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Children's Hospital proposes pedestrian bridge over Longwood Avenue

Proposed Children's Hospital bridge

Children's Hospital says a pedestrian bridge over Longwood Avenue would not only help "physically challenged patients and families with young children" avoid the cold, rain and Boston drivers, it would improve traffic on the narrow, crowded street.

The proposed bridge would connect the hospital with its parking garage on the other side of Longwood.

It is anticipated that the development of the Pedestrian Connector will result in a 75% reduction in pedestrian crossings from the Garage to the Children’s Main Lobby and Hospital facilities south of Longwood Avenue and a 20% reduction in BCH Autocourt traffic, greatly increasing safety both for Hospital patrons who use the Pedestrian Connector and for general pedestrians and vehicles on Longwood Avenue.

The hospital needs BRA approval because it would represent a change to its current "institutional master plan" on file with the BRA.

Complete BRA filing (15M PDF).

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Comments

Pedestrian bridges make the street below then worse for the pedestrians that need to use it by removing the stakeholder (children's in this case) from advocating for a walkable cross able street and fewer pedestrians crossing will make the city care less about pedestrian safety (if that's possible for Walsh to care less). When Harvard wanted to make ped bridges over streets between buildings the city refused and now the crossing is marked really well and has large caution/yield signs there not seen at nearby crossings.

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they don't make anybody less safe. Taking away conflicts by using multiple vertical levels of grades makes everyone safer. Martyrdom of pedestrians or bicyclists is a bad way to advocate for things.

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They dont make anyone less safe? Can you try reading the comments you reply to?

"make the street below then worse for the pedestrians that need to use it"

The fact is, ped bridges split the user base. So the privileges bridge users are now safe and the people who arent allowed on the bridge deal with the same dangerous road.

But it gets worse for them! Right now you have sick kids you can advocate for. Curb extensions, longer walk signal, exclusive ped time, whatever. Take the kids away and instead of making the street level safer it might become more dangerous

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How long have you worked in this area? Have you ever had to navigate Longwood Ave on foot?

I'm betting the answers are "zero" and "never" because the "solutions" you advocate are simply not possible here.

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Longwood is a mess, this intersection is dangerous for all involved. So many times i've seen impatient pedestrians (from out of town) just jump into traffic to cross. Into big rigs, etc.. Not to mention the traffic too.

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Maybe drivers could altruistically help out the pedestrians in the long-term by driving as recklessly as possible, in order to cause a dramatic increase in fatalities. This would surely provide enough evidence to support an initiative to make the intersection safer, perhaps by providing sick children a way to avoid the intersection entirely.

Oh, wait.

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This bridge is a no brainer.

If you've been to the intersection, you'd see the massing of strollers and antsy kids at one corner in particular (where the parking garage is) spring out when that short window of "walk occurs."

Trust me, there still will be people crossing the street on street level, but this will make things better for all stakeholders in this intersection, even the cyclists.

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In general, I would tend to agree with you. But this isn't general, it is specific. My only question here is: what took them so long?

I can tell that you spend no time in the area, have never worked at this institution, and have no idea what you are talking about with regard to this particular proposal.

This isn't a typical crossing nor a typical population of pedestrians. The sidewalks in question are not large enough to accommodate the foot traffic, let alone the people who need to navigate them with wheelchairs and small children. These are people who actually require protection from the elements (as in "wearing machines which cannot get wet") and cannot use public transit. Traffic and drivers are hateful and don't yield to the crosswalk, particularly when it is clear that a group of people will be taking a while to get across. Other pedestrians have to make their way around the entire mess to get through and around the area.

This is actually an ideal solution for a particularly clear need.

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After carrying my 1yr old son with a painful and infected ear across that busy intersection, I am in full support of building that bridge. During the winter, that whole area becomes a frigid wind tunnel and very difficult and dangerous to navigate especially for the sick and disabled.

I think this bridge would be and INCREDIBLY useful addition.

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There are plenty of pedestrians walking from the T to go to work or appointments at all the other hospitals and buildings along Longwood, as well as plenty coming from the T to Childrens.

So the diversion of some to a pedestrian bridge doesn't take away the critical mass of pedestrians (many with canes, crutches, braces & wheelchairs) to make a case for good crosswalks and walk signals.

