Virtual Visioning Session for Squares + Streets – Tomorrow – 7 May 2024 @ 6-8 pm

The BPDA will be hosting a virtual visioning session tomorrow night, 7 May 2024, from 6 to 8 pm (Register here). The session parallels last week’s in-person session. BPDA staff describe the session as an opportunity “to collaborate with the community on generating ideas for potential planning and zoning recommendations for the Roslindale Square Squares + Streets Plan. This session will include a summary of existing conditions analysis, feedback received to-date and community visions for different topic areas, as well as hands-on activities to contribute your ideas for potential recommendations.”

More information about the session can be found here.

Squares + Streets Small Area Planning Process for Roslindale Square Starts in Earnest – Office Hours and Visioning Session – 13 March 2024

Following the kickoff meeting for Squares + Streets here in Roslindale held on the 24th of last month, the first of the many outreach and input opportunities that will help to define the community vision on which the plan will be built will happen this Wednesday, 13 March 2024, in two parts:

  1. Office hours with BPDA Planning staff at the WorkHub space (downstairs at the Substation, corner of Cummins and Washington) from 10 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 3 pm (pre-registration recommended); and
  2. Roslindale Square Housing and Small Business Visioning Workshop – Roslindale Community Center (the other corner of Cummins and Washington) from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. The BPDA describes this objectives of this session as follows:

“At this event, community members can learn more about current tools the City has to create and preserve housing and support small businesses, how the Squares + Streets Small Area Plan can address current housing and small business challenges in Roslindale, and envision through hands-on activities what Roslindale Square might need for the future to support diverse households and businesses.” [NOTE: Translation services will be available in Spanish and Haitian Creole.]

The small area planning process is upon us. We applaud the BPDA on providing different formats for public input, including on-site office hours, from the outset. Let’s get out there and participate in whatever format makes sense for each of us.

Comments on Roslindale Parking and Curb Use Plan

Over the past two years, the City has conducted a study of parking and curb use in and around the Roslindale central business district. It recently published a proposed plan for comment coming out of that study. Our comments are below (also available as PDF), and we encourage everyone to submit comments by the April 7, 2023 deadline. We generally support the proposed changes, and offer pedestrian safety improvements and other changes we hope will be implemented in connection with the new plan.

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The time has come: Let’s fix the parking in Roslindale Square!

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) conducted a long overdue parking study in Roslindale Square in October of last year, and earlier this month released a 22-page report with detailed findings. There’s a good deal to sort through here, but we hope this report will serve as a launching point for constructive community dialog around hot-button parking issues. We intend to play an active role in advocating for solutions that advance our goal of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in the City of Boston.

It’s no secret that parking has been poorly managed for decades across the city and in our neighborhood, often leading to rancorous conflicts over spaces and, even more unfortunately, opposition to desperately-needed new housing based on fears that such actions will exacerbate parking problems. We are optimistic that, with this study as the backdrop, we’ve reached the cusp of a new era where parking policy can be informed by best management practices and a vision that recognizes the major changes in mobility coming around the corner and the need to balance the needs of all users of our roads and sidewalks.

First, the most important fact this report establishes is that Roslindale Square has enough parking, but there has been a failure to manage it. In particular, the report notes in its conclusions on page 21:

With on-street parking available within the overall study area during most times; with most parking demand concentrated around the ‘commercial core’ and Washington Street commercial corridor; and with an abundance of available off-street parking during most times – the solution is to better manage the parking resources that exist so they serve the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors.

In particular, the report notes that “most off-street parking lots had an abundance of unused parking.” A count on a Farmers Market Saturday found:

  • 20 unused spaces in the Taft Hill Municipal Parking Lot
  • 123 unused spaces in the MBTA Commuter Lots
  • 119 unused spaces in privately-owned lots

A count on a Wednesday similarly found:

  • 7 unused spaces in the Taft Hill Municipal Parking Lot
  • 107 unused spaces in the MBTA Commuter Lots
  • 106 unused spaces in privately-owned lots

This reinforces a view that we’ve been advocating for many years now. Dedicating more space to parking than we currently have won’t meaningfully help the issues but will insure increased traffic congestion and pollution, not only from vehicle emissions but also from the creation of additional impervious surfaces, even putting aside the cost of building and maintaining more parking. Managing what we already have, by contrast, will foster conditions where people who need to drive will be able to find parking easily, while avoiding inducing demand for more driving. What form that parking space management should take is something we’d like to see discussed with some urgency and then implemented as soon as BTD can make it happen.

