[personal profile] skyyy posting in [community profile] davis_square
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: https://twitter.com/skyqrose/status/867314846957801472

Date: 2017-05-25 12:43 am (UTC)
pru: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pru
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.
rmd: (house)
From: [personal profile] rmd
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?

Date: 2017-05-25 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] somergirl80
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.

Date: 2017-05-25 04:23 am (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
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.

Date: 2017-05-25 08:29 am (UTC)
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
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 ...

Date: 2017-05-25 12:58 pm (UTC)
teko: (Default)
From: [personal profile] teko
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.

Traffic is the problem

Date: 2017-05-25 03:38 pm (UTC)
croald: (Default)
From: [personal profile] croald
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.

Date: 2017-05-25 07:49 pm (UTC)
ceo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceo
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.

Date: 2017-05-26 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ron_newman
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.

Date: 2017-05-27 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jlauspitz
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.

Date: 2017-05-29 06:19 pm (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
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.)

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