Take Back The Streets (...and alleys)

JeffDowntown

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I wonder of there is much of a homeless issue with the underground passages in the winter?
My friends who live in Montreal say homelessness in the Underground City is not a huge issue. The passages are not open 24/7, but rather more commuter and business/retail hours -- with much of the access through office buildings and hotels, monitored and somewhat controlled.
 

KCasiglio

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Down in Quincy Center I think Hancock Street between Granite and Revere has excellent pedestrianization potential. Traffic can easily be moved around this strip, and the satellite capture here doesn't do justice to how rapidly this area is coming together with One Chestnut finishing and the surface parking on the left getting redeveloped.
 

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BronsonShore

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Central Square needs an actual square. I wonder whether something like this is possible?

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 2.16.48 PM.png
 

George_Apley

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Central Square needs an actual square. I wonder whether something like this is possible?

View attachment 10390
Close thru-traffic between Prospect and River/Western? Those are main arterials. They're poorly shoehorned into those roles, but closing that area to traffic would... be bad for traffic elsewhere.
 

theSil

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Central Square needs an actual square
...
I echo @George_Apley's concerns and doubt anyone in Cambridge City Hall could stomach cutting off Prospect, Western, and River.

But perhaps a more modest proposal like this, where a portion of Green and Magazine are given over to form a sizable plaza, could produce similar benefits while keeping the major through streets open. The northernmost block of Magazine would have street parking removed, but continue to allow two way traffic. Westbound Green traffic would turn south and northbound Magazine traffic would be restricted to MBTA busses. The current bus stop would continue to exist, but would be raised to the same level as the sidewalk, so that the plaza feels continuous. Also, the islands between Western and River could be connected to offer a bit better pedestrian connectivity, but this is probably optional.

For this to be successful, I think the city would want to push the property fronting the new plaza to install more active uses on the ground floor (currently Amazon lockers, an eye doctor, and a convenience store). Outdoor dining could definitely be a success here.

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 2.59.17 PM.png
 

Charlie_mta

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I echo @George_Apley's concerns and doubt anyone in Cambridge City Hall could stomach cutting off Prospect, Western, and River.

But perhaps a more modest proposal like this, where a portion of Green and Magazine are given over to form a sizable plaza, could produce similar benefits while keeping the major through streets open. The northernmost block of Magazine would have street parking removed, but continue to allow two way traffic. Westbound Green traffic would turn south and northbound Magazine traffic would be restricted to MBTA busses. The current bus stop would continue to exist, but would be raised to the same level as the sidewalk, so that the plaza feels continuous. Also, the islands between Western and River could be connected to offer a bit better pedestrian connectivity, but this is probably optional.

For this to be successful, I think the city would want to push the property fronting the new plaza to install more active uses on the ground floor (currently Amazon lockers, an eye doctor, and a convenience store). Outdoor dining could definitely be a success here.

View attachment 10392
The one problem I see with this layout is that currently WB Mass Ave traffic wishing to turn left onto River Street uses Pearl and Green Streets . If Green Street is blocked off then that left turn would need to be made in the intersection of Mass Ave and River Street, a tight area and requiring an additional traffic light phase for a left turn.
 

JeffDowntown

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The one problem I see with this layout is that currently WB Mass Ave traffic wishing to turn left onto River Street uses Pearl and Green Streets . If Green Street is blocked off then that left turn would need to be made in the intersection of Mass Ave and River Street, a tight area and requiring an additional traffic light phase for a left turn.
Also, Isn't there substantial bus boarding on Green there? I think that is an important layover point for a lot of Central Square buses.
 

ra84970

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I echo @George_Apley's concerns and doubt anyone in Cambridge City Hall could stomach cutting off Prospect, Western, and River.

But perhaps a more modest proposal like this, where a portion of Green and Magazine are given over to form a sizable plaza, could produce similar benefits while keeping the major through streets open. The northernmost block of Magazine would have street parking removed, but continue to allow two way traffic. Westbound Green traffic would turn south and northbound Magazine traffic would be restricted to MBTA busses. The current bus stop would continue to exist, but would be raised to the same level as the sidewalk, so that the plaza feels continuous. Also, the islands between Western and River could be connected to offer a bit better pedestrian connectivity, but this is probably optional.

