Tag: traffic signal

Comments on July 2018 Signal Policy

Comments on July 2018 Signal Policy

August 21, 2018

Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets
Gina Fiandaca, Commissioner of Transportation
Boston City Hall
Boston, MA 02201

Dear Chief Osgood and Commissioner Fiandaca:

WalkBoston is writing with extensive comments on the City’s July 2018 Traffic Signal Operations Design Guidelines. We are glad that this document is getting updated, and especially appreciate the requirement that new traffic signal equipment allow for maximum flexibility for signal phasing.

However, we are concerned that there was no comment and review process for the Guidelines, something that we discussed with BTD staff a number of times over the last several years.

Of even greater concern is the content of the Guidelines – they do not reflect the City’s own Complete Streets Guidelines, its Vision Zero efforts, or the policies and practices set forth in the GoBoston 2030 Action Plan. We also note that there is nothing in the Guidelines about bike signals.

We urge BTD to modify the new Guidelines to reflect the City’s established commitment to walking by making LPIs, No Turn on Red, and automatic WALK the default policy and therefore prioritizing walking in Boston.

As stated in the GoBoston 2030 Action Plan (page 140), the City will take the following approach:

  • “Pedestrian-First traffic signals – make walk-signals intuitive and give people walking a head start.”
  • “Traffic-signals will…shorten wait times at crossings and make signals adapt in real time to pedestrian behavior and flows”
  • “Automatic pedestrian phases – not requiring people to push a button – will be standard”
  • “Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) will allow people to start crossing the street and be seen before cars are permitted to move or turn with a green light”

Our comments below are organized as follows (sorted by section and page of the Guidelines):

  1. Areas where we believe that the Guidelines do not set forth best practices and policies and which we urge the City to review and possibly revise;
  2. Questions that we have about how the Guidelines will function. In some instances, we have specific recommendations for changes, and in others we look to you for possible solutions.

SECTION: “1. Objective

  1. Page 1: Add an objective to provide consistency among Boston’s signals to the greatest extent feasible. The existing significant inconsistency among intersections causes confusion, reduces compliance by all users, and contributes to unsafe conditions at intersections.
  2. Page 1: Add an objective to provide automatic pedestrian WALK recall at all signalized locations, and to eliminate the need for pedestrian recall push buttons from all signals UNLESS they are providing service at very low use intersections or at mid-block crossings that are only activated by a recall button. During the transition period while more intersections are being set to automatic recall, signage/stickers should be provided indicating to pedestrians the hours when the buttons are operable and the hours when automatic recall is operating.
  3. Page 1: Add an objective on “Smart Signals.” There is nothing on this topic in these guidelines even though the Boston Planning and Development Agency passed a Smart Utilities Policy in June 2018 that included a section on Adaptive Signal Technology. We suggest adding: “Smart Signals” will not be deployed in the City of Boston unless they can ‘see’ and serve the needs of people walking and biking as well as people in vehicles.

Page 1: The Guidelines state that they will be applied to traffic signals that are “owned and operated” by the City. Will the Guidelines also cover traffic signals owned by others (MassDOT and DCR), but are operated by the City?

SECTION: “3. Traffic Operations Analysis

Page 2: Traffic Operations Analysis “BTD approved methodology” is referenced. Can you provide a copy of this methodology to WalkBoston, and provide a link in the Guidelines?

Page 2: Are the stated Measures of Effectiveness (MOEs) the correct ones? How were they chosen? Including “95% Vehicles Queues” does not seem like the appropriate metric for multimodal operations as it gives too much priority to vehicle movement. Should the requirement be to look at a multimodal level of service? How will BTD ensure that the needs of pedestrians are always included in the analysis?

SECTION: “4. Operational Considerations

Overall, LPI+Concurrent WALK should be the default signal guidance. Many of our comments throughout this section propose to flip the stated considerations and default to LPI+Concurrent WALK. FHWA has identified LPIs as proven countermeasures for reducing crashes and improving pedestrian safety.

