Sustainable neighborhood development must be pedestrian centered

October 22, 2008

Over the course of a month this summer, three pedestrians were struck and injured by cars along Washington Street between Dudley Square and Melnea Cass Blvd. These tragedies are common and indicative of the unsafe conditions that traffic congestion creates in Dudley Square. Pedestrians from nearby parks, schools, stores, and housing must contend with cars and buses, often speeding down Ruggles Street, Washington Street and Shawmut Avenue (which bound ACE’s office at 2181 Washington Street).

There are few crosswalks between the Dudley Square Bus Station and surrounding streets, putting riders and pedestrians at greater risk when navigating traffic

The numerous red lights around this area create a great deal of stop-and-go traffic; on Washington Street, cars in one direction are often stopped while those heading in the opposite direction speed recklessly. Pedestrians, faced with a lack of clearly delineated crosswalks or signage, are often forced to weave through both stopped and speeding vehicles. This is dangerous and unacceptable in such a vibrant, pedestrian-based commercial district. Traffic congestion, through the danger, noise, blight, and localized pollution it creates, undermines the commercial viability of Washington Street in Roxbury.

Yet, from our decade of working in offices along Washington Street, we believe that the solution to this problem will not come from a car-centered approach. Investing millions in roadway improvements around Dudley Square will, by induced demand, only cause more traffic and danger to pedestrians. A just and sustainable vision for Dudley Square must be pedestrian-centered.

People who work and live around Dudley Square must not be the victims of those who drive through the neighborhood. The traffic problems in Roxbury result from poor planning that has jeopardized those who call the Dudley area home. As the National Center for Biking and Walking puts it, "We typically speak of 'accidents', rarely of crashes or road violence; and rarer still do we treat them as matters of systematic injustice. Yet they are more than an accumulation of random events, more than a series of regrettable yet unavoidable byproducts of our transportation system. They constitute a violent and anti-social assault on life, health and community." The Mayor's Dudley Square Vision Project needs to reverse these assaults on the community.

The BRA’s plans for revitalizing commercial uses in Dudley Square must prioritize people over cars. If designed well, an improved Dudley Square based on transit, pedestrian, and bicycle access instead of private vehicular access will be more aesthetic, safer, more environmentally sustainable, and better for local commerce. On the other hand, ignoring pedestrian concerns and failing to make streets greener and more walkable will necessarily limit the success of Dudley’s future. Even with first-class transit access for Dudley Square transit-oriented development, ridership and service will be greatly undermined if riders are in imminent danger the moment they alight and become pedestrians.

Come make your voice heard about redevelopment around Dudley Square. The next Dudley Vision Task Force meeting is on Thursday, October 30.