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City considers making another Downtown Crossing street more pedestrian friendly

Franklin Street with more space for pedestrians

City planners are looking at widening the sidewalks at Franklin and Arch streets to create a new plaza. This morning, the Boston Transportation Department blocked off part of the street and set out some free coffee so people could look at possible designs for the plaza while traffic engineers scrutinized the impact on car traffic.

Anita Lauricella took a stroll around the temporary plaza.

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Comments

Way too much extra road space here - and poorly configured, too. Much better to put in a plaza that channels all the confused motorists into a single stream, rather than leaving them wondering where the hell they are supposed to go!

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It doesn't hinder the roadway at all. Buses don't stop in front of Marshalls any more. Franklin St next to Millenium Tower is closed to traffic. It's a few tables so who cares?

They aren't actually looking for any data or opinions from anyone. Like everything else it was decided already behind a closed door. They are just letting us know what's coming.

They should have used a local coffee guy like Tom from Boston Brewin to promote the neighborhood. I gave the BID guy Tom's number. Not sure why they didn't use him but whatever.

More space for people to hang out. It's great. Just don't make it more space for drunks and people on drugs to hang out. We have way enough of that already.

It would be cool if you could sit out there and eat food from Merchant, Avana Sushi or Bonapita or GOD FORBID - Have a beer there!

PS. Pro Tip - check out Avana sushi's all day $10 dollar deal. It's awesome.

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I think we need to rethink using terms such as "poorly configured." The streets in the downtown district were laid out at a time when there was much less traffic, and in some if not many instances, were still served by horse-drawn wagons.

If anything the streets were adapted to modern traffic as best as possible with what they had to work with. You can't just tear down buildings and relocate roads.

If this were bare land you'd have the opportunity to start fresh and plan better but that is not possible here. As it is in the last 30-50 years with urban redevelopment throughout the downtown district, traffic patterns were already reduced and roadway directions changed. How traffic flows now in downtown is quite different from what it did in the 1960, 70, 80, and 90s.

Any design that narrows or eliminates road space also has to consider ADA access as well and that could call for at least some kind of access by ADA vehicles.

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In many cases downtown, paving space for roads was just the default. They weren't "designed." And there is no such thing as "ADA vehicles." The only thing ADA governs here is the sidewalks and crosswalks, and if anything the excessively large and poorly configured road makes getting around here on a wheelchair more difficult than it would be if the area were pedestrian-only.

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Downtown Boston is somewhat empty this week. School is starting in many suburbs today and yesterday but not all private schools are back. Labor Day is Monday. A lot of people are taking this week off (not me and I walked by this spot this AM). The Hingham Boat parking lot was way down yesterday and the Expressway was moving well enough before Neponset at 8:45 this morning to say, traffic isn't as bad as usual.

Getting reasonable traffic data for downtown today and expect a reasonable test result is like trying to get good data on how college students impact Boston on the second week of July.

The BTD may be trying to justify further privatization of roadways around the new Tower by saying look, this sidewalk widening doesn't mess up traffic at all. Do this experiment in two weeks and see what happens. Results may differ.

Well played Marty. By the way I saw a guy shooting up in a bush on The Greenway across from the park between Rowes Wharf and Don's Garage last night at 6:50 PM. Can you deal with that before you let the M Tower people take over all of the public part of Franklin Street between Arch and Washington, Please?

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You're right, traffic isn't all the way up yet, and as I mention in my comment below, buses use that stretch including some of the high school student heavy buses. But the announcement doesn't say that the decision is based only on this one-off experiment.

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All the traffic feeding into it is one lane. Yet it is three lanes wide, but funnels exiting traffic from the block back to one lane again. Taking extra sidewalk will not make a difference.

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ban cars from the area.

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There's always a critic, isn't there? This is such a classic Boston response to anything new. No matter what time something is done, someone complains that it's the wrong time.

I go through this part of Franklin St every day at rush hour, and even when school is in session and even before Franklin St was closed next to Millennium Tower, there was always just one lane of traffic here, despite the very wide pavement. This is not an important block for through traffic, and the geometry forces the traffic into one lane anyway, even without the temporary plaza.

On a side note, Millennium Tower hasn't taken over anything. Franklin St is still a public street. No public land has been transferred to private owners. In fact, the plaza around the T headhouse will be larger than it used to be because the Millennium Tower has a smaller footprint than the Filene's building that preceded it.

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I am being a critic of looking for data when the data available is skewed from the normal traffic flow. Read the post and put the kneejerk away guy.

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There's never any real use of that space, other than for motorists who get horribly confused by the excess of it that lasts about a block.

There is rarely any back up that could possibly use it.

