Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Parsing Mayor Cohen

Re-reading Mayor Cohen's response to my letter to him about school sidewalks, two more things struck me:

  • On the morning after the storm, "the most urgent problem facing most of [the schools]was clearing the ice and frozen snow from the immediate vicinity of the schools." Obviously, more students are going to tread the sidewalks around the schools than on the various sidewalks that lead to the school, even if every child walked to school. But, what helped make the problem so urgent is the fact that, for most students, the sidewalks immediately around the school are the only sidewalk they'll tread. We have to have policies that discourage dropping kids off.
  • "We've assigned front end loaders to clear out intersections that might otherwise be blocked by our street plowing activities." I would have guessed that the problem of ice mountains in crosswalks would be most efficiently addressed at the time the snow was being plowed. Based on the mayor's letter, it appears that assumption is unfounded. But, whether plowing big piles and later removing them is a more efficient use of resources (including staff), it still is less efficient from a pedestrian standpoint, because it takes a few days, at least, until the loaders (or the nifty sidewalk clearing machines) get rid of the piles.

The Mayor responds
Dangerous Sidewalk Letter to Mayor Cohen


Brookline challenging Chestnut Hill Square FEIR

This is a little bit old news, but the town of Brookline is going to appeal the state certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Chestnut Hill Square development.

Need to find out what the specific concerns are and what the impact on the planned late spring filing are.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Mayor responds

In response to my letter to Mayor Cohen about sidewalks, hizzoner has replied. I appreciate the lengthy response. (The full letter is below.) But, it sorta misses the point.

I have no doubt about the dedication and effort of the Public Works staff. And, I recognize that the city is trying to do the best it can with limited funds. But, I question policies that disproportionately favor streets over sidewalks.

This was an unusual storm. And, it fell just a few days before February vacation. But, still, imagine if the city's goal was to have the streets clear 12 days after the storm.

I'd like to see the city commit to clear school routes within the same timeframe it has committed to clear streets, understanding that it's a zero-sum game and that attention to sidewalks probably has to come at the expense of street clearing.

The letter:

Dear Mr. Roche:

Thanks for your e-mail regarding the deplorable condition along Daniel St. after the ice storm of February 14th. I apologize for the delay in replying to you.

I want to assure you that the poor condition of our sidewalks on Thursday the 15th was not due to lack of concern or effort. I and the rest of the city work force take our responsibility for plowing our sidewalks after snow storms and protecting the safety of school children very seriously.

In the past two years we have purchased an entire new fleet of sidewalk plows. We've increased the number of school route sidewalks that we plow. We've assigned front end loaders to clear out intersections that might otherwise be blocked by our street plowing activities. And in difficult storms like this one, we are committed to continue our snow and ice fighting operations long after the storm has stopped until the sidewalks and streets are in an acceptable condition. We've taken all of these steps because ensuring the safety of children walking to and from schools is so important to all of us.

This storm was almost impossible to fight effectively because toward the end the temperature fell 20 degrees in about two hours, turning rain into sleet and freezing rain and easily removable snow and slush into rock hard ice. As a result, most sidewalks and side streets were icy the next morning.

I was at several schools early Thursday morning, and the most urgent problem facing most of them was clearing the ice and frozen snow from the immediate vicinity of the schools. I personally made sure that crews were sent back to Ward, Bowen, Horace-Mann, and Lincoln-Elliot to complete that work before school got out.

Later that morning we surveyed the city and developed a plan to clear the school walking routes. We re-salted the routes, waited for them to start to melt and sent out the sidewalk plows again. Because the ice was so thick we had to repeat the process several times. Because so much of the routes had to be redone, it took us over a week to complete the job. But we were determined to have the routes cleared by the time school re-opened on the 26th.

I really think that this storm demonstrates our commitment to the safety of our school children rather than the opposite. Despite the difficult conditions, our work force kept at it day after day until the job was done. That is the kind of effort we will always make when it comes to the safety of the children of this city.

Very Truly Yours,

David Cohen
Previously: Dangerous Sidewalk Letter to Mayor Cohen


Connect BC by bike lanes

If Newton were to have physically-separated bike lanes, where to start?

One approach would be to provide safe lanes through a busy area, like Newton Centre or Newton Corner. The separated lanes would not provide safe haven for an entire journey, but for an important part of it. Initially, the lanes would be used by bicyclists who, for other parts of their rides, would be willing and able to ride on the streets, but would unlikely attract new riders to the streets.

Another, more ambitious approach would be to create lanes that would provide a haven for an entire trip that people might be willing to take by bicycle if the safety and comfort of separated lanes were available for (nearly) the entire trip. Any one of the schools or villages would make a good candidate for one end. But where to start that enough people would be on or near the route to justify it?

A third, more feasible approach would be to connect Boston College's Chestnut Hill and Centre Street campuses with physically-separated bike lanes. The demographics are ideal -- young people who would be likely to bike between the campuses. The route is ideal -- students need to get between the campuses. It's a short enough distance for a first trial. Commonwealth Avenue is one of the few Newton thoroughfares that is wide enough to absorb a physically separated bike lane without difficulty. And, Boston College might be an institution willing to help fund a project.

If it's a success, extensions are obvious. From Comm. Ave. into Newton Centre. From the Centre Street campus down to Newton Corner. Down the length of Comm. Ave.

Next thing you know, there'd be a network of separated bike lanes all over the city!

Previously: Physically Separated Bike Lanes


Monday, February 26, 2007

Whole Foods or the city?

On Friday, I spoke again with John the manager at Whole Foods. He says that the snow blocking the sidewalk was put there by the city.

I'm not entirely sold.

In any case, he said he'd work with the city to get rid of the pile. The pile was still there as of yesterday afternoon.

One lesson: it may not be that easy to enforce section 26-9.

Previously: Whole Foods


Friday, February 23, 2007

MBTA Alerts

Looking into the problem with the D-line this morning, I ran across the Service Alerts section of the MBTA site.

The link takes you to alerts for the D-line. The picture is the alerts section as it appears on the MBTA home page.

It looks like the Service Alerts section has good, up-to-date information.

But, why isn't there the ability to subscribe to alerts by e-mail? If I took the green line, why would I have any reason to check the site before I left.

And, why aren't the most recent alerts on the home page?

Update: There is a personalization feature on the MBTA site called MyMBTA, but all it does is create a links page for you.


No pike toll, increased gas tax

I heard an item on the radio coming in that one of the Pike commissioners is going to propose yanking the tolls (except bridges and tunnels) in favor of a $.09 increase in the gas tax.

Sounds good to me, so long as part of the increase is earmarked for public transit.

Missed this on tolls
Tolls on the Pike


Whole Foods

Here are the promised Whole Foods pictures.

The picture above is looking east along Beacon Street. The part of the pile blocking the sidewalk is three or four feet high.

The picture below is looking at the same pile from across Beacon Street looking southwest (more or less) at the entrance to the Whole Foods lot on the left.

It's going to be a long time before that pile melts.

Whole Foods Update


Enforcing 26-9

City ordinance 26-9 says you can't plow snow from your driveway or path onto the sidewalk. Violation of 26-9 is not a sin of ommission, it is a sin of commission. If you have plowed snow onto a sidewalk, you have actively put your private convenience above the interests of your neighbors.

It's a good ordinance. There's no legitimate excuse for plowing driveway snow onto the sidewalk. It's just sloppiness.

Moreover, it is a relatively easy ordinance for the police to enforce. As an officer patrols, he keeps an eye out for piles of snow that block the sidewalk. Obvious priority goes to sidewalks that lead to schools or public transit. When he sees such a pile, he gets out of the cruiser and writes a ticket.

It should also be easy to get people to comply with the ordinance. It's not homeowners who actually violate the ordinance; it's their agents ... the guys with the plows. It's a relatively small group of people committing a much larger number of violations.

If the police ticket a handful of homeowners, those homeowners complain to the plow guys. And, I'm willing to bet, the plow guys are going to be careful not just with that homeowner's driveway, but with all the other driveways they plow in Newton.

Call it viral enforcement. (Copyright application to follow.)

Update: Snow on Sidewalks
Leaving Snow on Sidewalks


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Update: Snow on Sidewalks

I heard back from Jeremy Solomon regarding enforcement of section 26-9, the ordinance prohibiting people from dumping snow onto sidewalks.

No citations have been issued. It is the responsibility of the police department to issue them.

Previously: Leaving Snow on Sidewalks


Whole Foods Update

I spoke with John, a manager at the Chestnut Street Whole Foods, about the snow moved from the parking lot to the Beacon Street sidewalk in apparent violation of ordinance 26-9.

He wasn't aware of any snow problem and promised to look into it. I'll keep an eye on the situation. (And, I'll post the picture tonight.)

Previously: Leaving Snow on Sidewalks


Physically Separated Bike Lanes

Molly sent me the link to this StreetsFilms video about physically separated bike lanes. (StreetsFilms is a sister project to our friends at StreetsBlog.)

In making the compelling case for separated bike lanes (traffic lanes > parking > bike lanes > sidewalk), the short film makes a pretty compelling case against conventional bike lanes (traffic lanes > bike lanes > sidewalk).

I'd love physically separated bike lanes in Newton. The problem is real estate. What streets are wide enough?

Molly says why not Route 9.


Leaving Snow on Sidewalks

Newton ordinances say you can't put the snow you remove from your walk or driveway and put it on the sidewalk. The relevant section in its entirety:

Sec. 26-9 Putting snow and ice upon streets, sidewalks and bridges

No person shall block, obstruct or otherwise hinder or impair pedestrian or vehicular traffic on the public ways of the city by placing snow or ice or permitting or causing snow or ice to be placed upon a street, sidewalk or bridge, except that snow or ice removed from a sidewalk may be piled in the adjoining gutter. This section shall not apply to municipal snow removal operations.
How does the section get enforced?

It's clearly violated all over the city. The picture above is from a sidewalk near me, taken today, a week after the storm and after some thaw. It's near the crosswalk across Parker Street to Daniel Street and it's a piece of sidewalk used by kids and parents on the way to Bowen School. (The picture's not great, but take my word that the lump of snow left is an impediment.)

I'll post a (more dramatic) picture later today of the enormous mound of snow that Whole Foods (or more accurately its snow removal contractor) has left on the sidewalk on Beacon Street.

These two are hardly the only violations of 26-9.

I've sent an e-mail to Jeremy Solomon asking for the number of infractions written for 26-9 violations. I've also started asking around City Hall about who's responsible for writing tickets. Inspectional Services says its not within their domain.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Woodland Road Meeting

The next public meeting on Woodland Road is March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the deWitt Auditorium, Winslow Hall, on the Lasell College Campus.

Because Lasell College student Kevin Flaherty died, the college community and the immediate neighborhood have put a lot of pressure on the city to solve the particular problems of Woodland Road. The last public meeting drew hundreds of people.

But, Kevin Flaherty's death shouldn't just matter to the Lasell community. And, the heightened attention given to Woodland Road because of his death should not be squandered on the resolution of the problems on Woodland Road alone. Keven Flaherty is not the only pedestrian to have died in Newton recently. Nor is Woodland Road the only unsafe or problematic street.

While there are some people in and out of city government who care about pedestrian safety and other traffic-related issues on a city-wide basis, traffic issues are typically raised and addressed neighborhood-by-neighborhood and problem-by-problem. The problems of a neighborhood only get support from the neighbors. And, the neighbors only consider traffic issues in the context of their neighborhood.

That's gotta change. The problems of Woodland Road should matter, even to those of us who never travel it. And, Kevin Flaherty's death merits more than change to a relatively small length of the city's roads.

Anyone with a traffic problem in their neighborhood should attend this meeting to make sure that the city addresses Woodland Road and all the other areas in the city where motor vehicle traffic is having a negative impact on safety and quality of life.


Irony alert

Keen observers might notice that the hedge in this picture (which I sent to the mayor) is the same sidewalk-blocking vegetation that I've complained to the DPW about.

What's the irony depicted? City policy to plow streets and not school-route sidewalks directly benefits the homeowner who has ignored the DPW's request to cut back the pedestrian-blocking hedge.

Previously: Dangerous Sidewalk Letter to Mayor Cohen
Update: Sidwalk Consuming Hedge
From the gargantuan to the tiny (but not trivial)


Inconvenient and dangerous

Here are the streets on which I saw pedestrians walking in the roadway between 5:30 and 6:00 tonight and last night:

  • Beacon
  • Needham
  • Centre/Winchester (near the Route 9 overpass)
  • Parker
  • Washington
I hate to play the danger card. With regard to pedestrian issues, I think there's a much lower threshold that the city should aim for: comfort and convenience.

But, there is no question that it is a serious safety issue when the sidewalks get so little attention that people are walking in the streets with moderate-to-heavy traffic in the early hours of darkness.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dangerous Sidewalk Letter to Mayor Cohen

Here's what I just sent to the mayor:

Walking my son from our home on Daniel Street to Bowen School this morning was difficult and dangerous. Treacherous would not be an exaggeration. Because of the good work by the DPW overnight, the same trip by car would have been easy. That's good service delivery to motorists, but lousy public policy.

On the walk to school, my son fell. Hard. On the way back, a woman fell, cut her head, and needed my help getting up. (My son will be fine. The woman was bleeding a fair bit, but appeared fine, too.) I would be very surprised if there were not other minor accidents that I did not witness. Certainly there was a high risk of a serious incident.

Mine is a widely used route to Bowen. On a good day scores of parents and school children walk the sidewalk on the North sides of Daniel and Jackson to Cypress. I cannot conceive of a reason why this pedestrian corridor doesn't get the same level of snow removal attention as major, much less minor streets.

The attached photo paints a damning picture. I took it standing on White Avenue where it intersects with Jackson Street. Jackson is the street running roughly vertical on the right side of the photo.

There are thirteen homes on White Avenue. While it is not completely cleared, it has clearly been plowed more than once. The sidewalk along Jackson, which is used by a large part of the Bowen community, is untouched by the city or city contractors. Some portions of the sidewalk have been shoveled by residents, but no parts are clear. Indeed, the shoveled sections are the most ice-bound and slippery.

Please note that the snow removed for the White Avenue residences is blocking the way for elementary school children and their parents.

At a time when we should be doing everything reasonably possible to reverse the disturbing increase in car traffic to our schools, the city's policies and practices not only encourage driving over walking, those practices and policies actually make it more dangerous to walk than to drive.

It is not an answer to say that this was an exceptional storm. It was an exceptional storm, no question. But, the unique qualities of the storm (lots of ice accumulation, for one) just highlight the policy discrimination in favor of motorists over pedestrians. Most storms don't result in such diametrically opposed conditions on the roads and sidewalks. But, sidewalks always fare far worse than streets.

This storm also highlights the inadequacy of resident response. Many of my neighbors and I did our best efforts to keep our sidewalks clear. But, we have jobs so could not keep at the task during the day. And, we don't have ready stores of sand and salt to deal with the ice accumulation.

To be clear, my concern is not with the quality of the work that DPW does, nor with the amount of money dedicated to snow removal. My concern is with the snow removal priorities.

I would be happy to work with you on the problem of snow removal on school routes and the two related larger problems: snow removal on pedestrian routes and encouraging children to work to school all the time. Already, at Commissioner Rooney's suggestion, I have joined the Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force. And, inspired by David Koses' work on school-related traffic issues, I will be working with Dr. Kelly and others on a Safe Routes to School application for Bowen.

I'm sure there are lots of creative, cost-effective ways to make our sidewalks more hospitable in the winter ... and throughout the year.

But, this is one issue that clearly requires -- and deserves -- leadership from the top. Please make it a priority to provide clear sidewalks for school children.

Our kids should have it at least as good as our drivers.

Thank you.

Sean Roche

42 Daniel Street
Newton Centre, MA
617 792-8998

Dr. Jeffrey Young, Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Patricia Kelly, Principal, Bowen Elementary School
Alderman Vicki Danberg, Ward 6
Alderman George Mansfield, Ward 6
Alderman Ken Parker, Ward 6
Alderman Christine Samuelson, Chairman of Public Safety & Transportation
Public Works Commissioner Robert Rooney
David Koses, Traffic Planner
Jeremy Solomon, Director of Policy and Communication
Greg Reibman, TAB and TAB Blog
Chuck Tanowitz, The Garden City

I cc'd John Bliss, Bike/Pedestrian Task Force, when I sent my letter to the mayor, but neglected him on the list of cc: recipients.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sidewalk Snowplowing Solution

Here's a solution to our sidewalk snow-clearing challenges ... a snow-eating robot that navigates by GPS and video cameras. A roomba for sidewalks.

This bright yellow little machine doesn't just push the snow around, it processes the snow into bricks that can be repurposed for cooling (like that's a pressing need on snowy days).

Link from Gizmodo (sophomoric content alert).


Plowing map in DPW Customer Service

I saw something neat while I was in DPW Customer Service about my sidewalk and light issues. On a computer display visible from the customer side of the Customer Service desk, was a color-coded map of the city, divided into zones. Karen on the other side of the desk explained to me that the color coding shows how many plowing passes the different zones have received. The snow-plow operators call in as they plow and she updates the map.

What a great tool.

It would be really cool if the city could figure out how to make that chart visible on the web site. (Do not misunderstand this as a requirement for transparency. There's nothing about the chart that must be made available. It's just be a friendly suggestion.)


Bowen School Zone light

I have noticed that the School Zone light is not on in the mornings when I drop my son off at Bowen. Today, while I was in DPW Customer Service, I asked that it be looked into.

I'll follow up in a little while and report back.


Update: Sidwalk Consuming Hedge

I stopped by DPW Customer Service this morning to follow up on my request to have a hedge on Jackson Street trimmed to allow us to use the full width of the sidewalk. (Thoughtful, no, to bother DPW during a storm about problems unrelated to the storm?)

DPW has sent the homeowner two notices. The nice DPW employee (Karen) was surprised that two notices had not been sufficient to result in some trimming. She's going to escalate the issue.

Previously: From the gargantuan to the tiny (but not trivial)


Monday, February 12, 2007

Thought for the day

From Allen Jacobs :

The reason great intersections work is because of the creation of a pedestrian realm where the cars know this. When streets become unsafe, it is almost always when the pedestrian realm does not exist.


Friday, February 9, 2007

Extension of the MBTA #60 bus

Looks like the #60 bus has been extended (PDF) to add a new stop at the Mall at Chestnut Hill, just west of the new Bloomingdale's women's store. The new route eliminates the stop under the Route 9 overpass. (Tip from Adam Peller.)

I'm not a transit-junkie and don't pretend to have a grasp on the nuances of individual bus routes. It appears to me that the change corresponds to the Bloomingdale's women's store move. It used to stop near Bloomingdale's. Bloomingdale's moved. Now it stops near Bloomingdale's new location. Maybe it's just coincidence.

But, it does have some interesting implications for the Chestnut Hill Square project. One of the changes New England Development promised in the Final Environmental Impact Report was to work with the MBTA and the Mall at Chestnut Hill to extend the route. Check that one off the list.

The route change also bears on the pedestrian bridge. One possible use case supporting the bridge was people working or shopping at the Mall at Chestnut Hill and using the pedestrian bridge to get to the Chestnut Hill Square bus stop. This assumes that the bus would not stop on the north side of Route 9.

Unless the MBTA eliminates this new stop, that use case vanishes. And, there's nothing about the bus route, the proposed changes to Route 9, or the pedestrian bridge that suggests that the MBTA would or should change the route.

It doesn't make sense to me that they would eliminate a stop at the Mall at Chestnut Hill in favor of the proposed Chestnut Hill Square stop when getting from the Mall to the CHS stop would involve crossing the parking lot and the pedestrian bridge and then getting down a flight of steps or an elevator. Especially when eliminating the Mall stop only saves the loop through the Mall parking lot.

But, what do I know?

Note: Adam wonders why the bus, having negotiated the Langley jug-handle, doesn't stop at the Atrium. I suspect because they don't have the space in the driveway. Also, Simon has a new shuttle between the Atrium and the Mall at Chestnut Hill, making it possible for Atrium shoppers and workers to use the bus. (I wrote "shoppers and workers" because it seems proper to do so. But, seriously, who's taking the bus and a shuttle to shop at Tiffany's or get a Greta Cole manicure?)


Biking, Writing Grandmother

New NS&S buddy Molly Schaeffer has a terrific bike article in this week's Tab, on the monthly Environmental page. (Page 26 in the dead-tree version. Not online yet.)

Molly and her husband have committed to one car between them, so she's got little choice to bike to and from work and around Newton.

Molly's article discusses the health benefits of biking and the infrastructure needed to make biking more prevalent.

My favorite quote:

We drive everywhere and make many highly polluting short trips. Then we complain about the traffic.


Totally New Idea

Tonight's Draft Comprehensive Plan Workshop was an interesting exercise in (too quickly) identifying citizen concerns and priorities to see how well the draft plan corresponds.

We were divided into groups by topic. Each person was asked to think of two sets of three goals for the city within the topic -- one set of blue-sky goals and another of more realistic goals. Once we listed all the individual goals, we voted on our top three blue-sky and realistic goals, which were the only goals reported out of committee to the larger group.

In the Transportation brainstorming, most of the ideas were familiar, though passionately presented. One was totally out of left field: make transit familiarity a requirement for high school graduation.

Our young people should be competent in getting around the region by public transportation.

Love it.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Why the Transporation goals are soft: bikers are the problem.

