Archive for the ‘Parking’ Category

Bike Rental Killjoy or Cassandra?

July 13th, 2011

Gloomy prediction time…I’ll say Boston’s new bike-rental program fails. There it is and I would sincerely like to think I’d be wrong. My neck is on the block, particularly as a velophile (word?)

I’ll plug this on Harrumph! and Marry in Massachusetts, as it has both personal and political angles. I’ll admit if I’m wrong and folk can feel gleeful in calling me on it.

hublogoUnder the urging of Mayor Tom Menino and the excellent dealing and managing from Nicole Freedman, the city’s director of bicycle programs, The Hubway rental system is not only zooming into reality, it’s still on its original schedule, likely this month. With the outside deals, bureaucracy, and finances, that’s close to a miracle (which we have come to expect from Freedman).

Even before the particulars, I was pessimistic on this program. It has worked in other European, Canadian and a few U.S. cities already though. Here though, I don’t see it getting enough ridership, nor making the vendor happy with income levels, nor adding substantially to the cycles on the streets, nor getting citizen respect for the property.

To the latter point, we brag about our huge college-student population, while paying for it culturally too often. The tales of disturbances and destruction abound. Far more than other cities, we see that bottles seem meant for peeing in to leave on streets and stoops, or to smash on roads or sidewalks. I recall that lesson when I commuted daily from JP to Southie by bike. I had to learn to avoid Columbus near Northeastern, particularly by the campus cop station, where broken, tire-ruining beer-bottle shards were the norm.

Prove me wrong, Boston, but I can easily see drunken, drugged or just nasty college students and other youth trashing the bikes in rental stations. What fun, eh?

Today, looking at the announced pricing structure, I think it is too similar to parking garages. In between only a few initial stations and the pricing reality, the system is not all that attractive. Fundamentally, it works only if you will start and finish in those limited locales and can get where you want to go in under 30 minutes.

hubbikeThe stations will be in what most of us think of as the larger downtown area, out to one here and there also in Back Bay, South End, Seaport, Fenway, Longwood, and Brighton/Allston. I don’t see the actual spots on the site yet, but it’s pretty sure they’ll be kind of like Zipcars and only sort of convenient. Yet, this is not Athena emerging from Zeus’ head fully grown. It’ll take many months to figure out the right station locations.

The nut starts out reasonably enough, with an annual $85 fee (introductory $60). Then the nickels and dimes add up very quickly.

Again, 30 minutes is the magic period (set your carriage-to-pumpkin clock). If you have an annual membership or are an ad hoc renter (Casual member in Hubway lingo), you can theoretically have thousands of 30-minute maximum rides a year for no charge. In fact, if the station locations and timing worked for you, it would make the most sense to go up to a kiosk and use a credit card to reserve a bike every time, so long as you kept to the half hour. Annual memberships come with the convenience of a key that lets you grab a bike, as it maps to your data.

In the real world, if you don’t end up in the midway of your trip at a station, you pay by the hour. Here the fees leap up to and then far beyond parking garages. They really, really don’t want you having a bike out for more than 30 or 60 minutes. The whole pricing card is here. A taste of the acceleration is:

Time Annual Casual
<30 0 0
30-<60 $1.50 $2
60-<90 $4.50 $6
90-<2 hours $10.50 $14
2-<3 hours $16.50 $22

And so it climbs by about $8 an hour for casual and $6 per for annual renters. It tops at 6 and one-half to 7 hours at $94 and $70.50 and then from 7 to 24 hours at $100 and $75.  Lord help you if you keep the bike over a day. Hubway will consider it stolen and truly put a parking garage’s rates to shame — $1,000 on your credit card.

If you think Nexflix’ 60% just announced gouging rates are absurd, this gives some perspective.

On the other hand, for a limited number of potential users, $85 for a year of bike use, zero maintenance, and practically unlimited 30-minute trips is such a deal. Truly.

