Tag: walkability

The key to BRT success? Walking.

The key to BRT success? Walking.

By Joseph Cutrufo

Joseph Cutrufo is a former member of the WalkBoston staff and
current Director of Communications and Connecticut Policy at Tri-State
Transportation Campaign. 

In March 2015, Connecticut cut the ribbon on CTfastrak, New England’s first
bus rapid transit system. CTfastrak features a 9.4-mile bus-only guideway
which runs from downtown New Britain through Newington and West
Hartford to its terminus in downtown Hartford.

CTfastrak has outpaced ridership projections so far. But the real test for
CTfastrak will be whether it can transform the way people travel in greater
Hartford, where 81 percent of commuters drive to work alone — even higher
than the national average of 76 percent.

Not long after the system launched, prospective riders bemoaned the
lack of parking near stations. Predictably, the Connecticut Department of
Transportation responded by building more parking.

But when people won’t use the system due to a lack of parking, we shouldn’t
ask, “Where can we build more parking.” We should ask, “Why can’t people
get here without a car?” In greater Hartford, the answer is simple: the
neighborhoods surrounding CTfastrak stations aren’t dense enough, and the
streets in station areas don’t safely accommodate walking.

Some in the CTfastrak corridor recognize these challenges. The
City of New Britain hired a consultant to run a series of public workshops
to identify what kind of developments would be most appropriate for the
city’s three CTfastrak stations. And in West Hartford, town officials amended
local zoning regulations to allow mixed-used development around CTfastrak
stations, where much of the land is currently zoned for industrial uses.

But in suburban Newington, the town’s zoning board passed a moratorium
on “high density development” shortly after CTfastrak service launched.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has set aside funds to help speed along
transit-oriented development projects, but ultimately the region needs a
more holistic approach to making greater Hartford a more walkable region.
The state had a chance to start the process through legislation in 2015, but
a bill proposing a “Transit Corridor Development Authority” was viewed
unfavorably by towns that saw it as a threat to home rule.

That won’t be the end of the movement to unchain the greater Hartford area
from car-dominant planning. One place to look for inspiration is the city of
Hartford, where a major zoning overhaul seeks to undo a half-century in
which the city’s parking inventory increased by 30,000 as the population
declined by 40,000 people.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s Winter 2017 newsletter.

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Lead a Jane’s Walk this May in your neighborhood

Lead a Jane’s Walk this May in your neighborhood


Jane’s Walk is happening the first weekend of May (5th-6th-7th).
Last year, 1,000+ walks happened all over the globe!

Think of this as an opportunity to:

  • start a conversation with your neighbors,
  • continue highlighting safety issues that have been identified through initiatives like Boston’s Neighborhood Slow Streets application process
  • get outside and enjoy a weekend in May!

Create your walk idea on Janeswalk.org, or get in touch with us at WalkBoston (contact Brendan!). We’re happy to help you or your neighbors with suggestions, promote your walk, and answer any questions you may have.
We look forward to helping you get out walking!

Edit: We’ll add neighborhoods/cities/towns below that will be hosting walks on this post (and include links to the separate walks within the communities as we find out about them.) 

Boston – West End – “Jane’s Walk West End Tour”
Meet at the West End Museum
Saturday, May 6, 2pm

Boston – West Roxbury – “West Roxbury Walk Audit”
Meet at the Hastings Street Lot
Saturday, May 6, 2pm

Boston – Jamaica Plain – “Growing the City: Washington St from Forest Hills to Green St”
Meet at Brassica Kitchen & Cafe
Sunday, May 7, 11am

Boston – Roslindale – “Roslindale Gateway Path & proposed Blackwell Path Extension”
Meet at SE corner of the Arboretum (look for Walk UP Roslindale Banner)
Sunday, May 7, 1pm

Cambridge – “The Dense Layers of History in Old Cambridge”
Meet at Out of Town News Kiosk, Harvard Square
Saturday, May 6, 10:30am

Worcester – Jane Week (May 1 – 7, 2017) gives Worcester residents and visitors a chance to connect to each other, explore Worcester by foot and participate in interesting discussions on how we can enhance the design and function of our city. – 20+ events and walks throughout Worcester.

