Category: East Boston

Exploring East Boston with Caminatas Seguras

Exploring East Boston with Caminatas Seguras

On June 13th 2023, WalkMassachusetts joined East Boston community members on a walk led by GreenRoots, a non-profit dedicated to improving the local urban environment and public health, with a focus on Chelsea and East Boston. The walking group Caminatas Seguras meets weekly on Tuesdays to help promote walking as a way to enjoy local public spaces, be physically active, and build connections with residents who have historically been excluded from public decision making processes.

Senior Program Manager Iolando Spinola and Summer Intern Chiara Palagi join GreenRoots and Caminatas Seguras on a walk through East Boston.

Around 25 participants, including Senior Program Manager Iolando Spinola and Summer Intern Chiara Palagi, began at Piers Park, a local space overlooking the Boston Harbor. The group engaged in lively conversations throughout the walk, with topics including new developments in the area, recent and upcoming community events, and even just catching up with one another on an individual level. Passionate GreenRoots volunteers provided historical context and relevant information about the spots along the path.

John Walkey of GreenRoots gives community members historical context on spots encountered during the walk.

The day’s route passed by landmarks such as the ICA Watershed gallery and the Navy Fuel Pier park. With a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline across the harbor, the park’s lush green spaces and well-maintained paths provided the perfect setting for our walk.

Members of the East Boston community admire the view from Navy Fuel Pier park.

Our walk culminated at East Boston Memorial Park, giving GreenRoots volunteers the opportunity to engage with the community members and share upcoming events and opportunities for involvement. Information and flyers were distributed bilingually, showcasing local initiatives, events, and programs aimed at addressing pressing issues in the neighborhood while involving and empowering residents.

Through walking, conversation, and shared experiences, the bonds between community members and activist groups grow stronger every week in Caminatas Seguras, paving the way for a more connected and engaged East Boston. WalkMassachusetts is grateful to have had the opportunity to join GreenRoots and Caminatas Seguras for this experience.

East Boston Ped101 Presentation with GreenRoots and Caminatas Verdes y Caminatas Seguras

East Boston Ped101 Presentation with GreenRoots and Caminatas Verdes y Caminatas Seguras

Image: WalkBoston staff leading a Ped101 presentation to members of the Caminatas Verdes y Caminatas Seguras group.

On Thursday, August 4th, WalkBoston led an in-person Ped101 presentation for East Boston residents. The training was done in collaboration with GreenRoots, an environmental justice organization based out of Chelsea and East Boston, and the Caminatas Verdes y Caminatas Seguras walking group.

The program aims to improve safe walking access to East Boston’s parks and open spaces. The goal of the Ped101 training was to educate community members on the fundamentals of walkability and effective walking infrastructure, and give community members the vocabulary to advocate for infrastructure improvements. The presentation was conducted in both English and Spanish. WalkBoston offered an interpreter who translated the presentation in real-time using GreenRoots equipment. 

East Boston community members are passionate about improving their neighborhood’s walking infrastructure, especially around parks and schools. Over 20 community members attended the Ped101 presentation. At the end of the training, community members discussed how walkability solutions from the presentation could be used in their own community. They largely focused on fading sidewalks, lack of daylighting and curb extensions, poor snow removal, insufficient walking signals, and the failure of new developments to replace walking infrastructure damaged during construction. 

After the discussion, residents participated in a mapping activity in which they marked areas of East Boston that they felt were particularly dangerous for pedestrians. WalkBoston and GreenRoots will also communicate resident concerns directly to the City of Boston, both through a current conditions report and a meeting with city representatives.

Caminatas Seguras: Advocating for Park Accessibility in East Boston

Caminatas Seguras: Advocating for Park Accessibility in East Boston

East Boston community members gather with GreenRoots and WalkBoston in Bremen Street Park

Last Tuesday, June 14, WalkBoston joined East Boston residents and members of GreenRoots, a non-profit dedicated to improving access to and enjoyment of the urban environment of Boston and its surrounding communities, on a walk through multiple parks in East Boston. GreenRoots hosts walks in East Boston every Tuesday beginning at Bremen Street Park, with the hope of building community among East Boston Residents through sharing the joy that can be found in exploring the neighborhood’s various parks and neighborhoods. The organization invited WalkBoston members along for one Tuesday walk per month, as part of both organizations’ collaborative work focused on improving walking access to parks and advocating for more inclusive park programming.

GreenRoots, WalkBoston, and East Boston community members began with a short introduction, sharing names, laughs, gestures of welcoming, and inspiring stories of challenges that led members to find purpose and connection through volunteering. The group then began their walk from the center of Bremen Street Community Park to the Mary Ellen Welch greenway. These two parks were chosen due to their tree shading, which was beneficial as it offered cooling on a hot summer day, but also reflected the limited cool areas in East Boston.