I remain to be convinced that we’re collectively mature enough for the Hubway. I simply don’t have the faith in Bostonians that Menino and Freedman have exhibited here. In fact, announcing this program at City Hall plaza in April, the Mayor committed to the three Italians, adding U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, to taking the first trio of Hubway bikes out of the racks.

Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

Crowing in Hyde Park

June 23rd, 2011

With a wholesome sort of boosterism, Hyde Park (and a wee bit of Roslindale) City Councilor Rob Consalvo got to brag. To hear him tell it this morning, his district is sucking up far more than its share of development projects and business expansions.

Oddly enough for a pol, he didn’t take credit for most of it. He was quick to point out that corporate and government deals tend to be in five-year terms. A few years of talking and planning have similar period of funding and implementation. That goes for massive sidewalk and street reconstruction underway, the two huge rehab and expansion plazas anchored by Stop & Shop on American Legion Highway and Truman Parkway, and a lot more.

Another Go at Coffee

The scene for his bragging on his district but not much on himself was a soft opening of the Bean & Cream coffeehouse/ice cream parlor on Truman off Faimount. The actual open-for-business starts Monday.

I was bribed with both a free coffee (super dark roast, not diner stuff) and biscotti made by the owner Tom Papadopolous’ mom. (She was right when she let slip that they were better than the commercial Nana’s. These had nuts and dates and were fresh.) (Brother Peter is in the biz as well, but was not there this morning.)

Nevertheless, I think I’m not too tainted to report that Bean & Cream is promising. I’d need to taste the ice cream as well, but there’s lots to recommend it. Of course, it’ll have WiFi and Tom says he’s encouraging loiterers. There are about 10 tables (catchy name for somebody) in a spacious and light room. Even the johns are remarkable in that they are roomy and what you’d like to but never do find in a service station.

Locals have bemoaned the shutting of Townsend’s coffee shop, T.C.’s, run by the restaurant owner’s wife Rosaleen Tallon. As well as co-owner of the big place, she’s an excellent baker and still does the desserts there. Apparently they didn’t get the business they hoped on the coffee/pastry side, although regulars were very loyal.

Mild disclaimer: Michael Tallon is always chatty and cheerful, but we’re not real friends. We do live a couple of houses apart and my wife and I eat in Townsend’s. I’m prejudiced in favor, plus I can attest that Rosaleen does grand things with lemon in her pastries. Moreover, Michael has a great nose and mouth for ales and beers that they offer.

I have been attending the HP zoning and redevelopment meetings. I suspect that when they finally expand parking at the Fairmount commuter-rail stop and drop the fare to subway level instead of $4.25, the Logan Square area will get more daytime oomph for such businesses. Meanwhile, the new shop may do well for several reasons:

  • Cappy’s Pizza in the same block, owned by the Papadopolouses for about a decade, draws lots of lunch as well as dinner business.
  • While Ron’s ice cream/bowling is half mile away in Cleary Square, Bostonians love their ice cream, maybe even more than donuts.
  • The write-a-novel or just gossip coffee shops are in West Roxbury and JP, but not HP. There may well be a need.
  • Tom P. seems to be building a little empire, which short of alcohol, would give people what they want from breakfast through evening snack.

Whining Muffled

By coincidence, I had just griped to Consalvo by email about the dreadful crosswalk at the HP Y (where his wife Lisa works). There’s a combo of terrible design and Boston driver/parker behavior. People park there massive SUVs and F-150s next to and often on the crosswalk. Drivers on River Street race to the stop signs a short distance away. The effect is that kids, seniors and everybody in effect is darting out between parked vehicles, blind to the street and drivers to use the crosswalk. I went on and on.

That’s taken care of, it turns out. As part of the River Street Road work (Mattapan Square to Reservation), that and other crosswalks will get an upgrade. The pedestrian zones will make it obvious you can’t park there and provide line of sight to all. So there to me!

Money on the Table

This morning’s meeting was the neighborhood business networking. Consalvo described commercial boons that should become booms.

