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2/11/13, 3/18/13, 4/22/13 Somerville By Design: Complete Streets Series

by in Beat Reporter, Development and Zoning, Transportation
Posted on February 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Agenda includes a presentation by Ian Lockwood and opportunities for citizen input ranging from spot improvements to larger scale network visioning. More…

[Note: This is a syndicated post. Read the original at Somerville Development Forum.]

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2 Responses to “2/11/13, 3/18/13, 4/22/13 Somerville By Design: Complete Streets Series”

  1. David Dahlbacka says:

    Email from Sarah Spicer, 2/11/13:

    Good morning,

    An update on tonight’s Somerville by Design meeting – our location has changed to City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue (due to snow and parking conditions at the Argenziano school). We will meet in the Aldermanic Chambers on the second floor, at the established time: 6-8pm.

    For those driving, parking lots in front of and behind City Hall / Somerville High School are increasingly cleared and will allow spots this evening.



    Sarah J. Spicer
    Senior Transportation Planner
    Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development
    City of Somerville
    93 Highland Avenue
    Somerville, MA 02143
    (617)-625-6600 x2519

    PS – You are receiving this special email announcement because your email appeared on a Davis Square, Beacon Street, SomerVision, or Somerville by Design list- if you would like to be removed from this mailing list, please respond to let us know.

    We are pleased to announce the next series of Somerville by Design: the Complete Streets series. To achieve our SomerVision Comprehensive Plan goals, and to compliment the Green Line station area plans developed by the recent Somerville by Design meetings, we’ll now focus on our streets. Complete Streets design includes both an emphasis on encouraging sustainable modes like walking and biking as well as increased safety and efficiency for all users. The series will feature livable transportation expert Ian Lockwood who will discuss how complete streets work and why they are a vital to Somerville’s future as a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. Attendees will have an opportunity to explore options and provide input, which will range from spot improvements to larger scale network visioning.

    Our kickoff meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 11th, with two more scheduled on March 18 and April 22, all at the Argenziano School, 6pm. We hope to see you there!
    Visit for more information and for updates. Flier is attached.

    About Ian Lockwood: For over 25 years, Ian has worked at the intersection of community design and social and economic health, doing traffic calming, road diets, context-sensitive solutions, network planning, and highway removals. Ian has helped advance the complete streets movement in North America for his entire career. In 2005, he helped the newly formed Complete Streets Coalition define the new term “complete streets” to advance the idea of inclusive street design and to foster supportive policy. Ian has guest lectured at several universities and is occasionally interviewed on NPR about transportation issues and is a Livable Transportation Engineer with AECOM.

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  2. Beat Report: 2/11/13 Somerville by Design: Complete Streets Series

    Bottom Line on Top

    Presentation by Ian Lockwood, attended by about 50 citizens and city staff. Current designs and metrics are car oriented; cars move great, people don’t. Improve pedestrian experience by slowing traffic. For instance, can narrow 4 lanes to 3, mix cars with pedestrians and bikes. Lessen traffic jams because there are fewer cars and they go slower.

    One question referred to proposal to put a one-story grocery store near the Orange Line T-Stop in Assembly Square; Lockwood spoke of a “beggar’s mentality” that cities need to get rid of. Cited a case in West Palm Beach where the Mayor backed him up on insisting on a streetscape improvement. Developer walked; Mayor brought them both in a room, heard them out, and then told the developer “I’ll give you political cover for this project, provided you make him [Lockwood] happy.”

    Rough Notes

    [Arrived 6:30 at Aldermen's Chambers.]

    [Speaker: Ian Lockwood; OSPCD director Glavin and staff; about 50 citizens.]

    Urban, suburban, rural have different building scales, car speeds, pedestrian count, tree count.

    Need vision with a plan: need predictability.

    Taylorism: People don’t matter, experts should rule.

    [COMMENT: Speaker presented a contrasting quotation from Jefferson, which I found online and quote in full:

    I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. (Thomas Jefferson)]

    Models of cities revolve around cars. Unnecessarily complex. Put humans at center instead, works better.

    Ecologists pick an indicator species. We model cars, cars do well, and people don’t.

    Human scale is basis of city scale for thousands of years.

    City of Vancouver didn’t build superhighways. They don’t talk about balance, they talk about priorities.

    Montreal has 1970′s highways. You get what you buy. You buy policy as well as concrete and mortar.

    Conventional design rigid; context-sensitive design more flexible.

    Reason the old streets worked was the speeds were low (4-6 mph). When we sped up cars, retail and pedestrians moved away.

    Can move a lot of people at 25-30 mph.

    New Urbanism includes guidelines like designing streets for 45 mph and giving signs at 35 mph. People drove 45 mph. Better to design for 25 mph, set signs at 25 mph.

    Recommendations include narrowing arterial streets, removing lanes, etc., to slow traffic.

    Walkability: Comfortable, engaging, and accessible. In city, also needs it to be convenient to walk, and the areas should be connected.

    Horse and manatee are very similar, but bone structure is completely different. Likewise, streets in a city determine how walkable it is. Hard to deal with big arterials.

    Car carrying capacity of a street does not double the capacity. Diminishing returns with each lane. Better to have a network of small streets than a wide street of equal lane length.

    Many streets provide many routes.

    Only about 20% of trips are work-related.

    Don’t allow anyone to build a parking lot on the street side of the building.

    Main streets should so be vibrant (lot of people, lot of activity). Key question: does decision favor short trips and walking?

    We obsess about traffic volumes. Should concern ourselves with trip count. If trips are short, get more trips for the same traffic volume. More efficient city. More walking and biking.

