Tag: Somerville

WalkBoston Comments on 2022 MBTA Bus Network Redesign

WalkBoston Comments on 2022 MBTA Bus Network Redesign

July 31, 2022 

Andrew MacFarland
Manager of Bus System Enhancements, MBTA 

via email: BetterBusProject@mbta.com

RE: WalkBoston Comments on 2022 MBTA Bus Network Redesign

Dear Andrew:

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ primary pedestrian advocacy organization, working across the Commonwealth to make it safer and easier for people to walk for all activities of daily living such as access to transit, school and jobs. We are writing with comments about the MBTA Bus Network Redesign. 

We are happy to see this project continuing to move forward. This is a critical process to achieve the significant goal of increasing service hours and high frequency service throughout the greater Boston area. This redesign proposes to make connections that do not currently exist because development patterns have changed since many of these routes were initially created; it also does not focus solely on work commutes, and introduces seven day a week service for more routes than before. This plan is also a climate plan, since transit is necessary to support mode shift. We need to get people out of cars for more of their everyday trips. It is essential to expand the reach and frequency of our bus networks and provide complete mobility networks with safe, accessible options for walking, biking and transit.

We believe this plan has the opportunity to help communities prioritize funds to modify streets and sidewalks. Cities and towns will know where they can make bus service even better by creating bus-only lanes, upgrading signals for transit signal priority and for pedestrian safety, adding shelters and benches at bus stops, adding shade trees to make walking access to transit cooler in the summer, and shoveling bus stops and sidewalks in the winter to allow for safe, accessible access to bus stops year round. 

Our comments focus on three main conditions that will impact people walking, and we have provided an example location for each.

  • Ensure that locations where an increased number of transfers will occur are safe and prioritize pedestrians by including fully accessible and safe street crossings, providing clear wayfinding, and providing seating.
    Example: Roxbury Crossing, Boston.

At Roxbury Crossing, more people will be transferring between buses and the Orange Line at the intersection of Tremont St/Columbus Ave/Malcolm X Blvd, which also includes a crossing for the Southwest Corridor path. These are wide roadways that have high volumes of vehicular traffic, and, especially at off-peak times, high speed traffic speeds. The MBTA should work with Boston to ensure that street and sidewalk changes are made to make it safer to cross the street for people transferring between modes.  Possible changes that the City of Boston may consider include setting shorter signal cycles so people have shorter waits to cross the street, or mid-block crosswalks and crossing islands or raised crosswalks directly outside the Orange Line station doors to enable a direct walking connection to the bus stop.

  • Ensure locations are weather resilient throughout the year.
    Example: Union Square, Somerville.

We are already starting to see the effects of an unstable climate through increasingly frequent intense storms, flooding and heat. In Union Square, heavy rain storms in previous years flooded the square and overwhelmed the combined sewer overflow system. A massive sewer separation project has been underway to mitigate these issues, and bus shelters, rain gardens, and additional street crossings have been added during this effort.  

To ensure safe, accessible, and comfortable mobility year round, we need investment in public realm resiliency: reflective, porous surfaces, and shading tree canopies during the hottest days of the summer; and street and sidewalk maintenance to keep pathways clear and accessible after winter storms. Our transportation system must be as resilient as possible, and that includes bus stops. The MBTA should consider adopting recommendations that they can share with all municipalities for bus stop benches and shelters to give people the chance to sit down in a shady or dry location. We urge you to look at best practices for creating inclusive spaces.   

With the adoption of more high-frequency routes and corridors to replace the 15 “Key Bus Routes,” we believe the snow clearance commitment that those Key Routes had should be extended to the high-frequency routes. People must be able to walk safely to a bus stop and not have to wait in the street or climb over an inaccessible snow pile to get on or off a bus. Ensuring stops are clear will also benefit bus drivers, so that they can fully pull into the curb. Many bus operators report concern for the safety of riders as they witness people trying to climb over snow mounds or walking in the street because sidewalks and bus stops are not cleared.

  • Consider impacts to transit dependent senior housing locations.
    Example: Route 112 (Soldiers’ Home, Chelsea).

