street network on site that meets Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) Complete Streets guidelines, developing a system of multi-use ADA-compliant paths and trails that connects to adjacent neighborhoods and regional path networks, and activating the public realm with open space amenities and extensive ground-floor retail. Creating streets, sidewalks and paths that accommodate road users of all abilities and travel modes is critical to developing more livable and walkable communities, so WalkBoston is pleased to see a commitment to these issues in the EPNF.

We look forward to seeing more detailed plans for the interior streets, paths, intersections and signals as part of the DEIR. The interior streets should be designed to ensure that vehicles follow a 20 mile per hour speed limit to maximize walking safety as well as walking and transit mode shares. They should also include additional measures for pedestrian safety and traffic calming, including narrow vehicular travel lane widths, frequent and well-marked crosswalks, and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. We encourage the proponent to maintain their current plans to not have vehicular access to the project site from Bennington Street or Waldemar Avenue, thus prioritizing multimodal connectivity and reducing the potential for increased local traffic.

Improving pedestrian safety throughout the project study area

The need for traffic mitigation is not limited to the immediate project vicinity and access points. To this end, HYM states that a mitigation program will likely focus on improvements to roadway geometry, traffic signals, and multimodal mobility along the broader Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue corridors, as well as Furlong Drive, the on-site roadway network, and other nearby intersections. The proponent also notes that many of the broader study area intersections are located within Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) clusters and thus are potentially subject to Road Safety Audits (RSAs) per Massachusetts Department of Transportation guidelines. WalkBoston looks forward to reviewing a more detailed discussion of the Master Plan project mitigation phasing and recommendations for the timing of specific roadway improvement projects as part of the DEIR. We are also available to participate in future RSAs as needed. Once again, we encourage utmost consideration for pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures as part of any improvement packages.

Thank you again for considering these issues and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate President Harriette Chandler
Senator Joseph Boncore, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative William Strauss, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative Adrian Madaro
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, Transportation Chair
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, District 1
Revere City Council President Jessica Giannino
Revere City Councilor Steven Morabito, Economic Development and Planning Chair
Revere City Councilor Joanne McKenna, Ward 1
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacey Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance
Andre Leroux, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
Richard Fries, MassBike Marc Ebuña, TransitMatters
Chris Dempsey, Transportation for Massachusetts