Lowell – “Labor Movement in Lowell”
Meet at Lowell National Park Visitor Center, 246 Market St
Saturday, May 6, 10:30am

Dedham – “Walking Tour of Proposed Dedham Heritage Rail Trail”
Meet at the parking lot by the football field/track on Whiting Ave
Sunday, May 7, 4:00pm
Saturday, May 13, 10:00am

Somerville – “A Metamorphosis of Industrial Buildings Along the Rails”
Kickoff to Somerville’s Preservation Month, ending at Aeronaut Brewery
Saturday, May 13, 9:30am

Boston – Jamaica Plain – “Walking Tour of Monument Square”
July 1 & August 19, 12:45pm

Start planning a Jane’s Walk near you

Start planning a Jane’s Walk near you

“No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at … suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk.”


Every year on the first weekend in May, people all over the world take part in Jane’s Walk. Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was a writer and activist best known for her writings about cities. Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), upended the ideas of modernist city planning and offered a new vision of diverse cities made for and by the people who live in them.

Jane’s Walk is a movement of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs. The walks get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbors. In 2016, over 1,000 Jane’s Walks took place in 212 cities around the world. This year, WalkBoston’s Brendan Kearney is acting as Massachusetts’ Organizer, helping people like you organize and lead a Jane’s Walk in Boston or anywhere in Massachusetts. For more information visit www.JanesWalk.org.

Transit-Walkability Collaborative Established

Transit-Walkability Collaborative Established

New coalition plans to promote walkable, transit-rich communities

America Walks announced today the formation of the Transit-Walkability Collaborative, whose purpose is to expand safe, healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities by harnessing the synergy between walkability and quality public transit service.

The nine founding members of the new coalition work at the national, state, and local level in the walkability and transit advocacy movements. They are Center for Transportation Excellence, American Public Transportation Association, National Association of Public Transportation Advocates, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Circulate San Diego, WalkDenver, Health by Design/Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit, WalkBoston, and America Walks. Each organization has signed on to a shared Statement of Purpose, which can be found on the America Walks web site here: http://bit.ly/2m4HpTV

The Transit-Walkability Collaborative notes that integrating walkability and public transit helps to create safe, affordable, and enjoyable neighborhoods, whose residents complete their daily activities while owning fewer vehicles and driving less often.  These communities experience significant public and private-sector cost savings, lower rates of traffic fatalities, reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, higher levels of physical activity, and a better quality of life – especially for low-income families.

“Walkability and transit advocacy complement each other and accomplish common goals neither can achieve on its own,” said Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director with America Walks and coordinator of the Collaborative. “By ensuring a high level of service for both walking and public transport, we stimulate mutually-reinforcing community benefits that help address a range of social problems – from health to economics to quality of life.”

The Transit-Walkability Collaborative has identified long-term objectives in the areas of research, communications, capacity-building, and policy change, and adopted a 2017 Action Plan.  One of the first priorities will be to conduct an environmental scan of walkability and transit advocacy groups, and then expand the circle further.  “We also plan to reach out to organizations with primary interests in bicycling, disabilities/access, social equity, public health, and smart growth,“ said Thomas.

Several upcoming events are being planned to stimulate more interest and discussion about the alignment of walkability and transit campaigns.  A fact sheet will be published in March in conjunction with a special webinar, and an online survey will be launched at the same time – to collect information about the ways walkability and transit advocates are collaborating around the country and what support they need.

About WalkBoston: WalkBoston makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and vibrant communities.

About the Transit-Walkability Collaborative:  The Transit-Walkability Collaborative exists to promote the benefits of walkable, transit-rich communities; to bring together transit and walkability advocates at the local, state, and national level; and to identify and implement programs and policies that simultaneously expand walkability and transit services in communities across the U.S.  The founding members are:

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Comment on EENF for The Office and Research Center and the Residences at Assembly

Comment on EENF for The Office and Research Center and the Residences at Assembly

November 23, 2016

Matthew Beaton, Secretary
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: MEPA Office
Analyst: Holly Johnson
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: EENF for The Office and Research Center and the Residences at Assembly – MEPA #15595

Dear Mr. Beaton,

WalkBoston is a 501©(3) non-profit, pedestrian advocacy organization that makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts. We have reviewed the EENF and offer the comments below.

The Office and Research Center and the Residences at Assembly is located on a 9-acre site at 5 Middlesex Avenue, Somerville, in close walking proximity to Assembly Station and to existing residential areas of East Somerville. It is planned to become an integral feature of the massive developments already taking shape in Assembly Square. Phase 1 of the proposed Project includes a 188-room hotel, and a 147-unit residential building with 6,000 sf of retail space on the ground floor. Later phases will include offices and residential units. The total space to be constructed within the site may reach 2,000,000 sq ft.