While WalkBoston has not analyzed individual bus route modifications, additions and eliminations, we have reviewed comments from a number of different communities that are focused on changes that may significantly impact locations with large vulnerable, transit dependent populations. In Chelsea, the 112 bus currently serves two hills, with low income senior and veteran housing. It will be replaced with a high frequency line that will forgo the two hills. The hills will be connected via a local shuttle, where residents will have to transfer at the Market Basket Plaza or Bellingham Sq. to access the key bus routes. This will be detrimental to these two vulnerable populations.

We urge the MBTA to take those comments seriously and to consider changes in access between such uses as grocery stores and senior housing, or dense housing and parks that serve those neighborhoods. The service areas of such facilities often cross municipal boundaries. We also ask that the MBTA consider the comments which note that route changes will require people to walk some distance in very hilly parts of the MBTA service area.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Stacey Beuttell 

Executive Director, WalkBoston

Comments on MassDOT Maffa Way + Mystic Ave Bridge Project (File No. 607670)

Comments on MassDOT Maffa Way + Mystic Ave Bridge Project (File No. 607670)

March 22, 2022

Carrie E. Lavallee, P.E.,
Acting Chief Engineer

Suite 6340, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

via e-mail to dot.feedback.highway@state.ma.us

Attention: Major Projects, Project File No. 607670

Dear Ms. Lavallee,

I attended the public meeting for the MassDOT Maffa Way / Mystic Ave Bridge Project in Somerville (near Sullivan Square) earlier this month. There were a few questions from the audience and a discussion about vehicle speed which seemed to show a real disconnect between MassDOT’s Safe Speed Management guidance and the way that this project is being designed.

This project is set to be completed in 2027, and will rebuild the bridges / associated roadways. There are a lot of project elements that will help to make the roads and sidewalks safer for biking and walking and improve access to the MBTA station. However, when I brought up the recently released speed guidance that describes target speeds, it was not very well received by the project team. The default speed in both Somerville and Boston is 25mph. This project is using a design speed of 35mph, after doing a speed study and seeing that the 85% speed on the existing roadway was ~32mph. At least three other attendees also commented that the design speed is way too high.

Good points were made that MassDOT should be designing a road for what is needed, and not repeating the design problems that are out there right now which allow people to drive way too fast, especially at off peak times. MassDOT & all MassDOT consultants should be setting the example for the rest of Massachusetts about how projects can incorporate the recently released Safe Speed Management guidance through setting target speeds for a reconstructed roadway rather than relying exclusively on the 85th percentile of the existing road.

Thank you,

Brendan Kearney
Deputy Director, WalkBoston

Action Alert: Contact your Legislators to Support a Safer Route 16

Action Alert: Contact your Legislators to Support a Safer Route 16

WalkBoston is proud to support the Route 16 Coalition, a project of Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets, a group made up of resident advocates, local and state legislators, and other community groups organizing for a safer Route 16 from Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge to Main Street in Medford.

This section of Route 16 is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and is made up of Alewife Brook and Mystic Valley Parkways, and was originally designed to be a “pleasure road” for taking in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding parkland. Today it is a high-speed roadway with some of the highest crash rates in the region that acts exactly opposite to its original intent: it is a dangerous barrier that impedes access of local residents to parkland, nearby amenities and businesses, and negatively impacts the Alewife Brook and Mystic River waterways and climate.

The coalition is asking members to call or email their state and local legislators to ask them to support an earmark of ~$750,000 for a traffic study that is necessary to move forward with much-needed safety improvements on Route 16 in Cambridge, Somerville and Medford. The timing is immediate as the earmark is being discussed this week (week of March 7th) in the Ways and Means Committee. This is important for residents of Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, Belmont and Watertown and for anyone who travels through this dangerous corridor.

Find your state legislators and their contact information here:https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

For more information on this effort or if you’re interested in joining the coalition, email somervillesafestreets@gmail.com

First snow storm of the season: January 2022

First snow storm of the season: January 2022

Today, January  7th, marks one of the first significant snow storms of this season with some areas seeing close to a foot of snow. 

