Complete Streets Initiative Greenifies Boston
Menino Hopes Parklets Will Build Community
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
“The car is no longer the king in Boston,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in the fall of 2009. With that declaration, Menino commenced the Complete Streets Initiative, which aims to improve quality of life in Boston by creating streets that are good public spaces and sustainable transportation networks.
The objective of this movement is three-fold—to ensure that Boston’s streets are multimodal, green, and smart.
By accommodating pedestrians, people with disabilities, bicyclists, transit users, and motor vehicle drivers, Menino is striving to ensure that the Boston streets are shared by all users and are not dominated by cars. To be green, the movement will promote an environmentally sensitive, sustainable use of the public right-of-way. Street trees, rain gardens, bio-swales, paving materials, and permeable surfaces with plants and soil collecting rain water will be incorporated in an effort to make Boston more green as well. Finally, in order to make the city smarter, Menino is working to incorporate intelligent signals, smart meters, electric vehicle- sharing, and car and bicycle-sharing.
“I am committed to creating world- class streets in Boston that are healthy, green and smart,” Menino said. “Streets define the character of our neighborhoods and are the common ground where people travel, meet and do business on a daily basis.”
This push for a greener city certainly makes sense. Transportation currently contributes to 27 percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 30 percent of all trips within the city and 75 percent of all trips within a neighborhood are made on foot. Streets not only support Boston’s economy by ensuring that people and goods reach their destinations efficiently, but also help people make healthy decisions by supporting walking and cycling. With 56 percent of the city of Boston composed of streets and sidewalks, it is important to consider how we use this land to encourage sustainable modes of travel. By 2020, Boston hopes to increase its green canopy by 20 percent, and lining streets with healthy trees can improve the air quality and help the city to reach this goal.
The Complete Streets Advisory Committee, which was appointed by Menino during the summer of 2009, was a critical step in the ongoing initiative. Supported by Boston’s Transportation Public Works, Parks, and Environment Departments and Boston Bikes, the committee works toward more efficient usage of Boston’s road infrastructure.
Past Complete Streets Initiative projects include the Downtown Bicycle Wayfinding Pilot Program. Piloted in April 2012, this program included the installation of 90 Bicycle Wayfinding signs that are posted at busy intersections downtown to point the way for cyclists to popular sites in Boston.
The creation of the Public Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Interactive map in May 2012 was another past effort of the Complete Streets Initiative. This innovation lets you download the new EVboston map to a smartphone or desktop computer to find out where to charge an electric vehicle.
Just last month, Menino announced his plans to build urban parks (parklets) around the city. These small patios, which will be dispersed in three or four different areas around the city, will be designed to make sidewalks more pedestrian friendly by providing a place for people to sit and relax.
“Parklets will provide a place for you to sit with a cup of coffee or a sandwich from a local shop and enjoy your neighborhood,” Menino said in a recent press release. “You can meet your neighbors and relax in some green space, all in or near one of our main street districts.”
Essentially, the sidewalk will be extended another six feet to allow for more seating, plantings, and barriers to divide it from the road.
“Building community would be the number one reason [for building parklets],” said Jacquelyn Goddard, marketing director of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We don’t need more space. It would be more to have people gather, to be united neighbors.”
If the first few parklets are successful, the project may expand throughout the city.