Strengthening Connections to Community and Transit in Gateway Cities

Strengthening Connections to Community and Transit in Gateway Cities

Since September 2020, WalkBoston has conducted a series of walk audits in Gateway Cities across the Commonwealth as part of our “Gateway Cities: Social Infrastructure and Walkability” project in partnership with MassINC and with support from the Solomon Foundation. We’re hosting walk audits in five Gateway Cities, in the area around each city’s downtown commuter rail station, in order to advance better connections to transit-oriented development (TOD) zones and public amenities in these communities.

WalkBoston and MassINC created interactive maps for participants in each community, noting the walking route, and highlighting the sites of pedestrian-involved crashes, social/gathering spaces, and the vast amount of the study area occupied by parking infrastructure. Click here to go to the interactive Google map.

This project not only assesses the neighborhoods’ walking conditions but also looks at the availability of spaces that foster gathering and social connection, such as parks, plazas, community centers, and cafes. Through virtual discussions, as well as sharing written and visual observations, we’re working with residents, municipal staff, and other community members to identify assets and opportunities, and develop program, infrastructure, and policy recommendations based on participants’ visions for the area. In addition to effecting change at the local level, WalkBoston and MassINC will produce policy papers based on the findings from these walk audits to inform state policy and budgetary investment in Gateway Cities.

So far, we’ve completed virtual walk audits in three cities as part of this project: SpringfieldFitchburg, and Brockton. Over the past year, the desire to live in a community with comfortable walking paths, open space, and street activity has dramatically increased as people spent more time at home and in their neighborhoods. The walk audits we’ve already completed have demonstrated that there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm to create more walkable, vibrant public spaces in our partner communities. In Fitchburg, participants are forming a bike/ped committee to advance the walk audit’s findings. In Brockton, residents looking for ways to get more involved in decision-making in their community used the walk audit to connect with municipal staff and each other and learn about joining committees, boards, and task forces.

Next, we’re kicking off our Haverhill walk audit tonight, Thursday, May 27th. This will be the first walk audit in the Gateway Cities series to include an in-person group walk option – we’re excited to get back to walking together again!

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