Tag: Roxbury

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 Jamaica Plain and Roxbury Draft Plan:JP/ROX

Comments on Jamaica Plain and Roxbury Draft Plan:JP/ROX

August 19, 2016

Marie Mercurio, Senior Planner
Boston Redevelopment Authority
1 City Hall Sq, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02210

Re: Draft PLAN: JP/ROX

Dear Marie:

LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union and WalkBoston appreciate the work the BRA has done thus far to ensure that neighborhood development in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury aligns with residents’ wishes and is done in a sustainable way that preserves neighborhood character. However, our organizations believe that the policies and recommendations outlined in the BRA’s draft plan can be improved. Washington Street is a high-density, transit-accessible corridor, with low rates of automobile usage and a high share of residents traveling via transit, bicycle and walking. The policies and recommendations outlined in the BRA’s report should further advance these aspects of the neighborhood. Please find comments from the LivableStreets Advocacy Committee, WalkBoston, Boston Cyclists Union, and local residents below. Many of these recommendations align with work WalkBoston is pursuing in partnership with the Elderly Commission’s Age-Friendly Boston initiative and other city agencies to improve safety and comfort for seniors and other vulnerable populations.

First, we would like to recommend general improvements for the area in the following categories: Policy Initiatives, Pedestrian Safety and Infrastructure, Bicycle Infrastructure, Transit Improvements, Placemaking and the Public Realm, and Parking. In addition, we recommend a number of specific infrastructure improvements throughout the PLAN: JP/ROX study area, which are detailed later in this letter.

Policy Initiatives

 Commit to Complete Streets, Vision Zero, and other policies and standards that the City of Boston has adopted – don’t just aspire. Roadway design should prioritize pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and personal motor vehicles, in that order. Vehicular capacity/level of service should not trump other needs.

o Page 120 of the draft plan mentions that traffic calming, improved sidewalk and pedestrian crossings, and bike facilities should be created “where possible.” This statement does not go far enough and the words “where possible” should be eliminated from the final plan. Boston has committed to implementing Vision Zero, which requires that streets be engineered in ways that prevent vulnerable road users from being killed by motor vehicles when motor vehicle operators make errors. The term “where possible” implies that nothing will change on a street unless no parking spaces are lost and motor vehicle traffic speeds are not impacted.

 Implement fast and flexible programs for infrastructure that advance Complete Streets and Vision Zero goals. Use flex posts, paint and other inexpensive and temporary materials to demonstrate innovative roadway treatments such as physically separated bike lanes, curb extensions, and pedestrian plazas.

Pedestrian Safety and Infrastructure

 Improve pedestrian safety through appropriately configured WALK signals.

o All WALK signals should be on automatic recall, unless there are streets with very low pedestrian volumes.

o All WALK signals should be concurrent with traffic, unless there are high volumes of turning traffic or special circumstances (e.g. locations near schools or senior centers) that should be further reviewed.

o All concurrent WALK signals should provide a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) of 6 seconds.

o All WALK signals should provide countdowns that give sufficient time for pedestrians to cross the street. At major intersections the timing should be set to accommodate the MUTCD standard of a pedestrian walking 3.0 ft/sec. (MUTCD Section 4E.06, Paragraph 14)

 Establish an aggressive minimum standard for distance between crosswalks (signalized or not) and corresponding installation of new crosswalks at minor intersections and midblock locations.

 Create landscaped pedestrian refuge areas where possible at unsignalized crosswalks.

 Install sidewalk bump-outs at all pedestrian crossings where appropriate for pedestrian safety.

Bicycle Safety and Infrastructure

 Determine feasibility of implementing separated bike lanes along all collector and arterial streets.

o On page 133 of the draft plan, fig. 89 and fig. 90 depict two different conceptual drawings of bike infrastructure. We recommend the fig. 90 conceptual drawing of a separated bike lane.

 Create bike lanes/separated bike lanes, not sharrows, on major streets, and build as much as possible using paint on existing streets.

 Expand Hubway service and stations according to station density requirements and locations within a quarter mile radius of MBTA stations, including at transit hub Forest Hills MBTA Station.

