I wasn't able to make last night's Mass. Executive Office of Transportation workshop in Natick, but here are the 3 issues I e-mailed them about this morning:
1) Walkability on Rte. 30 desperately needs improvement. We need more adequate pedestrian crossings! There are hundreds of office workers off Rte. 30 along Speen Street, the Leggatt-McCall connector and other roads just north of Rte. 30; and a lot of retail across the road we'd like to walk to. However, the pedestrian crossings are either in disrepair or non-existent.
There's a particular problem at the Burr Street intersection - no crosswalk at all, yet the bank many of us use is just across the street. It's not reasonable to expect someone to walk an additional 20 minutes on their lunch break in order to get to and from a pedestrian crossing at a completely different intersection, especially when that crossing (Whittier Street) is itself fairly dicey to use due to the many lanes of traffic. So, we cross at Burr with the light, but it's dangerous because of cars that are making right turns on red.
Down the road, the Speen Street pedestrian crossing is not well marked, which is extremely dangerous considering the high-speed traffic pouring off the Turnpike. In fact, so little care is given to that pedestrian crossing that the last time I used it, I had to dig through a great deal of weed growth in order to find and reach the crossing signal button.
It's crazy to force people to go in their cars a distance of less than half a mile. Some attention to creating a safer, more appealing pedestrian environment could pay large dividends, considering the high concentration of office workers within walking distance of retail destinations.
2) An express bus to Boston from the same general area as the Logan Express in Framingham would be a great idea. The commuter train just isn't that useful an option for those of us who live north of Rte. 9. For me, driving 5 miles southwest through heavy traffic to then wait for a train that takes almost an hour to head back to the northeast to Boston is rarely practical.
3) I wanted to share a perspective that I hope will help you understand how unfair and burdensome the Mass Pike tolls are for the western suburbs.
Imagine a resident who lives in Framingham and works in Newton Corner. That commute is roughly 30 miles roundtrip. Now, say their car gets 30 mpg on the highway. Travel cost for gasoline would currently be about $3.50. Now, add the tolls, and suddenly that resident is paying the equivalent of $5.90 per gallon!
There is no difference in the economic burden between paying per-gallon at the pump or daily as a toll. I ask you to remember what the economic discomfort was for people when gas topped $4 gallon, and then keep in mind for a Framingham-to-Newton commuter -- someone who is getting no direct benefit from the Big Dig -- you are already asking them effectively to pay $5.90/gallon!
A friend of mine who commutes daily from the South Shore recently had to head to Waltham for a week of offsite training. It was an eye-opener. "The Turnpike is really expensive!" my friend said. Indeed it is -- especially when you compare it to people elsewhere in the Boston metropolitan area who commute on toll-free highways. Few people understand this until they are forced to shoulder the burden themselves.
Why are taxpayers in the western suburbs required to fund a project in Boston, paying more than residents of Boston who are benefiting most from the new traffic flow and open space? Why are our tax dollars going to pay for everyone else's roads, but then we're asked not only to pay tolls for our own road, but pay tolls to fund a completely different road?
I urge you to work for equity across all areas of the metropolitan region in terms of the burden we pay for our commuter roads.