Give it back to the people to use - the cars don't need it.

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There's always a critic, isn't there? This is such a classic Boston response to anything new. No matter what time something is done, someone complains that it's the wrong time.

n/t

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There is a lot wrong with your post but lets focus on the "privatization" part. This is public land and would be available for everyone to use. Just like the Downtown Crossing pedestrian zone. Just like the area being redone by the Millennium subway exit. By giving it back to pedestrians it will get WAY more use by WAY more people than if it was just a couple cars parked there all day.

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If you are going to bump the sidewalk between Hawley and Arch then you should start further back at Devonshire.

That way you can calm traffic coming northbound off of Devonshire / Otis turning left onto Franklin and traffic turning right off of Devonshire onto Franklin.

That little island, which was put in in the late 70's on the southerly side of the street at the corner of Arch and Franklin can be removed to make the lane closure on the north part of the street more effective, and also then keep cars from plowing into whomever is sitting on a table in front of Jos. A. Bank.

By the way, the reason why Franklin Street is so wide here is that is was part of a 1790's real estate development called Tontine Crescent that was based on the English Square model. It had an Arch to its rear gardens (hence Arch Street) and Bulfinch lost his shirt on it.

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If you could return the island grass and trees, I'd be all for it.

I suspect that some serious underground would would have to be done to accommodate the roots.

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Even before the M Tower closed off the access at Franklin across Washington, there was almost zero traffic here. Traffic on Franklin mostly turns off at Devonshire or proceeds to Arch. Downtown is full of 3 lane roads that are fed from a single lane and are grossly overbuilt relative to the levels of traffic they have.

A successful downtown should embrace pedestrians, parks, restaurants, cafes and other things that make people want to walk. There's no reason such a small city as Boston needs a downtown flush with room for cars. We're not Houston.

Let's keep making downtown Boston walkable!

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I would add if there is room to do so. And Boston, by its very nature, is a very walkable city. That will not change. Yes, we are not Houston, but it has nothing to do with city size. It has to do with keeping the traffic moving and flowing.

I personally do not want to be sitting in a street cafe next to idling traffic. I can think of many other nicer places in Boston (near the waterfront) or the green way where it is much more pleasurable to sit.

And I have to correct you; that section of Franklin that you describe had quite a bit of traffic as I remember it. And where are these three lane roads in the downtown area that you speak of?

And there is this: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/booming-boston-gridlock-commuting-traff...

Can you imagine 80,000 more cars coming into a city where some roads are no longer roads but pop up cafes? Let us start thinking big picture and long term

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There is no need for gigantic roads with wide medians (see Seaport Boulevard) in the city. Crossing the street in the Seaport is an adventure, as cars on these wide roads speed as if they were on a divided highway in the suburbs. Crosswalks (for now lacking proper signage as construction continues) are an afterthought for drivers in such an environment.

The whole idea is to get people to use alternative forms of transportation -- not single-occupancy cars.

Of course we need to properly improve our transportation infrastructure, but that is an entirely other discussion.

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The DTX "Shoppers Plaza" exit is my commute exit when it's open, so I love this. But cabs and buses use that stretch of Franklin next to Marshall's, and Sleepy's probably needs to have access to a road, unless they only deliver and don't allow for pick-ups.from the DTX location. I think that building has a loading dock in the alley off Hawley Street.

I can absolutely see this working despite that, though. Just a few accommodations, and it may make the security for the Mexican Consulate and Eastern Bank even easier to provide.

And bringing back some trees would be nice.

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One side of Franklin is all handicapped parking and the other side is all commercial and a bike lane. Yet there is about three lanes of traffic In between that get funneled into one lane to go straight or left/right on Hawley.

You get the extra side walk, you keep the existing parking and bike lane.

A win-win as far as I can see.

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I just checked it out and it was quite nice. A great spot for an expanded sidewalk. Pedestrians vastly outnumber cars on this block so it makes zero sense for drivers to have twice as much space as pedestrians. They should make this permanent ASAP and expand the idea to other pedestrian heavy areas.

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I also walked by an hour ago, since I knew about it. If I hadn't known about it, I would have thought it was a private event, with the barricades and uniformed staff from the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, and multiple TV news crews. It certainly did not look like a welcoming public plaza, in its pop-up incarnation.

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between Jordan's and Filene's but those benches were removed along time ago. You used to be able to sit at the spot of land (small park) which was/is next to Millennium Tower (previously Filene's). Will that come back for public use or is it now part of the Tower complex for residents only?

I am not sure why I would want to sit here or go out of my way to sit here. But that is me, obviously. My only concern is that the city keeps the traffic flowing in good form and that these pop-ups don't interfere.