For this to be successful, I think the city would want to push the property fronting the new plaza to install more active uses on the ground floor (currently Amazon lockers, an eye doctor, and a convenience store). Outdoor dining could definitely be a success here.

View attachment 10392
The city is considering something similar, though, not as expansive for that part of Central Square. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/239734a5042d45d693c18bab6f7f60b6

Restricted traffic on the short block between Magazine and River Street with one-way traffic on Magazine Street from Green to Franklin.

1616376330194.png
 

theSil

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Woah, awesome, I had no idea this River Street redesign was in the works. Fun to discover that something resembling your Google Maps sketches is in fact just months away from reality.

Great to see that the entirety of River Street is getting a bus lane and protected bike lane. Kudos to the team behind that for being able to find the space on a pretty narrow street.

I still think the Carl Barron Plaza redesign would be greatly benefitted by extending it all the way to the First Baptist Church. Busses on Green St that are turning left onto Western Ave could instead turn left on Magazine St, and get over to Western via a redirected Auburn St. With that change, I don't think there are any other blockers preventing a much larger plaza. Still, the current redesign is a considerable upgrade from the status quo.
 

Charlie_mta

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I still think the Carl Barron Plaza redesign would be greatly benefitted by extending it all the way to the First Baptist Church. Busses on Green St that are turning left onto Western Ave could instead turn left on Magazine St, and get over to Western via a redirected Auburn St. With that change, I don't think there are any other blockers preventing a much larger plaza. Still, the current redesign is a considerable upgrade from the status quo.
The concern I have about extending the Carl Barron Plaza is fire engine and bus access. Green Street is an important tie-through for these.
 

Equilibria

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The concern I have about extending the Carl Barron Plaza is fire engine and bus access. Green Street is an important tie-through for these.
Maybe they could raise it and blend it into the plaza? Bus traffic might be heavy enough that it wouldn't typically be empty, though.
 

ra84970

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Maybe they could raise it and blend it into the plaza? Bus traffic might be heavy enough that it wouldn't typically be empty, though.
buses also need a curb to load and unload passengers - in normal times those bus stops are pretty busy.
 

DBM

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Let's say this hypothetical renovation/reconstruction project has a price tag of, what, $5 million or so? What if every single penny of that (you'd actually need a lot more, but $5 million seems like a good start) was instead diverted to coming up with a permanent--but progressive and humane--solution to the Carl Barron Plaza's chronic issues with homeless/addicted/mentally disturbed folks. So then you have a public space that is suddenly desirable to be programmed by all sorts of civic groups, as folks are no longer in fear of witnessing [or being accosted by] unpleasant things. Thus, all sorts of street fairs, concerts, etc., start to get programmed there, basically year-round. How does this conversation look then?

I'm not saying the renovation/reconstruction initiative isn't a worthy goal. Of course it is. But does it really take priority over coming up with an enduring toolbox of socioeconomic interventions to permanently alleviate the CBP's chronic homelessness issues? Especially because--say this renovation/reconstruction happens, there's a ribbon-cutting, etc. The very next day, the same homeless crowd returns like it always does. Now where does this initiative stand, as a communal placemaking exercise?

Please note, I say this as someone who lived on the northwest periphery of Central Sq. for five years and observed it keenly. Also as someone who is quite aware that the homelessness problems here are so laughably insignificant compared to what's happening in Los Angeles, for example.
 

Equilibria

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Let's say this hypothetical renovation/reconstruction project has a price tag of, what, $5 million or so? What if every single penny of that (you'd actually need a lot more, but $5 million seems like a good start) was instead diverted to coming up with a permanent--but progressive and humane--solution to the Carl Barron Plaza's chronic issues with homeless/addicted/mentally disturbed folks. So then you have a public space that is suddenly desirable to be programmed by all sorts of civic groups, as folks are no longer in fear of witnessing [or being accosted by] unpleasant things. Thus, all sorts of street fairs, concerts, etc., start to get programmed there, basically year-round. How does this conversation look then?

