For the most recent information on the following public meetings and others that may have been scheduled after TRANSReport went to press, go to www.bostonmpo.org or call (617) 973-7119. A photo ID is required to access most meeting sites.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) kicked off its Capital Investment Plan (CIP) development for state fiscal years 2017-21 in October with a series of community meetings across the Commonwealth.
The “Capital Conversations” meetings provided an opportunity for residents to share their thoughts about how the Commonwealth should prioritize transportation network investments over the next five years.
MassDOT will accept ideas and comments from the public through November 5. Post a comment at mass.gov/massdot/capitalconversations or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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On October 29, the chief-elected officers of the region’s 101 cities and towns re-elected four municipal members on the Boston Region MPO board whose seats were up for election this year. The towns of Arlington and Norwood, and the cities of Newton and Woburn will continue service on the MPO board for another three-year term.
Seats on the MPO board are held by the municipalities, and the chief-elected municipal officials (or official designees) serve as the representatives on the board. Arlington and Newton fill at-large municipal seats; Norwood and Woburn fill seats from their Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) subregions: Three Rivers Interlocal Council (TRIC), and North Suburban Planning Council (NSPC), respectively.
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Boston Region MPO Approves Amendments to Planning Documents
The Boston Region MPO voted in September to approve three amendments to planning documents.
Amendment Five to the federal fiscal years (FFYs) 2015–18 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) included cost updates to several projects and programmed a portion of funds recently made available to the Commonwealth by a federal redistribution.
Of those redistribution funds, $2.6 million was programmed for intersection and signal improvements at Route 30 (South Avenue) and Wellesley Street in Weston, and $2.1 million was programmed for the installation of an adaptive traffic control signal system on Cambridge Street, Middlesex Turnpike, and Burlington Mall Road in Burlington.
Amendment Six to the TIP reprogrammed funds for construction in the next fiscal year to accommodate an implementation delay in the Tri-Community Bikeway project in Stoneham, Winchester, and Woburn.
Amendment One to the FFY 2015 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) reprogrammed approximately $23,000 in planning funds to supplement two studies: one to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to MBTA stations on the Fairmount commuter rail line, and another to identify opportunities and impediments for creating transit-oriented development.
New Projects and Studies Getting Underway
New Projects and Studies Getting Underway The Boston Region MPO recently gave approval for work to begin on a number of new projects and studies, which will inform the transportation planning process. They are summarized below:
The MBTA Youth Pass Program and Title VI Equity Analysis project supports the MBTA as it conducts and evaluates a one-year youth pass pilot program. The MPO staff will analyze the program’s impact on fare revenue and MBTA operations. They will conduct a Title VI fare equity analysis to determine if the program would create a disparate impact on minority populations, who are protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or would place a disproportionate burden on low-income populations.
The MBTA 2016 Title VI Program Monitoring project will assist the MBTA with reporting requirements under Title VI. As a recipient of federal funds, the MBTA must ensure it provides a comparable level and quality of transportation services to all customers without regard to race, color, or national origin. This work will include an assessment of service indicator data, such as transit vehicle loads, headways, on-time performance, transit amenity distribution, and vehicle assignments.
The Temporal Changes in Demographics and Title VI Implications study will review past Title VI and environmental justice equity analyses conducted by the MPO staff. Staff will determine how minority and low-income populations’ geographic movement over time affects the analysis of benefits and burdens of transportation projects and/or major transit service changes. They will also evaluate whether developing procedures for projecting demographic changes would improve the accuracy of future equity analyses.
The MPO staff will provide travel modeling services to assist the MBTA in developing its new Program for Mass Transportation, a master plan with a 25-year horizon updated every five years.
The Shared-Use Mobility Services: Study of Their Impacts on the Region’s Transportation System study will research new mobility alternatives including private point-to-point services, such as Uber and Lyft; start-up transit services; and car- and bicycle-sharing services, such as Zipcar and Hubway, respectively, to understand how they affect traditional transit modes.
The Prioritization of Dedicated Bus Lanes study supports MassDOT’s effort to identify locations in Greater Boston where there is potential to improve bus operations by installing dedicated bus lanes.
The MPO will continue to support three ongoing programs in FFY 2016. Through the programs for Addressing Safety, Mobility, and Access on Subregional Priority Roadways and Priority Corridors for LRTP Needs Assessment, staff will identify arterial roadway segments in need of safety, mobility, and access improvements, and will select several locations for study in FFY 2016. The Safety and Operations Analyses at Selected Intersections study will identify regional bottleneck locations and select several for study this year.
The MPO also reserved funding for small staff-generated research projects on metropolitan transportation planning topics that may arise during the coming year.
REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION ADVISORY COUNCIL
U.S. DOT Staff Discuss Climate Change Resilience
Dr. Bahar Barami, senior economist, and William M. Lyons, principal technical advisor for Transportation Planning, at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center discussed climate change resilience at the Advisory Council’s meeting in September.
Dr. Barami discussed risk management strategies for climate-related impacts to the transportation system. These strategies involve assessing the threat probability, identifying infrastructure vulnerabilities and exposure levels, and calculating the economic costs of disruption. She explained that climate-related risks have been escalating in recent decades.
Hazard frequency is rising, as measured by the probability of disruptive events caused by higher temperatures, rising sea levels, changing precipitation, and greater storm severity.Asset exposure is increasing because of population growth and coastal development. Asset vulnerability is increasing as a result of aging and inadequately maintained and protected structures, and technological interdependencies.
The economic consequences of system disruptions have also increased. Annual losses from natural disasters have risen from $1 billion in 1960 to $28 billion today.
Dr. Barami explained that while costs are rising, adaptation measures for reducing vulnerabilities are highly cost effective. Dr. Barami discussed examples of adaptation models employed by New York City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for reducing flood damages, and the Federal Highway Administration’s Vulnerability Assessment Scoring Tool (VAST), which can be used by asset managers to identify assets’ exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capability.
