November 13th, 2018
Stacy Thompson, executive director of LivableStreets, a transit advocacy group, praised the T's efforts to make paying fares simpler. However, she said that new technology isn't going to solve some of the biggest fare-related problems for the people most in need of public transportation.
Learn how a five-person advocacy team moved three successful initiatives forward and helped drive a $5 million increase to Boston’s transportation budget.
Panelists discussed systemic inequality and racism in Boston’s streets and local transportation system at the event, “Broken Buses and Incomplete Streets: Addressing Inequity in our Transportation System,” put on by LivableStreets and other partners. Stacy Thompson, the executive director, said the idea behind the event was to bring a coalition together in order to break down the invisible barriers blocking an equitable system for Boston.
“The idea behind our work is that we look at streets and transportation and try to make them work for everyone in a way that creates access and opportunity for all,” Thompson said.
Kristiana Lachiusa, community engagement coordinator at LivableStreets, said she has heard many bus riders say their biggest frustrations are unreliable service and overcrowding of buses.
According to LivableStreets Alliance, there are more than a dozen other locations in the city where bus lanes or traffic signals that give priority to buses could make our bus system work better — enticing more people to skip traffic and ride.
Thompson said a potential solution to the transportation issue would be improving infrastructure by having dedicated bus lanes, signal priority and better places for bus riders to wait.
“People look at traffic and congestion and say, ‘Oh, this is impossible, we have too many people,’ and we would say [that] you can take an unused area for parking and turn it into a bus lane to move people more quickly,” Thompson said. “When you have those infrastructure changes, you have more space for the T to then send more buses down that corridor.”
Thompson says smarter tolling could help spread the traffic volume throughout the day. The idea would be essentially to lower toll costs for people who travel during off-peak hours as an incentive to keep them off the roads at rush hour.
"Many people in Massachusetts are at a breaking point. They're tired of sitting in traffic. They can't get to daycare to pick up their kids, can't get home to cook dinner, it's a real problem," Thompson said.
Stacy Thompson, director of the nonprofit Livable Streets Alliance, said the city could “implement drastically more neighborhood slow zones” in its fight against speeding.
Stacy Thompson, executive director of the LivableStreets Alliance is also part of the task force and advocating for a space that would cater to cyclists and pedestrians. She envisions a place for pop-ups and events and fears the full potential won’t be reached if the bridge is also used for general traffic.
We already know what the solutions are and we’re not acting fast enough,” said Stacy Thompson, executive director of the [LivableStreets] Alliance.
The Northern Avenue Bridge is being replaced, and the city is debating just who will be allowed to use it
If anything, said Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Livable Streets Alliance, there is a risk of asking too much out of the project. If the new bridge is, all at once, for people, transit, and cars, then it might just wind up pleasing no one.
“We need to figure out what we’re trying to solve, then ask is this the best solution?” Thompson said. “There are so many questions and concerns about how we get around this city. One tiny little bridge isn’t going to solve all of them.”
July 9, 2018
"Roberts joined James Aloisi, a board member of TransitMatters, and Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Livable Streets Alliance, on this week's Codcast. They discussed the role businesses and their employees can play in addressing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector."
"We're seeing this happen in cities that have had incredible development the last couple of years, but also staggering income inequality," said Andrew McFarland, community engagement manager for the Livable Streets Alliance, a Cambridge-based transportation advocacy group.
At an initial hearing on the issue Thursday, Andrew [McFarland] of the LivableStreets Alliance said parking would become easier if people had to pay for permits.
"Curbspace is one of our most valuable public resources, but that's not reflected in the way that we manage it," he said. "When parking is free, or undervalued, drivers still pay — through congestion, frustration, and untold hours circling the block for a free space."
“I would say it’s just not that simple," said Stacy Thompson, a member of the Livable Streets Alliance. "We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people that utilize the system and it’s all different types of users and we haven’t really started engaging the community yet.”
“Unfortunately what we saw with Uber and what we’re seeing in other places is that the computers — the technology — isn’t perfect,” said Stacy Thompson, executive director at LivableStreets Alliance.
Andrew McFarland of the advocacy group LivableStreets Boston hopes to see that success replicated elsewhere. Boston has identified a number of other streets as high-impact locations for dedicated bus lanes.
“This is all the more reason the city should looking at the other four or five corridors that are really congested,” McFarland said.
Activists are “thrilled” the lane will return, said Andrew McFarland, a spokesman for the Livable Streets Alliance, which organized support. He said the city should now consider an outbound bus lane during the afternoon.
The cost of designating a permanent bus lane would be relatively small. But by letting the pilot expire, said Andrew McFarland of the local advocacy organization LivableStreets Alliance, “the city [is] actually electing to make more congestion for their residents.”
The Livable Streets Alliance, a Boston advocacy group that supports the bus lane, is asking for the city to keep the lane running until a final decision is made, said spokesman Andrew McFarland. “Why is BTD intentionally making the street congested for people driving, biking, and taking transit?” he said.
Steve [G]ag of the citizens group [Livable]Streets, which is for the bus lane, said a survey his group did found that most of those cars belonged to commuters coming into the city who were not Roslindale residents. There is generally more parking available for residents of Roslindale compared to other parts of the city which makes a bus only lane more workable.
"I don't think it's actually a turf war. I think what we are seeing is unprecedented interest in biking. When you actually look at this, between the dockless and docked municipalities, we have 19 municipalities that are all trying to bring shared bike service to their communities. That is not happening anywhere in the country, and so of course it's going to be messy, and of course it's going to be complicated, because we are trying to do something that no one else has figured out yet."
