Tag: LivableStreets

GBH: “As driving-related casualties mount, what would make Massachusetts roads safer?”

GBH: “As driving-related casualties mount, what would make Massachusetts roads safer?”

GBH: “As driving-related casualties mount, what would make Massachusetts roads safer?

Those grim numbers are the backdrop for a new push by the city of Boston to make its streets safer by deploying speed bumps, redesigning problem intersections, and revamping the use of traffic signals. Could Boston’s plan serve as a model for other communities? And what could state government be doing to decrease fatalities? Adam Reilly discusses with Brendan Kearney, the deputy director of WalkMassachusetts, and Stacy Thompson, the executive director of Livable Streets.

Segment initially aired June 2, 2023

Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

October 22, 2019
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
Michael O. Moore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 109-B
Boston, MA 02133
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
Harold P. Naughton, Jr., House Chair
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Support for S.1376 ‘An Act relative to automated enforcement’

Dear Chair Moore, Chair Naughton, and members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security:

Thank you for holding a hearing on legislation that promotes road safety in Massachusetts. We are asking you to favorably report out S.1376 An Act relative to automated enforcement. Let’s prevent fatalities, crashes, and injuries on Massachusetts streets.

When employed properly, automated enforcement has been shown to effectively reduce unsafe driving behavior, the number of crashes, and the severity of crash-related injuries. This approach also de-emphasizes officer-initiated traffic stops that can cause concern about racial profiling. Automated enforcement is used in 29 other states.

This bill protects the privacy of drivers and other vehicle occupants, since it requires that only photographs of the rear license plate are recorded. Addressing concerns around equity, it requires cameras be placed in locations with a nexus to safety, has fines limited to $25, and would require a statewide study of any racial and socioeconomic disparities three years after enacted. Cities and towns would only be able to receive revenue that accounts for the costs of the program, and any additional revenue received would go to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund.

Serious injury and death from traffic crashes continue with troubling frequency on our streets. S.1376 An Act relative to automated enforcement is a comprehensive piece of legislation which aims to create safer streets for all users.

We encourage you to report this legislation out favorably.

Please find the testimony shared this morning at the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing attached (as prepared).

Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition

Testimony at hearing:

Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston:
Good Morning Chairs and members of the committee. My name is Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director at WalkBoston. Thank you for the opportunity for myself and two of my colleagues from the Vision Zero Coalition to testify in support of Senate Bill 1376, An Act relative to automated enforcement.

The Vision Zero Coalition was formed in fall 2015 to advocate for the implementation of Vision Zero in Boston, and for the reduction of traffic injuries and deaths across Massachusetts. Our coalition includes community-based organizations, nonprofits, businesses, civic groups, and individuals.

Speeding is a huge public safety issue: the Governor’s Highway Safety Association Report “Speeding Away from Zero” released earlier this year shared that 28% of fatal crashes in 2017 in MA were speeding-related. Higher speed, regardless of limit, is a factor in every traffic fatality or serious crash: there is less reaction time for a person driving to brake or avoid a crash, and a fast moving vehicle inflicts higher blunt force trauma on crash victims. Lower speeds have been found to be safer on our roads.

We are thankful that the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016 gave cities and towns the ability to opt-in to lower the prevailing speed limit to 25 miles per hour and create 20 mph safety zones. Similarly, this bill would allow municipalities to opt-in to a safety camera program, within parameters and limits.

Enforcement is one of the tools that we have to reduce traffic speeds on our roadways. Yet, according to EOPSS statistics, motor vehicle citations have declined close to 25% over the past 5 years. Several factors have contributed to this decline – and we think automated enforcement could help address some of these factors.

Traffic enforcement is an important measure for safety — but it must be done equitably. Equitable automated enforcement could allow enforcement within limited budgets and help to remove police bias in traffic stops, if implemented well.

This bill has several measures to design an equitable program. Local municipalities would approve the locations after a public process, with a limit of one fixed camera per 2,500 residents. This bill calls for an annual report to be sent to MassDOT with locations; and after 3 years, requires a statewide study of racial or socioeconomic enforcement disparities from this act. We are happy to engage with committee and stakeholders on any of the language.

Louisa Gag, LivableStreets Alliance:
Good Morning, my name is Louisa Gag and I’m the Public Policy and Operations Manager at LivableStreets Alliance.

The 2018 Massachusetts Strategic Highway Safety Plan recommended automated enforcement legislation be developed to give municipalities “opt in” authority to issue citations through the use of cameras and radar technology.