Mr. Lyons discussed the MPO’s role in resilience planning and the potential for these regional entities to lead the way on climate change adaption. He discussed how resilience could be built in through the MPOs’ transportation planning, project selection, and performance-monitoring processes, and through visioning as part Long-Range Transportation Plan development.
Public-Private Partnerships Offer Alternatives to Drive-Alone Commute
The Advisory Council’s October meeting featured a presentation by Julia Prange Wallerce, the executive director of MassCommute. Ms. Prange Wallerce spoke about how transportation management associations (TMAs) in the Commonwealth are working together to provide alternatives to single-occupancy automobile commuting, and leveraging private-sector investments that yield public benefits.
MassCommute is a coalition of 12 TMAs that represent 300 companies, institutions, and organizations in 40 Commonwealth municipalities. Offerings include shuttle and ride-share services, car- and van-pools, and guaranteed ride home programs for employees.
Ms. Prange Wallerce reported that by providing transportation demand management (TDM) options, Commonwealth TMAs helped reduce single-occupancy automobile trips by more than 7 million in 2014. Ms. Prange Wallerce explained that since 2009, a relatively modest investment of public funds—approximately $550,000 a year for all MassCommute TMAs—has leveraged more than $75 million in private, corporate, and institutional membership dues into TDM services. These services support state transportation and climate goals for reducing traffic congestion, encouraging mode shift, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
To learn more about TMAs, visit MassCommute’s website to read their white paper, “Making the Shift: How TMAs in Massachusetts Leverage Private-Sector Resources to Achieve State Goals and Public Benefits.”
To learn more about TDM, visit the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s website to find their white paper “Transportation Demand Management Case Studies and Regulations.” This guide is for municipalities interested in advancing TDM measures.
New Officers Elected to Advisory Council
At the Advisory Council’s October meeting, members elected Tegin Teich Bennett and Mark Sanborn as the Council’s new chair and vice chair, respectively. Ms. Bennett is a transportation planner for the City of Cambridge. Mr. Sanborn serves as the director of Government Relations and Corporate Development for Concord Coach Lines, and as chair of the Massachusetts Bus Association. They will begin their terms in November.
ACCESS ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO THE MBTA (AACT)
New Planning Tool Paving the Way for Sidewalk Access Improvements
John Lozada, Manager of Federal Programs at MassDOT’s Office of Diversity and Civil Rights, provided an overview of MassDOT’s Curb Ramp Assessment Tool at the October 28 meeting of the AACT Board of Directors. The assessment tool has been used to collect information and images of approximately 2,700 pedestrian curb ramps on roadways over which MassDOT has jurisdiction. The data is helping to prioritize locations where sidewalks must be brought up to ADA standards for access. MassDOT has already repaired or modified some 400 curb ramps and expects to address another 400 in the coming year. The next step is to make the tool available to cities and towns for inventorying municipally owned curb ramps. MassDOT is providing free workshops for municipal staff to demonstrate the assessment tool and to discuss options available for funding accessibility improvements. The next workshop will be held on on November 19 in Woburn. For more information, contact John Lozada at John.Lozada@state.ma.us.
“Road Diet” Proposed to Calm Traffic
The Boston Region MPO supported a study, which has led to recommendations for traffic improvement measures on two sections of Route 140 in Franklin. These recommendations will help improve safety, reduce traffic congestion, increase access to roadside businesses, and accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.
MPO staff conducted the Route 140 Arterial Segment Study as part of an ongoing MPO program, Priority Corridors for Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Needs Assessment. This program prioritizes studies on roadway locations, which were identified in the LRTP as having significant safety and mobility problems.
Working with an Advisory Task Force comprised of representatives of the Town of Franklin and MassDOT Highway District 3, MPO staff studied two sections of Route 140: West Central Street between Franklin Village Shopping Center and Beaver Street; and East Central Street between King and Chestnut Streets, and the entrance to the Municipal Center and the Big Y store. (The section of Route 140 that runs through downtown Franklin was excluded because it is the subject of another study.)
A large number of crashes—some involving pedestrians and a bicyclist—have occurred on these stretches of Route 140 at intersections and entry ways to roadside businesses. One intersection, at West Central Street and Franklin Village Drive, is ranked in the top five percent of the highest crash locations in the state.
The study identified a number of causes for the unsafe conditions. Primary reasons involved congestion caused by left-turning traffic (as there are insufficient left-turn lanes) and uncoordinated traffic signals. High roadway travel speeds and a lack of roadway shoulders have deterred bicyclists from using the roadway.
The task force members and MPO staff developed various options to address the safety and access problems. For the West Central Street section, they offered several options that would change the configuration of the four-lane roadway. Two of the options would apply a traffic-calming “road diet,” changing the configuration to three lanes with left-turn lanes and shoulders to accommodate bicyclists.
For the East Central Street segment, they recommended retiming and coordinating traffic signals to improve traffic flow. Other recommendations addressed pedestrian safety, such as installing accessible pedestrian signals and countdown timers.
The full report is available on the MPO’s website, www.bostonmpo.org.
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The MPO complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and other federal and state nondiscrimination statutes and regulations in all programs and activities. The MPO does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, English proficiency, income, religious creed, ancestry, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or military service. Any person who believes herself/ himself or any specific class of persons to have been subjected to discrimination prohibited by Title VI, the ADA, or other nondiscrimination statute or regulation may, herself/himself or via a representative, file a written complaint with the MPO. A complaint must be filed no later than 180 calendar days after the date on which the person believes the discrimination to have occurred. A complaint form and additional information can be obtained by contacting the MPO or at www.boston mpo.org.