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From the piece I read in the Globe, I guess Menino didn't like this idea and so it never went anywhere. There are always hordes of people waiting to cross at that corner...many of them families with sick kids. If this can reduce the pedestrian load, the walk light cycle can be shortened and get the cars moving sooner.

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Walk light should not be shortened EVER with the number of people walking on Longwood that are slow and sick new skybridge doesn't help the people on the street only those in the garage.

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... in the area, the walk light cycle is plenty short as it is - scarcely more than 15 seconds. Perhaps, a better idea would be to lengthen the green light cycle for Longwood traffic, if/after the bridge is built.

Gratuitous snarky comment: Via the bridge, it will be much safer crossing Longwood with eyes glued to a smartphone. One might only fall down the stairs rather than be run over.

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The privileged few will never stand for that in their neighborhood.

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there's a reason why the overpasses were removed when the station was re-done. NIMBYism and not ADA complaint (plus they were a haven for homeless)

But I agree. that intersection is maddening to cross.

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Like the one shown above.

Have both MBTA police and Mass General Police do sweeps.

Shut them down when the T is closed.

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A thoughtful redesign of the station could easily have incorporated an ADA compliant overpass (or underpass) to provide transit riders with a safe, direct route into MGH — even in the worst of weather. Unfortunately, passenger safety and convenience was not a priority; the felt it was more important to spend the limited funds they had, to make an architectural statement on Cambridge Street.

The ongoing fiasco with Government Center Station's problematic glass tower suggests that the 's way of thinking about construction design is unchanged. I also suspect the runaway costs of the Green Line Extension are another symptom of this problem.

Instead of trying to build a system that provides the highest quality transit service, it seems like they just try to design things that will have the highest cost to build. I don't accept the conclusion that because the old overpasses had problems, you have to just give up. The problems weren't so insurmountable that practical solutions couldn't have been found. They just didn't care.

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Do you know that this wasn't discussed for a fact? You're making a very broad assumption here.

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From the 's Charles / MGH Station Design Summary Report:
 
IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-0.jpg)IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-1.jpg)

 
 
There was another option that called for building a new station on the parking lot property, underneath the Red Line trestle, right before it goes into the tunnel:
IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-4.jpg)IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-2.jpg)IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-3.jpg)
 
To me, this seems like it would have been the most practical — especially since the street level on Cambridge Street would also incorporate some retail space. It seems so much better than using that property as a parking lot

Ironically, it probably contributed to that design not being chosen; it would have minimalized the visual impact on Charles Circle and blended in with the rest of the streetscape on Cambridge Street, instead of making the bold architectural statement the had prioritized.

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To me, this seems like it would have been the most practical — especially since the street level on Cambridge Street would also incorporate some retail space. It seems so much better than using that property as a parking lot

Keep in mind a few things..

1. The T could sell that property for far more $ than it would ever make in fares for that station.
2. This design does not incorporate a possible future BL/RL connector (which was still being planned in the early 2000's when Charles was being designed, and was one of the requirements for the design of the new station)
3. This design would make for a VERY long walk from the platform to the exit. (longer than it is today)
4. NIMBYism (see below)

Ironically, it probably contributed to that design not being chosen; it would have minimalized the visual impact on Charles Circle and blended in with the rest of the streetscape on Cambridge Street, instead of making the bold architectural statement the T had prioritized.

There's a few things you're not taking into consideration here.

1. The Beacon Hill Neighborhood itself.

As you know from being a regular here and see what Adam posts about Beacon Hill, that the neighborhood is VERY picky. Please, they can't even have ADA crosswalks without some big deal going on about it. I can't imagine what the neighborhood meetings were like for this station. I'm sure it was NIMBYism x1000.

So I'm pretty willing to bet that the reason why what was build, was built. (which is also why the sound walls along the elevated track appeared when the station was remodeled). They probably wanted something bold and far better than the decrepit station that was there. And I'm also willing to bet, as I said above, that the overpasses were never built due to both MGH (this I know for a fact) and the community meetings on Beacon Hill saying no.

MGH in particular didn't like the old overpasses because they weren't very ADA friendly. And new ones would require elevators. And elevators are big $$$ in construction costs. Plus now you're back to NIMBYisms too (big square boxes for the elevators).

