Where do the District 5 City Council Candidates stand on safe and equitable travel on our streets?

With the preliminary election for the Boston City Council now just two weeks away — on Tuesday, September 24 — we here at WalkUP Roslindale thought it might be helpful to do what we could to more broadly circulate the responses of the various candidates to the Vision Zero Coalition’s Candidate Questionnaire, which provides the best available yardstick for figuring out how closely the candidates come to supporting safe and equitable travel on our streets. We’re starting today with the District 5 candidates and intend to move on to the At-Large candidates and then the candidates for districts 4 and 6 as well.

And so, we’re off – there are a total of eight candidates running for the District 5 City Council seat. In alphabetical order, they are Ricardo Arroyo, Maria Esdale Farrell, Cecily Graham, Justin Murad, Alkia Powell, Jean-Claude Sanon, Mimi Turchinetz, and Yves Mary Jean. Of these eight, the four candidates in italics submitted responses to the questionnaire. Below we provide their full answers, without modification, to the top-line question of “How do you move around your community and get where you need to go?” along with links to pdfs with responses to all of the questions:

Ricardo Arroyo

“Previously I owned a hybrid, now I do not have a car and rely on
the MBTA and ride sharing.”

Full Questionnaire Responses

Cecily Graham

“In order to move around my community, I use a variety of transit
modes. I am a driver, therefore this is my main mode of
transportation to get to the market and laundromat. I also bike
within a 2 mile radius for short trips, in addition to walking and the
use of public transportation when visiting neighboring towns. Last
but not least, I will utilize ride-share services if I have to be
somewhere in a timely matter, especially if parking is not readily
available at my destination. All of these modes are important
because it is hard to depend on one to get around efficiently.”

Full Questionnaire Responses

Justin Murad

“MBTA bus and Orange Line mostly.”

Full Questionnaire Responses

Mimi Turchinetz

“I take the 32 Bus and the Orange Line when ever possible, I also
have a car.”

Full Questionnaire Responses

CONCLUDING NOTE: WalkUP Roslindale has a policy of not specifically supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. In the interest of full disclosure, please note that the author of this post, Matt Lawlor, personally supports candidate Arroyo.

11 Taft Hill Terrace – Public Meeting on Proposed Redevelopment – 6 pm on Wednesday, 24 July 2019, Roslindale Community Center

Everyone interested in supporting the desperate need for more housing to support our city’s growing population while doing so in a way that reduces the demand for driving and provides for more affordable homeownership opportunities is encouraged to attend tomorrow evening’s meeting on the redevelopment proposal for 16 condominium units and 14 off-street vehicle storage spaces at 11 Taft Hill Terrace. WalkUP Roslindale members will be on hand to learn more about the proposal, provide feedback, and ultimately formulate our response. We hope to see you there!

Your 2018 WalkUP Roslindale year in review!

WITH 2018 having drawn to its inevitable close, now seems like a decent enough time to look back on another year in the life of WalkUP Roslindale, your neighborhood walk-bike-transit-Y/QIMBY (Yes/Quality in My Backyard) citizens advocacy group. In the opinion of one member of group management, here are the top 10 things that happened this year. Comments, corrections, and additions are always welcome!