  1. Page 2: (a) & (b) – Operational Considerations should be guided by ensuring pedestrian safety, which can require shorter signal cycle lengths. This may conflict with the stated goal of “maintaining adequate (vehicle) LOS.” We are concerned that striving for a V/C ratio of 0.85 (“D”) during peak hours may have an adverse impact on pedestrians in busy locations both during peak hours and throughout the rest of the day and night.
  2. Page 3: (f)Concurrent WALK should be considered where any of the …” should be replaced with: “Concurrent WALK will be used where any of the …”
  3. Page 3: (f)Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) should be considered where any of the following criteria are met” should be replaced with: “Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) will be used wherever there are concurrent signals to increase pedestrian safety and provide consistency for all users.”
  4. Page 3: LPI+Concurrent WALK should be the default. Bulleted criteria should be edited as shown below:
    • LPI+Concurrent WALK phasing will improve operations (i.e. reduce delays to both vehicles and pedestrians) – Should be replaced with: LPI+Concurrent WALK phasing will improve pedestrian safety; it is an FHWA proven safety countermeasure for reducing crashes.
    • Delete: Conflicting turning vehicle volumes (the sum of left and/or right) are greater than 150. LPI will add safety no matter what the turning volumes are and should not ONLY be used at high volume intersections; consideration should be given to also adding a protected, lagging left or lagging right turn if needed for pedestrian safety.
    • Delete: Pedestrian volumes are high (more than 250 pedestrians crossing per hour in at least one crosswalk). Delete in its entirety, LPI should not ONLY be used at high volume crosswalks. Other cities routinely include LPI at all signalized intersections.
    • Delete: At intersections within”safety zones”… Delete in its entirety, LPI will add safety no matter what the surrounding land uses are and should not ONLY be used at specified intersections.
  5. Page 4: Exclusive WALK Guidance – “No Turn on Red restrictions should be considered”– Should be replaced with: “No Turn on Red restrictions must be in place.” If there are exclusive WALK signals pedestrians assume that they are safe to walk and do not need to watch out for turning vehicles. That is the whole idea behind exclusive signal operations.
  6. Page 4: (g) Protected or Protected + Permissive left-turn – See question below about lagging lefts. We are not sure how this would affect this guidance, but flag this as needing review.
  7. Page 4: (i) No Turn on Red restrictions should be replaced to reflect best practices. As noted in GoBoston 2030, “Since 2010, Washington DC has installed over 160 LPIs at intersections. Anecdotally, DDOT found that these were more effective when used in concert with No Turn on Red restrictions for vehicles.”
  8. Page 4: (j) “analyze intersections where APS should be installed.” Should be replaced with: Every intersection that requires signals should have Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) added when it is being rebuilt for accessibility. APS push buttons should not be conflated or confused with push buttons for recall for a WALK signal.
  9. Page 4: (k) “Pedestrian Recall should be considered…” Should be replaced with: “Pedestrian recall will be the default for all intersections except those with very low pedestrian use.” As noted above, an objective of the signal policy should be to provide automatic pedestrian WALK recall at all signalized locations and to eliminate a requirement for pedestrian push buttons from all signals UNLESS they are providing service at very low use intersections or at mid-block crossings that are only activated by a recall button.

Page 3 (f): It is unclear why “YELLOW TRAP” is listed in the section on LPI+Concurrent WALK phasing. If there is concern about drivers unable to turn left due to large number of pedestrians in crosswalks – a protected, lagging left turn for people driving should be considered. These issues should be given an explanation on Page 4, section (g). We were under the presumption that the City was shifting to lagging left turn arrows to reduce risks for pedestrians and allow additional LPI+concurrent WALK signals, based on the implementation of these measures on Mass Ave throughout the Back Bay. LPI Guidance – revise regarding leading lefts. (See comment directly above). If by “where its operation would have a detrimental effect on other modes of transportation,” the real objective is to allow vehicles to turn, consider having the left turn be a lagging left in order to allow for both movements.

Page 4: (j) the “City’s Accessible Pedestrian Signal Policy” is referenced. Can you provide a copy of this Policy to WalkBoston, and provide a link in the Guidelines?

Page 4: (h) “If a multi-phase pedestrian WALK is the most feasible alternative” is very vague and confusing; what does this refer to? If a multi-phase crossing is thought to be needed due to transit priority, safety for pedestrians, or moving more vehicles through the intersection those tradeoffs and considerations should be indicated.

Page 5: (m) Overnight Flashing Mode Policy – Several serious and fatal crashes (including on Commonwealth Ave in the Back Bay, April 2017, and on Columbus Ave, 2018) – occurred where flashing mode was considered a factor. There was discussion at the Vision Zero Task Force that the City was considering a move away from use of this mode. How were the hours of 3AM to 6AM chosen for this policy?

