Kendall Square

FK4

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I'm starting this thread as a general discussion on what the Kendall Square area needs - really an overall forum to encompass retail, housing, architecture, urban design, and transportation infrastructure — but, regarding the latter, major discussions on public transit improvements or urban ring fantasies should stay in their respective, existing threads.

My take on Kendall as it is right now is that it retains a cold, institutional and corporate vibe, somewhere between a CBD and an office park. It's far too desolate than it ought to be outside of M-F 9-5. It remains like this for many reasons: housing is still limited and also housing that exists appeals to a very narrow demographic, transportation is limited (yes, RL stop, but why would one stop here when they could keep going into Boston or further out to Central or Hvd?), and the architecture is very monotonous and there's very little wayfinding or noteworthy landmarks, which makes it difficult to navigate.

This isn't to say there haven't been meaningful improvements, and significantly so: Third Street has become a new commercial corridor, as has Broad Canal Way. Binney Street, despite its shortcomings, has at least filled in. Plenty of new housing is rolling in now and in the next few years. And MIT is looking to revitalize the entire dead zone between Mem Drive and Main Street.

So: what do you think the area needs? This is for general as well as specific issues. Would be interested to hear from others...
 

chmeeee

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Not to double post, but here's something specific: Binney Street in general, and even more specifically, the intersection of Galileo and Broadway: all four corners of that intersection are rounded and the pavement area is huge. Shoring up the corners and narrowing the lanes would really help.
CRA is solving that problem:

http://www.cambridgeredevelopment.org/binneygalileobroadway-streetscape-redesign

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51f173a6e4b04fc573b07c0c/t/58a5d735d1758e767ee8405e/1487263546627/2016-268_Island-Color.pdf
 

FK4

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Chmeee that's awesome, thanks. I knew there were plans for a cycle track and I thought I'd even seen some, but that was a while ago. I definitely was not aware they had planned such a significant reduction in road width.
 

SeamusMcFly

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Very happy about that. This is my least favorite intersection in the area. The lights and walking dude lights are some of the least well timed that I know of. And, I walk this area constantly.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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So: what do you think the area needs? This is for general as well as specific issues. Would be interested to hear from others...


[Blargh! Ultrasucky Photoshop! Me so lazy artist northbound train shown on southbound track! Etc., etc.!]
 

tangent

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Exactly! This.

Although it seems like there is a well organized effort and competing vision to turn the Grand Junction into a bike path instead of (rather than in addition to) two tracks of rail.

I like bike paths and some of the rail to trails outside the city on defunct rail lines that sat idle for decades, but not using GJ for light rail/BRT service inside the city puts a much lower upper limit on Boston/Cambridge's further development potential. And seriously hobbles the potential of Harvard's Beacon Park Yards and Allston developments to be more directly linked to Kendall Square.
 

chmeeee

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Although it seems like there is a well organized effort and competing vision to turn the Grand Junction into a bike path instead of (rather than in addition to) two tracks of rail.
https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Transportation/grandjunctionpathway

In late 2018, the City entered into a contract with a consultant team led by Kleinfelder for the full design of the Grand Junction multi-use path and conceptual transit design so that the path design does not preclude two track passenger transit on the Grand Junction right-of-way at some point in the future
 

tangent

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https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Transportation/grandjunctionpathway

In late 2018, the City entered into a contract with a consultant team led by Kleinfelder for the full design of the Grand Junction multi-use path and conceptual transit design so that the path design does not preclude two track passenger transit on the Grand Junction right-of-way at some point in the future
That is good to hear... because all their renders up until now appeared to be just "existing rail" without necessarily enough room for two tracks plus greenway.

I would hope all their future renders and actual plans show the two tracks that meet the clearance requirements. It would be a real shame to spend millions on a grand junction greenway and find out it all needs to be shifted over by ten feet.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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That is good to hear... because all their renders up until now appeared to be just "existing rail" without necessarily enough room for two tracks plus greenway.

I would hope all their future renders and actual plans show the two tracks that meet the clearance requirements. It would be a real shame to spend millions on a grand junction greenway and find out it all needs to be shifted over by ten feet.
Won't happen because the MassDOT is holding the 2-track requirement for the RER study in case the line gets used for that purpose. It's fully-protected from encroachment.

Width isn't a problem in the slightest for Cambridgeport because the whole area between Memorial Drive and Mass Ave. was thick with freight sidings, and probably not a problem between Mass Ave. and the power plant if MIT's row parking easement were revoked. Might get a little squished around the air rights overhangs, and will get very squished around Cambridge St. But Kendall-proper has plenty of room for a side cycle track and there used to be a freight yard at Fulkerson St. for interchange with barges on Broad Canal when the canal still terminated at 1 Kendall.
 

tangent

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Won't happen because the MassDOT is holding the 2-track requirement for the RER study in case the line gets used for that purpose. It's fully-protected from encroachment.

