Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee - Jun 21st, 2023
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/32372/.
These notes cover a subset of agenda items.
Toole was hired to update Arlington's bike design matrix.
The town has two new blue bike stations.
There's no update on DPW's plan to replace the Minuteman Bridge over the Alewife Brook.
The town is installing new bump-outs on Warren Street.
The Bicycle Advisory Committee may share a town day booth with the Transportation Advisory Committee.
The committee approved money to reserve a town day booth. Chair Christopher Tonkin informs the committee that unspent funds can roll over to next year.
New Bike Parking
Several customers asked Butternut Bakery to install bicycle parking. Adam MacNeil asks about the process for getting bike parking installed in front of a business.
John Alessi (transportation planner in the Planning Department) says that Jim Feeney has been managing bike parking installations. Arlington Heights is the next area he's planning to work on. Mr. Tonkin suggests installing a bike corral in one of the on-street parking spaces. Jack Johnson suggests thinking about bicycle parking the same way we think about automobile parking. He feel that curbside bicycle parking is appropriate for areas of town where sidewalks are narrow. Scott Smith suggests having town guidelines for installation of bike parking on sidewalks. Muris Kobaslija agrees with the bike corral approach.
Mr. Alessi says the Select Board has jurisdiction over curbside parking, whether it's parking for cars or parking for bicycles. He suggests asking the businesses to contact the Select Board and request a corral. If a corral is installed, Mr. Kobaslija suggests putting a sign on it with language like "Supported by local businesses". There have been cases where businesses opposed the conversion of curbside parking to bicycle infrastructure (e.g., at the intersection of Mass Ave and Appleton), and it might be nice to show an example of businesses supporting bicycle parking.
Mr. Alessi invites committee members to look at the section of Mass Ave between Davis Road and Paul Revere Road. He's looking for specific suggestions about where bike parking could go.
Broadway Neighbors Coalition
Vince Baudoin is here on behalf of the Broadway Neighbors Coalition. It's a new initiative for the Broadway corridor, and there are around 75 people involved. The group is interested in improving street safety, and they're working closely with EALS. Issues they've identified include vehicle speed on side streets and improving the intersection of Broadway and Warren Street. The group is trying to be conscious of past planning efforts. Specific to cycling, they'd like to see separated bike lanes on Broadway and Warren. Mr. Baudoin understands that DPW is planning to do water main replacements in the area in the next year or two, and that might be an opportune time to re-configure the street.
Other issues include the Alewife Greenway crossing at Broadway, the lack of crosswalks on the Eastern side of Broadway, and the need for traffic calming on side streets.
Mr. Tonkin recalls the Broadway design competition that the town sponsored a few year ago. Scott Smith thinks that bike lane projects tend to get hung up when there's a need to remove on-street parking. He expects the Select Board to push back against a request for bike lanes. He says the town's complete streets plan has a recommendation to improve the Broadway/Warren St intersection.
Mr. Tonkin suggests that a bike lane along the cemetery would be an easy place to start, since there's very little parking there. He agrees that the area could use improvements.
Mr. Alessi says he's trying to get in touch with Somerville's transportation planners, to understand what kind of improvements they're contemplating for Broadway and Route 16.
Mr. Baudoin says one of the groups next steps will be to meet with Business owners on Broadway, to get a sense of what they'd be open to.
MBTA Communities Zoning
The committee invited Gillian Sinnott of Equitable Arlington to give a presentation on the state's new zoning requirements for MBTA Communities.
Ms. Sinnott sees a synergy between people who advocate for more housing, and people who advocate for more cycling and more sustainable and walkable communities. Equitable Arlington believes these requirements will provide Arlington with an opportunity to live up to its goals and values. Her group favors having more housing of all kinds, buildings that are sustainable, and near transit.
The new law affects the 175 communities in Massachusetts that receive service from the MBTA; all of them have to allow more housing to be built. There's a huge supply shortage in Massachusetts and in the United States. Lower income households are especially burdened by higher housing costs, and these higher costs are correlated with an increase in homelessness. This problem dates back to the 1970s, when communities adopted restrictive zoning, making it more difficult and expensive to build. Restrictive zoning also leads to suburban sprawl.
The new law requires Arlington to create a zoning district of at least 32 acres where multi-family housing can be built by right. The district must allow at least fifteen dwellings per acre and have a capacity of 2,046 homes. The housing can't have age restrictions, and it must be suitable for families with children.
Arlington isn't compliant with the new law, because we don't allow multi-family housing to be built by right, anywhere. We also have many non-conforming apartment buildings, which wouldn't be built today.
Ms. Sinnott thinks we should feel excited about doing this. The town is becoming too expensive for public employees to live here, and it's difficult for older families to downsize. She thinks we can build more walkable communities, and use a greener form of development.
Compliance will keep us eligible for several types of state grants, and let us participate in the clean energy pilot program. The MBTA Communities requirements are designed to encourage missing-middle kinds of housing, and we already have examples of that in Arlington.
Mr. Tonkin thinks the concept is great, but he's not sure how well it will go over in Arlington.
Senior Transportation Planner Updates
Mr. Alessi provides the committee with trip counts for the minuteman bikeway. There were 79,000 trips in May, and 47,000 so far in June. The counter was out of service for several months of the year, and we don't have counts for that period.
Blue bikes usage has also increased. There were 400 rides/month in January and February, 600 in March, 930 in April, and 1800 in May.
Mr. Alessi says we've hired Toole design to help with our bike lane design guide. There should be a project kickoff meeting soon.
Mr. Alessi recently went before the Select Board to present a proposal for a BRT lane extension. The board approved an extension to the Alewife Brook Parkway, and he'll be working with the MBTA on construction. There's no parking removal in the plan the Select Board approved.
Mr. Alessi says he's trying get the bike lanes on Mystic and Chestnut streets, to establish a bicycle connection between Arlington Center and the Mystic Valley Parkway.
In the past year, Massachusetts passed legislature that defines "vulnerable road users" and sets passing distance requirements. MassDOT is offering signage to advertise the new law. Arlington will get a few signs, and these are likely to go in sections of Mass Ave that lack bike lanes.
Complete Streets Prioritization Plan Update
Mr. Alessi has been working with MAPC and Gittelson to update Arlington's Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. They've done an existing conditions analysis and identified 18 projects in Arlington.
The town conducted a survey in March, and approximately 1200 people responded. Areas of concern included Downing Square, the Appleton St/Mass Ave intersection, Lake Street/Mass Ave, and Broadway/Warren St. Work on these projects will include things like signal changes, adding bumpouts, new crosswalks, and active transit improvements. The draft plan also has improvements slated for Park Ave and Arlington heights, raised intersections for the Minuteman Bikeway, improvements to the Minuteman connection in Arlington Center, and Gray street.
Mr. Alessi shows a concept design for the Broadway/Warren Street intersection that eliminates the Y in the roadway, and creates new green space. This improvement will cost approximately \$2M and should be done in 3--5 years.
(authors note: Hell Yeah!)
There will be another survey, to help prioritize the projects. He'd like to get ABAC's feelings about prioritization at the next meeting.
Lexington is planning to repave significant sections of the Minuteman Bikeway during the next 1--2 years. This will likely be a multi-week project.
Several committee members tried the new Community Path in Somerville, and felt it was really nice.