Traffic Worries for Allston Residents

Allston residents voiced strong concerns about traffic problems caused by growth and institutional expansion despite reassurances by Harvard and Boston representatives that solutions were at hand during last night’s Community-wide Plan meeting on transportation.

Both Harvard and Boston officials presented plans that focused on expansions of bicycle lanes, bus lanes, and pedestrian-friendly streets in order to make Allston a more accessible, less automobile-dependent neighborhood. City transportation experts also suggested introducing “mobility hubs” on Allston streets, roadside centers that would provide opportunities for bicycle rentals and car-pooling.

Although the several dozen residents present voiced support for the motion to make Allston more sustainable, some said they were concerned that the plans presented by the city did not address the most pressing transportation problems.

“We should be talking about regional traffic and how to keep it from impacting local roads,” said task force chairman Ray Mellone.

State Representative Michael J. Moran said the evening’s presentations missed the point.

“I’ve never heard huge complaints about public transportation on the roadways,” he said, responding to a suggestion by city officials that Allston streets be widened to include a bus lane. “I have, however, heard about plenty of issues with congestion caused by commuters passing through Allston.”

During the late 1990s, Harvard began a neighborhood planning process, at the request of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to coordinate the University’s plans for its property in Allston with the community’s needs. Currently, Allston residents are providing feedback for both the institution of this community-wide plan as well as Harvard’s 50-year institutional master plan, which is expected to be resubmitted in early 2009.

BRA representative Mike Glavin said that city planners were cognizant of the transportation issues that were not addressed in last night’s meeting.

“This was a useful start to a longer conversation,” he said. “These larger transportation challenges will certainly be addressed in due time, and nothing is off the table from the point of view of both short and long-term planning.”

After Harvard representatives presented, resident Elizabeth Browne said that she was worried that the University’s additions to the neighborhood would benefit only parts of Allston.

“Harvard students and staff are not the only ones who are coming in and out of the neighborhood,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to have all of these wonderful improvements stop at Barry’s Corner and then leave the rest of the neighborhood as it is.”

Glavin reassured the audience that the city would ensure that the community would benefit from the University’s transportation improvements.

“We need to see that Harvard is not only willing to build paths from door to door between their buildings, but from their campus to our community,” he said.

—Staff Writer Nan Ni can be reached at nni@fas.harvard.edu.