An important milestone to our south – NY’s Plaza Program Turns 10

There’s an excellent piece linked over at Public Square celebrating the 10th anniversary of the pathbreaking NYC program that has turned excess pavement into plazas at dozens of locations throughout the city. Check it out at “Reflections on 10 years of the NYC plaza program.” It’s a pretty short read and draw your own conclusions, but I was reminded, yet again, of three things about this program:

  1. It really has been wildly successful. If you’ve been to Times Square in the last 5 years, you’ve been treated to the marquee example of the program in the several blocks of pedestrian areas that were inserted into a “square” that had been, for many decades, little more than the meeting of 3 major traffic sewer mains. I grew up in NY and can well attest that it was a shock when I heard that something was finally happening there. The pedestrian experience had been so horrible for so long that I had long since given up any real hope that it would ever change. But change it did. And not even Bill DeBlasio’s 2015 bizarro flirtation with scrapping it in his car-culture-fever to protect New Yorkers and the tourists who flock to Times Square from – gasp – risque costumes could make an impression on a place so instantly loved and vigorously defended.
  2. It has demonstrated the value of tactical urbanism many times over. Tactical urbanism is perhaps the most significant innovation in urban planning and design in this century. Briefly stated, the approach calls for making fast, incremental, light, inexpensive changes in the public realm, observing how they work, adjusting, and then working on long-term interventions based on those results. Here again, Times Square is a worthwhile poster child – the initial intervention there consisted of cones, cheap beach chairs, and movable planters, placed overnight to open up several former blocks of Broadway to pedestrians. Nothing fancy, but people on foot absolutely ate it up. They stood, they sat, they lingered, they chatted. It was instantly amazing.
  3. We here in Boston have lagged, but we are starting to get with this program. As I write this post, the Boston Transportation Department is putting the finishing touches on a TU-based intervention on Franklin Street downtown. You can find pictures and a play-by-play on twitter from Marc Ebuna at Transit Matters. BTD is working on several others and is also getting set to roll out a public-private partnership program very similar to NYC’s in the next few months. More to come!

City hires new Active Transportation Director!

This is big news if you’re in favor of walkability throughout our city.

Stefanie Seskin has just been named as our new active transportation director.

You can read the City’s announcement here, and BostInno’s short take here (it’s the second item). The prior administration’s kind-of analog position was the bike czar, which Nicole Freedman held for 7 years. Nicole did a great job, but much more can and now will be done to expand on the concept of “transportation” beyond specific modes (walk, bike, transit, car) and their designated advocates. Two quotes lifted from the press release:

First, from the Mayor:

“Boston is an active city and we are continuing to invest in our pedestrian and bike infrastructure, encouraging residents to think creatively about how they get from point A to point B. Stefanie brings leadership and talent to this new position, and I thank her for her willingness to serve.”

And from the new Director:

“I am excited to take on this new position as Active Transportation Director for the Boston Transportation Department, and I am grateful to Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Fiandaca to be given this opportunity,” said Seskin. “I love seeing so many people who already walk and bike around the city, and I look forward to working with residents to make Boston even more walk- and bike-friendly.”

So, we have a brand new official ally at the city. No excuses now for not speaking up and letting our local government know what we want to see. What can WUPR suggest to our new active transportation on ways to make Roslindale more walkable?

Promising Job Openings

Earlier this year, the City of Boston posted two job openings that should be of particular interest to WalkUP believers. Most notably, a Director of Active Transportation who will “think holistically about how our streets are used by people who walk, bike, and take transit.” The application period may (?) be closed, and the public listing is now difficult (perhaps impossible) to find, so we wanted to share an archive copy here to provide perspective into a very promising new direction for the city. It’s unlikely that we would have seen a city job posting requiring “an individual who understands the pressing need for action” on pedestrian and bike issues several years ago. Hopefully this description is (or was) sufficiently inspiring to attract top talent to apply locally and perhaps from everywhere in the world. If anyone knows more about the status of this opening (or the “Chief of Streets” discussed further below), please leave a comment!

Brief Job Description (essential functions of the job):

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) is seeking an experienced, hands-on, impactful and highly motivated Active Transportation Director who wants to be a part of transforming how people experience and move about the city of Boston.

