Downtown Crossing | Discussion

JeffDowntown

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I couldn't believe how many vacant storefronts there are on Bromfield St right now. Clearly the property owners are asking WAY too much for rent. It's like a ghost town while the rest of the area is thriving.
A lot of those storefronts on Bromfield have been vacated by the owner letting leases expire. They have cleared tenants in the hope of the major tower redevelopment (that seem unlikely to happen).
 

Rhino

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I know @Bancars will strike me down for this, but I think you'd get a major uplift for DTX simply by opening up Washington Street to slow-speed vehicles. I'm not sure exactly why, but the picture above drives that home to me.
Honest question - why would opening the street to slow-speed vehicles would uplift the area?
IMO, the lack of cars is one of the main attractions of DTX. The street is packed with people/bikes most of the day. It's also centrally located with access to each subway line so it's not as if there's access issues.
 

Shepard

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Honest question - why would opening the street to slow-speed vehicles would uplift the area?
IMO, the lack of cars is one of the main attractions of DTX. The street is packed with people/bikes most of the day. It's also centrally located with access to each subway line so it's not as if there's access issues.
I understand the sentiment, and truly I can see both sides of this. But here's where I'm coming from:

Washington Street is a street. Not a charming little alley with restaurants and shops like you'd find in Rome or - try this link - Seville. Notice how the scale here creates a vibrancy that even a few people can successfully activate. Pedestrian zones NEED to be pedestrian scaled (and the exceptions to this rule, like Plaza Mayor in Madrid, are in my mind exceptions that prove the rule: they're explicitly built with the idea of overwhelming and overawing the pedestrian with the vast open space WHILE still managing to somehow feel cozy). Now, check out this main drag in Oxford, UK - this is pretty much Washington Street. It's the lousiest, trashiest, most de-energizing spot in town, despite being smack dab in the middle. Streets are built and scaled to be complete. A street without traffic feels desolate, detached from the city. Now of course I'm not advocating to make Washington Street into a highway. But to allow cars down it, perhaps in a woonerf format, would be the right move to get things moving in the right direction.
 

Shepard

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Yes, it’s much more like this wider, car-free street in Seville.
Car-free yes, apparently, but it has a tram. It still functions as a surface transportation corridor. Above I wrote "A street without traffic feels desolate, detached from the city." The tram solves that problem.

I know what you'll (rightly) respond: DTX has multiple subways below, so isn't that the same? .... But I will respond: No, that doesn't impact life on the street itself.
 

Rhino

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Car-free yes, apparently, but it has a tram. It still functions as a surface transportation corridor. Above I wrote "A street without traffic feels desolate, detached from the city." The tram solves that problem.

I know what you'll (rightly) respond: DTX has multiple subways below, so isn't that the same? .... But I will respond: No, that doesn't impact life on the street itself.
Thanks for the respectful and well-thought out response - it's much appreciated as that doesn't always happen on here. My response is simply that I disagree (strongly) with the notion that a street without traffic feels desolate/detached and that cars would help impact life on the street. People are what bring life to a street, not a few cars passing through. Newbury Street is a great example - the weekends where they shut down the street to traffic have 10x more life on them than weekends where they don't. Hanover St. is a separate/opposite example - tons of life/activity on that street most nights of the week, as well as lots of traffic/honking. Is the traffic/honking bringing "life" or is it the hundreds of people lining the sidewalks and spilling in/out of restaurants (the overwhelming majority of whom didn't drive there). I would argue that the street life on Hanover would be far greater (both in the quality of life and number of people) if the road was closed to traffic at night.
 

Blackbird

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Car-free yes, apparently, but it has a tram. It still functions as a surface transportation corridor. Above I wrote "A street without traffic feels desolate, detached from the city." The tram solves that problem.
I’d be absolutely down to have a streetcar on Washington, but it really wouldn’t make sense with the orange line there.

To see what that stretch of Washington would look like with vehicular traffic, all you need to do is look a few blocks past Bromfield.
 
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BosDevelop

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A lot of those storefronts on Bromfield have been vacated by the owner letting leases expire. They have cleared tenants in the hope of the major tower redevelopment (that seem unlikely to happen).
I moved down the street from Bromfield Street in 1998. Many of the storefronts that were vacant at that time are still vacant to this day 22 years later.
 

HenryAlan

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There's plenty of traffic on Washington, just not car based. I'm not at all convinced by the description of it being empty, I've never seen it that way except late at night.
 

atlantaden

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It's fine to not have cars here - plenty of foot traffic. But it's SO annoying that there's a curb and raised sidewalk in a pedestrian area. It's always constant confusion about where you're supposed to walk...
Bingo!
 

