skyyy ([personal profile] skyyy) wrote in [community profile] davis_square2017-05-24 01:21 pm

Elm St Pedestrian Concept

What are your thoughts on this sketch of what Davis would look like with Elm St turned into a pedestrian-only area?

Deliveries could drive through during off peak hours. Buses would get a huge boost with the bus lane and better symmetry and turnarounds.

I'd especially like feedback on bikability. I didn't manage to fit bike lanes in anywhere, and we'd lose the door zone lane on Highland, but that'd be made up for by having a smaller slower intersection. Perhaps bikes could also share the bus lane? Would a 2-way cycletrack through the pedestrian area be too disruptive?

I'm also discussing it on twitter:
pru: (Default)

[personal profile] pru 2017-05-25 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
it makes our already pretty difficult to get to post office pretty isolated, to me. You can't really eliminate people needing to turn left from Highland at the Splat instead of proceeding onto Holland. And if they come up Day where can they go. Right now only right, so then what. And didn't that nice new grocery mart just go in at the social security building across from Diva?

Maybe it would work and maybe I just hate and fear change, but I would not love this alteration.
pru: (Default)

[personal profile] pru 2017-05-25 11:03 am (UTC)(link)
Where is there supposed to be parking on Summer? I think I missed that.

I would argue that any time I'm going to the PO, it's for either dropping off something bulky I can't drop off in the mailbox at my office, or picking up priority mailers. Personally I already hate that our PO is both close to the main square but on a one-way so it's quite tiresome to get to, but, I don't drive by any more on my regular route to work.

Also, Fresh Mart (finally remembered its name) location would make it very difficult for its delivery vehicles, which at the Porter Square Star are always jamming up Davenport St behind it. they have to deliver the food somewhere.

I have always loved finding walk-only areas when I have traveled, so I imagine this would be popular -- the logistics of moving the street directions would need to be carefully considered.

[personal profile] ron_newman 2017-05-26 05:37 pm (UTC)(link)
it's bfresh. Fresh Market is a different chain (which isn't in our neighborhood).
pru: (Default)

[personal profile] pru 2017-05-26 05:43 pm (UTC)(link)
true enough.
rmd: (house)

I'm here to nitpick and chew gum and I am all out of gum.

[personal profile] rmd 2017-05-25 02:18 am (UTC)(link)
First, a nitpick! There is no "Highland St" in Somerville. There's a Highland Road over behind Lexington Park and Highland Ave runs up to Davis.

To the actual proposal: The first block of Chester is unmarked but it looks like it would become functionally unreachable for cars unless it becomes two-way for that block; you didn't include the parking spots there in your tally.

There's a cab stand in what would become the pedestrian area - would that relocate or just be eliminated? And how will it change things for the restaurants and bars if you're preventing cabs from dropping off or picking up patrons at their door?

Having no loading zones in the path and no way to drive trucks closer to the various retail and restaurant establishments during the day than the loading zones may create some unintended consequences there, like trucks blocking that last block of Chester St if it's 2 way for that last block or delivery folks parking on Herbert and rolling more hand trucks through the pedestrian plaza between Starbucks and Chipotle.

I think it's possible you'd actually reduce the amount of 'forced' pedestrian traffic that would normally walk by and patronize a lot of those places on elm since the bus stops - and the related commuter traffic - would moved off Elm.

And, as noted in the previous comment, what happens to Day St traffic?
rmd: (Default)

Re: I'm here to nitpick and chew gum and I am all out of gum.

[personal profile] rmd 2017-05-25 02:25 am (UTC)(link)
Also, waitasec - are you making Highland 2-way for that last two blocks from Cutter to Davis? If not, what's the path for traffic coming down College Ave or Holland St that would currently end up going down Elm to Cutter? That's a whole lot of traffic to reroute.

Re: I'm here to nitpick and chew gum and I am all out of gum.

[personal profile] laryu 2017-05-25 07:27 pm (UTC)(link)
>> Why is parking on Herbert and using hand trucks a bad thing though?

