Slow, Safe Charles Street
Since launching Connect Downtown in the fall 2019, we've heard from thousands of people about Charles Street. From those conversations, the City has developed guiding principles unique to Charles Street. Our design will aim to achieve these goals:
- Celebrate Charles Street as a destination
- Prioritize people who are walking, lingering, and enjoying Charles Street
- Serve the operational needs of small businesses
- Create a legible link in the bike network
JOIN US AT AN UPCOMING EVENT!
We are hosting ongoing, in-person drop-in sessions on Charles Street. These outdoor events will run throughout the spring and summer. Drop by our table to share your comments, ask questions, and view project materials as our design work progresses. Outdoor drop-in sessions will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather. Please sign up for our email list to get notifications.
About Charles Street
The sidewalks and intersections on Charles Street bustle with people walking, gathering, and visiting local businesses. During peak travel hours, between 800 - 1,400 people walk through the intersections on Charles Street.
Charles Street is a critical link in our citywide bicycle network. Charles Street is already well-used by people on bikes throughout all seasons. During warmer months, bicyclists make up about 18 percent of peak hour traffic on average, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though there are three travel lanes on Charles Street, vehicle volumes are moderate. The total number of vehicles on Charles Street on any given weekday is between 4,000 - 5,000.
Parking spaces are well-utilized, making it difficult to find available space at the curb to make deliveries or short stops.
Read our "Understanding Charles Street" report for a detailed look at Charles Street.
Design Goals for Charles Street
Celebrate charles Street as A Destination
- Charles Street is more than a street where people pass through, but a place in itself
- Design changes should reinforce the feeling of a destination
Prioritize people who are walking, lingering and enjoying Charles Street
- Explore replacing the brick on existing sidewalks
- Add walking space at street level that is separated from moving traffic
- Minimize the use of traffic signals in favor of all-way stop signs
- Ensure slow, considerate traffic speeds to support a people-oriented street
Serve the operational needs of small businesses
- Short-term spaces for quick stops
- Flexible and informal space for deliveries all day
- Seasonal use of street space for outdoor dining
Create a legible link in the bike network
- People biking on Charles Street should have a clear place to be
- Families should feel comfortable visiting Charles Street by bike
The Slow, Safe Charles Street project is a part of Connect Downtown, a multi-phase project spanning several years. We launched Connect Downtown in the fall of 2019 with Charles Street as one of the focus corridors.
CONNECT DOWNTOWN 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.
More information and studies
Understanding Charles Street
A deep-dive into surveys and studies completed to date. Published February 2023.
Storrow Drive/Mugar Way Bicycle Route Feasibility Review
You asked us if the sidewalk on Storrow Drive and Mugar Way could be used as an alternative bicycle route to Charles Street. Review our report and conclusions. Published July 2023.
MAY 2023 Update
We are hosting ongoing, in-person drop-in sessions on Charles Street. These outdoor events will run throughout the spring and summer. Drop by our table to share your comments, ask questions, and view project materials as our design work progresses.
- Monthly on Wednesday evenings, 5 - 6:30 p.m.
We will have a table set up at the intersection of Charles Street and Mt. Vernon Street
May 17, June 14, July 12, August 9, and September 6.
- Monthly on Tuesday mornings, 7:45 - 9:15 a.m.
We will have a table set up at the intersection of Charles Street and Cambridge Street
May 30, June 27, July 25, August 22, and September 19.
Drop-in sessions will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather.
February 2023 Update
Before we propose changes, we need to understand Charles Street better. In our initial outreach, the Beacon Hill community asked us to talk directly with each business on Charles Street and conduct a robust data collection and analysis effort. This month, we are sharing data and findings from our work to better understand Charles Street.
- We spoke with the majority of businesses on Charles Street to get a deeper understanding of their operational needs.
- We looked at who is using Charles Street and how, using both traffic counts and observational studies.
- We analyzed parking study data from fall 2019.
January 2023 Update
In 2022, we wrapped up our work to collect data and talk with you about curbside use on Charles Street. This included the following activities:
- Charles Street Walk with City Leadership
- Double Parking and Loading Study
- Business Survey
We’re thankful to all the businesses who responded to our survey and to the City staff who helped us study loading and curb use activity. In the next month, we will share the results of our work and our analysis. Your input and the data we collected will inform design options. We look forward to beginning those conversations soon.
We sent an email update to the Connect Downtown email list on January 5, 2023. It included a recap of our work to date and information about next steps.
Summer 2022 Update
Starting in August 2022, we will meet with businesses along Charles Street. Our goals are to understand their needs and hear about their ideas.
Meet City of Boston leadership. We will be visiting businesses on Wednesday, August 3. You will have the opportunity to meet with leaders from the Streets Cabinet, the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, and with Councilor Kenzie Bok. This is not the only opportunity for business owners and managers to talk with us.
City staff will continue to visit Charles Street. We want to learn more about your needs and experiences with deliveries and transportation. We want to hear from every business. If you'd like to make an appointment for us to visit with you, please email us.
We held a series of virtual office hours during Fall 2020. You were invited to sign up for a 15-minute appointment during the listed hours with a member of the project team. Appointments were available online or over the phone. You brought your questions and reviewed information related to the project
Appointments were available on Wednesday afternoons during September and October:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
"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!"