WalkBoston has been advocating for sidewalk snow removal for many years as part of our work to improve pedestrian safety and accessibility when it snows. Snow and ice present significant challenges to pedestrians. Cleared sidewalks are critical for people to access everyday goods and services, and are particularly vital to people with disabilities and to seniors

Though snow clearance is a challenging task for municipalities, regional transit authorities, and property owners due to the mix of responsible parties, and the unpredictable and episodic nature of the need – we know and have seen that it is not an impossible feat to clear snow for cars and there is an urgent need to be prioritizing the removal of snow from sidewalks all the same. 

We are excited and encouraged by the renewed energy to include sidewalks in snow removal plans by many more communities this winter. We’d love to hear what your community is doing, and highlight it in a future post. Get in touch with us.

Community Spotlight: Somerville 

The City of Somerville announced their sidewalk snow removal pilot program for the 2021-2022 winter season (fiscal year 2022). Somerville’s pilot includes the entirety of Broadway Ave. and School St. which represents about 8.5 miles of sidewalk, 200 crosswalks, 350 sidewalk ramps, and 70 bus stops, and the hope is that the pilot will shed light on the costs and the logistics of expanding this service in the future. The pilot will start with the next snow storm so that the City and its new administration can work through logistics of the first snow emergency of the year.

City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, who was involved in legislative advocacy efforts to ensure the City’s budget would include funding for a small sidewalk snow removal pilot, highlights that “the hope with this pilot would be to answer the empirical question of what works the best.” Somerville faces problems with the enforcement of sidewalk snow removal where absentee landlords or developers on vacant lots have likely decided that the cost of a ticket for non-compliance is not a big deal. Coupled with the fact that some property owners (or renters) may be physically unable to remove snow, a walk through Somerville during or after a snow storm can be treacherous for some or keep others confined to their home because it is unsafe. Ewen-Campen is hopeful and encouraged by the renewed focus on sidewalk snow removal by many communities across the state, citing that COVID-19 likely brought the issue to the forefront for many people who were staying home: “Cities learn from each other, this is not impossible and we can decide to do it.” 

Funding for Snow Removal Equipment Now Available Through MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces Program

While the creation of a sidewalk snow removal plan is only one small step in actually removing snow from sidewalks in the winter, another obstacle many communities (especially smaller ones) face is that of purchasing equipment. Commercial grade equipment to remove snow from sidewalks can run anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000 or more and amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, many communities are already stretched thin. However, with the opening of the next grant round of the MassDOT Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program, there is hope for communities for whom a capital purchase of equipment has been holding them back from creating a sidewalk snow removal program. 

MassDOT will be adding an ‘equipment’ category to the program — which will operate separately from the other categories and will not exclude a municipality from receiving another award — for up to $50,000 to allow for the purchase of equipment (such as sidewalk snow plows) that will assist municipalities in aligning their mobility efforts with the goals of the program. The next round of applications for the program opens on January 10th

Of course, Somerville is just one of 351 municipalities in the state and a handful of others have had sidewalks included in their snow removal plans for some time. In Newton, City Councilor Andreae Downs wrote about the steps it took to establish a snow clearing ordinance.  In Framingham, the City is responsible for plowing approximately 84.5 miles of sidewalk in and around key areas such as schools, city-owned buildings, the commuter rail, and business districts.  As WalkBoston continues our advocacy work around sidewalk snow removal and hopes to put together sidewalk snow clearance guidance and resources for communities, we’d love to hear more from communities across the Commonwealth that have seen success in their sidewalk snow removal plans and highlight it in a future post. Get in touch with us.

Statewide Fatal Crashes In MA, April 2021

Statewide Fatal Crashes In MA, April 2021

Each month in 2021, we plan to post about the fatal crashes in Massachusetts from the previous month, and share any trends that we see. Last month, we took a look at the 7 fatal crashes listed in the MassDOT Crash Portal in March. In this post, we’ll look at crashes in MA in April 2021. The information in the chart below is compiled from news reports, and was checked against the MassDOT Crash Portal Dashboard “Fatal Information by Year.” The Google Street View images included below use the address listed in the crash portal.

  • Of the 38 fatal crashes in Massachusetts in April in the MassDOT Crash portal, 6 were identified as people walking.
  • The crash portal does not include names. The names of 4 of the people walking who died have not been made public yet.
  • The average age of pedestrians hit & killed in April was 45. (One person’s age is listed as “unknown.”)
  • At least 4 of the crashes were hit & runs (as referenced in news articles).
  • The name of the person driving was not identified in any of the crashes in news articles that we found.