We look forward to hearing from you soon and working toward revisions that will guide the City toward safer streets.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman, Executive Director
Dorothea Hass, Director of Special Projects
Brendan Kearney, Communications Director

City Council President Andrea Campbell
City Council Planning, Development and Transportation Chair Michelle Wu
City Council Planning, Development and Transportation Vice Chair Frank Baker
Commissioner Emily Shea
Commissioner Kristin McCosh
BTD Director of Engineering John DeBenedictis
BTD Director of Planning Vineet Gupta
Becca Wolfson, Peter Furth, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Charlie Denison, LivableStreets Alliance
Galen Mook, MassBike

Dockless scooters have landed. Here’s what that means

Dockless scooters have landed. Here’s what that means

We’ve been thinking about writing about this issue for a while, but a little bird told us that fleets of dockless scooters were dropped unannounced into a few communities in Metro Boston today – which is why we’re publishing this on a Friday afternoon!

WalkBoston makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. New mobility choices are being introduced every day. Transportation options that are safe and get more people out of single occupancy vehicles can be positive additions to the mobility mix.

WalkBoston’s position

Sidewalks should be reserved for people walking or using wheelchairs. If users of micro-mobility devices are on the sidewalk, it is likely that the street is unsafe – and that needs to be fixed. We like how Walk SF framed this discussion: “The greatest threat to pedestrians is, of course, cars and trucks. The potential harm that automobiles can inflict on people is why Walk SF works every single day to make our streets and sidewalks safe – and make Vision Zero a reality.”

Where things stand in MA: July 2018

  • Smart phones have made on-demand mobility options easier to access.
  • More types of shared bikes: docked bikeshare bikes (BlueBikes, formerly Hubway) & dockless bikeshare (Lime, Spin, ofo, Pace/Zagster, AntBicycle, etc).
  • More types of wheeled options: scooters (Lime, Bird, etc), one-wheels, electric longboards/skateboards, etc. Additional mobility assistance devices that serve people with mobility impairments are also coming soon.
  • Longer-lasting, smaller batteries have made electric scooters, electric pedal-assist and fully electric bicycles (e-bikes) possible. These are not just being used for short term rentals in a shared ecosystem; people are also buying them for personal use.
  • Additionally, autonomous vehicle testing is underway in the city of Boston, with citywide testing recently granted; Massachusetts has also opened applications to test in 14 communities around the Commonwealth.

What cities and towns should do

Cities and towns can most effectively respond by rapidly implementing safety improvements that work, while also looking for win/win opportunities to advance mobility goals:

  1. Re-design streets to encourage slower speeds. The likelihood of a serious or fatal injury in a crash is drastically reduced when people are going slower.
  2. Create safe lanes for low speed travel. As more mobility options develop, a bike lane may be seen as the ideal place for their use. It can be, as long as users are going a speed that makes it safe and accessible to everyone else using it; at the same time, that lane needs to be a place where people feel safe and protected from larger vehicles.
  3. Ensure multi-use paths stay that way. Paths should be off limits to fully-motorized vehicles, no matter their fuel source. We recognize that these paths are linear parks that double as transportation corridors, but the parks should remain safe and comfortable places for people to enjoy. If electric pedal-assist bikes are allowed on multi-use paths, the paths should be low speed zones (10 mph). Any shared electric pedal-assist bikes should have a GPS-regulated governor to cap the speed. This technology is now being used as part of the new ValleyBike Share program in the Pioneer Valley.
  4. Create more bike and scooter parking so that people have a place to leave bikes and scooters and keep sidewalks and curb ramps clear for people walking, people using wheelchairs, and people with strollers or grocery carts.
    • Encourage (or require) mobility providers to provide parking or funding so that the municipality can add areas/corrals that fit into ongoing planning efforts.
    • Add more in-street bike parking on corners or near crosswalks to “daylight” the intersection. This can be a way to formalize the ‘no parking’ zone that exists close to intersections, while also improving sight lines. People can more easily see pedestrians who are waiting at a corner to cross if they are not blocked by a vehicle.
  5. Ensure that traffic signals work for everyone, not just people in cars. We have many reservations about “smart” or “adaptive” signals. Any signal timing changes should include a study of impacts on pedestrian safety and delay.
  6.  Rethink curb management. Delivery zones, short term drop-off/pick-up zones, flexible bike/scooter parking, food truck spots, temporary parklets, peak hour bus lanes, and other options are all on the table when the lane next to the curb is thought of as a flexible space rather than just a parking spot.