Foremost are the grocery-plazas — the two S&S ones and the relatively new Price-Rite on River Street. All three are multiphasic deals, with more to come. Each has created a plaza with itself as an anchor store and will expand with more building and more stores. He figures each represents about $30 million invested. To Consalvo, these deals prove his contention that these large corporations have done their market research and believe the district will expand and provide profits.

I did get a brief flashback to the South when he spoke of S&S’ putting stores within a mile of each other. Actually, it’s a bit farther but they are still oddly close. This is similar to the successful strategy of Memphis-based Piggly Wiggly. As a child and young man, I noted the obvious proximity of its stores in many Southern cities and towns.

Locals set me straight when I was eight. They referred to the white Pig and the black Pig. The then separate cultures (despite nearly identical foods) dictated racially solid customer bases, thus parallel grocery tracks and support for close stores.

Hyde Park is not that separate, but there is considerably similarity. The Price-Rite for one example seems to have a few white customers, some Latino, but very heavily black shopper base. The American Legion S&S is similar. The Truman Parkway S&S has largely white customers, although neighboring Hyde Park areas are highly diverse. Once the new Truman store opens in larger format, perhaps it will attract a more mixed set of customers, particularly if they add a fresh fish counter, which either of the other stores has.

Back to Consalvo, he also ticked off $10 million to the Y and $4 million to the public Wright golf course/club house. Even though he minimizes the credit due him for his relentless boosterism, everyone else in the room was quick to say much was and is and will be his doing.

Amusingly, I lost count of his most frequently used phrase today. That was tough fiscal times. He’d use it and follow up with the development underway. He’d use it and point to 130 new cops and 50 new firefighters on or about to be on the job. He said pols in nearby towns ask how Boston can do all this. His answer, he said, was that the mayor and council have prioritized.

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Personal Tricks, Cheap Thrills

April 2nd, 2011

SApark

Ah, we humans so like to be in, to have little advantages over our fellow humanoids. Sometimes it is so simple as knowing the localized slang and placename pronunciations. More satisfying is being so familiar with your turf that you can get from here to there by arcane shortcuts.

One of mine has long been esoteric parking spaces, particularly in downtown Boston. One I just lost grieves me.

Until the Imperial Storm Trooper-style, solar powered, credit-card accepting, programmable paring meters appeared, there was a small row of meters a couple of blocks from the Haymarket that had a magical 90-minute Saturday loophole. On New Chardon down from the State House and before Congress, these meters guarded parking spots that had to be rush-hour clear from 7 until 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, holidays excepted. The spirit of the regulation was to allow free passage during the work morning.

These red-capped meters were the older, stupid mechanical sorts. Reprogramming them to kick in on Saturday morning would have been a very big deal. Thus, from 8 a.m. when the rest of the meters in town, including the ones on Union Street directly next to the Haymarket kicked in, these old machines were hanging around waiting until 9:30.

trooperNow that we have moved to the very bottom of Boston, as far from the Haymarket as possible while still being in town, I almost always drive there. Many years ago when we lived on Beacon Hill, then Charles River Park, I walked, generally with a boy in a Snugli. Then below Forest Hills, I tried biking, but returning with a large bag with 30 or more pounds of produce was unstable.

It is possible to drive into the abutting garage, get a chit, have a vendor stamp it, and pay only $1 to park. You save so much from Haymarket buying that $1 is negligible…except for skinflints. I got my cheap thrill parking free before 9:30.

Now the new electronic parking troopers know too much. They understand there is no rush hour on Saturday and they display the time. They also kick in at 8 a.m. on Saturday and if you arrive before that, they read, “No Payment Needed Until Sat 08:00 AM” as well as the current time.

My cheap thrill loophole has closed.

Of course, I always could have gotten there as I do now, before 7:30, so that I have time to stock up and leave before I would have to put in 75¢ for 36 minutes — at the new, usurious rate. For some reason, having the extra 90 minutes of flexibility, particularly in late-dawning winter days seems important. Intellectually, I know I should deal with the $1 garage options or just be glad I know where there are low-cost options at meters where there are always free spaces on Saturday morning. It just does not fit the ideal of the advantage of knowing local esoterica.