2. Construction Costs & Sequencing

You keep bring up the "bold architectural" thing. I just don't agree. You make it sound like they pulled this out of their ass and said "Let's do this because we can". It's just untrue. If you look at what other transit systems are doing and designing stations (and take in considering current architectural styles), what was built at Charles, isn't too far off. Just like how Orange Line north of North Station to Oak Grove is all brutualist concrete.. it's not a statement, it's just that in the 70s, this is what transit stations looked like. Times just have changed in terms of architectural designs.

From what I know about commercial construction, I would wager that building with glass is far cheaper than brick or concrete. Why? Because of labor costs. It takes immense amounts of labor to build with brick or concrete. It doesn't take as much for glass, as the parts can be assembled offsite (which also reduces construction times), and can be quickly assembled on site in far less time it would have to build it on site with other materials. I know it sounds odd, but it's true. (Just look at any high rise being built today.. most of them are almost all glass or prefad panels and go up very quickly!)

And then there's sequencing. One of the things that had to be done with Charles Station is that it had to remain open at all times (because of MGH), and often times because of this, some station designs are just not feasible due to this. I know it's hard concept to grasp but it's very true with many T projects. But this is often why many designs are chosen over better designs because of this.

And finally don't forget about construction mitigation also. Things like noise, damage to properties, and what not need to be considered too. This is also big NIMBYisms at community meetings too, because nobody likes to be inconvenienced by construction and the T needs to design construction around those things too.

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I'm not trying to give you a hard time Elmer, but sometimes I feel that many people don't get the entire picture of T construction projects and why they turn out the way they do. There's just a lot more moving parts to a project than what people understand. And I'm just trying to make people understand that.

However, I do appreciate that you took the time to do some research after I asked my question, because now you know (as I did when I asked above) that it was discussed, and not forgotten about. It just may be a multitude of reasons why it just wasn't done. It's not always as clear as "they just didn't want to".

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To clarify, I was already familiar with that report, having read it many years ago. My point, is that there were a number of alternatives to provide safe, barrier-free, grade-separated pedestrian access to the station, but they were rejected in favor of the "isolated outpost in the middle of a busy intersection" design — a design that is not only inconvenient for transit riders, but which has also proven to be deadly to pedestrians.

Though I'm not an engineer, I've studied and witnessed all kinds of construction projects since I was a little boy, including rapid-transit systems in other places such as Montreal — I'm well aware there's a lot more to it than just digging a hole in the ground and laying track.

Of course, the Charles/MGH Station is a lost cause, but to answer the issues you pointed out:
 

1. The T could sell that property for far more $ than it would ever make in fares for that station.

You might make that claim about other MBTA properties, but I doubt it's true here. Just look at it! The train trestle running through the property drastically reduces its value to anyone other than the . The design called for using some of the space for retail, so it would have actually generated other income for the in addition to transit fares.
IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-01.jpg)
 
 

2. This design does not incorporate a possible future BL/RL connector

The plans for the Red/Blue Connector are completely compatible with this alternative. Indeed, the new station would have been closer to and more easily integrated with the underground Blue Line platform.
IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-11.jpg)
 
 

3. This design would make for a VERY long walk from the platform to the exit. (longer than it is today)

You're assuming the platforms were left in their present location, extending out onto the Longfellow Bridge. Logic would have them relocated to start at the station itself, and just extend out above Charles Circle for the length of a train — as highlighted in green below and labeled "Pedestrian Bridge Above" — those would be the platforms. This would make it a much shorter walk than it is now, especially for passengers coming from MGH.
IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/t-mgh-31.jpg)
 
 

4. NIMBYism

Yes, I certainly agree that can be a big problem — often more challenging than overcoming engineering obstacles. When a project like this offers a manifold of potential benefits to the community at large; as well as the surrounding neighborhood; then the NIMBYism is based on ignorance. Ignorance can be overcome with education and leadership. Too few elected officials recognize the value of public transit, so they don't advocate for it.
 

It's nice to discuss this with you, Cybah. It's just dreaming about what might have been, but I went off on this tangent because I see the still continuing with similar design priorities, rather than focusing on passenger safety and convenience.

I could go on regarding the rest of your post, but ...
... well, maybe later — it's such a nice day!

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It's nice to discuss this with you, Cybah. It's just dreaming about what might have been, but I went off on this tangent because I see the Ⓣ still continuing with similar design priorities, rather than focusing on passenger safety and convenience.

