Residents Disappointed by Rejection in Boston’s Slow Streets Program

By Beth Treffeisen and Dan Murphy

In future though, please refer to the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) and the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee, whose Chair is Ben Starr. 
BHC and Beacon Hill Parking and Transportation Committee are incorrect.

The five neighborhoods that will join the Neighborhood Slow Streets program in 2017 were announced in mid-July, leaving many communities who applied disappointed by their rejection.

Beacon Hill Parking and Transportation Committee was rejected for its Neighborhood Slow Streets program applications.

The BHC that garnered support from local institutions such as Hill House, the Park Street School and the Advent School as well as City Councilors Josh Zakim and Annisa Essabi-George and State Representative Jay Livingstone, was disappointed on the selections.

 “No decision has been made yet regarding reapplying but there are some hurdles which may be insurmountable for our neighborhood,” wrote Ben Starr, the Traffic and Parking Chair of BHC in a statement. “Some of the variables that the Transportation Department considers include the percentage of children in the neighborhood (Beacon Hill is low) and the amount of diversity (Beacon Hill is low) as well as some logistical issues where the solutions are not a perfect match (speed humps need to be on flat streets rather than on hills.)”

He continued, “In the meantime we will encourage BTD to consider solutions outside of the Neighborhood Slow Streets program.”

According to Starr, the application proposed two “zones,” the first of which includes the flat of Beacon Hill, where River Street splits at Mt. Vernon Street and runs one way north toward Pinckney Street and one way south where it crosses the intersection of Chestnut and Beacon streets. Hill House sits on the northwest corner of Mt. Vernon and River streets, and the Park Street School and The Advent School are located within two blocks of this intersection along Brimmer Street to the southwest and northwest, respectively.

The second proposed zone includes the very top of Beacon Hill, where Mt. Vernon Street (one way heading west) meets Joy Street, which runs one way in either direction (north toward Cambridge Street or south toward Beacon Street).

The Neighborhood Slow Streets program is a community-based effort to reduce speeds and improve the quality of life on Boston’s local streets. The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) received applications from 47 different communities across 16 of Boston’s neighborhoods.

The five neighborhoods that will work with the Boston Transportation and Public Works Departments include Chinatown, Grove/ Quincy Corner, Highland Park, Mount Hope/ Canterbury and West of Washington Coalition.

“So many communities stepped up to partner with the City on this important work,” said Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets and Acting Commissioner of Public Works. “Providing a clear, simple way to participate and a transparent selection process are examples of the ways that we continue to embrace the ethos of Go Boston 2030 as we implement that plans many projects and polices.”

Each proposed area went through a scoring process that considered where vulnerable populations live and where more crashes were occurring.

BTD used objective criteria that included the number of households with youth under 18, the percentage of the population aged 65 or older, the number of crashes per mile within the area, and the presence of parks, libraries, and transit.

The chosen communities were among the top scoring of the nearly 50 zones evaluated.

When completed, the selected Neighborhood Slow Streets areas will be equipped with visual and physical cues to slow drivers to 20 MPH, making each street feel more inviting for people of all ages who are walking, playing, or bicycling.

 In the South End the Old Dover Neighborhood Association applied for a slow street zone that extended from E. Berkeley Street to Malden Street. During summer weekends, the SoWa market often leads to hoards of pedestrians walking up and down Harrison Ave.

“We are obviously disappointed that Old Dover was not selected for the Slow Streets program,” said Bradley St. Amand from GTI Properties that runs the SoWa market. “Every neighborhood deserves to have safe streets, ours included, so it is unfortunate that BTD could only select a limited number of applicants.”

Amand said that GTI Properties are going to continue to push the City for safety upgrades outside of this program and hopes to effectuate some meaningful changes in the near future to ensure the safety of the South End’s pedestrians, bikers and drivers.

“We are disappointed that we weren’t chosen but very happy for all the neighborhoods that were chosen,” said Ken Smith from the Old Dover Neighborhood Association. “We will continue to work with the police around enforcement of speed and stopping for crosswalks in our neighborhood.”

Not far away, the Castle Square Tenant Association also applied. Although they didn’t receive a Neighborhood Slow Street this year, Debra Baucas the executive director hopes to reapply next year.

“One of the things that worked was a pedestrian sign for the crosswalk,” said Baucas. “Right after we submitted an application one just showed up, but someone hit it and knocked it down. It is located between Tremont Street and the Eagle White Apartments and we would like to get that back.”

In addition, Baucas said she would like to get a sign that says, “Do Not Block the Intersection” on Tremont and Herald Street during rush hour traffic.

Baucas said the response from the City was that they chose areas that had high crash rates and this area doesn’t have too many but, she said, “It is a dangerous intersection.”

She hopes to continue outreach to the new neighborhood liaison to the South End to see what traffic calming measures can be implemented now.

The Fenway Civic Association was also left disappointed after they applied for a Neighborhood Slow Street Program that extended from Massachusetts Ave to Huntington Ave., and back up through Hemenway Street.

“We congratulate the five communities for their selection, and thank the City and Mayor for their work on the Slow Streets initiative and the expansion of the program,” said Marie Fukuda, board member of the Fenway Civic Association in a statement. “We hear regularly from residents and our members about safety issues and expect that these requests will continue until they can be addressed.”

She continued, “While we were not selected for a Slow Street zone, we will continue working with local community groups, residents, and institutions to address safety issues in the Fenway with the city’s help, and look forward to reapplying next year.”

This past May, Mayor Martin Walsh announced a commitment to increase Boston’s Vision Zero investment by $1 million in fiscal year 2018 to $4.1 million, dedicated to Boston’s Neighborhood Slow Streets program. Before the investment, only up to three neighborhoods were guaranteed a spot in the program.

Two pilot communities are already underway in the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle in Dorchester and the Stonybrook neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Construction work is anticipated to begin in August or September.

Information about applying for the next round of Neighborhood Slow Streets zones will be made available in early 2018.

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