 Bicycle and pedestrian access to the Southwest Corridor should remain as safe as it is today or be made safer.

Transit Improvements

 Study additional options for improving buses and expanding BRT. Options may include extending the Silver Line from Dudley through Forest Hills as an alternative to the BRT corridor planned for Columbus Ave.

 Use transit priority signals and far-side bus stops to provide better bus service, instead of queue jump lanes as currently recommended in the draft plan. Far-side stops are better for bus operations and also help to daylight crosswalks to oncoming traffic.

 Ensure that buses are accommodated if future development takes place at the Arborway Yard and either redesign or relocate bus operations. The memorandum of agreement between the City and the MBTA calls for building a permanent $250 million facility to house 118 buses.

Placemaking and the Public Realm

 Install attractive, high-visibility, main-street-style, pedestrian-scale lighting to not only provide better illumination but to help visually narrow the street and signal to motorists that they are not on a high-speed arterial but in a village/neighborhood commercial center.

 Install attractive and coordinated benches/street furniture, parklets, public art and other placemaking features

 Minimize curb cuts through use of shared driveways and ensure that they have the tightest possible curb radii and level sidewalks.

 Create more robust incentives to encourage store owners to remove metal security covers for storefronts or to replace them with less visually obtrusive interior-mounted alternatives.

 Where appropriate, require setbacks for larger buildings to accommodate wider sidewalks and sidewalk cafes. Any residential or non-storefront, non-active groundfloor uses permitted to front on Washington St should require deeper, well landscaped setbacks, such as those along Marlborough St. in the Back Bay.


 Conduct a comprehensive neighborhood parking study to assess the proper regulations needed neighborhood wide.

o Regulate on-street parking in business districts for 15% vacancy using a combination of time limits and metering to encourage turnover.

o Assess residential streets, especially near transit stations, for viability of resident parking zones. Permits could be required during the day if people from outside the neighborhood are parking there during the day. Make residential permits required during the day and/or during the night if overnight parking by nonresidents seems to be an issue.

o Institute recommended parking ratios ranging from 0 to .7, consistent with research suggesting parking ratios of .5 to .7 spaces per unit in neighborhoods with similar mode share and vehicle ownership rates as this section of Boston. “Decoupling” usage of private parking spaces from specific residential units and encouraging commercial shared parking can further extend the usefulness of existing and proposed spaces.

o Provide enough loading/drop-off/pick-up zones to reduce/eliminate double parking.

o Explore maximums for off-street parking.

o Reducing parking would save residents more than $8,500/year, which will aid the BRA’s goal of affordable housing. (This is based on the estimate that car ownership costs an average of $8,500/year.)

In addition to these general recommendations, the plan should also address and mention specific infrastructure improvements to existing deficiencies, including the following:

 Create a road diet for Columbus Ave between Egleston Sq. and Jackson Sq.

 Add bump outs/curb extensions to narrow crossing distances and increase turning radii for vehicles turning right onto Washington St from Columbus Ave.

 Add visual cues such as rapid flashing beacons and other high visibility signage to slow northbound traffic on Columbus Ave coming downhill through Egleston Square at Washington St.

 Add and improve crosswalks throughout the study area.

o Add raised crosswalks on all side streets along Washington and Columbus.

o Add a crosswalk, preferably raised, with an in-street pedestrian crossing sign across Washington St at Beethoven St and across Washington St at Kenton Rd.

o Add crosswalks with in-street pedestrian crossing signs across Columbus Ave between Washington St and Seaver St, and across Washington St between Columbus Ave and Dimock St, to enhance pedestrian connections to and surrounding Egleston Square. (Currently there are very few crosswalks across the major arterials of Columbus Ave and Washington St along the aforementioned roadway segments. New crosswalks may be located at side streets or midblock, depending on the circumstances.)

 Fix the WALK signal across Columbus Ave outside Walnut Park Apartments (between Weld Ave and Dixwell St) to shorten wait time and provide regular pedestrian phase. Currently the wait for a WALK cycle is very long even when the button is pushed.  Widen the sidewalks on Amory Street from the Brewery Complex to School Street to a minimum of 8’.

