Meeting Minutes for March 17, 2022
Share responses to the TP&T presentation on March 15 about plans for bike lanes in Porter Square and review the work done by the MassAveForAll group to develop an approach that accommodates all users safely and more adequately than plans served up from the City so far.
It is difficult to capture all points made in a conversation without a recording. Unfortunately, we failed to record this meeting. Thus, most of the minutes reflect memory, a few notes early on, and the contributions from participants in the chat file.
Probably the remarkable thing about this meeting was its constructive direction and respectful tone. In the context of how the conversation, which includes many of the same people, goes when it takes place on the PSNA discussion list, this is notable. The minute-taker offers two observations what explains this.
First, the conversation was being held face-to-face (via Zoom, alas) rather than online. Being able to see the person you are responding to changes the conversation significantly, and for the better.
Second, the conversation was a comparison of the plans the City is proposing and the options to achieve the same goals that the Mass Ave For All, a group of local stakeholders from the neighborhood (including business owners, residents and bike lane champions) has been putting together to address the needs for parking and safety that reflects the idiosyncratic context of each block.
The slides from the City
Porter Square Project:
The slides from the Mass Ave for All group:
The City expects to implement its plan during the current construction season, which is usually over in November (cold and snow).
Do protected bike lanes rule out the expanded opportunities for outdoor dining?
These may be the one good thing to come from pandemic, and many want to preserve them. Nathanael Fillmore offered this info about cohabitation:
How quickly can the catenary wires be removed?
They are no longer in service, but as long as they remain in place, they present an obstacle to many other possible solutions because of safety concerns of the Fire Department.
At the City presentation on March 15, this period was said to be two years from now because it is a task that the MBTA must take care of. Some understood this to mean that the City had no plans to attempt to expedite this work. Others noted that the DPW has bi-weekly meetings with the MBTA on various issues, and plans to continue ask what its plans are for removing the wires. Councilor Carlone (who was not in attendance) has suggested that the City offer to pay for the work to move it higher on the priority list.
Representatives from Mass Ave For All are exploring conversations with the Fire Department and possibly the MBTA to expedite the work, but they expect this will take some time.
Perhaps PSNA can orchestrate a letter-writing campaign to apply some pressure.
Options for reconfiguring Mass Ave to accommodate more uses/users:
- Moving the bus lanes to the center of the avenue, as has been done recently on Columbus Ave in Boston
Some info about that project
https://www.boston.gov/departments/transportation/columbus-avenue-bus-laneThe suggestion of moving
Is the infrastructure funding approved by Congress available for stuff like this?
Removing the median
- Total available space is around 6 feet, which includes the median itself and the clearances on each side
- The argument against removing the median because there is needed infrastructure below it is no longer valid as the City has discovered there is essentially nothing of the kind.
Public charging stations along the avenue
The city is installing 4 public charging stations as part of the Participatory Budgeting process. One will be near Raymond Park. Craig Kelly has submitted a proposal to allow all residents with driveways to install charging stations and allow our neighbors to charge their cars there.
More info about the city’s plans is available here, including a list of charging stations that are already operative and a map you can use to vote for desired locations.
Parking available at existing lots at the shopping center, Lesley and Henderson Carriage House
The spaces at the shopping center are included in the leases with its tenants, and as anyone who has lived in the area for at least a couple of weeks soon learns, they tow cars aggressively.
Parking at the Lesley lot behind University Hall, which is still known my many as the old Sears building, is available, but very expensive if you stay longer than a couple of hours. The lots across Mass Ave are slated to become the site of a “co-living space” for its (probably graduate) students, faculty, and visiting scholars.
Susan Hunziker has observed that the lot behind the Henderson Carriage House is not as full during weekdays as it was pre-Covid. She suggested that might be worthwhile for the City to have a conversation with the owners (The Davis Companies, which owns a lot of commercial real estate in the area) about leasing some spaces during some period of time for public use. If the resistance to returning to the office becomes more of a norm, the demand for parking from its tenants might be lower, and they may be interested in a way to generate revenue from this resource. That said, the issues of liability and enforcement are likely larger and more complex than they may appear to those of us who are not in commercial real estate.
Concern about the environmental impact of diesel buses replacing the electric trolleys (which required the now disabled catenary wires overhead) for the foreseeable future
What air quality measurements have been/are being made? The bus stop @ Upland/Mass is already choked w/diesel from the trains. It is time to push the MBTA and other public investment projects to address the disproportionate negative impact in this area.
Concerns about the applicability of the various studies that conclude that bikes lanes are a boon or neutral to local businesses to the existing conditions in Cambridge; Also, the locations of these oft-cited studies.
This is a list of the studies shared in the chat file:
- This article includes links to the Toronto study and the NY study https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-13/every-study-ever-conducted-on-the-impact-converting-street-parking-into-bike-lanes-has-on-businesses
Some of the communities studied include Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Vancouver, BC; Toronto; San Francisco, including similar corridors in those communities that were studied
Concerns about enforcement various laws and ordinances to ensure safety in light of close calls several attendees have had with cars and cyclists running lights
The city should consider the whole system, including the behavior of the humans who are part of it. The serious planning based on careful consideration of all issues, including this one, has not been done.
Many folks felt that equal enforcement of cars and bikes that run lights needs to be stepped up.