City prioritizing improvements to Boston's transportation infrastructure
March 7, 2019
In his annual speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today will announce new initiatives and investments being made in Boston's transportation infrastructure that will help increase safety for all users of the road, ease congestion and provide more viable transportation options for residents. These investments complement the key projects identified in Go Boston 2030, the city's long-term transportation plan, and Vision Zero, the city's policy plan to reduce the number of roadway fatalities.
"Making sure our residents can get around our city in a safe and reliable way is key to ensuring Boston's opportunities extend to all," said Mayor Walsh. "I'm proud these innovative improvements will significantly improve commutes, accessibility, and lives as we continue to modernize our city's transportation investments, and create options that work for everyone."
Building on the significant steps the City has taken over the last several years to improve Boston's transportation infrastructure, these new initiatives and investments will further our transportation goals. They include:
- Lowering speed limit on city streets to 20 MPH: Mayor Walsh is proposing to work with the City Council and Legislature to reduce the speed limit on neighborhood streets from 25 mph to 20 mph. The speed limit was reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph in January 2017 as a way to improve roadway safety for people walking, driving and bicycling on city streets. Studies show that there is a direct link between the speed that a vehicle is traveling when a crash occurs and the likelihood of a fatality or severe injury resulting from that crash. At 20 mph there is a 17% likelihood of a fatality or severe injury occurring, and that number jumps to 75% at 40 mph. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a study on Boston that showed by lowering the default speed limit, the City saw a 29 percent reduction in the number of cars traveling faster than 35 mph. The study affirms the importance of lowering speed limits as one of many tools to make our streets safer.
- Citywide education campaign on road safety: the City will arrange for a citywide education campaign that will be available and accessible to all residents interested in participating. Safe travel now and in coming years is our first priority. In accordance with our Go Boston 2030 Transportation Plan, this campaign will serve to remind everyone we need to be more mindful on our streets. It will include safety tips and best practices for getting around Boston's streets safely using all modes of travel.
- Ride-sharing pick-up/drop-off designated areas pilot program: to assign Uber and Lyft pick-ups and drop-offs to designated areas. This month, the City will pilot our first pick-up/drop-off zone at Boylston Street and Kilmarnock Street. The zone will begin at 5:00 p.m., lasting until 8:00 a.m. each day. The goal of this pilot is to ease congestion caused by cars double-parking and to increase safety for passengers entering and exiting the vehicles. The City is currently working with ride-sharing companies, and both Uber and Lyft have agreed to support the City's pilot. The Boston Transportation Department will install signage to help drivers and passengers find the zones, and will evaluate the program to gauge its impact.
- Pilot of new bus lanes: on Brighton Avenue in Allston and North Washington Street downtown. The North Washington Street bus lane will be in effect 24/7 inbound from the Charlestown Bridge to Haymarket. Like the existing permanent bus lane on Washington Street in Roslindale, the Brighton Avenue bus lane will be in effect Monday through Friday during AM peak hours inbound. The City will also start a community process to improve bus service on Blue Hill Avenue.
- MBTA Bus Passes will be provided to all students grades 7-12: whether they go to public, charter, private, or parochial schools. There are approximately 20,000 students who currently receive free MBTA passes, and this proposal will raise that number to approximately 30,000 students. This move will greatly expand access to Boston Public Schools students, particularly those in high school, who can choose from a portfolio of school options across the city.
As Boston's population continues to grow, with projected growth to reach almost 760,000 people by the year 2030, Mayor Walsh has proposed transportation bills aimed at efficiently supporting residents by providing investment in transportation infrastructure, reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles, and providing for safer streets.
These bills include:
- An Act Relative to Transportation Network Company Rider Assessments: this legislation would add a charge to transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft operating during rush hours. This fee would be invested in local roads and transit, including improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. It would also reduce charges for pooled rides and the use of electric vehicles. There are over 35 million rideshare trips a year in Boston alone.
- An Act Relative to Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives: this bill would enable a municipality, or a group of municipalities, to raise local money through a ballot initiative for investment in priority transportation projects.
- An Act Concerning Photo Enforcement of Certain Traffic Violations: this legislation will allow for photo enforcement for speed violations and Blocking the Box traffic violations. The proposal would also enable school buses to be equipped with cameras to capture violations when the STOP arm is deployed. Together, these proposals will equip cities and towns with the tools to make their streets safer, cut down on gridlock and congestion, and generate revenue to invest in local roads and transit.
These bills are part of a broader road safety legislative agenda, which includes support of previously-filed bills related to sideguards on trucks and cell phone use while driving. In 2015, Mayor Walsh signed a Truck Side Guard Ordinance, which requires all large city-contracted vehicles to be equipped with convex blind spot mirrors, crossover mirrors and blind-spot awareness decals.
These announcements and new initiatives support the work already underway to improve safety, strengthen roadway connections, reduce congestion and prioritize Vision Zero efforts. Current and recent work by the city includes:
- The City is working on a pilot that will respond to real-time traffic conditions on our roads. This results in fewer stops at red lights, less traffic congestion and reduced emissions from idling vehicles. Due to the increase in bicycle, pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic in the South Boston Waterfront, adaptive traffic signals may benefit traffic flow and safety in the area. MassDOT, Massport, BTD and the MBTA are collaborating on the design of an Adaptive Signal Control Technology system in the South Boston Waterfront.
- Last year, a dedicated bus lane was installed on Washington Street in Roslindale. On a route that sees 19,000 bus trips every day, it cut travel times by up to 25%.
- The City advocated for more early-morning bus service to help workers. The T piloted this service and made it permanent.
- In the previous fiscal year, the Boston Transportation Department retimed 62 traffic signals. In the current fiscal year, BTD will be retiming another approximate 60 locations to ensure that they work to support current demand.
- The City increased parking meter rates in some of our most congested neighborhoods. As a result, double-parking violations dropped by 14% and parking in loading zones fell by nearly 30%.
- BTD built protected bike lanes on Mass Ave., Summer Street, Causeway Street, and Commercial Street, with more to come.
- Together with our partners, we brought bike sharing to more neighborhoods across the city. Last year, Blue Bikes use was up by 24%, to a record 1.7 million rides.
- Last month, a new water shuttle pilot launched, connecting North Station to the South Boston Waterfront. It services 700 people a day and cuts commute times by over 10 minutes.
- Last month, BTD launched the City's first transit team, a staff dedicated to working with the MBTA on improving service.