 Establish wayfinding and pedestrian/bicycle links connecting and directing people from the Southwest Corridor, T Stations and Washington St to Franklin Park.

o Page 130 of the draft plan states that connections should be enhanced between the Southwest Corridor and Franklin Park. Maps and diagrams of proposed improvements should be updated to reflect this in the final plan.

o Page 152 of the draft plan cites proposed improvements for Egleston Square, including “new bike lanes, crosswalks, and connections to the Southwest Corridor.” Ideally these bike facilities should be two-way and protected from vehicle traffic. As with connections between the SW Corridor and Franklin Park, such proposed improvements should be consistently mentioned throughout all maps presented in the final plan.

 Install parking meters with 12-or-more hour maximum time on all streets within 1000’ of a train station to better manage commuter parking.

Thank you again for presenting to our group in July and for this opportunity to comment on the draft plan. We appreciate your consideration of our recommendations.


Boston Cyclists Union
LivableStreets Alliance

Comments on the re-design of Melnea Cass Boulevard

Comments on the re-design of Melnea Cass Boulevard

June 8, 2015

Patrick Hoey, Transportation Planner
Boston Transportation Department
Room 721
Boston City Hall
Boston, MA 02201-2021

Dear Mr. Hoey,

WalkBoston is pleased that the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) conducted a public meeting that provided an opportunity for area residents and others to comment on the re-design of Melnea Cass Boulevard (MCB).

WalkBoston is well aware of the tremendous progress that has been made in trying to plan for and design an inviting, practical, pedestrian-friendly Melnea Cass Boulevard that will serve the local community as a city street and neighborhood asset. WalkBoston nevertheless finds that, despite significant improvements, the redesigned boulevard will continue to function primarily as an arterial roadway and not as a community-enhancing street.

The city’s decision to “reserve” a major swath of land along MCB for a possible future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor seems to WalkBoston to be an obstacle to the boulevard’s ability to serve the neighboring community as well as it could.

As we have discussed, buildings sited close to a street will fall within a driver’s line of vision. This perceived narrowing of the street’s width automatically slows speeds and makes it easier, safer and more practical for people to cross the road and better use the corridor. BTD’s current approach of reserving open land for BRT passage means that buildings will not be developed bordering the boulevard, thus seriously compromising its ability to function as a multimodal city street.

Practically speaking, if the “Urban Ring” BRT is ever built, its passage through the high-income areas of the Longwood Medical Area, Museum of Fine Arts, Fenway, Boston University, Back Bay, Charles River and Cambridge will doubtless run through a tunnel. Putting the one-mile Roxbury MCB portion in a tunnel would be a much easier cut-and-cover proposition than the rest of the route. Roxbury deserves this option so that new buildings can be built closer to Melnea Cass and the road will be humane in scale.

If land is not reserved for the BRT the width of the re-designed roadway corridor can be substantially reduced, resulting in the preservation of many trees, especially those on the north side of the roadway. For example, between Shawmut and Washington the roadway is shifted 40-60 feet north to provide a 40-foot wide sidewalk in front of Parcel 9. We assume this excessively wide space is incorporated into the design to preserve the BRT corridor.

However, if this sidewalk’s width were reduced it would not be necessary to remove many mature trees. WalkBoston also notes that the inclusion of parking on several blocks along MCB results in a wider roadway corridor that would provide space for a future BRT. However, the parking also results in the removal of mature trees. Developments along MCB have on-site parking, such as Tropical Foods. Hence WalkBoston questions the need for creating new parking on MCB.

We support the proposed design elements mentioned in the letter from the Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard (FMCB) – narrower curb radii (like those currently on MCB), improved signal timing and leading pedestrian indicators, and raised roadway crossings on streets intersecting with MCB. We also support recommendations made by Livable Streets to reduce traffic signal cycles to 80 seconds to encourage walker compliance, and bus stops located within 50 feet of a crosswalk and on the far side of the traffic signal to provide for signal priority. WalkBoston would like to discuss with BTD and its consultants how signal timing will work for pedestrians and how crosswalks might be straightened to shorten crossing distances. At high pedestrian crash locations such as MCB/Washington, perhaps an all-way WALK would be a safer signalization option for walkers, provided wait times were a reasonable length.

