Prospect St (Cambridge - Somerville) "Too Small"

Arlington

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What do you do with a street like Prospect St in Cambridge given:
1) It connects major transit hubs (Central Sq and Union Square)
2) It connects employment centers believed to have growth potential
3) It is 3 lanes wide (currently 1 parking lane & 2 travel lanes)
4) It doesn't have a natural "pair" street
  • Tremont-Webster is physically close but just as narrow
  • Columbia-Webster is bigger, but far
I'd like a solution that:
1) Created good bus connectivity Union<->Central<->BU<->Longwood
2) Created a bike route parallel to the bus

I could even imagine a "corridor transformation" project that upzoned a strip 3 blocks wide in exchange for widening Prospect (even if it required eminent domain takings).

I know it isn't fashionable 21st Century Urbanism to widen a street, but it was a very natural thing to do even in the Electric Traction era (this need not be a "war on cars" / "crimes of urban renewal" kinda fight, does it?)
 

Texasian

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On the Somerville section, at least, I doubt we'd see any traction for a good long while. The area has been building up in preparation for the green line, and all of those buildings are basically right on the street.
 

kjdonovan

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I don't think it will ever be an enjoyable complete street unless they take out the parking. I am all for bike rights but I think people who ride sluggish commuter bikes on Prospect are a danger to themselves and others. :)

That being said, as a cyclist, I'm hopeful that Cambridge does its bit and takes out parking on Webster St to allow for protected bike lanes between Cambridge St and Union Sq. Then you can take Columbia to Central Square without much stress. That road already has undergone traffic calming. If it were less residential you could pull the parking and install protected bike lanes, but it goes through a very dense and (for Cambridge) lower income area that likely wouldn't warm to removing parking to appease Somerville cyclists.

My fix for this problem is this:
  • Make Inman St the dedicated "bikes are a priority" road for getting from Inman/Union to Central. Two-way cycle track and remove one lane of parking.
  • Then do a similar cycle track the whole length of
    • 1) Windsor St to get to the Harvard Bridge
    • 2) Webster St to get to the Longfellow. Both Windsor and Webster are direct routes that have one-way sections to prohibit northward commuter traffic. If they had contra lanes in these sections (e.g., Marshall St in Somerville) they would be perfect routes for getting between major squares.
  • For getting to BU, the Windsor element would connect to Grand Junction trail. Then you'd be on a ride that is less than 0.1 miles longer than a direct shot down Prospect and =taking a Cambridgeport road like Pearl St to get to the BU Bridge.
 

millerm277

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On the bus side, I basically feel that you need to come back to this question in 2023.

GLX is going to drastically change transportation in the area and I think we need a year or two of it being open before you can really start to figure out major optimization.

For a basic example, Union Sq to LMA on the E is likely to come in as a ~35min, 1-seat ride. I don't think I'm boarding any of the bus routes, including the 91 to Central when I have that as an option.

And the bus routes need a complete rethink beyond just the cutbacks to direct duplicates GLX will (or at least should) automatically force. Cambridge/Somerville to me is at the moment one of many examples for trying to serve every person and every trip with a bus route, resulting in a map of too much spaghetti and route numbers rather than putting together the high-frequency corridors that will actually drive ridership. Even if it means you have to walk more than 3 blocks to a stop and not every pair of stations has a bus connection.

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

On a a related bus note, even today:

Why bother with pushing Central? The jobs are at Kendall and there's much more important Kendall-LMA than Central-LMA links. Start making the CT2 function like a real urban ring link. You've got easy ways to basically BRT that on this side of the river. Vassar St is a quick low volume hop and if you skim around Street View, you could get probably 90%+ bus lane coverage from Kendall to Union Sq. on the CT2 routing just by nuking street parking.

(As I've noted in other threads, while I'm not all that anti-car, I'm not particularly sympathetic to street parking.)
 

FK4

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What do you do with a street like Prospect St in Cambridge given:
1) It connects major transit hubs (Central Sq and Union Square)
2) It connects employment centers believed to have growth potential
3) It is 3 lanes wide (currently 1 parking lane & 2 travel lanes)
4) It doesn't have a natural "pair" street
  • Tremont-Webster is physically close but just as narrow
  • Columbia-Webster is bigger, but far
I'd like a solution that:
1) Created good bus connectivity Union<->Central<->BU<->Longwood
2) Created a bike route parallel to the bus

I could even imagine a "corridor transformation" project that upzoned a strip 3 blocks wide in exchange for widening Prospect (even if it required eminent domain takings).