Both of these parks proved to be flourishing community gathering points, filled with people on foot, on bike, and in stroller, all sharing stories and smiles with one another. Along the way, group members introduced themselves and talked about community building, the importance of conserving our natural landscapes, appreciation of park amenities, and expressed a desire for the many still needed improvements to these landscapes, including accessible walking paths and signage. Residents also commented on the effect of neighborhood improvements on housing prices, advocating for an increase in affordable housing to combat gentrification in the area.

WalkBoston and GreenRoots, through generous funding from Boston Children’s Hospital, will continue working and walking alongside the many East Boston residents dedicated to cultivating their community, both as a physical and as an interpersonal space. This work will further our mission of improving walking safety and accessibility throughout Massachusetts, amplifying the voices of the many respected communities and community members with which we work.

Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

January 25, 2018

Mayor Brian Arrigo
ATTN: Robert O’Brien, Director of Economic Development
City of Revere
281 Broadway
Revere, MA 02151

Secretary Matthew Beaton
ATTN: Page Czepiga, MEPA Analyst
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Director Brian Golden
ATTN: Tim Czerwienski, Project Manager
Boston Planning and Development Agency
One City Hall, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201

RE: WalkBoston comments on Suffolk Downs redevelopment (EEA No. 15783)

Dear Mayor Arrigo, Secretary Beaton and Director Golden:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on HYM Investment Group’s proposed redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston and Revere. WalkBoston looks forward to working with the City of Revere, EEA, BPDA, HYM, and other agencies and project stakeholders to help advance the proponent’s stated goal of “creating a vibrant, mixed-use walkable community.”

Leveraging connections between walkability and transit

The proponent’s Expanded Project Notification Form (EPNF) reflects a strong commitment in principle to walkability and multimodal transportation connectivity. The proposed Phase 1 project emphasizes new pedestrian connections at the Suffolk Downs Blue Line station on the MBTA, and the Master Plan project is similarly premised upon pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line at Suffolk Downs and Beachmont Stations. Overall the Suffolk Downs site is wellpositioned for walkable transit-oriented development, which is reflected in HYM’s high anticipated mode shares for walking and transit for the Master Plan project. (The projected mode shares for walking range from 10.9% for office uses to 19.6% for residential uses; the projected mode shares for transit range from 45.4% for residential uses to 54.7% for hotel uses.)

The Phase 1 project has a much lower projected transit mode share of 37.5%, as well as a 44.4% projected mode share for single occupancy vehicles. We are concerned that this will create significant auto dependency from the onset of this project that will affect the future Master Plan development as well. The proponent states that “while there will be emphasis to support a high proportion of alternative trip making by the Phase 1 Project, this more conservative mode share profile has been utilized given the Phase 1 buildings are being analyzed as a standalone project without the benefit of a mixed-use environment.” We urge the proponent to aim for more ambitious transit, walking and biking mode share goals for the Phase 1 development to maximize the site’s potential for transit-oriented development.

The proponent also anticipates over 54,000 new transit trips per weekday, including over 4,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 5,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This number is very high relative to current Blue Line ridership levels. As part of their transit analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), HYM should detail how they arrived at this number and how Blue Line ridership will change as the Master Plan project is phased in over time. This analysis should be accompanied by the proponent also clarifying their plans to invest in capacity upgrades along the Blue Line as part of a broader package of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies.

Exploring opportunities to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and parking spaces

While the high projected transit mode share and ridership are positive attributes of this development proposal, the proponent still projects over 33,000 new vehicle trips per weekday, including over 3,000 trips during the morning peak hour and over 3,000 trips during the evening peak hour. This increased vehicular traffic has the potential to significantly affect congestion and pedestrian safety within the project site and along surrounding roadways. Given that vehicular access to the site is limited to just two intersections (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way), the proponent should clarify how the project site and surrounding streets will handle this traffic in the DEIR. Significant mitigation measures will be necessary to address 33,000 new vehicles on already congested streets.

While HYM does not specify how many new parking spaces will be needed to accommodate these vehicles, WalkBoston calculates that between 10,800 and 16,200 new spaces will be necessary, depending on the development program and parking ratios used. (The proponent states that the following parking ratio ranges should adequately support the Master Plan project’s parking demand into the future: residential, 0.5 to 1.0 spaces per unit; office, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; lab, 1.0 spaces per 1,000 SF; hotel: 0.5 spaces per room; retail: 0.5 spaces per 1,000 SF). We are encouraged by the relatively low proposed parking ratios for the residential units, as well as HYM’s broader recognition that auto trip rates are likely to decrease over time. The final residential parking ratio should be as close to 0.5 spaces per unit as possible and we look forward to reviewing HYM’s TDM plans as part of the DEIR. Any strategies and mitigation measures proposed must further enhance walkability, bikeability and transit access, while reducing single occupancy vehicle use and the associated need for parking.