Update 11/15/2022:

On April 26th, Denise Stracqualursi, an employee of Roche Bros – Acton, was killed in the parking lot when she was bringing groceries out to an awaiting customer. Read the story in MassLive: Denise Stracqualursi, 56-year-old woman struck by car in Acton grocery store parking lot, has died, authorities said – masslive.com

Date4/12/2021, 8:40 PM
LocationMcGrath Highway + Blakeley Ave.

72-year-old Marshall Mac was hit on McGrath Highway at Blakeley Avenue at 8:40PM while on his way home from the grocery store by a driver who fled the scene in East Somerville. Marshall died on April 29th from his injuries. The driver, age 64, later turned himself in and faces charges of leaving the scene of a crash that caused personal injury. According to the MassDOT Road Inventory, McGrath Highway is under MassDOT jurisdiction. There is no crosswalk at Blakeley Avenue (you can see a person standing on the island. It is a desire line to connect Foss Park and the neighborhoods to the north to the closest grocery store, Stop and Shop. It also would allow residents to avoid walking near the dangerous Rt 28/38 interchange with 93. 200 people rallied on May 26th to pressure MassDOT to accelerate fixes to the surrounding area, including sound barriers and pedestrian safety improvements that have been long called for through multiple Road Safety Audits.

The Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets encourages you to sign a petition to MassDOT, as three of their neighbors have died on McGrath Highway and Mystic Avenue in the last two years, and attend an upcoming virtual public hearing on June 8th at 6pm to press for changes as part of a recently announced I-93 rehab project (Zoom link).

Date4/13/2021, 4:30 AM
LocationI-93 SOUTH, EXIT 6

Thomas Gill, age 42, was hit and killed on Route 93 in Braintree; NBC Boston reported that the driver or drivers that struck him did not stop. According to the MassDOT Road Inventory, I-93 is under MassDOT jurisdiction.

Date4/13/2021, 11:18 AM
LocationCabot St. + Merrimack St.

A 63-year-old man was hit and killed by a driver on Merrimack Street at Cabot Street in Lowell. The Lowell Sun reported that the person was flown to a Boston-area trauma center with serious injuries. According to the MassDOT Road Inventory, this intersection is under local jurisdiction. The speed limit is 30 mph.

Date4/15/2021, 9:08 PM
LocationI-190 NORTH, MM 10.6

A 29-year old man crossed the median into a northbound lane while driving, exited his car to inspect a flat tire in the breakdown lane, and was hit and killed by two drivers on I-190 in Sterling. WWLP reported that the first driver fled the scene, while the second person, a 37-year old, stopped after the crash; State Police were still seeking the driver that left the scene.

Date4/22/2021, 11:09 PM
Location453 Centre St.

The Enterprise reported that a 39-year-old Charlestown woman was hit and seriously injured by a driver in an SUV on Centre Street in Brockton. The 44-year-old driver stayed at the scene. According to the MassDOT Road Inventory, Centre Street (Rt 123) is under MassDOT jurisdiction. It is one lane in each direction, with a 35 mph speed limit. There is a plaza on one side of the street and a school on the other.

Date4/24/2021, 2:53 AM
LocationSR-140 NORTH, EXIT 7 – Braley Rd. ramp
TownNew Bedford

In New Bedford, South Coast Today reported that a 19 year old person was ejected from a vehicle in a crash on the ramp for Rt 140; the person was then hit by another driver who fled the scene. FARS determined that this is categorized as a pedestrian crash since the person was outside of a vehicle when struck.


If you have an update about a community member who was killed in one of these crashes, please contact Brendan so we can update our . WalkBoston has maintained a list each year since 2016, pulling the information from news reports, social media, and from people like you that share the information with us.

Yearly trackers:  |||||

Reminder about the data from the MassDOT portal

DISCLAIMER:  The compilation of data is based on preliminary data we receive from a variety of local sources.  Some of the data may differ slightly from information provided by NHTSA as this dashboard does not use imputation methods.  Information is subject to change when/if updated information becomes available. Data updated daily as reported by police departments.