  1. District City Councilor Forum – Although scheduling conflicts kept us from hosting this particular forum in 2017, we did manage to pull off a gathering of the three district councilors who represent various parts of Roslindale – Andrea Campbell (District 4), Tim McCarthy (District 5), and Matt O’Malley (District 6) – that resulted in a lively discussion on a wide range of topics hosted by our own Sarah Kurpiel Lee. You can read the post-mortem at Recap on District City Councilor January 2018 Forum.
  2. Washington Street Bus & Bike Lane – After the 2-day pilot at the end of 2017 and then a full 4-week pilot in May and June of this year, the Mayor announced that the Washington Street bus and bike lane improvement project – which allows for a bus and bike only lane northbound on weekday mornings (5 to 9 am) and has significantly improved travel times for riders on the 9 separate lines that run between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills – would be permanent. This was a big win for better transit in our neighborhood and a significant step forward for better bus service across the region. We were proud to partner with Livable Streets Alliance on surveying riders and building support for the project and reported on it in May in Give Washington Street Bus Lane Feedback and in October in WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane.
  3. Safer Walking and Cycling in Roslindale Square – Around the same time that the bus/bike pilot was going on and being made permanent, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) planned and then the Public Works Department resurfaced the key loop of South/Belgrade/Corinth/Poplar in Roslindale Square and installed a targeted set of new crosswalks, daylighting areas, in-street bike lanes, and relocated bus stops. With this set of improvements, a significant majority of the changes we advocated for in our December 2015 Walk Audit with WalkBoston have now been implemented. You can find coverage at Recent Safety Improvements in Roslindale Square – An Explainer and Letter of Support for Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Calming Improvements in Roslindale Square.
  4. Significant Progress on the Roslindale Gateway Path – In late June, we teamed with the Arnold Arboretum and Horsley Witten to release the 25% design for the MBTA-owned section of the path, running from the commuter rail station to the Arboretum border. The meeting was well attended and led to the T’s relatively swift determination that the proposed path route was conceptually approved through its internal canvassing process. Mid-year also saw funding progress as the commonwealth’s legislative session drew to a close in July. First, future funding to the tune of $3 million for path construction was included in the statewide Environmental Bond Bill. Securing these particular funds will require more work going forward, but the good news was just getting started. The FY2019 budget also included $100,000 in earmarked funding to help complete the path’s overall design. And then, to top off the funding story for the year, the city, through BTD, was able to obtain $90,000 in federal grant funding to move to 100% design for the initial extension of the path from its current terminus at the end of the Blackwell Path to the Arboretum Road underpass. An application to the city’s Community Preservation Act committee to fund construction of this extension was submitted in September. Coverage can also be found at Major Step Forward for the Gateway Path.
  5. Y/QIMBY Support and YIMBYtown – We continued to support new projects and concepts that we believed make sense, including 3-7 Poplar (732 South) and RVMS’ Poplar Street Improvements and the possible redevelopment of the Taft Hill Parking Lot. We also participated on the host committee of YIMBYtown 2018, the third annual national YIMBY conference held here in Boston in September. Perhaps the emblematic moment at YIMBYtown was the demonstration by housing justice advocates led by City Life/Vida Urbana at the closing plenary of the conference, voicing concerns about displacement of poorer people and people of color from neighborhoods experiencing an influx of new residents. WalkUP Roslindale hopes to partner with the housing justice initiative at RISE in the coming year to find a unified way forward in our neighborhood. More to come on this topic.
  6. FY2019 BTD Budget – WalkUP Roslindale was truly excited about the passage of an expanded BTD budget for FY2019 that calls for hiring a slew of new planners and engineers focused on issues such as coordinating MBTA service in the city, implementing Vision Zero, and expanding our city’s bike network. While we are still awaiting these new hires, we hope that they will be made soon.
  7. Neighborhood Slow Streets in MHMC – Progress continued on our neighborhood’s winner of the 2017 NSS sweepstakes. Conceptual plans are anticipated to be released in late winter. More information can be found at “Mount Hope/Canterbury” on BTD’s vision zero site.
  8. Blue Bikes in Roslindale! – We finally got our first 4 Blue Bikes stations in Roslindale in late summer – 2 stations in the square, one Belgrade and Walworth, and a fourth at Washington and Archdale. Now, if we could only find a way to get the long-delayed-due-to-construction and now completely inexplicably delayed station slated for Forest Hills, we’d really be talking. You can read more at “New Hubway (Blue Bikes) Locations Announced in Roslindale” and “Blue Bikes Finally Come to Roslindale.”
  9. Walter Street Traffic Calming – After sustained advocacy over many years by members of the Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association, 3 new crosswalks were finally installed in the stretch of Walter Street running from Bussey to South. The crosswalks were also accompanied by daylighting and flexposts on Walter itself and on certain of the side streets on Peters Hill. This kind of treatment can and should be extended to all of our major streets.
  10. Roslindale Snow Clearance Collaborative 1.0+ – Finally, our volunteer snow clearance collaborative had plenty of chances to flex our muscles and get in a good work out shoveling out key bus stops in and around the square and at the key intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Cummins Highway. The shoveling in the square even included the contested sidewalks surrounding the MBTA commuter rail station on Belgrade. We gave the last installment – Collaborative v. 1.5 – a lighthearted touch with a photo of the Boston yeti.

