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Connect Downtown

Connect Downtown centers people — residents, commuters, and tourists — in a redesign of iconic streets in our downtown neighborhoods.

Project Vision

Walking will be pleasant and easy. Safe, separated bikeways will serve and connect residents, employers, and local businesses. Families will explore Boston's neighborhoods and iconic parks together, from the Esplanade to the Boston Common to the Southwest Corridor.

Through this project, we will:

  • improve pedestrian crossings along the route
  • provide comfortable, reasonably direct routes for bicyclists, and
  • enhance pedestrian access to the Public Garden and Common.

We plan to design the project in a way that allows for faster construction.

Still have questions? Contact:
Transportation
1 City Hall Square
Room 721
Boston, MA 02201-2026
Virtual Office Hours

Talk with us about this project! We are hosting virtual "office hours" from 3 - 7 p.m. on Wednesdays through the month of October. You can schedule a 15-minute chat with a member of our project team.

Sign up for an appointment

Feedback

Share your questions and thoughts with the project team using our online form.

Feedback form

Virtual office hours

At our virtual office hours, you can bring your questions and review information related to the project.

Make an appointment

Talk with the project team online or over the phone. You will be able to sign up for a 15-minute appointment during the listed hours. Office hours will be held on Wednesdays:

  • September 16, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • September 23, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • September 30, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 7, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 14, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 21, 3 - 7 p.m. 
  • October 28, 3 - 7 p.m.

Upcoming events

Events
Logo for Connect Downtown project, with icons of people walking, people bicycling, and a park in a city.
Oct 28

Connect Downtown virtual office hours

Project overview

Review the data, your stories, and global inspiration for our project. Explore our design tools and approach to improving the walking and biking experiences.

Explore

Project updates

Updates

We hosted three outdoor information sessions. We shared information about the upcoming changes to traffic signals and new bike lanes. We answered questions and gathered your feedback. We engaged with people in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.

Meeting announcements were shared via a direct mailing, our email list, a press release, and City social media accounts. We followed state and City guidelines for meetings. All attendees wore a face covering and stood six feet apart.

Download BROCHURES:

ENGLISH 

SPANISH

CHINESE

Download FLieRS:

English-Spanish-Chinese

Chinese-English

Four people wearing face coverings stand outside on a traffic island. Three people are holding brochures. A table has more materials and is covered with a blue tablecloth that says City of Boston Transportation department. One person stands near a cargo bike.

We planned a series of Open Houses in March and expanded Office Hours into the spring. We were able to hold one Open House before in-person meetings were suspended. More than 45 people stopped by the event on March 5 at the Central Library.

The content shared at this Open House is available to explore online.

Colorful sticky notes are attached to a poster.

You were invited to drop in any time during office hours and talk one-on-one with us. You could review project materials, ask questions, and share your feedback. We hosted Office Hours weekly between January 8 and March 4 at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library and West End Library. We talked with 257 community members during our office hours. You shared almost 200 comments with us. We suspended Office Hours in early March because of COVID-19.

View the project fact sheet (PDF)

Ve la hoja informativa del proyecto (PDF)

項目情況說明書 (PDF格式)

We hosted a series four of community walks during the fall of 2019. The walks covered neighborhoods and streets we are looking at as part of Connect Downtown. We invited community members to attend and share their experiences walking and biking in the study area.

Scroll down to read about each walk.

Photo showing participants in the Back Bay Community Walk; about 15 people gathered in a group on a sidewalk.

Beacon Hill: Saturday, November 2, 2019
Beacon Hill
Saturday, November 2, 2019

Beacon Hill Community Walk walking route map

We heard the following themes:
  • Intersections like Beacon Street at Charles Street and Charles Circle feel like barriers for people walking because of long wait times or unclear pedestrian signals.
  • Desire for more pedestrian space and pedestrian-only events on Charles Street north of Beacon Street.
  • Concern about excessive speeding on Charles Street south of Beacon Street and Beacon Street east of Charles Street.
  • Some people want to bike but don't feel comfortable with the busy streets and intersections. People who bike now sometimes use the Common and sidewalks because they don't feel safe on the street.
  • The curbside on Charles Street north of Beacon Street should be better managed to reduce double parking and provide space for commercial loading and passenger pickup and dropoff.
Quotes from participants:

"People come [to Charles Street] for the pedestrian experience."

"This [crosswalk between the Boston Common and Public Garden] is a special place, a major gateway between two iconic, historic open spaces—and should look like it!"