And on another note, how much to you want to bet the the cart vendors do not come back and/or will slowly be phased out?

Is the city beginning to create an environment to fit the expectations of the foreign multi millionaires/billionaires that are buying condos in The Tower?

Welcome to the new Manhattan folks.

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Well, maybe not enough, but getting better.

Tables, chairs, and umbrellas between Filene's and Jordan's.

That triangle? Going to be a bleacher sort of set up with lots of seating.

Why do we care about traffic flow at all? Tens to hundreds of vehicles in the area ... thousands to tens of thousands on foot.

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how much to you want to bet the the cart vendors do not come back and/or will slowly be phased out?

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... I almost miss Markk. It would be amusing to watch him blow a gasket over this.

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Hmmm?

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Based on the sentiments of multiple UHub denizens, I have a couple ideas.

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He finally saw the error of his ways and moved to the car-centric paradise on earth known as Los Angeles.

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he's on the Arlington facebook group. His posting style hasn't changed.

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Rumors of Peak Car and Peak oil were greatly exaggerated.
http://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/08/26/revisiting-the-peak-car-debate/

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Most of the roads downtown are overbuilt for the levels of traffic they see, outside of an hour rush in the AM and PM. This is one of the worst offenders but you can find many more.

Taking back this space for pedestrians and bikes will do a lot to make the area more pedestrian friendly which will attract more pedestrian friendly businesses which will make things more dynamic, energetic, lower crime and generally make it a nice place to go/live/work, instead of a super-highway designed to shuttle people back to the burbs.

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but your statement "most of the roads downtown" strikes me as odd. Which roads and how are they overbuilt? The city's traffic flows pretty constantly throughout the day.

Your comments make me think that 1) you do not commute via car into/out of the city on a regular basis or 2) you are anti-car and/or a pro alternative mode of transportation zealot or 3) you are just out of touch with reality.

Downtown Crossing has for many years been one of the more pedestrian friendly areas.

And "Super-highway?" Where? Do you even know what you are talking about? Seriously? And whether you like it or not, Boston's roads are needed to shuttle city workers back to the burbs.

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1) I commute by T because taking a car into this city is silly on almost all accounts. I used to live in the CT burbs and spent almost a decade beating my head against my steering wheel commuting on the Merritt Parkway all day. So I know all about the joys of car commuting.

2) While I live in the city, I do have a car (2 actually) because you can't really live in Boston without one. Am I an alternative transportation zealot? Sure - because I've lived in places where you CAN live without a car (London) and there's nothing preventing us from doing it here outside of our own determination to do so.

3) No, pretty grounded in reality.I work as an engineer, so reality is what I deal in for my day job.

I work right downtown (State & Congress) so I see the traffic that we have both at rush hour as well as after hours. While certain bottle-necks like State & Congress, Atlantic & Summer (And other areas near 93) get super clogged during rush, many other streets are grossly overbuilt for the traffic they carry. Great examples are:

  • Franklin @ Arch - where the popup plaza is today - 4 lanes wide with minimal through traffic
  • Water @ Congress - Water is 1 lane coming off of Washington then goes to 4 lanes when it crosses Devonshire - why? This is not needed. 2 lanes are closed right now for the 88 Congress rebuild - would make a great place for a park
  • Roads bounding east & west sides of Post Office Square - Pearl, Congress - Congress is 2 lanes passing by State then opens up to 4 lanes along the park. This does nothing but encourage speeding and makes it unsafe for bikes & pedestrians.
  • Other areas around the Financial District, especially those bordering the DTX pedestrian zone.

Most people who are excited about this are people who live in the city (myself included) who want a livable, walk-able city that isn't just built for the car commuters. If you want an easy car commute, go work out on 128. But as people continue to move back into the city core, they want nice neighborhoods. These sorts of amenities play into that. Please forgive my reference to "super-highways" as hyperbole, but I'll do you the service of not trying to burn you back by attempting to blast you as a car fanatic.

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I don't mean this snarkily or as a judgment, but I'm curious as to why you say Boston is unlivable without a car. Almost 40% of Boston residents do not own a car. Do you have kids and find it easier to use a car, or a job that requires commuting out of the city sometimes?

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That's a fair question.

Partly it's lifestyle. No kids, but wife and I are very active. Hike in the summer in NH/ME, snowboard in the winter. So we need a way out of the city and trains won't get you to those places. Could I do this with ZipCar or car rental? Sure, but do it enough and car ownership is cheaper.