We look forward to continuing our conversations with municipalities and other stakeholders as they update regulations to respond to a changing mobility landscape. We also look forward to hearing from you about how WalkBoston should be weighing in on this and other issues that impact people walking!

Additional reading

Curbed: Don’t ban scooters. Redesign streets. Cities are regulating mobility startups, but ignoring the real problem—there’s still too much space for cars. (July 13, 2018)

Walk SF: Walk San Francisco Stands Up for sidewalks – our stance on electric scooters (June 27, 2018)

Slate: Give the Curb Your Enthusiasm. Worth billions but given away for free, the curb is arguably the single most misused asset in the American city—and one that, more than any giant investment in apps, sensors, or screens, can determine the future of transportation. (July 19, 2018)

Metro: Self-driving car testing expands in Boston, to 14 other Mass. cities and towns. Officials cleared the way to allow companies to test their autonomous vehicles on more Massachusetts roads. (June 22, 2018)

NACTO: NACTO Releases Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation As shared dockless bikes and scooters proliferate on city streets, guidelines aim to ensure the best outcomes for the public (July 11, 2018)

City of Boston: Autonomous Vehicles: Boston’s Approach (June 22, 2018)

Mass.gov: How to Test Autonomous Vehicles in Massachusetts (June 2018)

The Urbanist: Adaptive Signal System Kicks Pedestrians to the Curb (June 9, 2017)

Springfield – Liberty Heights Walk Assessment

Springfield – Liberty Heights Walk Assessment

On September 26, 2017, WalkBoston conducted a walk assessment in the Liberty Heights neighborhood of Springfield, with support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) Pedestrian Safety Planning Initiative for High-Fatality Communities. The goal of the walk assessment was to recommend improvements to the local built environment that improve pedestrian safety.

Read the full report here:

Comments on Beacon Street Redesign

Comments on Beacon Street Redesign

June 30, 2017

Gina Fiandaca, Commissioner
Boston Transportation Department
1 City Hall Sq., Suite 721
Boston, MA 02201

Re: Beacon Street Redesign

Dear Commissioner Fiandaca,

WalkBoston strongly supports the re-­design of Beacon Street to slow vehicular traffic and improve pedestrian safety. As the neighborhood expressed at the Public Meeting on June 12, 2017, the narrowing of the street will reduce the numerous traffic crashes, including pedestrian fatalities in the past several years. Moreover, the improvements will be implemented in the near term.

WalkBoston Supports Alternative 1, Option A
WalkBoston supports Alternative 1, the Preferred Design, which the neighborhood endorsed at the Public Meeting. This design calls for the removal of a travel lane, two one-­way travel lanes, a bicycle lane and parking on both sides of the street. The buffer between the bike and parking lanes will not only increase bicyclist safety, but also make cycling more comfortable.

Alternative 1 has two options at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue/Beacon Street. Of the two options, WalkBoston strongly supports Option A, which will retain the protected bike lane to Massachusetts Avenue and also preserve parking. Option B mixes bicycles and vehicles in order to provide a right hand turn for motorists. We believe the vehicle volumes do not necessitate this vehicular right turn and will be very dangerous for cyclists.

Traffic Signals Should Be Automatic with LPIs
Traffic signals in this downtown neighborhood should be automatic (no pushbuttons) and on throughout the 24-­hour period (except when signals are in flashing mode). WalkBoston also understands that leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) will be incorporated at all signalized locations. Finally, WalkBoston has noted that throughout the City, the concurrent green is on for a relatively short period of time. We request that the concurrent WALK remain throughout the concurrent vehicle green.

Increase Crossing Safety by Establishing No Right Turn on Red and Installing Tactical Medians
The City has installed No Right Turn on Red (NTOR) at intersections throughout the City where there are large volumes of pedestrians. We are pleased to see that the City is calling for NTOR at all intersections in this re-­‐designed section of Beacon Street.

Medians or refuge Islands provide safety at intersections for crossing pedestrians. WalkBoston requests that the City consider temporary medians through paint and flex posts at all crossings.

Re-­Assess Visitor and Resident Parking
At the Community Meeting many attendees asked that the City re­assess the assigned parking, which was established in the 1980s. The City expressed interest in working with the neighborhood to assess how curb space is currently used, and how a balance can be found to meet current resident, visitor, and delivery needs.