-- Stacy Thompson, Executive Director of LivableStreets
“It’s the pace of the technology meeting the pace that our municipalities move at,” said Stacy Thompson, director of the Livable Streets Alliance, a transportation advocacy group.
Stacy Thompson, executive director of the advocacy group Livable Streets, said bicyclists are worried that safety problems could develop on the uphill portion of the bridge heading into Boston as faster cyclists bunch up behind slower cyclists. She said a wider bike lane is justified because 30 percent of the vehicles currently using the bridge’s roadway are bicycles.
“We tend to underestimate the number of low-income people who are already riding bikes,” Miller said. “People from Latin America, people from Asia are both coming from places where bike riding is a social norm not confined to children. There are a lot of people going to and from third-shift jobs when the MBTA doesn’t run, [such as] people in the hotel and restaurant business who are low-wage. All these people have a much higher use of bicycles for transportation than the public perception usually notices.”
“We’re seeing such fast-paced change in the Boston area,” said Livable Streets Alliance community engagement manager Andrew McFarland. “We have to be making fast investments that are producing results just as quickly, and the bus system is a crucial part of that.”
“While we would say the overall protected infrastructure is lacking in Boston, it’s particularly bad in under-resourced communities [Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester] where many people bike, especially when they have jobs in off hours when the T doesn’t service them, or they’re trying to get to areas of the city that are maybe more difficult to reach,” [Stacy] Thompson said. “There’s certainly work that’s being done at the city, but we are really wanting to look at the communities with [lacking] biking infrastructure and say, ‘There are lots of people in these communities who bike. They might not look like a white guy in spandex, but they deserve to get great protected infrastructure.’"
Andrew McFarland, the community engagement manager for LivableStreets Alliance, a public advocacy organization that focuses on creating more accessible streets in Boston, said while the City does not typically prioritize bus transit as it should, he’s glad this plan puts more of an emphasis on improving bus transportation.
“We could get more out of our bus system by just running the streets better, so it’s a question of city efficiency,” McFarland said. “These people are looking to take the bus, but they just can’t depend on the bus.”
The LivableStreets Alliance and other advocates had pressed Walsh to start making good on his traffic safety promises. Until now, there wasn’t much evidence that the mayor would follow through, but LivableStreets’ Executive Director Stacy Thompson thinks Walsh’s budget is a promising sign.
“This is exactly the kind of investment needed to meet the ambition of the Go Boston 2030 action plan,” Thompson said in a statement.
“For too long the narrative has been that the only way to fix the T is to spend billions of dollars on mega-projects,” said Stacy Thompson, director of the nonprofit Livable Streets Alliance, an advocacy group pushing for better buses. “I think this is a hopeful time for buses.”
The LivableStreets Alliance recently chronicled how ridership on some of the MBTA’s highest-volume bus lines has declined, as worsening traffic has slowed them to a crawl. Thousands more people could travel the same roads if the city created more bus-only routes, but Walsh has been shy about taking away parking spaces and vehicular lanes.
[LivableStreets' Andrew] McFarland said there's no mystery about the steps that need to be taken to improve bus service, including more dedicated bus lanes. But it's not getting done. "There is a lot more the city can be doing to prioritize these projects," McFarland said.
“I think it’s a bigger question of policy and who has to pay and if people are paying ride-by-ride and paying in pennies and with change, then we need to access the root causes of why they are paying that way and then address those with better low-income options for people,” Thompson said. “I would really love to see a robust process that answers these questions and updates the overall fare policy before this gets implemented.”
[LivableStreets' Stacy] Thompson, addressing the rally last week, called for residents to take action.
“We need you to speak up and let everyone in Boston know there is a bus constituency and we do want to make change. We exist, the fixes are simple and we need you to speak up.”
“We’re not doomed to poor transit service. At a local level, there are plenty of tools in our toolbox to fix this crisis,” said LivableStreets Director Stacy Thompson. “Now’s the time to step up and put them to work.”
Stacy Thompson, executive director of Boston’s Livable Streets Alliance, said those distinctions are crucial. Offbeat ideas like the gondola would be better received, she said, if they served parts of Boston where low-income and minority communities have long clamored for improved transit.
“It’s a disservice to folks in Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Roxbury, who really struggle, and don’t have access to consistent and reliable transit,” she said. “The gondola has the potential of compounding the inequities.”
Stacy Thompson, executive director at transportation advocacy organization LivableStreets Alliance, told DigBoston that the Hub’s inequitable transit system is worsened by poor zoning practices.
“Zoning and misallocation of how we use our space and how we require people to use our space is intimately linked to displacement,” Thompson said. “Improving transportation is a valuable asset for our community and it has value. … We would say that we need to improve transportation in under-resourced communities. As we increase development, heavily advocate for requiring mixed use, mixed income, and not just putting a bunch of low-income and middle-income units in a community that’s isolated.”
Regarding the recently issued report on Boston’s Performance Parking pilot program, there were indeed some important lessons learned. Pricing parking so that one or two spaces per block are open at a given time is a benefit to everyone: businesses, residents, visitors, drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The increase in parking turnover, decrease in illegal parking, and decrease in cruising (drivers looking for spaces) results in streets that serve everyone better and are safer as well.
-- Charlie Denison, Board Member of LivableStreets
Stacy Thompson, executive director of Boston’s Livable Streets Alliance, said the decline in Boston was good news, but she hesitates to draw conclusions.
“It’s much like any public health trend,” she said. “This is a promising shift, but we need three to five more years of downward trends and analysis to fully understand if this is working.”