We are concerned that the proponent has not offered significant changes to the walking environment, except on its own site. The nearby Kensington Underpass, one of two connections between residential Somerville and the many worksites and attractions, should become its focus for improvements. The proponent has suggested a U-turn that would complicate pedestrian crossings at the underpass. The proponent should be required to develop improvements for pedestrians and vehicles at the underpass in an integrated way.

Recognizing the advantages of being located in the large Assembly Square complex of developments, the proponent notes that walking and bicycling through Assembly Square and on the paths along the Mystic River will be encouraged. The proponent also emphasizes the access provided to the site by public transportation not only at the new Orange Line rapid transit station, but also on bus lines located nearby on Route 38 and on Broadway in East Somerville. Access to public transit gives significant advantages to the proponent’s proposed complex of both office and residential units that can take advantage of the transportation services concentrated in the environs.

The proponent’s plan includes on-site pedestrian facilities and a plaza in the center of the development. The proponent vows that improvements to pedestrian and bicycling facilities will ensure security and comfort for those walking and biking. Part of these improvements will be a significant wayfinding element that will direct site visitors and users toward significant destinations, show walking times, and including public transportation services. The proponent also hopes to link the fabric of this new district to neighboring East Somerville.

The Assembly Square complex has already established pedestrian facilities throughout the property and highlights the riverside park and paths that make up a substantial pedestrian network. The proponent’s site will be able to take advantage of those improvements and link into them at appropriate locations.

The basic link between this site and East Somerville is the neglected underpass of I-93 at Kensington Street, which has not been updated since the construction of the highway. The proponent should take a leading role in the upgrading of this underpass, to bring to life the proponent’s laudable goal of a more appropriate connection into the surrounding community. Improvements to the underpass would bring about:
1. Improved pedestrian connections from East Somerville into the Assembly Square shopping area to reach proliferating new shopping, entertainment and work locations.
2. Improved pedestrian connections from the East Somerville neighborhoods to the new Orange Line rapid transportation station at Assembly Square.
3. A wayfinding network for pedestrians finding their way into and through the complex set of developments at Assembly Square.
4. Improved pedestrian connections both from Assembly Square as well as the East Somerville neighborhoods to the public transportation routes along Route 38, where bus stops are closer than the Assembly Square Orange Line Station.
5. Clear routes for access from Assembly Square to the major grocery store as well as commercial and public sites such as the library along Broadway in East Somerville.
6. A walking route for residents of East Somerville and people in Assembly Square for recreation and healthy daily activities.
7. Implementation of major goals of the City of Somerville’s “Somervision” program which looks to increase active and alternative transportation options, reduce congestion and promote workplace- and business-based policies and incentives to encourage changes in more choice and to expand bike, pedestrian and public transit use.

Improving the Kensington Underpass by itself is insufficient to protect users. The underpass, which connects East Somerville to Assembly Square near the intersection of McGrath Highway, Fellsway, Route 38 and the I-93 southbound onramp, has two at-grade street crossings where pedestrians must cross heavily traveled routes. The two crossings have painted crosswalks and pedestrian-actuated yellow flashing warning lights. More detailed analysis should be undertaken to assess the current levels of safety for people crossing at this location. Projections of future pedestrian traffic should be undertaken to analyze whether what level of additional safety measures might be appropriate.

Of special concern is the proposal by the proponent of this project that there should be a U-turn that would allow traffic from Assembly Square and this project to use the westbound service road along I-93 (called Bailey Road) to reach a point where it could u-turn into the eastbound service road near Route 28 to provide better access from Assembly Square to I-93 southbound. This would, according to the proponent help by “allowing vehicles to bypass two signals, thereby alleviating congestion.”  The U-turn would provide, in essence, a fourth option for exiting the complex and reaching I-93 southbound.

However, with the addition of this U-turn, people trying to cross at the Kensington Underpass crosswalk will always be faced with oncoming traffic at both eastbound and westbound service roads leading into and out of the U-turn. The addition of traffic to the two service roads is a problem for the pedestrians using existing Kensington underpass should be analyzed in terms of any improvements that may be made to increase its use.

Several options might be explored to alleviate this difficulty. One would be to reduce both service roads on either side of I-93 to one lane, so that drivers would not be tempted to bypass a driver who is yielding to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. That option might be sufficient to retain the un-signalized crosswalk.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments.

Best regards,

Bob Sloane
Senior Planner

Brendan Kearney
Communications Manager

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