Exploring opportunities for bus/shuttle connectivity and related pedestrian access

HYM notes that there are several MBTA bus lines (450, 459 and 119) along Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue within a half-mile walk of the project site, and that “there are opportunities to expand MBTA bus service into the project site and provide for internal site transportation/shuttle to further improve access to public transit” as the Master Plan project is built out. The proponent should further explore and detail these options as part of their TDM plans in the DEIR, as increased utilization of MBTA buses and/or shuttles can reduce single occupancy vehicle use. An analysis of bus/shuttle options should examine the potential for increased service on existing MBTA bus lines and associated changes in ridership, as well as the potential to service the neighborhoods surrounding the project site. The proponent should also clarify their plans for investing in such services, whether through funding the MBTA or their own shuttles.

Ensuring that pedestrians can safely and comfortably walk to and from bus/shuttle stops is critical to ensuring that these services will be utilized. Ideally bus/shuttle stops will be located within a quarter-mile of the project site to maximize their usage. We appreciate HYM’s commitment to improving sidewalks adjacent to the project site to meet ADA standards and to include street trees if feasible, as well as their acknowledgement of the need for mitigation measures and infrastructure improvements at the site’s primary vehicular access points (Route 1A/Tomasello Way and Winthrop Avenue/Tomasello Way). The proponent states that “geometric and traffic signal improvements will be recommended at both of these intersections to optimize traffic operations.”

Improvements at these locations must also address pedestrian safety and traffic calming. HYM plans to widen Tomasello Way and Route 1A as part of the Master Plan improvements, yet there are no crosswalks across Route 1A near the project site and the crosswalk across Tomasello Way at Route 1A is already 140 feet wide with minimal pedestrian refuge. Any signal and roadway upgrades at this location and near other shuttle/bus stops must provide safe pedestrian crossings and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. Long crossing distances should be reduced as much as possible using curb extensions, and pedestrian refuges should be created and enhanced to provide protected waiting areas. In extreme circumstances, the proponent might consider working with the MBTA to relocate bus stops to more pedestrian-friendly locations.

Creating a walkable project site that meets Complete Streets standards

In addition to leveraging pedestrian access to and from the Blue Line, the proponent has integrated walkability and pedestrian connectivity into many other aspects of their redevelopment proposal. These include creating a new interior street network on site that meets Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) Complete Streets guidelines, developing a system of multi-use ADA-compliant paths and trails that connects to adjacent neighborhoods and regional path networks, and activating the public realm with open space amenities and extensive ground-floor retail. Creating streets, sidewalks and paths that accommodate road users of all abilities and travel modes is critical to developing more livable and walkable communities, so WalkBoston is pleased to see a commitment to these issues in the EPNF.

We look forward to seeing more detailed plans for the interior streets, paths, intersections and signals as part of the DEIR. The interior streets should be designed to ensure that vehicles follow a 20 mile per hour speed limit to maximize walking safety as well as walking and transit mode shares. They should also include additional measures for pedestrian safety and traffic calming, including narrow vehicular travel lane widths, frequent and well-marked crosswalks, and well-timed WALK signals that provide countdowns and leading pedestrian intervals. We encourage the proponent to maintain their current plans to not have vehicular access to the project site from Bennington Street or Waldemar Avenue, thus prioritizing multimodal connectivity and reducing the potential for increased local traffic.

Improving pedestrian safety throughout the project study area

The need for traffic mitigation is not limited to the immediate project vicinity and access points. To this end, HYM states that a mitigation program will likely focus on improvements to roadway geometry, traffic signals, and multimodal mobility along the broader Route 1A and Winthrop Avenue corridors, as well as Furlong Drive, the on-site roadway network, and other nearby intersections. The proponent also notes that many of the broader study area intersections are located within Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) clusters and thus are potentially subject to Road Safety Audits (RSAs) per Massachusetts Department of Transportation guidelines. WalkBoston looks forward to reviewing a more detailed discussion of the Master Plan project mitigation phasing and recommendations for the timing of specific roadway improvement projects as part of the DEIR. We are also available to participate in future RSAs as needed. Once again, we encourage utmost consideration for pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures as part of any improvement packages.

Thank you again for considering these issues and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc: House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate President Harriette Chandler
Senator Joseph Boncore, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative William Strauss, Transportation Co-Chair
Representative Adrian Madaro
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, Transportation Chair
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, District 1
Revere City Council President Jessica Giannino
Revere City Councilor Steven Morabito, Economic Development and Planning Chair
Revere City Councilor Joanne McKenna, Ward 1
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacey Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance
Andre Leroux, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
Richard Fries, MassBike Marc Ebuña, TransitMatters
Chris Dempsey, Transportation for Massachusetts