"Biking from the West End to Copley Square is easy but biking back is very hard because of one-way streets."

"I don't usually have sympathy for bikers, but this area needs bike lanes!"

Back Bay
Thursday, November 7, 2019

Back Bay walk route map

We heard the following themes:
  • Walk signals are different at each intersection. Locals have learned how they work, but visitors find them confusing. The inconsistency erodes confidence in the signals. People make their own decisions about when to cross.
  • The Beacon Street, Arlington Street, Mugar Way intersection is stressful for people walking because of long wait times, confusing signals, and multi-stage crossings via small islands.
  • Many people bike in the area but the streets and intersections are not designed for them. As a result, people who bike have developed their own strategies to navigate the area. Some feel like the only "safe" option is to go during the pedestrian signal to avoid stressful interactions with vehicles.
  • People often bike across the plaza on the southwest corner of Charles Street South and Boylston Street to get to Columbus Ave and continue to the Southwest Corridor. They are avoiding the stressful weave from Stuart Street to Charles Street South to Park Plaza.
Quotes from participants:

"Consistency in walk signals is important. It gives pedestrians confidence."

"Can we put a big crosswalk in the middle of the intersection so you can cross directly from the Public Garden to the Commonwealth Ave Mall?"

"Being on the island in the middle of the intersection [of Beacon Street and Arlington Street] is like being a penguin on an iceberg with rising sea levels."

"It's common to see bicyclists cut across the intersection [of Boylston Street at Charles Street] and use the sidewalk to get to Columbus Ave [heading southwest]."

South End
Wednesday, November 13, 2019

South End walk route map

We heard the following themes:
  • Walk signals are inconsistent. Some are concurrent with vehicles while others are exclusive. People find this confusing. Some make their own choices about when and where to cross.
  • The sidewalks on Columbus Ave are narrow and feel congested, especially during peak travel hours. Nearby Back Bay Station is a major draw for people walking.
  • Columbus Ave is an important bike route through the city. In the South End, bike commuters choose Columbus Ave over the Southwest Corridor Park because it's a direct connection between downtown and neighborhoods to the southwest.
  • Desire for better bike lanes on Columbus Avenue. The existing bike lanes on southwest of Dartmouth Street feel too narrow and are often blocked by doubled-parked cars. Northeast of Dartmouth Street, there are no bike lanes.
Quotes from participants:

"We should embrace the cold weather. Can we have car-free street events during the winter?"

"Can we make the intersections more compact and feel human-scaled?"

"Sidewalks [on Columbus Ave] between Clarendon and Berkeley are very congested, particularly when trains let out at Back Bay Station."

"Can we reduce the number of travel lanes on Columbus Ave northeast of Dartmouth Street so we can have separated bike lanes? There could be a left turn lane at Berkeley Street for the [Route 39] bus and drivers going to Storrow Drive."

Bay Village/Chinatown
Tuesday, December 10

Bay Village/Chinatown walk route map

We heard the following themes:
  • Walk signals are too short and infrequent. People who aren't able to walk fast have to wait for two full cycles.
  • Some unsignalized crosswalks are stressful to use because there are many lanes and drivers go fast. Examples include Tremont Street at the Tufts Medical Center garage, Charles Street South at Melrose Street, and Arlington Street at Isabella Street.
  • In some places, many people cross the street but there is no crosswalk. Examples include Boylston Street mid-way between Tremont Street and Charles Street, Stuart Street at Warrenton Street, and Charles Street South at Park Plaza.
  • Stuart Street, Charles Street South, Boylston Street, and Tremont Street are important bike routes in the city but don't have bike facilities.
  • People who bike find some intersections very stressful because of turning or weaving traffic. To avoid conflicts with vehicles, some choose to go during the pedestrian phase. 
Quotes from participants:

"The north-south crossing on the east side of Arlington Street at Stuart Street has a staggered pedestrian crossing. You get stuck in the middle. It's difficult."

"Exclusive pedestrian phases are too short with too long of a wait in between."

"The turn from Stuart Street onto Charles Street South is scary as a bicyclist. You have to weave across a bunch of lanes. This results in people going when they feel safe based on their ability level, including on the walk signal."

"This area is very very loud because of cars, trucks, and sirens. We have had to shout to hear each other this entire walk!"

"Can we do something to manage pickup and dropoff traffic? Tremont Street south of Stuart Street gets really congested with Ubers when theater shows start or finish."