WalkBoston suggests wide crosswalk widths of 14-15 feet (such as those in Peabody Square in Dorchester and Huntington Avenue at the YMCA) with generous vehicle stop lines. We would also like BTD to assess whether more space could be found for wider sidewalks, for instance at areas like Tremont to Harrison Avenue and other locations.

Finally, we would like a fuller description of what is planned from Hampden Street to Massachusetts Avenue — trees, sidewalk, bicycle lanes, why parking has been added with the consequent loss of trees.

The issues of tree plantings and tree removal are of vital concern for pedestrians. Our 2013 summer walk showed how important mature trees are in providing shade and protection from traffic along MCB. WalkBoston hopes the City can find ways to preserve as many trees as possible as described above. Wider, tree-lined sidewalks are more appealing than specially built median strips put in place for trees. In our experience trees and plantings in medians rarely flourish, or even survive, and most importantly, they do not provide shade for walkers.

Currently the plans show two-way bicycle lanes on both sides of MCB. If the lanes were reduced to one lane on each side, the cycle track could be reduced from 10 to 8 feet or less, again, resulting in the preservation of trees. As suggested by other commenters, WalkBoston urges the layout of curving pathways for bicyclists and walkers in order to preserve mature trees.

We are uncertain about the redesign of this intersection and the elimination of the slip lane. It seems a desirable change until one considers the effect of two right-turn lanes into MCB plus an additional lane added on the Tremont crossing. Both seem to create difficult conditions for pedestrians. Thus, we request traffic information in order to help us to assess the impacts of this design. (A recent Transportation Research Board publication may provide some helpful information on pedestrian impacts and benefits from slip lanes: A Report on the Development of Guidelines for Applying Right-Turn Slip Lanes – available at: http://www.trb.org/SafetyHumanFactors/Blurbs/172629.aspx)

WalkBoston would like to see these and other adjustments to the current design in order to further improve the pedestrian experience along the redesigned boulevard. We would, of course, be glad to assist in this design effort.

In order to address our detailed questions regarding the MCB design, we request that you schedule a working session with BTD and its consultants. WalkBoston understands that the FMCB have requested or will soon request a similar meeting and we would be happy to have a combined BTD, FMCB and WalkBoston meeting on these areas of concern.

Thank you so much for the City’s detailed and extensive work with WalkBoston and the Roxbury community on this important street. We believe the outcome will be better for everyone.


Dorothea Hass and Ann Hershfang

cc: Representative Byron Rushing
Representative Gloria Fox
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz
Austin Blackmon, Environmental Cabinet Chief
Councilor Tito Jackson
Councilor Ayanna Pressley
Councilor Michael Flaherty
Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard
Livable Streets
Boston Cyclists Union
United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury
Whittier Tenants Task Force
Madison Park Development Corporation

Codman Academy Walk Audit

Codman Academy Walk Audit

In 2014, a student was struck and seriously injured on Epping Street, a one block, one lane roadway bordering the Codman Academy. The 9th grade student got off an MBTA bus and started walking across Epping Street and was hit by a car. The student was hospitalized.

Epping Street is a one-way street used by drivers to avoid traffic signals at Norfolk and Talbot. This usage represents safety hazards for the students and faculty at Codman Academy. This report looks at the safety benefits of closing Epping Street.

Information for this report was collected and analyzed by 10th grade students at Codman Academy as part of their physics and math classes in the fall and winter of 2014-2015. They were assisted in this effort by staff from WalkBoston, a non-profit walking advocacy organization.