Partly it's access to things you can't easily get to by transit/walking. As an example, until City Target opened, trying to get to Target at South Bay or in Everett was supremely painful - you can do it, but it's not convenient. Same thing with a full service grocery store (Outside of the Shaw's/Star Market at the Pru). A car makes this much easier. As more things are built into the city (Especially transit oriented), this becomes less needed.

Partly it's being able to afford it. Many of the 40% of people you reference are unfortunately people who can't afford it or may be students who don't need it.

Anecdotally, working at a company that hires many people in their early 20s, many don't start off with a car because they can't afford them or don't want them. But many end up with a car eventually once they can afford it because of many of the same reasons above.

Anecdotally again, many of my neighbors are similarly inclined. Most work in the city but find a car makes things much easier. Some commute outside the city and need a car, but many don't.

Hope that adds some color.

Didn't mean to imply that living in Boston without a car is unlivable, just many people find it more convenient to have one, even if they live/work in the city and live near transit. Since we don't charge for parking permits even in the denser urban neighborhoods, we make it very easy for city residents to still want/need a car when we could be more focused on developing a more transit/walk-able/bike-able city.

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This is one of the best responses I've heard to the "why do you own a car in Boston?" question. Thank you both for keeping the discussion very civil. Boston is indeed one of the few US cities where you actually CAN live without a car, often by choice rather than need. But certainly there's a lot more we can do to make it more appealing for people to make that choice.

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This is for meant for pedestrians, although Boston bikers use the sidewalks already.

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Where does this happen? Except where there street was too torn up to use and taxis were parking in the lane?

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Interesting way to look at it.

I understand the shift from 'cars only' mentality to multi-modal. But this experiment focuses on peds plus maybe coffee shops & vendors. Bikes seem like a different thing, and peds/bikes certainly have different needs. When I see the chairs/tables/umbrellas, I think commerce more than peds or bikes.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of more park-space, or even room for people to work outside, I just don't think peds/bikes necessarily fit into the same concept(s).

Taking back this space for pedestrians and bikes will do a lot to make the area more pedestrian friendly which will attract more pedestrian friendly businesses which will make things more dynamic, energetic, lower crime and generally make it a nice place to go/live/work, instead of a super-highway designed to shuttle people back to the burbs.

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The thing about "pedestrian areas" is that the term does not necessarily imply commuting (as in walking), it can mean anything you do by walking around on your feet, and street cafes are an excellent example of that.

I think the point in this particular case is that the road is much wider than it needs to be to accommodate the amount of traffic that it gets, so city planners wanted to find out what happened (to the cars) if we reclaimed that space for other use. "Pedestrian area" is pretty much the easiest thing to try.

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http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/08/30/pop-plaza-appears-downtown/y...

"Millennium Partners, the company that developed the tower, worked with the city, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Public Works Department, and the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District to set up the pilot."

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We already knew this. So what?

None of your precious drivers were inconvenienced in the least, and they are showing what public space should look like. Who gives a fig if they offered up furnishings for the demonstration?

Sheesh. I think they should just take over the whole damn useless roadway.

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But what if protesters chain themselves to something, while at the same time a duck boat hits a bridge, and there's a medical emergency at TJ Maxx? If you take away these extra lanes, and every single other firehouse in the city is tied up with other emergencies, how will the first responders get through? Supporting this plan means that you want people to DIE!!!

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PLEASE!!! DTX should be 100% pedestrian friendly. People in cars, trucks, SUV's, motorcycles and bicycles can drive / ride around people who are on foot and in wheelchairs, thanks! WE are the ones stopping in shops and supporting local merchants, NOT people who are zipping through on wheels.

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Sitting in the street drinking coffee and eating donuts? Is this what this city has come down to?

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I'm not sure if your comment is snark, but I was honestly thinking along the same lines. I know that area of DTX and I'm not sure it's a place I'd WANT to sit down outside al fresco. It's a bit no man's land-ish or a sort of remote outpost of DTX and plopping a plaza there won't really change that. Not everyplace in a city has to be a park, a pedestrian mall or a place to sit outside. But there seems to be a decided movement to make it so.

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Post Office Square park is a mere two blocks away and it is so popular during lunch time on a nice day that finding a place to sit in the shade is all but impossible. The only reason this spot is not desirable is *because* of the acres of roadway that dominate the space today.

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If you really want to see whether people will use it, leave it there for three days, or maybe even three weeks.

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Agreed. Or at the very least, leave it open for lunch.

That said, I get the sense that this was really more about seeing how the cars would react to the diversion than seeing what pedestrians would do with the space.

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Some day in the distant future, the downtown area of Boston will be like some European cities (Munich is one example, Vienna another) where have an area where cars are not allowed at all. One Europe, these areas end to be in the "old city" centers

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And hopefully in the not-so-distant future.

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