Width isn't a problem in the slightest for Cambridgeport because the whole area between Memorial Drive and Mass Ave. was thick with freight sidings, and probably not a problem between Mass Ave. and the power plant if MIT's row parking easement were revoked. Might get a little squished around the air rights overhangs, and will get very squished around Cambridge St. But Kendall-proper has plenty of room for a side cycle track and there used to be a freight yard at Fulkerson St. for interchange with barges on Broad Canal when the canal still terminated at 1 Kendall.
The narrow stretch between and under the buildings through MIT campus looked very tight to me. It would just be good to see plans with a non-landscaped right of way for the rail that has room for two tracks specified the whole way through. Better to see a plan to physically set aside the space for it now.

Fully protected from encroachment in a legal sense is different than the political and on the ground sense. If it gets landscaped with grass or trees and looks all nice then people are going to protest when it comes time to rip it all up to lay track.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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The narrow stretch between and under the buildings through MIT campus looked very tight to me. It would just be good to see plans with a non-landscaped right of way for the rail that has room for two tracks specified the whole way through. Better to see a plan to physically set aside the space for it now.

Fully protected from encroachment in a legal sense is different than the political and on the ground sense. If it gets landscaped with grass or trees and looks all nice then people are going to protest when it comes time to rip it all up to lay track.
There's an obscure pedestrian grade crossing with full crossing gate protection immediately after the power plant overhang and behind the parking garage on the corner of Albany/Portland. Direct egress to Vassar, and a sidewalk snaking around the garage to Albany. My guess is that's the bailout point before the squish happens at the Main St. air rights. For one thing, the MIT probably doesn't want cyclists blowing through the service driveway for the Cognitive Sciences building when the transition from light to dark makes parked service vehicles hard to spot. For two, the Main St. grade crossing is offset from the crosswalk and out-of-view of the traffic signals (at least until substantial train traffic forces the stop line + signals to be moved back a few feet). So it seems improbable on pure safety reasons that path stays bolted to the ROW at that spot even if there were cushion. Wraparound via the Albany egress behind the garage and the Technology Square plaza seems like the easiest way to keep it intact and logical for wayfinding while avoiding the couple tightest squeezes in Kendall-proper.

Power plant overhang shouldn't be an issue, because that's ultra-wide (60 +/- 2 ft.) to accommodate the parking strip easement. The part (aside from the detour segment described ^^above^^) where I legitimately think this is not going to work without a crummy, very squished path is Spring St. to Medford St. where the ROW hovers around 50 +/- 2 ft. Cambridge Housing Authority might be able to make a deal for the side parking strip on the Millers River Apartments and secure the Cambridge St.-Medford St. block if there's any spirit of cooperation amongst city departments (HA!...not in the Cambridge I lived in for 12 years). But I don't see how that'll stretch north of Kendall be useful for heavy-ish comingled ped and bike traffic unless the city went looking for backlot private property acquisition.


Somerville could definitely do something nice between Medford St. and McGrath when the McGrath grounding project happens. Ramp up to a widened-via-lane-drop McGrath sidewalk for crossing the Fitchburg Line, down again to Somerville Ave. extension, then to Linwood/Fitchburg St.'s on the other side for access to the GLX Community Path extension.
 

34f34f

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Most questions in this thread can be answered in the "Documents" tab of this page.

If you're wondering about pinch points, read this study from 2014 that specifically mentions all the tightest spots (PDF warning):
https://www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/Files/CDD/Transportation/Projects/GrandJunction/MIT Property Feasibility Study October 2014.pdf

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The part (aside from the detour segment described ^^above^^) where I legitimately think this is not going to work without a crummy, very squished path is Spring St. to Medford St. where the ROW hovers around 50 +/- 2 ft. Cambridge Housing Authority might be able to make a deal for the side parking strip on the Millers River Apartments and secure the Cambridge St.-Medford St. block if there's any spirit of cooperation amongst city departments (HA!...not in the Cambridge I lived in for 12 years).
Agreements already made – I guess it's not F-Line's Cambridge anymore:
https://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181204/a-win-win-for-everyone-plans-for-millers-river-grand-junction-path-move-forward
In exchange for helping to fund the Millers River Redevelopment Project, the city has negotiated with the Cambridge Housing Authority to extend the public, multi-use path along the Grand Junction Greenway.
 

tangent

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Most questions in this thread can be answered in the "Documents" tab of this page.