I'm not saying the renovation/reconstruction initiative isn't a worthy goal. Of course it is. But does it really take priority over coming up with an enduring toolbox of socioeconomic interventions to permanently alleviate the CBP's chronic homelessness issues? Especially because--say this renovation/reconstruction happens, there's a ribbon-cutting, etc. The very next day, the same homeless crowd returns like it always does. Now where does this initiative stand, as a communal placemaking exercise?

Please note, I say this as someone who lived on the northwest periphery of Central Sq. for five years and observed it keenly. Also as someone who is quite aware that the homelessness problems here are so laughably insignificant compared to what's happening in Los Angeles, for example.
That's an interesting argument - it's worth noting that the project here is really the reconstruction of River Street, which has awful pavement and is dangerous for cyclists.
 

Charlie_mta

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Let's say this hypothetical renovation/reconstruction project has a price tag of, what, $5 million or so? What if every single penny of that (you'd actually need a lot more, but $5 million seems like a good start) was instead diverted to coming up with a permanent--but progressive and humane--solution to the Carl Barron Plaza's chronic issues with homeless/addicted/mentally disturbed folks. So then you have a public space that is suddenly desirable to be programmed by all sorts of civic groups, as folks are no longer in fear of witnessing [or being accosted by] unpleasant things. Thus, all sorts of street fairs, concerts, etc., start to get programmed there, basically year-round. How does this conversation look then?

I'm not saying the renovation/reconstruction initiative isn't a worthy goal. Of course it is. But does it really take priority over coming up with an enduring toolbox of socioeconomic interventions to permanently alleviate the CBP's chronic homelessness issues? Especially because--say this renovation/reconstruction happens, there's a ribbon-cutting, etc. The very next day, the same homeless crowd returns like it always does. Now where does this initiative stand, as a communal placemaking exercise?

Please note, I say this as someone who lived on the northwest periphery of Central Sq. for five years and observed it keenly. Also as someone who is quite aware that the homelessness problems here are so laughably insignificant compared to what's happening in Los Angeles, for example.
I doubt if any funding from plaza projects would be sufficiently diverted to homeless/substance abuse/mental health programs. The funding sources are in large part different as well as the goals. The presence of homeless/drug/alcohol/mentally ill afflicted people on the streets is a huge systemic national problem that needs a united commitment of funding and programs nationally as well as locally.
 

DBM

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I doubt if any funding from plaza projects would be sufficiently diverted to homeless/substance abuse/mental health programs. The funding sources are in large part different as well as the goals. The presence of homeless/drug/alcohol/mentally ill afflicted people on the streets is a huge systemic national problem that needs a united commitment of funding and programs nationally as well as locally.
All quite true. So taking all factors, variables, criteria, and stakeholders into consideration, for the triangular wedge of land bounded by Western Ave, Auburn St., and Magazine, with the apex at the quadruple Western/River/Magazine/Mass. Ave junction--with Carl Barron Plaza included at its northeastern edge.... what should be the relative spending allocations/ratios in terms of social services interventions vs. street/plaza reconstruction/renovation, over the next 0-X years?

It's a pretty compact swatch of land--just over 4.5 acres. Carl Barron Plaza is only 6,700 sq.-ft.
 

ra84970

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All quite true. So taking all factors, variables, criteria, and stakeholders into consideration, for the triangular wedge of land bounded by Western Ave, Auburn St., and Magazine, with the apex at the quadruple Western/River/Magazine/Mass. Ave junction--with Carl Barron Plaza included at its northeastern edge.... what should be the relative spending allocations/ratios in terms of social services interventions vs. street/plaza reconstruction/renovation, over the next 0-X years?

It's a pretty compact swatch of land--just over 4.5 acres. Carl Barron Plaza is only 6,700 sq.-ft.
Let's not forget that there's a lot of human service organizations there in Central Square. Not "just" the clinics, but, shelters, day programs. All connected to the neighborhood. I've also learned from the people in the plaza that one of the reasons that Central Square is so popular is because it's a half-way point between programs and long-term shelters out in Watertown/Waltham and the human services programs in Boston's South End. Basically right where the #1 and #70 buses meet.
 

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