For one thing, people live on Herbert St. As it is right now, bfresh trucks block driveways all day long on Herbert St. How does your plan improve that situation?

[personal profile] somergirl80 2017-05-25 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
What would be the plan for Somervilles disabled residents? I imagine this would be a nightmare for them. It would also flood the busy traffic that normally runs down elm into other already congested areas. It would make traffic that much more of an issue not to mention even more limited parking options in the area. This along with other concerns previously pointed out just shouts awful idea! No offense, truly. There are just so many negatives to this. I would not be in favor. There just isn't a need for this type of thing.
pru: (Default)

[personal profile] pru 2017-05-25 11:06 am (UTC)(link)
agreed with you. I love pedestrian areas but this area is a cluster every day already. it won't get better for shunting the same amount of traffic onto narrower streets. see also, downtown crossing.
dcltdw: (Default)

[personal profile] dcltdw 2017-05-25 04:23 am (UTC)(link)
Holland and Elm eastbound are 2 lanes, right? So then Holland eastbound goes from 2 lanes to 1 lane eastbound on Highland.
Similarly, Highland westbound is 2 lanes, so then it bottlenecks to 1 lane?

Chester and Bowers become dead ends, which makes for a weird parking situation: you're then assuming drivers have the skill to back up properly and/or turn around. I might advocate for eliminating parking there and adding more bike racks.

Adding spots to Summer St lot is ... interesting. Before we moved to Davis Sq, we found the lack of parking to be pretty hostile to drive-to-Davis restaurant-going. But if restaurants are at capacity with locals, then I'd say that's low priority - but if the situation is more complicated than that (4 locals and their 2 friends from Arlington), then hmm. Then again, car density rises to match parking capacity, soooo I think overall this can be ignored.

Having a clear way for bicycles to go from east to west would be lovely, especially if they didn't have to dismount when around pedestrians. Sadly, I don't think that's possible: if you go anywhere near the T exits, one really should dismount (or have excellent balance at moving 2mph).


None of this is meant to discourage the idea. I find pedestrian-only spaces to be wonderful, and I would love if Davis Sq were modified to have one.
aredridel: (Default)

[personal profile] aredridel 2017-05-25 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
Hmm. Busses can't really share with bikes -- that's basically the worst case, being stuck in a lane with busses, especially if they make stops. Very stop and go with a large vehicle who can't see you = sad times.
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)

[personal profile] kelkyag 2017-05-25 08:29 am (UTC)(link)
If you've got busses going east on Highland and turning left Grove to get to the T station, you're going to need a light at Highland and Grove. That's only going to make the traffic on Highland uglier, with three lights tightly spaced.

The Cutter & Highland intersection also changes a lot and needs a left turn cycle from Cutter to Highland if Highland stops becoming one-way at that point. Cutter (and/or Willow and/or Hancock) would need to become two-way or reverse directions to carry traffic that'd otherwise take Elm out of Davis down to Elm and Summer. Loss of traffic for businesses is potentially bad for not just the block of Elm that becomes pedestrian-only, but the next couple of blocks of Elm and Summer.

Moving busses from Elm to Highland eliminates the bus stop on Elm that's all but on the doorstep of the new grocery store (bfresh) there, which is probably unkind to their customers. Six bus routes go by there currently; not all of them would go past a stop on Elm past Grove.

Similarly, having the pubs (and restaurants serving alcohol) on Elm not being able to call taxis to their doorsteps an unpleasant adjustment at best. It's hard to be a responsible drinking establishment and see your tipsy patrons to their rides when you can't see their rides from the door.

Deliveries that need to park half a block away and move things by hand truck are a lot slower than deliveries that can park right outside the door.

Traffic in Davis is not all going to or from Davis. Ugly and slow as that intersection is, those are major roads carrying through traffic. Shoving that traffic onto Broadway or Mass Ave is not a feature. Powderhouse circle is already backed up at rush hour.