Read the full report here:

Comment letter: Supporting the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

Comment letter: Supporting the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

July 24, 2014

Wenda Tai, Real Estate Department
Boston Housing Authority
52 Chauncy St., 8th floor
Boston, MA 02111

Dear Ms. Tai: WalkBoston strongly supports the Implementation Phase of the Whittier Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative comes at a very opportune time. It presents a unique chance to build upon the many transportation and development projects that have begun in Roxbury– the planning area for the Whittier Choice Neighborhood– over the past five years. The City of Boston’s commitment to encouraging walking, bicycling and transit via the Complete Streets Policy adopted two years ago, continues to contribute to the revitalization of Dudley Square and illustrates the benefits of including easy pedestrian access in the Whittier Choice Neighborhood Initiative.

In the coming year, the Complete Streets principles will be applied to the re-design of Melnea Cass, an arterial boulevard in the northern section of the project area. The community has already engaged in a three year planning process of re-design, and implementation funds are available. Alongside re-building Whittier Street Housing, the Initiative can use Complete Streets strategies to achieve the Initiative’s goal of integrating the residents of Whittier Street Housing and Madison Park Village into the overall Roxbury community. Such strategies include slowing traffic on Melnea Cass Boulevard and making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross Melnea Cass Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard and Tremont Street.

After working with many community groups and local residents, WalkBoston agrees with and endorses the recommendations of residents about improving walking connections linking Madison Park Village, Whittier Street Housing and nearby destinations, notably Dudley Square and parks and fitness facilities. In several community meetings that WalkBoston attended, we noted that residents did not indicate high levels of usage or identification with nearby Ruggles Station and the adjoining Southwest Corridor Park– a five mile linear park that includes walking, jogging and bicycle paths as well as tennis and basketball courts, and playgrounds. WalkBoston firmly recommends that a key portion of the Initiative should enable easy access to this major recreational resource.

Residents did express strong interest in safe and direct walking routes to Dudley Square, the commercial and historical heart of Roxbury. To create the lively, human scale community that residents envision, safe and convenient walking connections need to be made between housing and nearby destinations.

In addition to Dudley Station, which provides bus service throughout the City, the Square has restaurants, shops and social services. Dudley Square is also experiencing a renaissance as  historical buildings that defined the Square, the Ferdinand, Waterman and Curtis buildings, are being or have been renovated and new office uses like the Boston School Department will relocate there.

WalkBoston looks forward to working with the community on the following walking projects during the Implementation Phase.

1. Provide better street- and sidewalk-level visibility for many of the area’s recreational facilities that are not highly identifiable because of the superblock on Malcolm X between Shawmut and Columbus/Tremont. The Campus High Urban Renewal parcel is a barrier not only for abutters, but other residents of Lower Roxbury.

2. Improve walking connections for residents of Whittier Housing and Madison Park to reach Dudley Square. Residents say the most highly used walking route is along Ruggles Street that runs directly from the housing developments to Dudley. Of particular concern is the intersection of Ruggles/Shawmut where drivers along one-way Shawmut fail to yield to walkers.

3. Improve walking connections between housing and the Post Office at the Shawmut Avenue/Malcolm X Intersection and the Social Security Office on Malcolm X Blvd near Dudley Street.

4. Create a more direct and visibly obvious route from Madison Park and Whittier to the track facilities at Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. The Athletic Center is a major recreational resource for this neighborhood. Residents can easily access these facilities without crossing any major roadways, but its location is not highly visible.

5. Assess the potential of the proposed Fitness Loop to meet resident needs/interest for a formalized walking route. The Loop would circle the Whittier/Madison Park neighborhood, running along Malcolm X Blvd, Tremont Street, Melnea Cass Blvd and Washington Street. While the Loop layout has an aesthetic appeal, pedestrians do not generally seek out walkways along heavily traveled roadways and transportation corridors. Instead they prefer walking routes that incorporate multiple destinations, such as shops and restaurants. Additionally, cars tend to travel much more slowly along such routes than along the arterial roadways that make up much of the proposed fitness route.

In summary, WalkBoston looks to the Implementation Plan to address the creation of improved pedestrian access through short blocks, safe street crossings, and improved connections to the many extant recreational facilities in the area.


Dorothea Hass
Senior Project Manger

cc: Patrick Hoey, Boston Transportation Department
Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard