Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Parker Street process

Peter Howe has a letter in the most recent TAB (10/4/09) expressing concern about the apparent lack of process concerning the installation of a pedestrian-activated signal at the crosswalk at Parker and Daniel Streets. (I couldn't find the letter online.) While I happen to think that some sort of signal probably makes sense at this location, Peter's process concerns are legitimate. There ought to be a full public opportunity to allow neighbors and others potentially affected to hear the rationale for a signal, the pros and the cons, and offer their input. As with any other traffic change, there are going to be secondary consequences to consider (some of which may even be positive).

Fortunately, it appears to be earlier in the process than Peter appears to assume and that opportunity is still available.

At issue is a recommendation in a pending report prepared by a consultant engaged by through the state's Safe Routes to School program. Bowen is a member school of the Safe Routes program. As such, it was eligible to apply for -- and was granted -- an Infrastructure Assessment. Consultants were retained by the state to survey the transportation infrastructure around Bowen and along walking routes to Bowen and to make recommendations about changes that would make walking to school safer. The program provides money (federal funds) to implement changes if the city adopts any of the consultants' recommendations.

At this point, there is no final report, but according to discussion at the September 14 Traffic Council meeting, the consultants have met with city staff to review their recommendations, one of which is a pedestrian-activated signal at the crosswalk across Parker at Daniel. Peter apparently relied on the minutes of the meeting which state that Traffic Council voted 4-0 "in support of TEC's recommendation for the design of a pedestrian activated full signal at Daniel and Parker Streets." Listening to the meeting audio, however, it appears that no vote was taken as it was just a discussion item and that the report is in error. (Discussion of the Parker Street item begins at about 29:30 and lasts for 13:30.) There was informal agreement, however, that city staff should recommend that the consultant include a full signal (green, yellow, red) rather than a flashing yellow sign as one of the recommendations in the report.

It's tough to tell from the meeting audio what the next steps are once the report is issued. I wholeheartedly agree with Peter's call for "a full, open, transparent public process of reviewing the need for and design and operation of this new traffic light before it's a done deal."

Where Peter and I part ways is with his suggestion that the redesign of the Daniel/Jackson intersection just up the street was "relentlessly pushed through City Hall." The Daniel/Jackson intersection redesign was the subject of innumerable public meetings, a full consultants' study, neighborhood comment on the study and trials resulting from the study, and deliberation by Traffic Council, Public Facilities, and the full Board of Aldermen. Eight years after the first petition to address problems at Daniel and Jackson, there is no permanent construction and we're still before the board (Public Safety & Transportation) after recent returns to Traffic Council and Public Facilities. There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but it's just not fair to attribute those strong feelings to a lack of process or transparency.


Anonymous said...

Of course there was a lack of process and transparency. You just need to look at the lengthy email trail that is part of the record for the Public Facilities meeting of May 20, 2009 http://www.ci.newton.ma.us/Aldermen/Public%20Facilities/2009/05-20-09PublicFacilitiesAgenda.pdf
Between changing the berm distances, trying to have trials during school recess, saying there was no diversion, then saying it wasn't significant, the aldermen not even knowing who the abutters were. C'mon. It was anything but transparent. You don't get this many people fighting against it if it wasn't something that was attempted to be shoved through in the dead of night.

Anonymous said...

The third paragraph states that: "Mr. Dandrade requested that the City of Newton show a sign of support for the signal in order for them to move forward with the associated design work."

The last paragraph states that a vote was taken to support TEC's recommendation that they move ahead with the design of the signal.

Neither the minutes nor the audio indicate that there was a vote to install a signal at this point.

Anonymous said...

"Ald. Danberg moved to vote in support of TEC’s recommendation for the design of a pedestrian activated full traffic signal at Daniel and Parker Streets and the Committee voted in favor 4-0.
Respectfully Submitted,
David Koses, Traffic Council Chair

Unless between now when this is posted and the time that the Newton Ministry of Truth has rewritten the minutes and removed all traces of all past versions of the minutes ... This is from the Sept. 14 "report" on the Newton Traffic Council publically accessible website.


So the chair, the vice chair, and the clerk of the committee are ... lying?? So says the author of this blog post????? What do Mr. Koss, Ms. Danberg, and Ms. Delaney have to say about being called liars??

Sean Roche said...


Did you listen to the audio? It's worth a few minutes of your time. At the end of the item, there was discussion and consensus about what to tell the consultant. No official motion was made, so the minutes are not quite accurate. Knowing Mr. Koses and Ms. Danberg, I'll bet that their just fine with having a minor, but potentially anxiety producing, administrative issue clarified.