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Boston's Urban Planning Body to Study Allston Transit

Barry's Corner Today
Barry's Corner today, at the intersection of Western Ave and North Harvard St in Allston.
Boston’s urban planning agency will pursue a large-scale study of Allston transit in response to locals’ concerns about new transportation development and traffic congestion.

The planned short-term and long-term study will address concerns about traffic flow and propose alternative transportation models, particularly in the face of upcoming development plans in Allston—including Harvard's.

The University officially filed plans to expand its campus into Allston in Dec. 2017; its science and engineering complex is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020. During an Allston community meeting last month, residents shared their worries that the University’s plans “hugely privileged” vehicular over pedestrian transit, adding pressure to an already strained transit system.

Gerald Autler, a senior project manager at the Boston Planning and Development Agency, first brought up the idea of a transit study at an Allston community meeting in January. The BPDA decided at a Monday meeting, though, to split up the proposed study into separate short-term and long-term reviews. The short-term study will be completed in conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

According to Autler, the short-term study aims to examine opportunities for transit improvement in the near future and during the upcoming development of West Station—a proposed commuter rail station connecting Allston to downtown Boston and the surrounding area. In Jan. 2018, Harvard pledged $50 million to fund approximately half the costs of the station.

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“There’s huge amounts of developmental potential, but [Allston] lacks the richness of transit resources you see in some other parts of the city,” Autler said.

“I think people see that in order to see the area realize its full potential in terms of development—which means housing and jobs and neighborhoods for the city—we need to address these transportation challenges, and we need to address them in the shorter-term and longer-term,” he added.

Autler said the short-term study will examine ways to improve existing transit options and alleviate traffic pressures. In particular, the study will focus on bus lines, Autler said

“Some of the things we want to look at include tweaking existing bus lines,” he said. “Maybe the start point and the endpoint can be changed so that they are more effectively serving community populations.”

Autler also proposed the upcoming transit study at several recent town meetings as a way to address the ongoing transportation concerns of local residents.

Harry E. Mattison, an Allston resident, said he agrees something must be done to address traffic problems in the neighborhood.

“Transportation in Allston is big mess, and it’s only getting worse as Harvard and other people develop, and as more people are brought in everyday,” he said.

At the same time, Mattison said he is weary of city organizations conducting transportation studies. He said Allston has been the subject of several such reviews, including ones in 1998 and 2009, and that he thinks these studies have not led to concrete results.

“I think it’s nice that the city is doing a study, but Allston is a regional traffic bottleneck today, and it’s getting worse and worse, so we need to do more than just to study things,” he said.

Mattison said he would like the BPDA to release more concrete details about the study.

“What Allston residents and I want is details, something in writing with real timelines and commitments in funding both in study and implementation—and before we have that, there’s not a whole lot much judgement that can be passed,” he said.

Mattison suggested short-term solutions, like adding bicycle paths, that the city of Boston could implement to assist with the growing transit problems and alleviate current stress.

“There are things that could be done this month. There are things that could be done that we’ve been talking about for years,” Mattison said. “Allston is sort of just the innocent bystander caught in the middle of the traffic jam.”

—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at truelian.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.

—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at jacqueline.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.

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