Residents have questions on transportation plan

September 29, 2017
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Boston Transportation Department recently held the first JP/Rox Transportation Action Plan public meeting to discuss transportation around the Washington Street and Columbus Avenue corridor.

Representatives of the City gave an initial presentation of the scope of the project, but attendees were skeptical about the potential funding, the definition of the study area, and management of expectations.

The meeting was held on Sept. 19 at the English High School.

The Transportation Action Plan will build on Go Boston 2030 and Plan: JP/Rox. Go Boston 2030 is an initiative from the City that combines a vision and an action plan for transportation in Boston. Plan: JP/Rox was a planning process that culminated in a series of recommendations that are intended to be translated into updated zoning for the area along Washington Street from Forest Hills to Egleston Square and along Columbus Avenue to Jackson Square. Key transportation ideas from the Plan: JP/Rox were to have more multimodal means of transport and discourage car use.

The same area from the Plan: JP/Rox process is the study area for the Transportation Action Plan, which several residents were confused by.

“Why didn’t we do this the first time around?” said Kyle Smith, a member of Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, referring to the fact that the JP/Rox planning process just finished this March. Smith added, “Article 80 traffic studies done by developers are not enough.”

Developers are required to conduct traffic studies to show potential impacts of new developments while going through the Article 80 approval process.

Smith also said that the traffic study should not be limited to only the study area, a sentiment that other residents agreed with.

Some residents were also very concerned about increased traffic with the growing population, and felt that the planning needed to incorporate the Boston’s 8 percent projected population growth by 2030.

Another big priority that residents mentioned was bicycle safety and bike lanes, although Luis Cotto of Egleston Square Main Street was hesitant about the idea of eliminating parking on Washington Street for a bike lane for the sake of commerce in that area.

“If you want to kill a commercial zone, go ahead and close off a lane on Washington Street,” Cotto said.

At the meeting, BTD gave some updates about what kinds of ongoing improvements are happening within the study area, including a new crosswalk at Washington and Bray streets and car replacement on the Orange Line, which will increase capacity by 30 percent.

BTD will host more community meetings in late October and early November with the recently hired contractors, Howard Stein Hudson, to begin the community planning process. The initial meeting on Sept. 19 had about 50 residents.

BTD has been allocated $300,000 from the City of Boston’s Capital Fund, which will be spent on a combination of paying the contractors and short-term improvements. Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning at BTD, defined short-term improvements as anything that needs to be done within a year as a plan is being developed.

“We don’t want to plan for two years, and have nothing happen in the meantime,” Gupta said.

The action plan will include several factors that are not necessarily chronological, which include public involvement, developing a vision, systems analysis or collection of data, short-term improvements, and long-term improvements. Short-term improvements could be an adjustment to curbside parking regulations, bus stop relocation, traffic signal timing changes, crosswalk installations, lane markings, and signage. Long-term improvements take three or more years to finish, and include repurposing travel and parking lanes and street and intersection realignment.

Some ideas that were tossed around by residents included making Egleston Square a parking benefits district, which means that parking meters be installed and a proportional amount of the money that they gather be invested back into the neighborhood. Residents said that they felt parking should be occupied by residents and customers, not commuters.

Ultimately, Gupta said that discussion of specific visioning would be done in much more detail at the first community meeting with the design firm, which will be in late October.

Gupta said that once the action plan is finished, BTD will have specific recommendations for long-term funding, at which point the BTD will seek funding from the City, state, and developers. This means that there is no set budget or timeframe for improvements at the moment.

The planning process is expected to take about a year and be completed in Fall 2018. Gupta, who ran the community meeting, said that BTD would like to create solutions during the planning process.

Simultaneously to the Transportation Action Plan, the City of Boston will be hosting meetings for a bike share expansion. A workshop on where to add new bike share stations will be held in Jamaica Plain on Nov. 9, 6 to 8 p.m. at Curtis Hall at 20 South St. For more information about the bike share expansion, visit boston.gov/bike-share-expansion.

For more information about the Transportation Action Plan project, contact Josh Weiland, Transportation Planner at BTD at josh.weiland@boston.gov or 617-635-0944

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