To address the traffic, transportation and access to transit issues in the Fresh Pond / Concord Avenue / Alewife area with a view toward understanding the impact of recent development trends in the area.
Date and Time: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:13 PM
Location: Tobin School Auditorium, 197 Vassal Lane, Cambridge, MA.
Present were Councillor Carlone, Chair of the Committee, Vice Mayor Benzan, Mike Connolly, Aide to Councillor Carlone, Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development Department, Iram Farooq, Acting Deputy Director, CDD, Stuart Dash, Director of Community Planning, CDD, Bill Deignan, Transportation Program Manager, CDD, Stephanie Grohl, PTDM Coordinator, CDD, Sue Clippinger, Director of Traffic, Parking and Transportation, Adam Shulman, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, School Committee Member Patty Nolan and Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk.
Jonathan Hecht, State Representative, 29th Middlesex District, Tim Snyder, Chief of Staff for Senator Pat Jehlen, Karen Dumaine and Michele Brooks, Alewife Transportation Management Association, Matthew George, Founder and CEO, Bridj, Mike Izzo, Bridj, Jan Devereux, President, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, Paul Steven Stone, 219 Harvard Street, Heather Hoffman, 213 Hurley Street, Jane Tenenbaum, 159 Concord Avenue, Mairi Staples, Kristin Mahon, 267 Concord Avenue, Madlyn Johnson, 308 Walden Street, Nicole Jordan, 147 Concord Avenue, Peter C. Johnson, 255 Laveview Avenue, Gary Dmytryk, 2440 Massachusetts Avenue, Wendy Zens, 151 Vassal Lane, Chuck Dresner, 196 Larch Road, Robert Camacho, 24 Corporal Burns Road, Mioka Sonattnex, 188 Lexington Avenue, Judith and James Roberts, 45 Magoun Street, Kathy and John Roberts, 321 Huron Avenue, Peggy Barnes Lenart, 115 Fayerweather Street, Hom Sack, 64 Griswold Street, Arthur Strang, 60 Fresh Pond Parkway, Zack Weber, 24 Harrison Avenue, Steven Bercu, 132 Fayerweather Street, John Halloran, 319 Huron Avenue, Robert Winters, 366 Broadway, Mary and Jeffrey Mitchell, 7 Corporal Burns Road, Genevieve Coyle, 230 Lakeview Avenue, Dan Epstein and Rozann Kraus, 91 Chilton Street, Steve Kaiser, 191 Hamilton Street, Maddy Fletcher, 155 Grove Street, Dianne Perlmutter, 59 Granville Road, Julie Silberman, 59 Granville Road, Nora Smith, 74 Field Street, Glenn Jones, 74 Field Street, Claudia Majetich, 329 Concord Avenue, Lynne Carvalho Adamian, 90 Standish Street, Janet Randall, 64 Granville Road, Patricia Nolan, 184 Huron Avenue, Michael Allen, 128 Elm Street, Pat Barton, 130 Appleton Street, James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, Abraham Resner, 9 Clinton Street, Paula Lovejoy, 9 Clinton Street, Margaret Gadon, 77 Larch Road, Alison Field-Juma, 362 Concord Avenue, Kathy Watkins, 80 Fawcett Street, Hunter Aldrich, 1 Field Street, John Macomber, 25 Buckingham Street and John Hawkinson, 84 Massachusetts Avenue.
Councillor Carlone opened the meeting at 6:13 PM and stated the purpose. He introduced the invited guests. He stated that a presentation will be made by CDD. He stated that all parties understand the difficulty of transportation in the area. The challenges include connectivity with the MBTA's subway and bus services, traffic coming off of Route 2, congestion along the Alewife Brook Parkway, and the lack of pedestrian and bicycle connections across the Fitchburg Line Commuter Rail tracks. The pace of development has been astounding. Development has its own lifecycle and economic factors are difficult to control. The flood plain issues are acknowledged and the open space needs to be maintained. The big challenge is how to knit all pieces together to make a whole (something greater than what now exists). He outlined the format of the meeting. Public comment will be 3 minutes.
Mr. Dash and Mr. Deignan began the presentation (ATTACHMENT A).
Mr. Dash spoke on the Alewife area. He started with the planning done in the 1990's. An assessment was done on traffic. The city wide zoning was to reduce commercial growth by 1/3 across the city. This was to give an incentive to build residential. The traffic issues are in the peak times. The city would prefer residential be built rather than commercial. The third area was the creation of mixed use areas in the city. ECAP zoning was done. He spoke about the Concord/Alewife key transportation concepts; create an enhanced environment for pedestrians and bikeways, connect the quadrangle and the triangle, improvement of internal connection with the Quadrangle and open space connections. He stated that walking along the wetlands is possible. The transportation issues - what is the deal with all the traffic and the traffic that moves through the area and travels through Cambridge. Single Occupancy Vehicle trips are not encouraged. Use of bikes and giving bus pass will aid this. The shift from commercial to residential during peak hours was accomplished. A certain threshold was needed to encourage more walking and biking.