A very ominous statement at the Draft Comprehensive Plan Workshop this evening. In response to comments by Molly Schaefer and me about the lack of specific, measurable goals in the Transportation and Mobility section (particularly as it relates to bicycle and pedestrian access), Phil Herr informed us that, in essence, we're lucky even to get the pro-bike language that's in the section. According to Mr. Herr, there is a substantial contingent within the community that think bicyclists are part of the city's traffic problem and shouldn't be afforded accommodations. (I'm paraphrasing from memory. If I got something wrong, somebody let me know.)

I'm having a tough time attributing the sentiment to something other than a belief that roads exist solely for purpose of moving cars and trucks as quickly as possible, and that any limitation on the right to free motor vehicle travel is a problem. If there's a more charitable explanation, I'm all ears.

In one sense it's a non-zero sum game. Holistically looking at the interests in the city, we're going to have a more livable city if we can figure out how to implement a better balance among modes of transport and how to reduce car and truck traffic volumes and speeds. That would, necessarily, include making the city more friendly to bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

But, from the perspective of the individual motorist, it's more of a zero-sum game. The more that he has to share the road, the less road there is for him. In any given encounter with a bicyclist, any delay attributable to the bicyclist means that the bicyclist has contributed to his personal traffic woes.

What's the consequence for the Draft Comprehensive Plan? The process by which the plan was adopted was, by design, a collaborative one, aiming to arrive at a consensus for presentation, ultimately, to the Board of Alderman and the Mayor. In a consensus-driven process, the status quo will almost always triumph over change. (The proponent of change typically has the burden of proving consensus, so failing to achieve it sees the proposed change dropped. Nobody ever said to a proponent of the status quo: You don't have unanimity for your resistance to change, therefore we're going to have some change.)

The Transportation and Mobility section that is currently on track to be presented to the Board of Alderman and the Mayor deprives them of a chance to show real leadership in making Newton a city of livable streets.

I don't want to overstate this. The language of the section is overall bike- and pedestrian-friendly and the goals are certainly not anti-bike or anti-pedestrian. And, weak or modest bike/pedestrian goals in the Comprehensive Plan won't limit what specific measures the Mayor or the Aldercritters can take in the future.

But, it is an important document and an important opportunity. We should provide the Board of Alderman and the Mayor with an opportunity to adopt stronger language.

More details to follow ...

Previously: Draft Comprehensive Plan -- Transportation and Mobility


Why isn't City Hall in a village?

Why isn't City Hall the anchor tenant in Newton Centre or another transit-supported village? It's a shame that city staff can't take transit to work, that they can't (reasonably) walk to lunch or lunch-time shopping, that the nearly all-day activity at City Hall isn't adding to the vitality of one of the villages.

Possible, long-shot scenario: rather than renovate the rather decrepit City Hall, tear it down in favor of a use that it less transit-optimized (day care or an elementary school come to mind). Build a new City Hall in Newton Centre.

Now that would show a commitment to livable streets!

Update: My charge that City Hall is not served by transit is inaccurate. There is a bus line that serves City Hall. But, shouldn't it be closer to one of the many T stops in the city?


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

When's mitigation mitigation?

On the Tab's blog, Christopher Loh commendably noted my skepticism with New England Development's claim that they have committed $13.5 million to mitigation. (Mr. Loh's Tab article with the New England Development claim. My original entry questioning the mitigation.)

Mr. Loh, appropriately, turned my skepticism back on me, asking the basis for my conclusion that some claimed mitigation should not be considered mitigation. Herewith a summary of my reply ...

The key question is whether or not New England Development will realize a direct and substantial benefit from a proposed measure. If so, then it seems a bit much to suggest that it is a mitigation measure.

Looking at the signalized cut in Route 9 and the widening of Route 9 to 8 lanes, it seems pretty clear that the key beneficiary is Chestnut Hill Square. Without the cut in Route 9, some potential Chestnut Hill Square visitors will pass on a visit rather than deal with an already overloaded Langley Road turnaround. And, if you have a cut in Route 9 and lights, without the road widening you'll have congestion at the intersection from the undifferentiated mix of Chestnut Hill Square traffic and through traffic. CHS-bound cars stopped at a green light waiting to turn left will back up through traffic, which will back up CHS-bound traffic, which will ... you get the point. More disincentive to shop at CHS.

A counterfactual hypothetical might help. If the city (with the commonwealth's blessing) were to say, "We need the tax revenue so badly, we don't even care if you mitigate," would New England Development make the signalized cut in Route 9 and widen Route 9?

For $3.5 million or so, they'd be foolish not to.

Previously: NED's Overstated mitigation commitment