The time has come to consider a user fee for on-street resident parking permits

With the new Boston City Council term officially underway as of Wednesday, At-Large Councilor, Transportation Committee chair, and Rossident Michelle Wu has made good on her statement late last year to start the discussion on collecting a user fee for something that is currently given away — on-street residential parking permits. Universal Hub has a short summary of Michelle’s council-approved request to hold a hearing on the concept soon: “Time to start charging for Boston parking permits, some councilors say.” Many issues will be in the mix, including how much to charge, whether to limit the number of permits, and how to deal with visitors and critical home care providers. As the discussion gets going and the hearing date nears, we’ll look to make this space a place for discussion of the intersecting policy and community issues at stake. While WalkUP Roslindale’s steering group hasn’t yet formulated an official policy on the issue, I can personally state for the record my complete support for implementing a user fee plan with details tbd this year. The time has come. – Matt Lawlor

Let’s dedicate a bus lane!

Proposed Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane
Proposed Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane

For people who want to walk more and drive less in Roslindale, and encourage others to do so as well, the stretch of Washington Street from Rozzie Square to Forest Hills has long been an extreme pain point. The Commuter Rail makes the trip in less than five minutes but is infrequent and too expensive for many. We believe the cost for getting downtown from Roslindale should be the same, or nearly so, whether on Commuter Rail or bus/subway, but changing that will require political will at the state level and so far we’re not seeing much in that direction.

Meanwhile, this corridor is well served by buses — nearly ten different lines from points south and west converge here, so in theory the wait should always be short and the one-mile trip to the end of the Orange Line quick. But these buses share a single lane with traffic, making the entire route indistinguishable from a parking lot at rush hour. This isn’t right and it’s time to fix it.

The GoBoston 2030 study found that an average of 19,000 bus riders pass along this corridor every day, and more than half the people traveling along Washington Street between Forest Hills and Roslindale Square are in a bus. With heavy mixed use development going up around Forest Hills as well as a growing population in Roslindale and points south, this route is only going to become more well traveled, but it’s physically impossible to accommodate hundreds or thousands more people trying to make this trip in single-occupant vehicles[1]. Moreover, if the bus trip were faster and more convenient, it’s near certain that many more would opt for that mode, making it an overwhelming favorite.

A potential solution has been on the radar for years and it’s time to give it a try. Several groups, including the City of Boston itself, have proposed removing a lane of parking and turning it into a dedicated bus lane — inbound in the morning, and outbound in the evening. A similar experiment was quite successful last winter in Everett and we’d like to see how it works here. Community feedback on the idea has been overwhelmingly positive thus far and we’re hopeful to get a trial going soon to see how much it reduces the bus commute time, and to gather information on how it might impact other users of the road. Once we have real data in hand, we can have a well-informed conversation about the trade-offs involved in this sort of dedication of our street space.

One concern is the bus lane will likely have to be shared with the bike lane. This arrangement works well on the Silver Line route in the South End, but this stretch of Washington Street is much tighter. In some future enlightened world, the City will remove parking on both sides of Washington Street to provide separate dedicated bike and bus lanes for the public good, but short term this project makes imperative the rapid funding and construction of the Roslindale Gateway Path as a completely off-street alternative. We’re also intent on making sure the bus drivers on this route are well-trained and sensitized to the shared use with cyclists to maximize peaceful coexistence.

Finally, any loss of on-street parking will inevitably touch a nerve with some. A critical upside of the trial run is that we’ll then have data to inform this discussion: if we can move 20,000 or more people in half the time it currently takes, is that worth sacrificing real estate that is currently dedicated to a few dozen vehicles for free?