The selected candidate will be an individual who understands the pressing need for action and have the patience and persistence required to catalyze change in an environment where needs, resources and opportunities vary enormously. The selected candidate will have the ability to propose new ideas and to advance them in collaboration with multiple, diverse constituencies and public agencies. Ideal candidate must have an outstanding track record of proven results championing walking and bicycling.

The City of Boston is a leader in implementing transportation projects that create an inviting and safe public realm, bolster economic activity in the neighborhoods, improve equitable access to services, encourage a healthy lifestyle and advance greenhouse gas reduction goals. Particularly, Boston has embraced cutting edge innovation to encourage its residents to walk, bicycle, run and ride transit with programs that benefit users of all ages and abilities.

The Active Transportation Director will report and work directly with BTD’s Commissioner and lead matrix-based teams to plan and deliver initiatives. The Director will be responsible for taking charge of the existing programs and staff of Boston Bikes and work in parallel with the transportation planners in the department to establish new projects that encourage walking and running. The Director will work across departments to continue building strong relationships that support walking and bicycling goals in the City of Boston. The new projects will complement and support ongoing initiatives being undertaken by the Policy and Planning division such as its citywide plan Go Boston 2030, Vision Zero and Green Links.

Responsibilities and activities:

Program Wide

  • Formalize the day-to-day use of Boston’s national award winning Complete Streets Guidelines by establishing an inter-agency design review process and performance measures benchmarks.
    Develop a Public Realm Plan that consolidates ongoing public space design initiatives and harnesses the inclusion of walking, bike- and car-share, social media and real-time information.
  • Advocate for non-motorized transportation values and facilities in all city transportation related projects.
  • Mobilize community support for walking and bicycling at the neighborhood level and maintain positive relationships with Boston area advocacy groups. This includes the ability to lead campaigns through a variety of digital and physical formats to educate and drive positive change.
  • Develop fund raising goals including identifying and applying for new grants and managing complex budget related reporting requirements for city and grant funding.
  • Maintaining accurate and complete financial records in compliance with City of Boston and Department of Transportation practices.
  • Create protocols for the systematic collection, storage and analysis of data relative to walking and bicycling.


  • Oversee all existing bicycle related programs in Boston Bikes.
  • Lead key initiatives including the Hubway bike share, bike lane design and installation, bike parking.
  • Manage and support nation-leading community biking initiatives focused on education, equity and engagement
  • Oversee annual bike events including the 5,000 person Hub On Wheels ride and Mayor’s Cup Professional race.
  • Refine and implement the Boston Bike Network Plan including delivering on 2015, 2016 and 2017 goals.
  • Promote and coordinate safety and enforcement programs and the Bike Friendly Businesses initiative.
  • Manage all existing projects with support by consulting teams, contractors and city agencies.
  • Effectively recruit, hire, manage and motivate 3 full-time staff, 10 part-time staff, 5-10 interns per year, and dozens of volunteers.
  • Deliver aggressive annual fundraising goals to grow and maintain bike share, community biking and new initiatives.

Walking and Running

  • Initiate new projects to complement existing initiatives.
  • Develop a Neighborhood Safe Streets program to create a safe environment on residential streets.
  • Develop and lead Neighborhood Walks that encourage walking and running and serve as walk-audits of public sidewalks and public spaces.
  • Work with staff from the Engineering Division to learn how signals are timed for pedestrians and collaborate to institute best-practices.
  • Work with the Boston Main Streets to develop programs that highlight the links between walking and vibrant small businesses.
  • Establish programs in coordination with the Commission on the Affairs of the Elderly and the Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Establish programs with Boston Public Schools to promote safe walking and cycling routes to schools, libraries, and community centers.
  • Performs related work as required.