While in the abstract I like the idea of pedestrian streets, this needs a lot more detailed traffic engineering work than you've given it, in a wider scope than just the immediate vicinity of Davis Square, and input from local businesses, and possibly from the MBTA ...
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)

[personal profile] kelkyag 2017-05-25 09:14 pm (UTC)(link)
All the busroutes using the busway would still be asymmetric. It'd be a smaller loop for the ones turning around to get to the busway, but it'd still have a left turn, and it'd be a left turn off of a busy two-way street instead of a left turn from a one-way to a one-way. The 88 route would jog less, but the 87 route would jog instead. You'd have busses turning both left and right from Highland and Grove -- that split alone makes me dubious of the practical value of a bus lane there. The busses going left from the bus lane can get across the traffic lane with the left turn cycle (or not -- do cars still get to use that bit of Grove to get to the parking lot? Should those busses be merging into the car lane?); the busses going right have left-turning busses keeping them from reliably turning right-on-red, and I'd like to know if their turn radius means they'll need to use some of the car lane to make that turn.

If Highland there is two-way, people coming out of the drugstore parking lot may also try to to turn left onto it, further complicating traffic. That could be discouraged with signs, but without use of Elm, how do those folks then get turned around to go east on Highland?

And a short walk to Highland or Elm/Grove is not really an issue when you're walking through a pedestrian friendly environment instead of crossing a busy street.
The grocery store is on the same side of the street as the bus stop on Elm. If you're an unladen, able-bodied pedestrian, a block or so is not much bother. If you have a load of groceries and/or are not so able-bodied, it might be an issue. (And you do have to cross the newly-complicated Elm/Grove intersection to get to one of those possible stops; a Highland might not be so bad.) One thing I'd very much like to hear from the businesses in the area is how much traffic they see from folks dropped off and picked up at their front doors.
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)

[personal profile] kelkyag 2017-05-26 05:00 am (UTC)(link)
That last I don't think is an option, as the parking lot is narrow enough that there isn't room for two-way traffic in the lot parallel to Grove. Currently, that bit of Grove is one way going north, and if you're not going into the busway, the only way to exit is through the parking lot. (As you describe elsewhere with Day and Dover, it's essentially a stub of two-way street, with a wide median full of parking spaces.)

I hadn't considered pulling the westbound stop bar back. That could make the left turn out of the lot workable, with some warning to folks turning right from Grove.
teko: (Default)

[personal profile] teko 2017-05-25 12:58 pm (UTC)(link)
As much as I love pedestrian spaces, I think that this prevents several vital elements of vehicular traffic on Elm:
- Bus access to the bus stop in front of bFresh
- Delivery truck access to bFresh
- Taxi cab access to the Tavern, Burren, and other late-night drinking establishments

Cars can find their way around, but without delivery truck access, our new grocery store isn't going to last long.
croald: (Default)

Traffic is the problem

[personal profile] croald 2017-05-25 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
While a big new pedestrian plaza would be awesome, I'm not sure if this is really an intersection where you can be cavalier about "I don't care about cars." It's kind of hard to get to a whole corner of Somerville without going through it, and Highland Ave already slow carrying three lanes of cars westbound there. Reducing to one seems likely to be a real problem, especially if you also have to slow down the lights at Cutter and add one at Grove. It could be worse than College.

Where does that traffic get displaced to? I'd need to hear from a traffic engineer, I think. It would certainly affect Broadway and Powderhouse and Orchard and probably Morrison and Cameron and Russell and Mass Ave.
ceo: (Default)

[personal profile] ceo 2017-05-25 07:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Without addressing the specifics of this proposal, I'll note that most places that have turned downtown streets into pedestrian plazas in the last few decades have come to regret it and turned them back into streets, because it's terrible for businesses.

Also, that's a hell of a lot of traffic to reroute onto Highland and Grove.

[personal profile] ron_newman 2017-05-26 03:50 pm (UTC)(link)
While I like the idea in theory, I think it would make bfresh's life so miserable that they would have to close. And I'd like to keep them in business.