I know it isn't fashionable 21st Century Urbanism to widen a street, but it was a very natural thing to do even in the Electric Traction era (this need not be a "war on cars" / "crimes of urban renewal" kinda fight, does it?)
I think one of the great failures of the highway era is they missed the political opportunity to widen many new corridors around Boston. Little known is the plan to create new east-west arteriasl to connect 95 (in JP) with 93. There were two, I think, the one I know for sure was going to be the Ritchie-Townsend-Quincy corridor, which is why there’s a random boulevard (MLK), amidst an otherwise incredibly narrow and impossible crosstown passage at this latitude. It would have actually helped the entire region if these had been built... I am not sure if others were also planned (I know Columbus was to have been widened in the South End but I think this is one road that’s wide enough as is) WITHOUT the highways... but the arrogance and insensitivity of the urban renewal era has essentially poisoned everyone against anything even remotely resembling land clearance or eminent domain, which I think is unfortunate.
Anyway, Boston is too dense and does really have inadequate roads, no matter how you cut it... and Cambridge and Somerville are even worse. We don’t need interstates, but we do need a few well designed corridors that actually work for auto traffic (and yes bikes buses etc). Youre dead on that it’s impolitic to use eminent domain for this purpose, but roads like Prospect are a total disaster. It would be nice to at least have local governments examine traffic patterns and consider the possibility of a few four lane roads that might be punched through the region, or even, in a few cases, removal of one or two buildings that block would-be connections between two different roads. Disruptive, yes, but the infrastructure in the greater Boston area is, regardless of your auto-political attitude, absurdly inadequate.

Another and much easier change would be to designate critical corridors and ban all parking on them. Any comparable city does not allow parking on major roads... remove parking, make the roads wide enough to have turning lanes and protected bike lanes, and for fucks sakes stop letting buildings build along strips of currently narrow sidewalks! We should also be forcing setbacks and taking 2-4 foot ROWs for more sidewalk space, it’s also absurd how we perpetuate the tiny sidewalk strip around here with new development.
 
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Equilibria

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Another and much easier change would be to designate critical corridors and ban all parking on them. Any comparable city does not allow parking on major roads... remove parking, make the roads wide enough to have turning lanes and protected bike lanes, and for fucks sakes stop letting buildings build along strips of currently narrow sidewalks! We should also be forcing setbacks and taking 2-4 foot ROWs for more sidewalk space, it’s also absurd how we perpetuate the tiny sidewalk strip around here with new development.
This is the easiest immediate fix for Prospect Street. The buildings on the east side all have driveways, so there's no necessity for street parking. Ax it and use the space for bike lanes. As an alternative, do a full bike boulevard on Tremont/Sennott Park/St Bartholomew's parking lot/Essex.

It's also worth noting in this conversation that the MBTA is about to move the 91 onto Prospect from Concord, meaning that in addition to everything else, there will be buses making stops in the travel lane.

Actually, that's my proposed solution: parallel bike boulevard on Tremont/Essex, no parking on Prospect, use the space for bus lane/shoulder space for the 91.
 

sm89

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This is the easiest immediate fix for Prospect Street. The buildings on the east side all have driveways, so there's no necessity for street parking. Ax it and use the space for bike lanes. As an alternative, do a full bike boulevard on Tremont/Sennott Park/St Bartholomew's parking lot/Essex.

It's also worth noting in this conversation that the MBTA is about to move the 91 onto Prospect from Concord, meaning that in addition to everything else, there will be buses making stops in the travel lane.

Actually, that's my proposed solution: parallel bike boulevard on Tremont/Essex, no parking on Prospect, use the space for bus lane/shoulder space for the 91.
The 91 bus actually already moved to Prospect St this past September! Half the length of Prospect already doesn't have parking and a majority of the parking that remains is on the Somerville portion. Given the "need" for turn lanes, adding bike lanes ends up being a "give up at the intersection" design.
 

Equilibria

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The 91 bus actually already moved to Prospect St this past September! Half the length of Prospect already doesn't have parking and a majority of the parking that remains is on the Somerville portion. Given the "need" for turn lanes, adding bike lanes ends up being a "give up at the intersection" design.
Huh - I commute on Prospect and genuinely hadn't noticed. Guess it isn't as much of a problem as I'd thought :). I stand by the bike boulevard idea, though.
 

ra84970

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I could even imagine a "corridor transformation" project that upzoned a strip 3 blocks wide in exchange for widening Prospect (even if it required eminent domain takings).

I know it isn't fashionable 21st Century Urbanism to widen a street, but it was a very natural thing to do even in the Electric Traction era (this need not be a "war on cars" / "crimes of urban renewal" kinda fight, does it?)
One thing that I've mulled over is doing as old England did in the 20th Century-- i.e. create a one-way pair from a number of similar sized streets. For a London example, see Kensington near Olympia London with the A3220 or Stoke Newington with A10.

For the Central-Inman-Union corridor:
The "down" direction toward the Charles that is Webster-Newton-Springfield-Inman-Pleasant-Western.
In the up direction, you have River-Prospect.

Both the up/down streets look wide enough to have expanded sidewalks, two-way cycle tracks, a curb lane for parking/loading, and a general travel lane. Maybe the curb lane is a part-time bus lane? Or as others suggest, ban parking on this arterial route and make it a permanent bus lane?
 

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