Green Line Update Teases Improvements Enabled by Tracking Technology

Green Line Update Teases Improvements Enabled by Tracking Technology

As a corollary to our guest contributor post on the disappointing improvements and issues with Commonwealth Avenue, we have a few (much delayed) updates about the T's more progressive plans to improve transit along the corridor.

Back in June, I had the pleasure of attending a forum on Green Line issues hosted by the MBTA and facilitated greatly by Senator Brownsberger. The presentation included updates on the primary issues afflicting the Green Line and its dependent riders as outlined by Brian Kane, MBTA Director of Policy, Performance Management & Process Re-Engineering and former budget analyst with the MBTA Advisory Board.

Others present at the meeting included leading MBTA staff that Dr. Scott heralded as subject matter experts to ensure questions could be answered directly by the most appropriate person from the agency. Top MBTA management included:

  • Dominick Tribone for questions on information systems
  • Bill McClellan, Director of Green Line Operations
  • Laura Brelsford, Deputy Director of System-Wide Accessibility
  • Melissa Dullea, Director of Planning & Schedules

Mr. Kane broke down the issues into 5 key areas and highlighted the improvements the T is aiming to tackle over the long run.

Comm Ave: from auto mile to people mile

Comm Ave: from auto mile to people mile

Nearly a century ago, Commonwealth Avenue from Kenmore Square, heading west to Packard's Corner, was home to over a hundred automobile dealers and associated vendors. For much of the twentieth century, while riding the trolley, you would have passed showroom after showroom, parking lot after parking lot, all calling out for you to buy a car and drive away.

PODCAST 02 - Urban truck & bus safety, too much free parking, listener feedback, and the MBTA turns 50!

Transportation researcher Alex Epstein shares his latest work improving safety around trucks and buses. We focus on education/training, visibility and equipment such as mirrors and side guards. Ask your city, transit agency or delivery company what they are doing to prevent fatalities.

Brookline fails on bike helmets for Hubway users

Each of the four Hubway cities -- Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville -- own the stations within their boundaries. Thinks work seamlessly but there are small differences.

About two years ago I wrote on my blog that bike helmets have nothing to do with safety. Things haven't changed much in that department: plastic hats still don't prevent crashes, and helmet propaganda still increases fear of cycling, and car advocates (including most media outlets) still use helmets as a entry into victim blaming after every crash.

Level of Service: how we still promote car travel in every project

California recently announced that it's finally moving away from emphasizing the car-centric metric known as “level of service” in transportation projects, a positive step that will make transit, bike and pedestrian projects easier to plan and implement. While the situation in California was among the worst planning problems, it still happens all the time here.

BU Bridge bike lanes are narrow and even disappear at the end, where "there is no room" for safety.

BU Bridge bike lanes are narrow and even disappear at the end, where "there is no room" for safety.

Eric Jaffe has a good in-depth article at Citylab on the history and use of LOS. Put simply, level of service (LOS) is a metric devised by highway engineers that assigns a letter grade to roads and intersections based on how much delay vehicles experience. LOS fails to differentiate between modes – one bus serving hundreds or more people per trip is treated the same as a car carrying one person – and most importantly, places top priority on speeding car travel. This sentiment could not be in greater conflict with the needs of vibrant, sustainable cities.

Unfortunately we continue suffering from the prioritization of vehicles over people. Despite Mayor Menino’s empty promise, cars are very much still king in Boston.  Every time your city or MassDOT engineers tell you “there is no room” for a bike lane, proper sidewalk, bus stop or other need, this is what’s happening. Engineers decide “we need __ lanes” based on the LOS result of computer models, often assuming an arbitrary 1 percent traffic increase to justify their demands and at best they assume current traffic can’t be reduced. Car driving – the least desirable mode – is being prioritized and the rest of us don’t really matter.

For example, when the Charles River Dam (Museum of Science) Bridge was reconstructed, the plan included basic bike lanes. Then we were told we couldn’t have bike lanes until the Longfellow Bridge was done because “temporary” extra capacity was needed for cars. They even put sharrows just to rub it in.  When the MBTA ran a shuttle bus route carrying thousands of people over the bridge, the City of Boston angrily refused to allow bus stops at the Museum of Science during rush hours, and they certainly wouldn’t let those thousands of people to bypass the daily gridlock in bus lanes.

Same thing on the Mass Ave Bridge, with hundreds of buses each day and no safe bike path: we "need" those two lanes for cars and all you bikers get is a dangerous 3 feet with cars whizzing by at deadly speeds. On the BU Bridge, the argument was not about whether cyclists should have the right to a small safe space, but whether the compromise design "could accommodate" the expected traffic. Even though the bridge was a single lane per direction for two years and everyone managed just fine.

There are countless other examples. Don't forget the Longfellow Bridge: we're told we won't see a safe bicycle path because "cars might need that space someday... it's an evacuation route." Seriously?

We need to start pushing back against those who insist upon putting cars first. Share your favorite (or most frustrating) examples of pro-car bias in the comments. And next time you hear “there’s no room” you’ll know what to say.

Truck driver who killed bicyclist in Sullivan Square walks free

Despite overwhelming evidence of negligence, a grand jury declined to charge the driver who killed a bicyclist in Sullivan Square earlier this year. This comes on the heels of a crash last week in which a truck recklessly drove over a bike. Both were clear cases of failure to look and show concern for others, despite driving a giant death machine.

But there are other factors at play here. Bike advocates including the Boston Cyclists Union and MassBike have pointed out the lack of empathy found in people who don't bike: they simply don't know what it's like, and they relate to the driver and not the cyclist. Or perhaps they just believe the myth that bicyclists disregard traffic laws more than drivers and thus are inclined to assume the cyclist must have been doing something wrong.

Either way, the car-centric street design is largely responsible for putting the cyclist Owen McGrory is such a vulnerable position. This accident and many others could have easily been prevented. The City of Boston has a plan to reconstruct the entire area, replacing the rotary and its approaches with an actual neighborhood, but it is still sitting on a shelf. The area has just been completely repaved and there are now some bike lanes, which I guess is helpful but they disappear where they are most needed. Probably because "there's no room", in other words "cars are still king in Boston".

Is this SUV going to respect your right to the road?

Is this SUV going to respect your right to the road?

So the area is still a major danger zone. Those of us who work in the area will continue to put our lives on the line, and the next person who tells me "be safe" or "be careful over there" ... just don't say anything.