[personal profile] jlauspitz 2017-05-27 05:39 pm (UTC)(link)
There was a similar plan in the late 1970s, when pedestrian malls enjoyed a vogue. The City under, one-term Mayor Tom August, hired as its consultant a former Deputy Mayor of Boston known for displacing neighborhoods. A group of Davis Square neighbors filed a multi-pronged complaint with HUD, from whose funds the $200K consulting fee was drawn. In the end the consultant had to leave Somerville in the middle of the contract.

It was a neighborhood busting idea then, and it would have a similar effect now by driving traffic onto residential streets, as many others have pointed out above.

[personal profile] jlauspitz 2017-06-04 05:09 pm (UTC)(link)

There was never a full account in any print outlet, though I do recall a brief notice in the Globe or Somerville Journal. I believe the consultant was named Veigh, first name possibly Bob. He came from a contract with Tufts for Chinatown planning around Tufts' Boston holdings. His contract with the City was a sole sourced negotiated contract, for which the required OMB documentation was not in the City's file prior to the time the citizen complaint was received by HUD. When, predictably in those days, the required materials were introduced and back-dated, the falsification of the record became the grounds for voiding the contract. None of this appeared in the press.

Josiah Lee Auspitz

17 Chapel Street

Somerville, MA 02144

phone: 617-628-6228, fax: -9441

Alternative email:

From: skyyy - DW Comment [] Sent: Monday, May 29, 2017 5:32 PM To: Subject: Reply to your comment. [ davis_square - 3616076 ]

skyyy replied to a comment you left in a Dreamwidth entry "Elm St Pedestrian Concept". The comment they replied to was:

There was a similar plan in the late 1970s, when pedestrian malls enjoyed a vogue. The City under, one-term Mayor Tom August, hired as its consultant a former Deputy Mayor of Boston known for displacing neighborhoods. A group of Davis Square neighbors filed a multi-pronged complaint with HUD, from whose funds the $200K consulting fee was drawn. In the end the consultant had to leave Somerville in the middle of the contract.

It was a neighborhood busting idea then, and it would have a similar effect now by driving traffic onto residential streets, as many others have pointed out above.

The reply was:

I'm interested in reading more about that history, and wasn't able to find more information based on what you said. Do you know of good resources to use, or good keywords to search for?

From here you can:

3rdragon: (Default)

[personal profile] 3rdragon 2017-05-29 06:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I walk down that stretch of Elm twice a day unless I take the bike path instead, and it's very crowded at 5:30, with commuters and slower walkers and people standing around talking and people standing around smoking . . . I would definitely like more sidewalk/plaza to walk through. I'm also in favor of simplifying the Davis Square intersection.

That said, I share the following concerns:

- Bfresh deliveries seem like a problem.
- Loss of Bfresh bus access is also a problem. I'm young and able-bodied and capable of walking with groceries; lots of people aren't.
- I don't have experience with the late-night taxi scene, but it sounds like pickups in the existing mode would be challenging.
- There are currently a lot of cars on both Highland and Elm at busy times of day. It's all very well to say that people won't drive if driveability is worse, but I think that the fact that people drive in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville *at all* shows that this only goes so far.
- It's already pretty challenging to drive north/south in the Davis area and a bit to the east; forcing more east/west traffic onto north/south roads, even for just a little bit, isn't going to help that.

- I've been told that pedestrian-only areas become less safe during off hours because there's less traffic in general and they become very isolated. If this is actually the case, that should be addressed.

Other general comments:

- I was just in Rotterdam (Netherlands), which has some excellent examples of how to have adjacent-but-separate space for bicycles and pedestrians. Minneapolis has some nice shared/separate bike paths, too.
- Someone raised concern about loss of traffic affecting businesses further down Summer St, but by my count, the VFW and the veterinarian are the only significant non-residential establishments east of Cutter. I do wonder about access to that parking lot, though.
- Would it be possible to do a less extreme option? No driving from 10am-9pm, say, or only one lane, for buses and taxis? It would mean that the plaza would be less nice. Do peak pedestrian times line up in a reasonable way with other uses? It wouldn't help evening rush hour. Would a timed option just make things confusing? (Since it's coming from Davis, it could maybe be a turn lane from Holland with the timing controlled by the light.)