In the Concord/Alewife plan there is now a 50/50 residential split. Residential development has been very strong in this area because of the Red Line. North Cambridge, Porter and Davis Squares became very attractive places to live. Alewife is a reasonable and nice place to live. Mr. Dash presented a chart for projects permitted and proposed in Alewife. In NorthPoint in 2002 housing was permitted and has been continued. He stated that the development on the chart show the footprint and the roadway connections. The map (ATTACHMENT B) showed the Alewife transportation connections. The Fresh Pond Shopping Center was discussed and a roadway structure was put into place if the construction occurs in this area.
Ms. Clippinger spoke about transportation. She stated that this is a busy area and a lot of traffic comes thru this area. Route 2 is wide and if there were fewer lanes she felt it would be less of a problem for Cambridge. There are a variety of traffic counts in various areas. For some roadways we have 5 years of data; some only 3 years. The average daily traffic is not growing. The Alewife Parkway daily traffic shows that there is no increase in traffic in the AM peak hours. At the Alewife Station there has been a 19% increase in ridership in the last 15 years. Biking has tripled in the last decade. She spoke about the multi-use path.
Ms. Clippinger stated that in the development review process, proposals that are greater than 50,000 square feet require a traffic study. Each project does a study and identifies trips, from destination and the travel mode. There are five areas of criteria that are reviewed. The City requires a review of cumulative impact on traffic. In Alewife there are 8 projects proposed with traffic studies done. This is a result of the Concord/Alewife study and the development cycle. There were eight projects reviewed for the travel mode - 45% drive; 31% use transit. Observations and assumptions were done for vehicle trips. There were eight Alewife Residential projects where the vehicle trips per unit were assumed. Observed driveway counts were done on 3 existing projects. The assumptions are conservative. Traffic studies are a good representation of the conditions. The City looks at mitigating projects. Travel demand management is done and monitored. Residential projects are required to do residential traffic demand management. There is no active TMA in the Concord/Alewife area. Once a TMA is formed there are twelve existing and future permitted developments in the Alewife area that are required to join a TMA. The City is rethinking parking supply and shared-use parking in order to better manage supply. She spoke about the lack of capacity in the system. The state changes to Route 2 will not change the congestion.
Ms. Clippinger stated that if there were no development there would still be growth in the Concord/Alewife area. Congestion will cause people to change their route. New residents know they are moving into a congested area. The City needs to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation.
Mr. Deignan discussed transportation projects. He spoke about recent projects. He listed the projects.
Alewife Greenway extension, a path from the station connects to Brighton Street. He stated that Concord Avenue cycle tracks were installed. The more people who are comfortable biking the more people bike. On Fawcett Street the sidewalks are being added and a new connector road. The DCR pathway at Minutemen to Alewife to Arlington is a great resource to get to Alewife T. Bike racks and bike parking have increased. There were 488 bike parking spaces added at Alewife. He stated regarding planning projects that Hubway is coming to the Alewife Station, Danehy Park and Rindge Avenue and more would be installed at the Water Department. Route 2 and Route 16 will add a lane from Alewife Station and make it safer. A Feasibility Study is being done for a bike/pedestrian bridge. There is an anticipated Tiger grant of $1 million pending for final design.
The Watertown/Cambridge Greenway will begin in the fall. The City partnered with DCR and purchased the land. In the fall the design process will occur. Reconstruction will create better pedestrian travel. The Alewife pedestrian bridge has had landing sites and commuter rail stops planned. He stated that future goals make it easier for busses to get to Alewife Station. He stated that extending Cambridge Greenway and extending Hubway to other communities will create more connection with the shopping center property. Danehy Park will be connected with a bridge to connect to the Alewife T Station and commuter connections.
Councillor Carlone stated that there will be a discussion and question period for the presenters.
Vice Mayor Benzan stated this is a different issue for the City. He asked Ms. Clippinger what can be done to reduce traffic on Route 2. Ms. Clippinger responded that the City tries to work regionally. Bike networks start to include other communities. TMA shuttle services would be great in both directions. She stated that she would like to take a lane out of Route 2, to be used as a dedicated bus lane. Vice Mayor Benzan commented that other areas have dedicated bus and bike lane during peak hours, is Cambridge looking at this?
Councillor Carlone stated that he is interested in pedestrian crossings. He stated that there is a need to build community infrastructure.
Representative Hecht stated that the state has important responsibility. He wants to come up with a creative solution. He has a strong commitment to work with the City. He stated that the T, state assets and infrastructure are the issues where the state plays a key role with the funding mechanism which comes from the state and federal levels. The state gas tax will be used for roadway improvements. There are bus prioritizations being worked on by the state. The state owned parkways are a concern. The state has worked with DCR on the pedestrian crossing. Re-striping and signals are being worked on. He stated that in the Watertown part of his district, the same challenges and development pressures are being faced. He wanted to be part of the process.