Minimum Entrance Qualifications:

  • At least four (4) years of experience managing complex and detail-oriented urban programs.
  • A Master’s Degree in city planning, urban design, transportation, engineering, or management from a recognized institution. Candidates with a Bachelor’s Degree may be considered if they have outstanding and proven experience in the field.
  • Demonstrated experience in Adobe Creative Suite or similar graphics program, website development and maintenance, and creative use of presentation software highly preferred.
  • Knowledge of how to manage, implement, and evaluate a diverse set of programs with an eye towards data collection and continued improvement.
  • A deep understanding of transportation issues in urban environments, particularly those related to pedestrians and cyclists.
  • A familiarly with city or local government operations and the ability to build relationships across departments and levels of government.
  • Working knowledge of current communication tools and best practices
  • A self-starter, who can be independent, but is able to be part of a team or lead a team depending upon the situation.
  • Creative and not afraid to push the envelope in moving city goals forward
  • Ability and willingness to attend weekend events and evening meetings
  • Demonstrated ability to fundraise from a wide variety of sources, including foundations, grants, corporations, and individuals highly preferred.
  • Ability to create and implement a strategic plan.
  • Ability to manage, motivate, and develop talented staff and volunteers
  • Ability to exercise good judgment and focus on detail as required by the job.
  • Strong project management skills
  • Budget management skills
  • Strong public speaking skills and a comfort with being the voice of cycling and walking in the City of Boston.
  • Must be able to ride a bicycle and have stamina sufficient to participate in neighborhood walks or runs.

Boston Residency Required


Union/Salary Plan/Grade: Nonunion/MM2-8
Hours per week: 35
Please refer to the Salary Information section on the Boston Career Center site for more information on compensation. For each Salary Plan, salaries are listed by Grade and Step.

While we’re discussing new city jobs, another recent listing, for “Chief of the Streets” is also (potentially) inspiring:

Executive/Professional (Mgmt)
Position: Chief of the Streets Reports to: Mayor
Hiring Range: $125,000-$140,000
’14 Budget: $137 Million (operating), $81 Million (capital)
Employees: 870 (approx.)
Job Description:
The streets are one of our most valuable public resources and the lifeblood of the city. Boston is in the midst of a transition from a city that served the transportation needs of the last half-century to one which can serve the future. The street network in Boston is unique, constrained, and rich in character. From being the first American City with a subway system, to the depression of the Central Artery, to becoming one of the most successful multi-city bicycle-share systems in the nation – Boston does not shy away from complicated and transformative projects. Now, the City is again poised to be an innovator and leader in re-imagining how streets are used by the public for the next century.
Under the leadership of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the City of Boston seeks a visionary leader with a strong concern for and awareness of urban issues, who, as Chief of the Streets (COTS), will build the infrastructure, team, and tools that deliver against a vision for better city services and enhanced mobility opportunities.
There are three responsibilities consistent across all positions in the Walsh Administration:

  • Learning. Mayor Walsh is building a team of people who are not only comfortable with new ideas, but also have the curiosity to seek them and the courage to try them. For the COTS, this will mean exploring ways to reach the Citys stated mode-shift goals, identifying solutions to improve service delivery, and seeking out best-practice solutions from around the world.
  • Leveraging. Mayor Walsh is creating one Boston, where all of our institutions, departments and residents are collaborating to build the best city. For the COTS, this will mean identifying ways to consolidate and improve operations, forging new partnerships with private organizations and area research universities, and investing in programs and infrastructure that serve as the platform for Bostonians high-quality of life.
  • Leading. Mayor Walsh is seeking leaders who will steer a change agenda. For the COTS, this will mean a person with a passion for implementing transformative projects to make our streets safer and more sustainable, working collaboratively with colleagues across departments, the region and neighboring cities on an action oriented agenda, and, bringing Boston to new prominence as a world-class leader for mobility, infrastructure, and integrated city services.

Boston has long been considered an innovator and leader in transportation and public works projects. While the street network is complicated, the role the streets play are not. Simply put, the streets permit the City to function – from commutes to work and school, to the recycling trucks humming through the neighborhoods, and the web of utilities swimming underneath them – they are the lifeblood of a City with almost 400 years of history. But while Boston been providing transportation and public works projects to residents for almost four centuries, there are still tremendous opportunities to make improvements and to ready Boston for the next century of growth and change.
Boston is unique in its resources, it’s home to the world’s leading academic institutions, to world-class healthcare and finance industries, and to a growing creative economy. Boston also has an especially tech-savvy population; one in every three residents of the city is between the ages of 20-34. Over half of Boston residents select a mode other than a car as they head to work and school each day. Boston is also a dense city, encompassing 50 square miles and 850 miles of streets. The network of roadways, sidewalks, and public space, is about to undergo a major public process through the GoBoston2030 project – a City-led transportation vision plan kicking off in early January 2015.
The City of Boston COTS will be expected to lead an ambitious agenda including:

  • To set a progressive vision for improving our streets in a way that meets the needs of a changing population and delivers on City goals including:
    • leading Boston’s Transportation Visioning Process (GoBoston2030);
    • designing a plan to eliminate traffic-related fatalities in Boston over the next decade;
    • sparking ideas for non-traditional uses that create a vibrant, green, creative, and active streetscape
    • advancing a “lighter, quicker, and cheaper” approach as a pathway for improvements that benefit all roadway users.


