TRANSREPORT

Articles published February 2020
  • Explore Pedestrian Access in Your Community

    February 13, 2020

    Data show that even as the number of traffic fatalities was declining nationally, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities rose in 2018. As the need to create safe and comfortable pedestrian and bicycle facilities becomes increasingly evident, MPO staff are pursuing several efforts to help communities identify locations for infrastructure improvements that will benefit people who walk and bicycle.

    Since 2015, the MPO’s Traffic Analysis and Design (TAD) group has been creating tools to support the MPO’s objectives of reducing serious injuries and fatalities from transportation, funding improvements aimed at creating a connected network of bicycle and accessible sidewalk facilities, prioritizing investments that benefit people traditionally underserved by the transportation system, and reducing greenhouse gases generated in the Boston region.

    A screenshot of the PRCA database.
    A screenshot of the PRCA database.

    In 2017 and 2018, TAD published methodologies for grading pedestrian and bicycle environments. This year the group launched the interactive Pedestrian Report Card Assessment (PRCA) database on the MPO’s website as a platform for displaying grades for intersections and roadway segments throughout the region. The PRCA dashboard is a key tool for helping members of the public and municipal planners prioritize locations for improvements and advocate for funding.

     

    Grading Locations with PRCA

    Through PRCA, locations receive “good,” “fair,” and “poor” grades based on a range of elements that contribute to a sense of danger or lack of comfort for people when walking, including the following:

    • sidewalk presence
    • crosswalk presence
    • pedestrian volumes
    • crashes involving pedestrians
    • pedestrian-vehicle buffers
    • vehicle travel speed
    • sidewalk condition

    Once these elements are evaluated, the level of priority for addressing transportation equity is prioritized for each location via a range of factors, including the percentage of specific populations—such as low-income, minority, elderly, and zero-vehicle households—in the project area and the proximity of the location to schools.

    A screenshot of the PRCA database showing the Transportation Equity priority layer.
    A screenshot of the PRCA database showing the Transportation Equity priority layer.

    Detailed information about specific intersections and roadway locations can be accessed through the PRCA application by clicking on the regionwide map or the table below it.  On all of the maps—both regionwide and location-specific—users can toggle layers on and off illustrating where transportation equity factors are present. Detailed instructions on how to use the PRCA are in the “Background” section of the database.

     

    Making the MPO’s Dollars Work for People who Walk and Bike

    Since 2017, the TAD staff have been using PRCA as an evaluation tool for roadway studies. Additionally, this year, they applied the PRCA to the locations of seven federal fiscal year (FFY) 2020 roadway construction projects included in the MPO’s five-year capital funding program, the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The following locations were assessed:

    A map of Lime Bike trips in Malden and Everett.
                         Lime trips in Malden and Everett.

    While the metric for assessing the bicycle environment has yet to be included in the database, a comparison of the TIP project locations that have been assessed via PRCA to the locations studied in a recent report by the MPO’s sister agency, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), shows a concentration of Lime bike usage at least two TIP project locations. Malden, where the MPO has funded the Exchange Street Downtown Improvement Project, “sees the highest concentration of Lime bike activity across the region, with hundreds of trips going to or through Malden Center on Main Street, Salem Street, Pleasant Street, and Ferry Street, and on the Northern Strand Community Trail,” according to MAPC. The location of the Exchange Street project received “fair” PRCA grades for safety and economic vitality, and a “poor” grade for bicycle accommodations.

    The report also states that “the sections of Main Street and Ferry Street spanning Malden and Everett,” where the MPO has funded the Reconstruction of Ferry Street, South Ferry Street, and a Portion of Elm Street Project, “rank among the busiest roadways.” Both Exchange Street in Malden and the intersection of Ferry Street and Broadway in Everett showed high numbers of Lime riders on “high-stress facilities,” with no “safe or pleasant bicycle infrastructure.” The roadway segments included in the Ferry Street project area all received “poor” or “fair” PRCA grades for safety. The significant number of trips occurring at these locations shows the need for quality bicycle facilities there, which will soon be addressed by MPO investment.

    High and low stress route segments in Malden and Everett, including the location of two upcoming MPO funded construction projects.
    High and low-stress route segments in Malden and Everett,
    including the location of two upcoming MPO funded
    construction projects

    Lime’s recent announcement that it would cease dockless bike-share operations in the region leaves a gap in service for locations with demand for bicycle accommodations. MAPC is currently working with municipalities that formerly hosted Lime bikes—Newton, Watertown, Arlington, Chelsea, and Revere—to expand Bluebikes. Bluebikes currently has bike-share stations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Everett, and Somerville.

    As the seven TIP projects above break ground over the next year, MPO staff will track how construction improves the PRCA scores at these locations and how the MPO’s capital funding is working to address safety for people walking in the region.

     

    Get Involved

    Visit the PRCA database to see locations that have been evaluated, and score locations in your community using the instructions provided in the How to Score PRCAs manuals. Send your findings to Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, Casey-Marie Claude, and the database will be updated to include your scores. See other work related to bicycle and pedestrian access in the region including a recent report on how customers travel to and from central business districts.

    FFY 2019 ended in September concluding a year of research studies and technical work at the MPO. These studies will be presented to the MPO board and will be available on the MPO’s website in the coming months. Keep an eye out for the results of analyses on topics such as reverse commuting, new metrics for roadway usage, and the evolving usage of the curb.

    Stay informed on the release of new work by subscribing to our mailing list and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @BostonRegionMPO.