And there’s a reason for that. It works – some sort of automated enforcement is used in 29 other states and 130 countries. In Maryland, a study showed that the proportion of drivers traveling more than 10 mph above the speed limit declined by about 70% for locations with warning signs and speed camera enforcement. A National Transportation Safety Board review of 28 automated speed enforcement studies found that cameras reduced crashes between 8-49%. And a UNC study found that for red-light cameras, while sometimes there is a slight increase in rear-end crashes, there is almost always a significant reduction in side-impact crashes, which are typically more severe.

One common concern with automated enforcement is privacy. We believe that these concerns are addressed very well in this bill, but we’d be happy to engage with the committee and other stakeholders to improve it even further. Only photographs of the rear license plate are recorded, so that means no faces are photographed. Photos are only captured when a camera-enforceable violation occurs. 48 hours after final disposition of a violation, images are permanently deleted. Any use of a photograph before that would require a court-approved warrant.
Thank you.

Charlie Ticotsky, Transportation for Massachusetts:
Thank you, my name is Charlie Ticotsky and I’m the Policy Director at the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition.

This bill, which if passed would likely create most thoughtful automated enforcement regulatory structure in the country, clearly presents automated enforcement in the context of safety. It is NOT a money grab for cities and towns. In fact, cities and towns would only be able to receive revenue that accounts for the costs of the program, and any additional revenue would go to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund. The idea is that drivers would not be tricked into violations–the cameras must be clearly marked and obvious and a public awareness campaign prior to them going live would be required. The bill also allows a grace period where motorists would receive only warnings. This bill sets up a system meant to be a deterrent to dangerous driving, not a revenue scheme.

Fines would be limited to 25 dollars, and would not escalate for multiple offenses. It would not lead to increased insurance points. And while it could put your car registration status in jeopardy after serial nonpayment to force repayment, it cannot lead to license suspensions. The fine is on the car owner because there will be no photos of anything but the license plate. There is a provision for emergencies and other exemptions, and an appeals and hearing process.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, unlike in other jurisdictions, private vendors of these cameras would only be allowed to be paid based on the value of equipment and service provided–not on the number of citations issued or revenue generated–so that there will not be pressure from the private companies to increase the number of citations issued or revenue generated.

Thank you very much.

Great Day of Action for Road Safety on Beacon Hill

Great Day of Action for Road Safety on Beacon Hill

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us at the Statehouse for the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition’s Road Safety Day of Action! Thank you to Governor Baker & Lt. Governor Polito for also filing legislation focused on road safety and getting the conversation started.

A packed room heard from Governor Baker, Text Less Live More, Children’s Hospital, AAA, SADD, and co-sponsors of three important bills:

  1. The Hands-Free Bill(s)

    • Chairman Wagner & Representative Donato are sponsoring HD1534
    • Chairman Straus is sponsoring HD1420
    • Representative Provost is sponsoring HD1346
    • Senator Montigny is sponsoring SD1383
    • Senators Creem & Brownsberger are sponsoring SD897
  2. Automated Enforcement Bill

    • Senator William Brownsberger is sponsoring SD1461
  3. An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

    • Senator William Brownsberger is sponsoring SD847
    • Representative Hecht and Representative Rogers are sponsoring HD1653
WalkBoston Executive Director Wendy Landman explains an aspect of the bill.

The morning was organized by the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition (WalkBoston, Safe Roads Alliance, MassBike, LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, Transportation for Massachusetts & more) & Text Less Live More. After info packets were distributed, people were off to meet with their legislators and talk about why these efforts would make MA roads safer in their own communities. Thank you to everyone who came together today to work towards safer streets, and thank you to all of the legislators and staff that attended and listened throughout the day!

Were you unable to make it to Beacon Hill, but want to get involved with WalkBoston’s efforts?

Comments on Morton Intersection Improvements, Project: 608755

Comments on Morton Intersection Improvements, Project: 608755

Patricia Leavenworth, P.E., Chief Engineer
MassDOT-Highway Division
10 Park Plaza Boston, MA 02116-3973

Attn: Roadway Project Management – Room 6340

Re: Morton Intersection Improvements Project: 608755

December 21, 2018

Dear Ms. Leavenworth:

We are submitting comments in regards to Intersection Improvements at three intersections along Morton Street after seeing the plans at a public meeting on December 19, 2018.

