Northeastern Students Propose Redesign of Charles Street

Three years ago, a group of Northeastern University students conceived a resign plan to transform Charles Street into “a pedestrian friendly area with minimal through traffic” by improving pedestrian access and providing a safe connection between Cambridge and Downtown Boston for bicyclists.

The 2017 resign study advises reducing the southbound three travel lanes that extend 1,776 feet between Cambridge and Beacon streets to one lane for most of the stretch and two lanes at the intersection of Charles and Beacon streets to allow heavy volumes of traffic to turn more easily onto Beacon Street. Sidewalks that currently measure between 8 and 9 feet would also be widened to 13 feet. The redesign, which would maintain most of the existing 43 parking spaces, also includes plans for an eight-foot, two-way bike path.

“The combination of removing travel lanes, adding a cycle track and widening sidewalks will benefit all users of this Beacon Hill street,” according to the study.

All traffic signals along Charles Street except at Beacon and Cambridge streets would be removed and stop signs installed in their places at cross streets to help improve the flow of traffic.

Parallel parking lanes would be defined using trees, streetlights and other sidewalk elements, although an alternative option would implement angled parking on Charles Street – an approach that has proven successful on Bow Street in Somerville.

Because of double-parking that frequently results from truck deliveries to businesses, Charles Street is essentially reduced to two travel lanes or sometimes only one, so the study anticipates the elimination of a travel line would have minimal impact on vehicular traffic.

“Our redesign of Charles Street takes into consideration the necessary truck deliveries close to storefronts but gives priority to making this street enjoyable for shopping and public use,” the study reads in part.

Suggested hours for truck deliveries would be 8 to 11 a.m. on weekdays to mitigate the impact on residential parking.

If implemented, the plan also anticipates the new street redesign would create more opportunities for “permitted street days” in the vein of the inaugural “Open Charles Street” – a city initiative that closed the street to vehicular traffic and transformed it into a pedestrian-only walkway for one afternoon last September. The redesign plan is based on the streetscape of Delft, a city and municipality in the province of South Holland, Netherlands.

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