Tim Snyder, Chief of Staff for Senator Jehlen, agreed with the commitment to work with the City on transportation issues. Transportation financing legislation was passed and this is important to pay for infrastructure and subway trains. There is money in the bond bill, but this does not mean that the work will be paid for from this funding. The Fresh Pond/Mt Auburn intersection project will be paid for. He spoke about the huge funding gap. He asked all to stay engaged in this. The highway trust fund may run out this year.
Mike Izzo from Bridj stated that this is a tech company that pairs someone who wants a ride and gets them to their destination. He stated that the Alewife neighborhood could be a solution of point to point transportation.
Karen Dumaine and Michele Brooks, of the Alewife TMA spoke about their effort to bring a TMA to the Alewife area. There will be formal outreach done in the next few weeks on this effort.
Councillor Carlone opened public comment at 7:38 PM.
Jan Devereux, 255 Lakeview Avenue, stated that residents would not be here if there were not significant problem. She stated that there is less impact with less residential development. Before any development is done infrastructure could be made better. She asked if the City is asking enough from the developers to make Alewife an attractive place to live.
Jane Tannenbaum, 159 Concord Avenue, asked who controls the truck traffic on Concord Avenue. The truck traffic has increased. She complained about the fumes from the trucks.
Kristin Mahon, 267 Concord Avenue, spoke about safety and the speed of the traffic on Concord Avenue. She spoke about the location of a school and churches, shopping, and businesses in the area. She wanted speed limits posted and enforced. She further stated that nighttime trucks are loud.
Nicole Jordan, 147 Concord Avenue, spoke about traffic and the narrowness of Concord Avenue. She stated that the situation is serious. Bicyclists are forced to go onto the sidewalk. There are four bus lanes in this area. This is a failure of urban planning on Concord Avenue that needs to be addressed.
Gary Dmytryk, 2440 Massachusetts Avenue, spoke about the Alewife Quadrangle. There is an opportunity to build a nice neighborhood but it will take planning. He stated that the street grid concerns him on the map. There is no plan to continue the connecting street because of development. The degrading quality of public space is horrible in this area. Public space needs to be planned.
Kathy Roberts, 321 Huron Avenue, stated that she is a 40 year resident of Cambridge. She spoke about general planning. The end of Fayerweather Street was cut off. The big picture was never considered. She stated that traffic from Mount Auburn Street, during peak hours cars, turns onto Huron Avenue. She stated that information is piecemeal.
Peggy Barnes Lenart, 115 Fayerweather Street, asked if the traffic counts were conducted over a different period of time for the assumed and observed values? How many times were observations done? Ms. Clippinger stated that it is about how many trips were made and not counts. Counts are not done in the summer. There is a new system being used which does count stations for 24 hours. Ms. Lenart asked if development is helping to support infrastructure. Councillor Carlone stated that as developers seek to provide less parking the City will seek solutions. If parking is reduced then land value goes up.
Arthur Strang, 60 Fresh Pond Parkway, spoke about the 1970's traffic; it is the traffic that we have today. He complemented Ms. Clippinger. He stated that we have to think regionally. Innovation is needed.
Zack Weber, 24 Harrison Avenue, stated the he is not able to turn onto his own street. He felt that people who live in the neighborhood should be allowed to travel onto the street they live on.
Steven Bercu, 132 Fayerweather Street, stated that the City is bike friendly. The city should be bolder about being car free. The infrastructure building should be for walking and biking facilities in the area. He felt that the City could do better.
Steve Kaiser, 191 Hamilton Street, stated that this issue is political. There were no pictures of cars or trucks as part of the presentation. The statement that the traffic numbers are going down is questionable. He commented on the statement that the blame is traffic from outside of city. He stated that all through traffic was going to go somewhere else. All the through traffic will have to head onto Concord Avenue. He stated that the traffic reports for Alewife are useless. The transit studies will not improve themselves. If commercial entities improve transit, it will improve it for all.
Claudia Majetich, 329 Concord Avenue, questioned the zoning switch from 80/20 from commercial to residential. Why is commercial zoning different? She stated that commercial infrastructure is needed for daily life. She was confused about the planning. Councillor Carlone stated that office traffic is four times higher than residential traffic at peak times and that housing generates four times as much retail activity.
An e-mail was received from Gabriela Romanow, 1010 Memorial Drive, requesting "no yield" signage as the traffic from Alewife Station to Route 2 and traffic from Alewife Brook Parkway to Route 2 merge together at a stoplight that is green for both at the same time (ATTACHMENT C).
An e-mail was received from Michael Dudley, Concord Avenue, regarding contractors using parking spaces and sidewalks to store their equipment and the lack of traffic enforcement as it relates to parking for residents that the contractors are using on Concord Avenue (ATTACHMENT D).
An e-mail was received from Beverley Evans requested that the traffic gridlock at the intersection of Mount Auburn Street and Coolidge Hill Road be addressed as well as the traffic on New Street (ATTACHMENT E).
Councillor Carlone thanked all attendees.
Due to the lack of a quorum on motion of Councillor Carlone the official meeting adjourned at 8:15 PM.
For the Committee,
Councillor Dennis Carlone, Chair
Transportation and Public Utilities Committee