First, we ask the Department to please extend the 10-day public comment period given that the meeting was held just before the Christmas holiday and it may be hard for residents to get feedback in on time. We are pleased to see MassDOT undertaking this project and look forward to continuing to work with you on implementation of safety improvements to the corridor.

Overall, we feel the project will improve safety for drivers, but will do little to improve the safety or convenience for pedestrians or cyclists. In this area, pedestrian safety needs to be prioritized in the design utilizing Complete Streets guidelines. We also ask that these spot improvements are the beginning and not the end of a process to improve the entire stretch of Morton St and create connections from Mattapan to Franklin Park and walking/biking paths in Jamaica Plain, especially as this stretch is identified in Go Boston 2030 for connecting the Southwest Corridor to the Blue Hills Reservation. In addition, we are advocating for the following adjustments and additions the plans presented on December 19:

  • Increased traffic calming on Morton Street
    The high speeds on Morton Street make the street unsafe for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. We applaud that the design calls for narrower travel lanes but additional measures need to be taken to slow speeds. Possible solutions might be raised intersections, additional STOP signs and/or traffic signals.
  • Create a safe pedestrian crossing between Morton/Blue Hill Ave and Morton/Harvard
    There is no crosswalk in the 1000-foot stretch between Blue Hill Ave and Harvard Street. This is a dense residential neighborhood and the lack of a safe crossing here is a major community concern. The crossing could either be at Courtland/Havelock/Morton or Wellington Hill/Morton depending on the neighborhood’s preference.The lack of a crosswalk contributes to the highway feel of Morton Street and hence the high speeds and extremely high crash clusters over the past four years. Any crosswalk should include a HAWK beacon for improved notice and safety of pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Design a traffic signal system which enables pedestrians to easily and safely cross Blue Hill Ave
    People wishing to cross Blue Hill Ave must now push a button to wait for a WALK signal. Once the intersection is redesigned they will still have to push a button to cross the street. We strongly request traffic signals that “rest in WALK”.
    Push buttons result in very long waits for walkers. Depending upon when a walker pushes the button in the traffic cycle he/she may wait for over two minutes to get a walk signal. Furthermore, pedestrians must be able to cross the six lanes of Blue Hill Ave in one cycle. Neither MassDOT staff nor their consultants could guarantee that walkers would be able to cross in one cycle.
  • The bike boxes at the Blue Hill Ave and Morton St intersection are an important safety measure however the placement of one in the Southeast corner of the intersection could pose a dangerous conflict with right turning cars. We would like to look more closely at the designs to assess this. An additional left-turning bike box is needed at the northeast corner in so that cyclists can safely turn left off of blue Hill onto Morton St towards Jamaica Plain.
  • We support the overwhelming response from residents who advocated to keep the bus stop where it currently is on Blue Hill Ave.
  • We applaud the design’s tightening of curb radii at Blue Hill/Morton and if floating bus stops are in a location supported by community members, we would support them and the addition of bike facilities at the intersection. It appeared that at least some people at the public meeting had never seen or experienced floating bus stops and more education is needed about how they work when proposing them. We understand that parking will not be permitted within 20 feet of the intersections but we also heard that there are many violations of this regulation. We recommend that additional curb extensions, either concrete or flexposts, be added to the design.

Dorothea Hass, WalkBoston
Eliza Parad, Boston Cyclists Union
Galen Mook, Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Tony Lechuga, LivableStreets Alliance

WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

Date: January 2, 2019

To: Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, Andy Paul, Jackie Douglas,
James Kersten, MassDOT, Commissioner Leo Roy, Jeff Parenti, Dan Driscoll, DCR

Re: WalkBoston comments on Craigie Dam/Bridge Design Alternatives

We are relieved that MassDOT and DCR are committed to acting to improve the safety of people walking and biking on this critical roadway segment.

We have reviewed the options that were presented to the community on December 18th and have several comments that are detailed below. However, we do not think that the relatively modest improvements that are planned for Spring 2019 are adequate to providing truly safe walking and biking conditions, and we urge MassDOT and DCR to develop more significant plans for safety for the Charles River bridges.

