Comment Letter Re: Boston Common Master Plan

Comment Letter Re: Boston Common Master Plan

Nathan Frazee
Project Manager
Boston Common Master Plan
Boston Parks Department
1010 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston, MA 02118
via email: 

RE: WalkBoston Comments on 2022 Boston Common Master Plan

Dear Mr. Frazee:

WalkBoston has followed the progress for the Boston Common Master Plan over the last few years, and we appreciate the time and attention that has been placed on creating an inviting public realm and an enhanced sense of arrival and safer crosswalks at all entrances. We’ve highlighted some sections from the draft report below.

Park Entrances: 

  • We encourage the Parks Department to work with the Transportation Department to ensure the important mid-block crossing of Charles Street at Mayor’s Walk is a raised crosswalk; the draft language hedges in saying it is “A large crosswalk, possibly elevated.” Many people drive way too fast on Charles Street; a raised crosswalk will help calm traffic between two significant parks. 
  • The Shaw 54th Memorial was left out of an earlier draft since it is not accessible from the Boston Common (and due to restoration work by the National Park Service); we are pleased to see that an accessible entrance to the Common from the Shaw 54th Memorial is incorporated into the draft as an early action project.
  • We are pleased to see an early action project for Park Street Station’s plaza will further develop a proposed grading scheme to create an accessible path similar to how Government Center combines stairs and ramps. We had concerns with the previous draft that seemed to frame a direct route down the hill near Park Street onto the plaza at a location near the curbs of Tremont Street. 

Seating & Benches:

  • The report states there are approximately 238 benches in different states of repair today on the Common, down from 390 at the time of the 1996 Management Plan. We are very pleased to see a commitment to both increasing the number of benches available in the Common and providing a higher level of accessibility for existing and new locations, including prioritizing bench locations with new tree plantings for shade. 
  • It is noted that “Armrests should be considered as an accessibility measure; armrests help the elderly and all park users more easily stand up from a seated position. In this way, benches can be used to further the social agenda of the park, making the experience more equitable and accessible for all visitors.” During our Age-Friendly work in Boston with the Age-Strong Commission, participants have expressed that benches with arms help them both with sitting and standing back up from a bench. 
  • We encourage you to look at the improvements the City of Boston made to Cassidy Playground in Allston-Brighton. The redesign created many different seating options, including benches with and without arms, that give park users the opportunity to find seating that works best for their needs at the time. We hope that you can find a solution that meets the needs of older adults without creating hostile architecture. 

Safer bike facilities to reduce bike/ped conflict:

  • Thank you for the continuation of the current policy of excluding bicycle riding in the park. We appreciate the support for the Transportation Department’s work to create better bike facilities on the streets surrounding the Common. If those lanes are a safe option, more people biking will use them. This policy assures the safety and calm of the paths for pedestrians and avoids conflicts between walkers and cyclists. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Brendan Kearney
Deputy Director of Advocacy, WalkBoston

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