Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sidewalks on Boylston St.

At the Land Use meeting on Tuesday, city attorney Ouida Young got into a heated exchange with Alderman Deb Crossley about a draft board order finding related to pedestrian accommodations. At one point, Young said that Route 9 is not pedestrian-friendly and never will be.

The comment is unfortunate on at least four levels.

First of all, it's not accurate. There are parts of the corridor that are quite pedestrian-friendly. Here's the situation in front of the Capital Grille. Decent sidewalk. Huge grass berm. Wide shoulder before the travel lane.

Second, it is dismissive of or ignorant of the fact that, regardless of the quality of sidewalk, people use it.

Not caring about pedestrian accommodations is a real screw-you to the people who use those sidewalks by people who only drive on Route 9 and cannot imagine walking beside it.

Third, it fails to acknowledge that the Chestnut Hill Square proposal doesn't just fail to provide good pedestrian accommodations, it makes the existing conditions much worse. Here's a picture of the sidewalk in front of the site. Again, wide shoulder, a grass berm, decent sidewalk.

Here's a picture from NED's materials. NED has since agreed to put a berm between the sidewalk and the roadway, but the berm is no wider, the sidewalk is no wider, and the shoulder will now be an active turning lane for a large portion of traffic into the site. Bottom line: the situation is worse.

In front of David's, as the NED rendering shows, it's much worse. The roadway widening eliminates or (possibly) reduces a very wide berm.

Fourth, it's not consistent with what many of us understand is the city's policies on promoting pedestrian mobility. It is critical that we make it easier and more attractive to walk around our city. Car traffic is destroying our quality of life. It's killing the planet. The infrastructure needed to support our car dependence creates sprawl. We have to take every opportunity possible to actively promote walking.

No, Route 9 is not the most attractive place in town to take a stroll. But, it is a tremendous opportunity, nonetheless. There are people, lots of people. It's the densest residential area in the entire city. There are destinations. The Mall at Chestnut Hill, the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center (lower mall), the shops on Boylston across from the shopping center, the Atrium, Barnes & Noble and Milton's, Hammond Pond, MIshkan Tefila, Webster Conservation, Longwood station, &c.

If we connect those people and places, if we create a network of really good pedestrian accommodations, we can get people out of their cars. Not all of them. Not all the time. But enough to make a difference.

Route 9 and its traffic is an impediment, but there is no reason to give up on making a walkable district. In fact, if anything, Route 9 and its traffic should be a constant reminder of why we need to promote walking.

So, it's incredibly discouraging to hear from city staff, the lead negotiator on the board order that's going to define New England Development's responsibilities, that promoting pedestrian mobility on Boylston St. is a waste of time.


dr2chase said...

Could be worse. Could be Burlington Mall. Especially, after a snowstorm.

Mark said...

Has anyone on the planning committees answered where all the snow from 3 or 4 lanes is going to end up when it is plowed?

Is this narrow sidewalk going to be piled high with snow?

If you are walking on the sidewalk is the traffic going to splash slush all over you?