While I enjoy the conversation,. I still don't agree that they are making design a "design" a priority. I just seem them doing what the "in thing" for architecture today. As I said above, it certainly is similar to constructions styles all around the city. It's a very common design now. It's not high end, it's just what designers choose to build with today. That's all.

As far as passenger safety, I don't see that either. Much of the mitigation for this was apart of the Charles circle reconstruction with better timed signals and walk lights. Sure, a pedestrian overpass would have been better, but combined with everything else I wrote.. it seems like it just wasn't wanted by the stake holders besides the T. (i.e. MGH, Beacon Hill)

One more thing.. you mentioned about NIMBYism.. let me just finalize and say "you can't fix stupid" sometimes and that's it.

Enjoy your bike ride :-)

PS -

The plans for the Red/Blue Connector are completely compatible with this alternative. Indeed, the new station would have been closer to and more easily integrated with the underground Blue Line platform.

No it's not. What was built is even better, as the triple doors that are not used now would lead directly to the below ground station. No where in the design you liked (the one that used a parking lot) does not have a connection like that, since the obvious place for such a staircase would be where the retail space is.

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Great idea. Though, It's not only Boston drivers that people need to watch out for...

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We don't need any stories about sick kids being storrowed.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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why do I remember hearing about some weird rules about pedi bridges? I recall they could not construct the wgbh crossover on guest st in brighton until the one on western ave was demolished? one per something .....

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That may be a neighborhood thing. Brigham & Women's has pedestrian bridges to both Children's and Dana Farber.

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one from the Rosenberg building to the Farr building on the Deaconess side of Beth Israel.

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Shapiro to 75 Francis across Francis, Shapiro to the new building across Fenwood, and BWH to HMS across Shattuck.

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They scrape up enough cash to put the R back in Children's

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All set now!

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A lot of people around here swallow them.

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The hospital needs BRA approval because it would represent a change to its current "institutional master plan" on file with the BRA

Seriously?!? A pedestrian bridge connecting two existing bulidings needs approval because it wasn't in a "master plan"?

Reason 4,589 why we need to abolish the BRA.

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A large structure going over a major thoroughfare is going to need city review and approval with or without the existence of the BRA, at least in any city with a semblance of looking out for the "public good."

Now about your 4,588 other reasons ...

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a new overhead pedestrian walkway is a good and necessary thing. I disagree with the logic that the BRA should be the agency to conduct that review under the guise of said walkway not originally being part of a "master plan".

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This is my bone of contention when people talk about abolishing the BRA. The city should have an agency to review major development plans, and it would seem like the BRA would, theoretically as they have city planners on staff, be the best agency to do it.

Whether or not the BRA is acting in the best interests of the City of Boston as a whole is another story, but that means reform, not dissolution.

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This is a pedestrian walkway connecting two EXISTING buildings that are owned by the SAME entity. Now explain again why you would need a group of city planners to review this proposal.

A simple "yes the proposed structure meets code and is otherwise adequate to handle the loads" review by ISD or the City Building Inspector would be more than sufficent here.

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Hence, it is a bit more than a simple code issue.

Besides, major projects should have a bit more scrutiny than putting a deck in the back yard or replacing the electrical systems in one's house.

Again, I won't deny the BRA needs reform, just like this intersection needs a pedestrian bridge, but getting rid of the agency outright would leave us with nothing.

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It's still just a pedestrian bridge. And it sitll connects two existing buildings owned by the same entity. And similar bridges have been build in near-identical circumstances (Tufts Medical Center over Washington Street being a very good example). But let's hand this over to an overbloated and bureaucratic agency like the BRA for review and approval because it doesn't fit with some idiotic "master plan". Yep, that's progressive government all right.

And please don't try to justify BRA involvment by dredging up all the NIMBY BS nonsense like aesthetics or shadow effect or the other "quality of life" garbage they use to block simple and useful projects like this one.

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To make sure it's high enough that it doesn't become the site of many future Storrowings.

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Another step in the permitting process.

Design and Construction in Boston - takes special skills and knowledge to navigate it.

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While spending 10 unexpected days with my child at Children's Hospital I crossed Longwood at all hours using excessive caution, never feeling safe.

I'm not a big fan of pedestrian bridges in general, but this is a great idea and will improve safety for all.

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