Second, although many recent proposals for new housing in Roslindale near transit hubs have been shot down by a minority of members of the Zoning Board of Appeal on the basis of allegedly insufficient off-street parking, the report provides no basis to conclude that new nearby housing meaningfully impacts parking issues in the central business district. Indeed, the addition of nearby residential development should be a complete red herring as a parking issue: having more folks living within walking distance of the square will help the existing businesses and generate demand for businesses to open in the now-vacant storefronts. In and within walking distance of the square is the ideal place in the neighborhood to develop residences with no or comparatively few off-street parking spaces. It is also worth reiterating here our preference for using space and resources to build places for people, not motor vehicles. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimated in 2019 that each new structured parking space in our region costs $23,500 to build and each new surface parking space costs $6,000 (figures that must now be significantly higher due to inflation). Making new development provide parking on site both drives up the cost of each unit and takes space that could otherwise be used for more units.

As we find a path forward, we also want to keep an eye on other takeaways from the report:

  • Better parking management will also improve vehicular traffic, since a substantial number of cars circle the square looking for parking. Parking spaces should be managed so there is generally a minimum availability of open spaces, thus avoiding endless circling as well as idling/double-parking and blocking of crosswalks. We would be a good candidate for dynamic pricing and smart meters so that space availability can be tuned more precisely.
  • Prime storefront spaces should be metered to increase turnover. We could also use some very short term spaces to make it easy to run into a store like Sullivan’s Pharmacy or Solera Wine to grab an item and go.
  • We should also consider enabling the option of paying for longer stays in the Taft Hill Municipal Lot. For example, for some spaces, parking could be free for an hour, but paid at a reasonable rate for longer stays. The newly-installed rapid electric chargers in the lot already allow the user to pay for more time than is necessary for a charge.
  • It makes no sense for so many MBTA lot spaces to go empty and also for there to be no free or discounted after-hours parking in those lots. There is substantial demand for restaurant parking in the evenings and essentially zero demand for commuter rail user parking at that time. This should be an easy fix and could also be matched with implementing parking sharing of both lots during the daytime as well.
  • Business owners should encourage and incentivize employee commuting by means other than driving (for example, we’re encouraged here by the decreased car use shown by a recent pilot program for providing subsidized BueBike memberships and T passes to employees in Main Street districts), and for those who do need to drive, encourage them to park a short distance away rather than occupy prime spaces. Store owners and employees taking up spaces in front of their own businesses makes it more difficult for potential customers to park. Formally opening up the MBTA lots to non-commuters as well as allowing a paid option for longer stays in the Municipal Lot could fix this problem entirely.
  • Finally, the square has had nagging vacancy problems for many years. Fixing the vacancy issue is a real problem that could be solved (1) with better parking management as outlined above and (2) with a long-term vacancy tax to incentivize commercial landlords to find tenants rather than passively leverage their empty properties as a tax break.

For those interested in digging deeper into the relationship between parking policy and walkability, we must recommend the canonical book The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup (the first chapter of which is available free online), as well as Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step a Time (free summary here), by our nearby neighbor Jeff Speck.

City-sponsored Open House on Roslindale Transportation and Housing – TOMORROW – 30 January 2020 – 6 to 8 pm – Roslindale Substation

We urge everyone who is able to make it to attend tomorrow night’s city-sponsored open house to learn more and share ideas about both transportation and housing issues in our neighborhood. Here’s the listing from the Department of Neighborhood Development’s webpage:

Latest Update

Join the City of Boston (Department of Neighborhood Development, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Planning & Development Agency and Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services) at an Open House community meeting for a conversation about how housing and transportation can work together in Roslindale.  This open house will explore the questions, concerns and ideas raised during a September 2019 community meeting regarding Housing with Public Assets at the Roslindale Municipal Parking Lot.

This open house will provide an opportunity to have smaller group discussions with residents, business owners and representatives from city departments responsible for housing production, transportation and neighborhood planning.

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2020
Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Roslindale Substation
Address: 4228 Washington Street, Roslindale, MA 02131

REMINDER: Cummins Highway Walk Audit – 7 December 2019 @ 9 am

On this group walk, we will cover the section of Cummins from Washington Street to Rowe Street, starting at 9:00 am at the RVMS office (4236 Washington Street). It should take us about 90 minutes to discuss the process (with a “Ped 101” slide presentation similar to the one we saw from our friends at WalkBoston in Decemeber 2015 for the Roslindale Square Walk Audit inside what is now the Distraction Brewing space, as pictured above) and then get out there identifying street safety issues and possible solutions that we can carry forward to our elected and appointed officials. RSVP and spread the word via our Facebook event page.

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.