If you're wondering about pinch points, read this study from 2014 that specifically mentions all the tightest spots (PDF warning):
https://www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/Files/CDD/Transportation/Projects/GrandJunction/MIT Property Feasibility Study October 2014.pdf

---------------------------



Agreements already made – I guess it's not F-Line's Cambridge anymore:
https://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181204/a-win-win-for-everyone-plans-for-millers-river-grand-junction-path-move-forward
Thanks for that link.

Looks like it has been discussed, but without a solid plan yet to reserve (create?) a two track right of way. From the document:

A second track in this location would severely alter service to these MIT buildings, requiring substantial investment and potentially resulting in inferior service access. A multi-use path on the north side of the tracks would not be impacted by the addition of a second track on the south. Station locations for the DMU service have not been identified but, similar to the Urban Ring plans, the areas near Mass Ave and Main Street seem to be the likely candidates. A continuation of the ongoing coordination between MassDOT, the City of Cambridge and MIT is critical to address the range of issues transit service would involve.
Seems the Grand Junction bike path and MIT's new Schwarzman College of Computing new building there are opportunities to make sure that the two tracks right of way is established. Currently MIT is using the space that would be necessary to add a second track for parking and service access.

Just considering the wordsmithing that they did there a bit more... they are saying a second track wouldn't impact the multi-use path, but that is assuming MIT can move its service access and parking another track width away from the existing single track.

Really it just needs to be planned out.
 
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stick n move

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Most questions in this thread can be answered in the "Documents" tab of this page.

If you're wondering about pinch points, read this study from 2014 that specifically mentions all the tightest spots (PDF warning):
https://www.cambridgema.gov/~/media/Files/CDD/Transportation/Projects/GrandJunction/MIT Property Feasibility Study October 2014.pdf

---------------------------



Agreements already made – I guess it's not F-Line's Cambridge anymore:
https://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181204/a-win-win-for-everyone-plans-for-millers-river-grand-junction-path-move-forward



“MassDOT is currently considering self-propelled diesel multiple unit train cars (DMU) for future service in the corridor that is anticipated to operate at 15-minute headways. As part of this future DMU service, a two-track configuration is preferred. This would require an extension of the second track to the east of Mass Ave and a second track through the tunnel under Memorial Drive, which would preclude a path at that location without major reconstruction. Between Mass Ave and Main Street a second track would eliminate the service drive behind the buildings fronting Vassar street including building 48 and the Central Utility Plant (Building 42). A second track in this location would severely alter service to these MIT buildings, requiring substantial investment and potentially resulting in inferior service access. A multi-use path on the north side of the tracks would not be impacted by the addition of a second track on the south. Station locations for the DMU service have not been identified but, similar to the Urban Ring plans, the areas near Mass Ave and Main Street seem to be the likely candidates. A continuation of the ongoing coordination between MassDOT, the City of Cambridge and MIT is critical to address the range of issues transit service would involve.”
 

tangent

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“MassDOT is currently considering self-propelled diesel multiple unit train cars (DMU) for future service in the corridor that is anticipated to operate at 15-minute headways. As part of this future DMU service, a two-track configuration is preferred. This would require an extension of the second track to the east of Mass Ave and a second track through the tunnel under Memorial Drive, which would preclude a path at that location without major reconstruction. Between Mass Ave and Main Street a second track would eliminate the service drive behind the buildings fronting Vassar street including building 48 and the Central Utility Plant (Building 42). A second track in this location would severely alter service to these MIT buildings, requiring substantial investment and potentially resulting in inferior service access. A multi-use path on the north side of the tracks would not be impacted by the addition of a second track on the south. Station locations for the DMU service have not been identified but, similar to the Urban Ring plans, the areas near Mass Ave and Main Street seem to be the likely candidates. A continuation of the ongoing coordination between MassDOT, the City of Cambridge and MIT is critical to address the range of issues transit service would involve.”
Yes, that is what I was referring to...

Going back to the original point. Despite apparently good intentions, the multiuse path is already encroaching on a two track right of way. As you can plainly see here: https://goo.gl/maps/1S3eCnqYDnL2

The MBTA needs to actually go out there and measure with these projects. Every time they don't it adds tens of thousands of dollars in expense when encroachment needs to be dealt with in a future project. Re-landscaping can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars of burden that MBTA riders shouldn't have to pay for because of an ounce of poor planning.

And billboard on the right of way: https://goo.gl/maps/j7F2uVnwnnz
 

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