Lrfox

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It's fine to not have cars here - plenty of foot traffic. But it's SO annoying that there's a curb and raised sidewalk in a pedestrian area. It's always constant confusion about where you're supposed to walk...
It doesn't help that there's always a ton of delivery trucks there and a seemingly never ending stream of police cruisers, taxis, ambulances, maintenance vehicles, ubers/lyfts, etc. Between the the curb/raised sidewalk and the vehicles consistently flowing through or parked, nothing about the middle of the street says "walk here!" apart from the actual sight of other people doing it. Wish we could make it better and it doesn't seem like it would be too hard.
 

JeffDowntown

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It doesn't help that there's always a ton of delivery trucks there and a seemingly never ending stream of police cruisers, taxis, ambulances, maintenance vehicles, ubers/lyfts, etc. Between the the curb/raised sidewalk and the vehicles consistently flowing through or parked, nothing about the middle of the street says "walk here!" apart from the actual sight of other people doing it. Wish we could make it better and it doesn't seem like it would be too hard.
I have to agree. What the Ped Zone has too much of is vehicles. You really cannot enjoy it as a pedestrian experience, because you are always watching out for being run over by a vehicle (that probably should not be there).

Funny how other cities manage to run pedestrian zones with tightly restricted hours for vehicle access. It's kind of like Boston doesn't care (similar to bus and bike lanes).
 

whighlander

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I have to agree. What the Ped Zone has too much of is vehicles. You really cannot enjoy it as a pedestrian experience, because you are always watching out for being run over by a vehicle (that probably should not be there).

Funny how other cities manage to run pedestrian zones with tightly restricted hours for vehicle access. It's kind of like Boston doesn't care (similar to bus and bike lanes).
Jeff -- Its also funny how in the 1950's and even before when there was full traffic through Washington St -- Downtown Crossing always seemed to be bustling in every image available



I think Washington St. was successful then because there were many places where people wanted to go and spend some time -- many department stores, several theaters, other small specialized shops and even a few restaurants. Now Washington St has many more residents in its mediate area than ever before -- but somehow it lacks the "Attractant type of venues" where people want to stop and spend some time. I don't think making the DTX a pure pedestrian zone would make it any busier without having the venues where people want to shop, eat, perhaps play games? Note that the department stores are not coming back anytime soon -- so there need to be other Attractors.
 

atlantaden

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Jeff -- Its also funny how in the 1950's and even before when there was full traffic through Washington St -- Downtown Crossing always seemed to be bustling in every image available
This was also the time before the major suburban malls were built (though Shoppers World in Framingham was opened in 1951) which meant that more people looked to Boston to do some of their major shopping.
 

#bancars

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I understand the sentiment, and truly I can see both sides of this. But here's where I'm coming from:

Washington Street is a street. Not a charming little alley with restaurants and shops like you'd find in Rome or - try this link - Seville. Notice how the scale here creates a vibrancy that even a few people can successfully activate. Pedestrian zones NEED to be pedestrian scaled (and the exceptions to this rule, like Plaza Mayor in Madrid, are in my mind exceptions that prove the rule: they're explicitly built with the idea of overwhelming and overawing the pedestrian with the vast open space WHILE still managing to somehow feel cozy). Now, check out this main drag in Oxford, UK - this is pretty much Washington Street. It's the lousiest, trashiest, most de-energizing spot in town, despite being smack dab in the middle. Streets are built and scaled to be complete. A street without traffic feels desolate, detached from the city. Now of course I'm not advocating to make Washington Street into a highway. But to allow cars down it, perhaps in a woonerf format, would be the right move to get things moving in the right direction.
I'm not sure the Oxford example you provided gets at your main point about the need for activation along Washington St? I'm actually in Oxford right now, and will be here for at least another 6 or 7 weeks, and Cornmarket is almost always plenty busy with foot traffic, except late at night. There is a lot of retail activity, and it serves as a good non-car connection between High St and the A4144. If that link was opened up to vehicle traffic it would turn into a traffic sewer, allowing cars to drive straight through the city center.

I'd argue the "lousiest, trashiest, most de-energizing spot in town" is along the A4144, a large arterial just north of Cornmarket. It is extremely wide, filled with auto traffic and buses, and serves to split the city in half.

Just my $.02. Unlike DTX, which I think could benefit from more pedestrian activity at times, the city center of Oxford, at least as an outsider here on a long-term visit, doesn't appear to suffer from the same issue.
 

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