In summary, WalkBoston strongly supports the Alternative 1, Option A Design and looks forward to working with the City to implement and evaluate the design. Thank you for consideration of our comments.


Dorothea Hass
Sr. Project Manager

Comments on the DCR’s Arborway Proposals

Comments on the DCR’s Arborway Proposals

November 4, 2015

Mass DCR
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway Street
Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

WalkBoston Comments on the DCR’s Arborway Proposals

First of all, WalkBoston commends the DCR on its work to correct the serious safety issues to be found in the present Arborway configuration. We thoroughly endorse the project’s approach of channeling regional traffic to the center lanes and making the “carriageways” function as local, neighborhood streets with improved bicycle facilities and upgraded safety features and connections. We believe the proposed re-­design of the Arborway in Jamaica Plain will indeed improve bicycle and vehicular safety.

However, we are not convinced that the changes, taken together, will actually improve safety for people on foot. We are concerned about the multiple pedestrian crosswalks at the Kelley and Murray new roundabouts, which we fear may not improve safety and will certainly make walking across the Arborway much less convenient. Before WalkBoston can support this project we need to sit down with DCR and their consultants, Toole Design, to discuss the safety and increased walking trip times to traverse the roundabouts.

The crosswalks appear to have multiplied since the February 2015 design. For example, slip lanes to facilitate through traffic have been added at both Kelly and Murray Circles. At the new Kelly roundabout pedestrians wishing to walk from Pond Street to Orchard Street will need to traverse nine crosswalks in order to cross from one side of the Arborway to the other. Currently, pedestrians can do this in a simple, two-­step crossing with a pedestrian-­actuated traffic signal. (See below for more detailed discussion of this issue.)

Moreover, many transportation engineers question the safety of multiple lane roundabouts: “Multiple-­lane roundabouts lose many of the safety benefits of single-­lane roundabouts. In general, multi-­lane roundabouts are not recommended in areas with high levels of pedestrian and bicycle activity.” (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning 2015) We at WalkBoston are unfamiliar with any multi-­lane roundabouts in eastern Massachusetts that are truly pedestrian friendly and would interested to know of any examples DCR or its consultants have found in the course of the planning process. WalkBoston appreciates that the re-­design calls for raised crosswalks, which will function as a traffic calming measure, WalkBoston would nevertheless like DCR to consider the efficacy of a signalized, mid-­block crosswalk between Kelly and Murray Circles, similar to the mid-­block crosswalk near the Arnold Arboretum main entrance.

To make the same journey today, pedestrians from Moss Hill have two signalized crosswalks. One can hardly call the proposed configuration an improvement for someone on foot.

WalkBoston supports retention of the historic stone wall, however, if it is necessary to break through the wall in order to make a crucial connection to improve vehicular Kelley circulation, and then re-­build the new wall ends to look like the historic wall ends, WalkBoston would support this — and it’s likely that most local residents would, too. We do not think it is necessary to protect the stone walls in their entirety. The February plan for Kelley had a more logical connection from the roundabout to Orchard Street.

At the October public meeting, someone suggested that the new proposed parking lane on the carriageways be eliminated to enhance the parkway appearance. A surprising number of people agreed with this. WalkBoston strongly supports local parking on the carriageways for the following reasons:
Residents along the Arborway are entitled to have street parking for guests as residents on adjacent streets do.
Parking along the carriageways is a benefit for overflow, event parking for Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum. The demand was clearly present. Even though Kelley Circle is posted as “no parking”, visitors have habitually parked there when visiting Jamaica Pond.



WalkBoston remains deeply concerned about pedestrian safety and accessibility along the Arborway. The proposed DCR redesign is a major step forward for bicycle and vehicle safety and convenience. It is not as large a step forward for pedestrian safety and may be a step backward in terms of pedestrian friendliness and convenience. We believe very strongly that the Arborway should be designed to be a fully multimodal roadway with vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic treated on an equal basis. The parks and ponds in the area are a unique attraction and the area’s residential and commercial neighborhoods are well suited to walking and biking. The Arborway should support and promote both forms of transportation in order to prevent ever-­‐increasing vehicular traffic volumes and to meet the recreational and health goals of the Emerald Necklace of which it is an integral part.



Dorothea Hass, WalkBoston                                 Don Eunson, Jamaica Plain resident

cc: Julie Crockford, President
Emerald Necklace Conservancy.