Moreover, last year the Metropolitan Area Planning Council researched the corridor’s parking patterns, including by analyzing license plate registration of parked cars. They found that “the Washington Street corridor between Forest Hills station and Roslindale Square has the highest rates of bus utilization in the entire MBTA service district, with 60% of travelers utilizing an MBTA bus during the AM and PM peak hours.” The report also documented low parking usage during the peak travel times, especially during the early morning, and that over 80% of parked cars were from outside the neighborhood driven in by people heading to the Forest Hills T-station. If these spots go away, these people from outside the neighborhood (and presumably most from outside the city) will have to find an alternate commute–perhaps this will stimulate a virtuous circle where these people opt for commuter rail closer to their home once their “free” parking alternative is limited. That’s an outcome we at WalkUP Roslindale can support.

If you want to help make this happen, spread the word to you neighbors and reach out to your City Councilors and the Mayor to express your support. We’re optimistic there will be good news about the trial run soon.

Press coverage and more information:

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Unless those single-occupant vehicles happen to all be bicycles. That would be fortunate!

A brief recap of the abutters’ meeting on 874-878 South Street (South/Walter)

We brought everyone’s attention to this meeting about a week ago and gave our thoughts about ways the revised 9-unit, 18-space proposal could be improved, based largely on the reaction from the group at the LANA meeting earlier in the month. Seems like the development team was listening.

And now to our report, very briefly: This was, all in all, a downright cordial meeting, well run by Dan Murphy from the Mayor’s ONS. I would say that the overall sense in the room was:

  • that 9 residential units was more or less going to work for this location,
  • that at 13 the number of parking spaces seemed tight to some and more than ample to others (your correspondent felt it was more than necessary, didn’t take full advantage of the location’s close proximity to the Commuter Rail/Roslindale Square/Washington Street Bus Corridor, and would both drive up the cost of the units and encourage more vehicular traffic), and
  • that the reduction in vehicle spaces was allowing for bicycle parking for 13 bicycles and some buffering green space between the surface parking and the property to the rear.

Certainly some attention still needs to be paid to the overall design, which feels too by-the-book (and from not that great a book), and the vehicular access could use some thinking about how to better manage the exiting and entering of vehicles. The discussion at the end focused on further process – it sounds like the developer will file revised plans with ISD soon and start the Board of Appeal’s zoning relief process, which will likely take on the order of 3 to 6 months to get through, to be followed by BPDA Design Review. WalkUP Roslindale will look to submit a comment letter in connection with the Board of Appeal hearing. We will share it when we have it ready. In the meantime, thoughts are more than welcome in the comments.

874-878 South Street Installment 2 – Finally back with revised proposal for public consideration – 6:30 pm, 28 March 2017, at the RCC

874 South Street Meeting Flyer
874 South Street Meeting Flyer

It’s been almost 2 years, but the 874-878 South Street proposal that was the subject of a WUR long-form blog post in July 2015 is finally returning with a revised proposal.

The meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, at 6:30 pm at the Roslindale Community Center. Flyer for meeting here.

Based on what was said by the property owner and his attorney at the LANA meeting a week or so ago, it sounds like the proposal will be for 9 residential units with 18 off-street parking spaces. For those keeping score at home, that’s a reduction from the original proposal of 6 residential units and an increase of 3 off-street parking spaces. Revised plans were not available at the LANA meeting, though they will reportedly be available this coming Tuesday.

For the record, I continue to live 2 blocks from this location. From my own perspective and given this location within walking distance of the commuter rail station and Roslindale Square, the revised unit count is lower than it should be and the number of off-street parking spaces is at least 4 spaces too many. I would really prefer a 1-to-1 space to unit ratio at this location. While I recognize some neighbors see this issue differently, on-street parking issues at this location and along the stretch of South Street and the intersecting streets toward the commuter rail are relatively minimal, except on Sunday mornings. Increasing the parking space count here may prevent there ever being an issue from this development related to on-street parking, but it will tend to increase vehicle traffic by encouraging car ownership by development residents and, to the extent automatically included with each unit, will increase the cost of each unit in the development. Accordingly, in addition to wanting to see the revised design, I will be interested in a discussion of the parking space count, how the revised plans locate those spaces on the site, what kind of space is left over, and how much consideration is or isn’t being given to bicycle parking and encouraging bicycling and walking as well as zipcar and transit use.