    West Palm Beach roads had been sped up when he started working there. Knocked down buildings to make parking lots. People went to the Everglades. Problem with development was that we had to put in infrastructure concurrently. Mayor believed in pedestrian vision. Got a concurrency exception area. Hi job was to deal with roads. Narrowed the roads, built raised intersections. Made a 4-lane commuter road a 2-lane one next to the water.

    A complete street requires feeling safe. Fix up outside of buildings as well as streets. Did not follow models that require extra lanes, left turn lanes. Models assume that people don’t look around when they drive.

    Maryland Rockville Pike strip city was congested. First change was to add east-west and north-south roads. Better traffic routing. Change arterial to have dual bike lanes, center trees, side trees. We should do things like replacing urban cloverleaves with neighborhoods.

    Most popular complete street reduces 4 lanes to 3 (two with a turn lane). Got rid of any street that allows weaving. “Road Diet”.

    [Comment: Assembly Square now has 4 lane highways with turn lanes. Maybe a bad idea?]

    Make driveways look like driveways, not streets. Leave sidewalks at sidewalk level; put a bump where the cars leave to slow them down.

    Put sharrows on downhill lane, bike lane on uphill lane.

    Two-way cycle tracks work well where there aren’t many driveways, say along a river. When you create actual cycle streets, get a lot of use.

    Shared spaces: parking, cycling, auto, pedestrians, in the same space. Can be successful. Space tells drivers to drive slowly, they do it. Replace vertical curbs with flush boundaries.

    Glass bathrooms. (One way glass.)

    Q: None of slides had snow. We need better snow removal in pedestrian areas. All season complete streets?

    A: Michigan one has lots of snow. Notice the street is cleaner than the sidewalk? Same vehicle gets both if it’s shared.

    Q: What would you do with Beacon St.?

    A: Understand there are a parking camp and a bicycling camp.

    Q: Lot of Somerville built up in 1800′s. Most streets have correct scale (except McGrath).

    A: Need to either give stuff up or share the space .Need to establish priorities in the community. Can’t please all the people all the time. We often widened sidewalk to suit pedestrians. Hard to accommodate cyclists; they need 10-12 feet of space.

    Q: Complaints about sharing of sidewalks by cyclists. How do you make sharing work?

    A: Too much importance given to cars. Too fast. Cyclists go where they can. Pedestrians and cyclists should mix, cyclists are too fast. Have a lot of obsolete streets. Asphalt with curbs, 1940′s. One way streets, 1970′s. When there is change, get rubbing against various groups. You get what you buy.

    Me: 4 lanes in Assembly Square?

    Ellin: It is 2 lanes. (It is?)

    A: Misallocation to have 4 lanes. Throughput more important.

    Q: Community Path intended to go to Charles River. Does that affect way you look at abutting streets? Could you say “we don’t need bikes on streets because of path”?

    A: Accommodating it would be important.

    Ellin: McGrath Highway goes into Cambridge. Cambridge wants to divert traffic to McGrath.

    A: Fear of redesign is diverting traffic to side streets. Doesn’t tend to happen. Different people would use it; wouldn’t be a drive thru anymore. There’s still traffic, volumes about the same, but area is different. Drivers move slower.

    Ellin: Green line station at Washington Street will change it. Would improve it to make it more pedestrian oriented.

    A: Better to reward shorter trips.

    Q: What do you think works in Somerville?

    A: Ridden my bike thru here several times. Random street network is kind of cool. Cool old buildings. Diverse population, good location. Disadvantages: stuff beyond you. There will still be pressures to accommodate thru traffic. Constrain the car carrying capacity. Desire for location will increase property value; widening streets would export to the suburbs.

    Q: Political/economic side. State and federal government gives funding, and then insists we keep regional capacity. Have you dealt with that, if so how?

    A; Mandate for status quo is blamed on higher authority. But states hold status quo. Feds are putting in flexibility in transportation funding, state’s middle managers around too long. If you plan city properly with comprehensive plan, don’t let bureaucrat stop you. Better to reject a project than restore bad arterial. City can refuse to take money for a car-oriented design. At least, “do no harm”.

    Q: About levels of service. Discussion oriented around level of service. “Report card: A to F.” How do you change conversation from level of service argument?

    A: Originally level of service was subjective idea of motorist’s comfort. Quantified it with how long you wait at signal, ratio of traffic with “capacity of road”. Is a car oriented bias. Idea ignores the surrounding city. No one would expect to drive through a city without congestion. At level A, the city would be a ghost town. “Delay” is seen as negative. Why not say “the streets are vibrant”? What’s wrong with congestion? Depends on what is there besides cars.

    Me: Do you have experience with cross-municipality projects?

    A: Most of cities are understaffed and overworked. At least communicate with people over the border. Requires a lot of coordination.

    A: New generation planners are more interested in coordinating than 5 years ago. Also must coordinate better between departments. T&P must talk with planning departments.

    Q: Assembly Square: after doing comprehensive plan, developers have proposed to build a one-story grocery store next to T-stop. Not the way we want to do things. City is feeling pressure to go along with it.

    A: Proposed one-story land use next to T-stop. In W. Palm Beach, developer wouldn’t cooperate on street. We wanted bike lane. We had a beggar’s mentality. We were expected to take whatever we could get. Mayor said “we have to raise the bar”. Vision is in the plan, but predictability must also be in the plan. End up going to the bottom.

    Developer walked because wouldn’t do a bike path. Mayor called him in with the developer. After listening to both sides, told developer, “Make him happy.” Mayor backed up staff right along the line. You’ve got to follow the plan.

    City Staff: 3 meeting series, starting with GLX. March 18 will have charrette-style plans. Presentation will be available on the internet.

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