One approach that WalkBoston would like to see explored is the adoption of a pilot 20 MPH speed limit on all the Charles River Bridges from Harvard Square to the Craigie Dam/Bridge that would test an automated speed enforcement protocol. Over the last month we have attended meetings regarding safety and operations for the BU Bridge, the Longfellow Bridge and the Craigie Dam/Bridge. In each case, the completely fixed and limited right-of-way does not allow for the provision of protected bike accommodations within the roadway right-of-way without reducing the number of vehicle lanes. WalkBoston was distressed to hear suggestions by community members at one of these meetings to dedicate one of the sidewalks to bicycles rather than pedestrians in order to free up roadway space for vehicles (a suggestion that we were pleased was simply given, but then not taken up or discussed by any of the state or municipal staff).

MassDOT has already expressed its interest in adding automated enforcement to the state’s safety tools and we urge MassDOT to vigorously support a pilot program for the bridges. Setting and then enforcing a 20 MPH speed limit on all the bridges would significantly increase the safety of bicyclists using on-street bicycle lanes while at the same time allowing the number of vehicle lanes to remain as they are today.

Comments on Design Options A and B

Craigie Dam/Storrow Drive Intersection

Take the following steps to minimize conflicts between people walking, biking and driving:

  • For turns from Craigie into Storrow Drive put in place (and enforce) a permanent No Right on Red regulation and include the permanently illuminated NRTOR sign
  • Set the vehicle for Craigie Dam traffic approaching Leverett Circle stop line back from the intersection (with Don’t Block the Box markings and enforcement) to allow bikes to queue in a bike box ahead of traffic
  • Provide marked bike lanes from Craigie to Martha Way through Leverett Circle
  • Tighten the turning radius of the corner from Craigie onto Storrow Drive and provide a bike ramp to the Paul Dudley White Path at the corner rather than having bikes get on the sidewalk before reaching the intersection. The very tight sidewalk space should be reserved for pedestrians.

Museum of Science Driveway and Museum Way/Craigie Intersection

  • Add crosswalk striping across the Museum of Science driveway.
  • Narrow the driveway to the greatest extent possible given the truck and bus movements needed for Museum of Science operations.
  • Consider signalizing the driveway entrance to the Museum of Science in coordination with the Museum Way signal.
  • Eliminate the conflicting left turn arrow across the WALK signal at the Museum Way crosswalk across Craigie.
  • Improve the street lighting of the crosswalk across Craigie at Museum Way

Craigie/Land Boulevard/Gilmore Bridge Intersection

Configure the signal timing at the Land Blvd/Craigie/Gilmore Bridge intersection to allow safe pedestrian and bike movements. A detailed description is provided below of the maneuver needed to ride a bike safely through the intersection under current conditions. This is in urgent need of improvement.

  • “At the intersection with Edwin H Land Blvd/ Gilmore Bridge, to feel safe as a bicyclist I will often violate traffic signals. The problem is that, whether traveling either inbound or outbound, if you wait for the light to change, traffic builds up next to you. When the light turns green, you are forced into the middle of a pack of fast-moving traffic, with cars and trucks rapidly accelerating and changing lanes.

    The situation is particularly dangerous when traveling outbound and making a left on Cambridge Street (a route most bicyclists take, as Route 28 gets faster and more dangerous beyond the Cambridge St. intersection). As a bicyclist, if you leave the Gilmore intersection with vehicle traffic, you then have to work your way across 2 lanes of fast-moving traffic to get into your left turn, and then must hold your ground in the middle of four lanes of outbound traffic in order to end up on the right-hand side of the two lane Cambridge St. turnoff. You can also hug the left-hand side of the road by the median strip, but traveling on the left side of the road can be dangerous too.

    I have found navigating the Science Bridge is actually safer when breaking the traffic signals. For example, when traveling outbound, if I hit the red light at the Gilmore intersection, there is a break in the signal when I usually run the red light on my bike. The break occurs between the green light for vehicles coming from Charlestown towards Cambridge, and the following green light for traffic moving inbound on 28. Taking the light this way has dangers too – at least one or two vehicles coming from Charlestown almost always speed through their red light (committing their own traffic violation), and you need to be absolutely sure those vehicles have stopped. Nevertheless, this method still allows me to make my way over to the Cambridge St turnoff without needing to cut across vehicle traffic, and feels much safer to me.”

State Senator Joe Boncore
State Senator Sal DiDomenico
State Representative Jay Livingstone
State Representative Mike Connolly
Joe Barr, Cara Seiderman, Cambridge
Chris Osgood, Vineet Gupta, Charlotte Fleetwood, Boston
Becca Wolfson, Eliza Parad, Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Steve Miller, LivableStreets Alliance
Galen Mook, Tom Francis, MassBike
Nate Fillmore, Cambridge Bike Safety