The streets of Allston and Brighton could get a little more bike-friendly, streamlined, and greener in the coming years.
But how exactly? There are more than a couple of options.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency has released a preliminary draft of the “Allston-Brighton Mobility Study,” an expansive document that takes a look at how to tweak the streets of the city’s western neighborhoods.
With new development rising at a sharp clip, the study spells out several options for how city officials will focus their energies on improving its multi-modal transit network, in everything from crosswalks to traffic configurations.
“The Allston and Brighton neighborhoods have recently experienced significant growth in new development,” the agency notes online. “While this growth adds economic opportunity and vibrancy, it also raises questions and concerns about how the existing and future multi-modal network will accommodate new development.”
The forthcoming final plan, expected this summer, has been in the making for well over a year.
After several open houses, public meetings, and workshops, the BPDA, along with hired consultants Kittelson & Associates, rolled out the preliminary draft last month to collect one more round of feedback from residents before they formulate a second draft, then a finished document.
Here’s how the first draft re-imagines transit in Allston and Brighton:
A larger bike network, growing on already expanding lanes and facilities
While the city has made efforts to expand its existing bike network, work still remains.
The study highlights key corridors either lacking or in need of a redesign of its bike amenities, including one dubbed the “A-B Multimodal Corridor” — the stretch of Cambridge and Washington streets that joins Allston’s Union Square to Oak Square in Brighton.
One option for improvement? Install separated bike lanes.
The addition would be for “the exclusive use of bicyclists and provide added separation that enhances the experience of bicycling on urban streets,” the draft study says. Other options for the corridor include creating dedicated bus lanes to be used during peak traffic times, and in-lane bus stops.
The study also recommends what it calls the “FAS Bike Facility,” which includes three options that would create bike lanes of some nature on Faneuil, Arlington, and Sparhawk streets.
The city could build either standard, separated bike lanes or a “two-way cycle track” to allow cyclists to ride in separated lanes right next to one another on the same side of the street.
A third option looks at a separated “climbing” bike lane on uphill portions of the street. Cyclists moving in the opposite direction would share a lane with vehicular traffic.
For N. Beacon Street, the study proposes creating an alternate route for cyclists. The path would run between Cambridge and Market streets by way of Braintree and Guest streets.
Meanwhile, on Holton Street, the draft proposal suggests the city could build a “contra-flow bike lane” between Antwerp and Everett streets.
“Contra-flow bike lanes reduce dangerous wrong-way riding and are designed to allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic,” the study says. “Bicycle wayfinding signage will be added to Waverly Street and Holton Street to guide bicyclists to and from the proposed facility.”
The study also proposes separated bikes lanes on Lake Street, Foster Street, and Chestnut Hill Avenue. Additionally, two-way cycle tracks are envisioned as alternative options for Washington and Faneuil streets.
More pedestrian plazas and ‘parklets’ scattered around the neighborhoods
Ever imagined sitting out on Harvard Avenue, maybe enjoying the summer sun with some takeout? Well, it could become a reality, under one proposal in the study.
Several areas across Allston-Brighton, with a few changes, have the potential to undergo what officials call “placemaking” — essentially pedestrian plazas that bring seating, some greenery, and other amenities for passersby to the street.
In Brighton Center, for example, the city could knock out the southbound, right turn lane on Market Street and transform the space into a little island of green space, complete with seating and a “retail spill-out area.” The same could go for the intersection of Washington, Cambridge, and Winship streets, where suggested curb extensions would provide for more pedestrian space and a relocated bus stop.
On Harvard Avenue, there’s placemaking possibilities — among other locations — on the south side of the Commonwealth Avenue intersection, if the curb cuts are bumped out a bit further. In another option, the study sees a completely redesigned swath of the avenue between Brighton Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue in which most of the street is transformed into a dedicated bus lane only, surrounded by pedestrian plazas.
“This portion of Harvard Avenue would be closed to vehicular traffic except to allow access to the Allston Public Parking lot and Glenville Terrace,” the study says. “Deliveries to commercial areas would be permitted during off-peak hours … A quick-build option would be to provide a dedicated peak period bus lane in the northbound direction.
“The new space can create more pedestrian areas and provide places for people to stop and sit along this busy corridor. The many restaurants would benefit from outdoor seating that would enhance business and the pedestrian experience.”
A few tricky intersections would be re-designed
In a city notorious for gridlock, the preliminary draft has a few ideas for how to improve traffic flow in a few of the neighborhoods’ sometimes difficult-to-navigate intersections.
Here’s a taste of some of those proposals:
In Oak Square, one option available to the city is realigning Tremont, Champney, and Washington streets to “simplify vehicle movements, improve circulation, and enhance pedestrian access,” the draft study says.
“The conversion of the park space into a more meaningful central green space would both calm traffic and improve access. New pedestrian or open space adjacent to the Community Center would offer opportunities for a play space expansion,” the preliminary draft says. “Permanent wayfinding along Washington Street aimed at pedestrians and cyclists would both improve legibility and help define Oak Square as a unique space. Similarly, a water feature and public art installations at key corners of the green space will signal arrival in the square and help define the square’s identity.”
Similarly, a second option proposes realigning Faneuil and Washington streets. Under both options, bus stops for the 57 and 64 routes would be relocated.
“A similar amount of pedestrian space is created compared to Option A, but instead of serving the Community Center it fronts residences and, to a limited extent, retail on the south side of the square,” the study says. “The irregular shape of the open space could provide justification of a wider range of uses dependent on location. Pedestrians have more direct through-access along Washington Street.”
The study also proposes realigning the intersection of Cambridge Street, Brighton Avenue, and N. Beacon Street, primarily by removing the median on Brighton Avenue, thereby allowing the redistribution of travel lanes.
“Long- term options should consider re-aligning the intersection to remove the skew and improve operations,” the draft says. “Placemaking elements are proposed to promote a sense of community and activate the existing space. Additionally, this option proposes the removal of the eastbound bus stop on Brighton Avenue.”
Faneuil and Arlington streets
The mobility study draft suggests installing a mini roundabout at the intersection of Faneuil and Arlington streets.
“Mini roundabouts calm traffic, improve safety, and reduce delay for motorists,” the study says.
Although this concept is technically not billed as an intersection reconfiguration, the proposed curb extensions and bus bulbs will definitely give this busy hub a slightly different feel.
The removed parking spaces would make way for placemaking, according to the study: “New pedestrian or open space adjacent to Sutherland Road would offer opportunities for green space, wayfinding, public art, and/or seating to activate the space and reinforce Cleveland Circle’s identity.”
What comes next
Officials are collecting feedback on the preliminary draft through Feb. 3, with additional public meetings running through January.
After that, a draft plan will be released this spring, followed by a completed study, likely by the summer.