  • Lead the implementation of Complete Streets policies, which strive to make our streets green, multi-modal, and smart, through increased collaboration and transparency of the Public Improvements Commission
  • Forge new public private partnerships and more formalized relationships with existing Transportation Management Associations and local business groups.
  • Strengthen ties with surrounding communities and relative state agencies to foster a regional approach to public infrastructure and transportation solutions
  • Deliver top-quality public services with focus on data-driven results in the maintenance of public infrastructure, waste reduction, and improved permitting processes


  • Provide continuity to agency operations across the Public Works and Transportation Departments to drive effectiveness in serving constituents;
  • Align department resources to provide a clear and transparent review process for large-scale capital projects and private development;
  • Management of department Directors, who oversee daily operations, programs, and planning activities.

Chief of Streets, Transportation, & Sanitation Cabinet:

This cabinet position oversees the Public Works and Transportation Departments, as well as the Office of the Parking Clerk and Boston Bikes. The Cabinet Chief is also the link to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission – which is overseen by a separate Executive Director and a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Mayor.
Transportation Department: Works to promote public safety and enhance the quality of life for residents through the management of the Citys transportation network. This includes long-range visioning and planning, engineering, education, parking enforcement, and policy setting.
Public Works Department: Provides core basic services essential to neighborhood quality of life, including snow/ice control, trash and recycling collection, street sweeping, street lighting, utility coordination, and road resurfacing and reconstruction projects.
Preferred Candidate Qualifications:
The ideal candidate:

  • Is a seasoned manager with strong transportation or public works planning, policy and/or operations experience.
  • Has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning, Public Policy, Public Administration, Engineering or a closely related field, and the knowledge typically gained through a Master’s program or professional degree program in a relevant field.
  • At least five to seven years of management experience in a complex urban environment is preferred.
  • Significant work experience involving transportation policy, budget management, traffic, and urban planning is an essential prerequisite
  • The successful applicant will possess a combination of technical skills, organization management skills, and leadership skills
  • Will be able to demonstrate success in moving forward a vision through to complete implementation, overcoming significant challenges
  • Can work collaboratively with a team – both inside and outside of their departments
  • Experience working between tiers of government to deliver on an agenda
  • Candidates conversant in multiple languages are encouraged to apply
  • Boston residency is required.

Housing Needed!

Today’s Globe features a front-page article Lack of homes on market has prices rising, sales slipping, highlighting the housing shortage in Boston and environs:

The number of single-family houses for sale in Massachusetts plunged 20 percent in April from a year earlier, the 39th consecutive month that inventories have declined from the previous year. That’s according to data released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. …

In some high-demand places, inventories plunged 30 percent or more from a year earlier. In Boston, the number of single-family homes for sale fell 31 percent, in Brookline 35 percent, and in Somerville 40 percent. In Cambridge, the number of condos on the market dove 56 percent, according to the real estate association.

No surprise here. The Boston-area economy is growing much faster than the housing supply, and the crunch is exacerbated by a multi-generational shift toward living in cities and in particular car-less (or less-car) based lifestyles.

To sustain the region’s economic growth, avoid crippling commute times, and improve the quality of life in the city, we need to build a lot more housing. And the only feasible way to achieve that is with increased density (recall that Boston’s population is still far below what it was sixty years ago).

As one of Boston’s smaller neighborhoods, Roslindale can only play a small part in solving this macro problem. But we can be part of the solution–there are surface parking lots near the village that could be homes for people, not just cars. And much of Rozzie Square and areas immediately adjacent the T is filled with very low-rise buildings (often just one story!). With proper transit-oriented/pedestrian-and-bike-friendly development, the addition of a few hundred residents will enhance the vitality of the neighborhood and the shopping district. Let’s make it happen.