As humans, our parochial pride in small distinctions is at once dull-witted and amusing.

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Twice Favored by the MBTA

March 25th, 2011

Harrumphing aside, and despite what my sons might say, I am capable of praise as well. On this week’s zoom in and out of NYC, the Boston T met its skeds and delivered me on time to and from the farthest reaches of this city.

Cynicism would note that I have been reduced to cheering this lumbering, sputtering, bureaucratic service for doing its job. Indeed, there are many reasons why I prefer going by bicycle in the great wheel and on its spokes from Winchester to Wellesley to Stoughton. It takes less time for me to bike from the bottom of Hyde Park to Davis Square for example than to drive or depend on bus/trolley/subway combos. Of course, as a skinflint, I delight in it being far cheaper.

Ah, though on pre-dawn Wednesday, the scant and silly Fairmount commuter rail options worked perfectly and on Thursday night, the equally spare and precise hourly buses from Ashmont to home dovetailed exactly with the Red Line from South Station. Perfecto.

The grousing on Universal Hub of late for delayed, cancelled, vomit-splattered trains, and those with surly staff is understandable. We have a fair mass transit permeation here. So many of us are carless or choose not to pay for commuting, shopping and hitting shows and shops in parking, time and space seeking that we are virtually captive to the T.

Regular readers here and at Marry in Massachusetts know I eagerly await the Purple Line. We can skip or slide the half mile from the top of Fairmount Hill in the bottom left of Boston to the often dilator commuter rail. Its sked is plain silly, with only a few morning runs into town, no weekend service, and a mere two evening returns from South Station — 7:30 and 9:40 — totally in the wrong times to see a show or have a decent meal.

The new sked supposedly within a year will give some choices to the tens of thousands of largely middle class and poor, many of color, who are far from the Orange and Red Lines and who have heard and seen the rare commuter trains roll over and through their neighborhoods with no stations and no service. Also, there’s a fair chance the fare will finally drop from $4.25 to a subway $1.70/$2. That’s fair fare for areas in Boston when many farther stops North and West have long been the subway cost.

Enough carping. Let me note that the T did me right:

  • The 5:51 a.m. arrived at 5:51 at Fairmount and hummed me into South Station in plenty of time to bolt on Bolt for Manhattan.
  • As a bonus, three of us guys got driver Dan who looked and sounded like an off-season Santa, who named our ride the Ship of Good Cheer, who took pictures of us, and who was highly skilled even in the narrow chute of the Midtown tunnel.
  • On the return, traffic in the Bronx into Connecticut had us running behind. Many fretting teens with texting thumb tics whined into their iPhones as did the inane middle-aged guys, constantly updating their families at length about nothing of action — their exit or whether they had the right cell number to call in four hours when they arrived in Boston. Blah, blah, drone. These folk must also need nightlights.
  • We arrived at South Station at 8:33 p.m. and the hourly bus from Ashmont left for my house in 27 minutes. Miss it and the half-hour ride to within 100 feet of my front door would turn into three times that, either with a Red to Orange Line, then a 32 bus to Cleary Square and a 15 minute, mile-plus walk, or waiting for the Mattapan trolley and likely walking the two plus miles in the dark up the wet road. Worse can happen, but those are not what I would seek. The option would be the kill an hour in or near South Station and take the last Fairmount train.
  • Instead, I hustled like squirrel in front of a feral cat. I galumphed the many station stairs, skirted the Atlantic Avenue side, and careered three floors down to the outbound Red Line. Within three minutes, the Ashmont train arrived and made good time to its terminus.
  • Both the South Station platform and the bus shelter on the other end were full of passengers. My trip was fully orchestrated as though all awaited me.
  • The 24/27 bus was nearly full. It is an hourly show after all. I arrived at figurative curtain time, took a seat and enjoyed the brief play. Even the passengers getting on covered with huge snowflakes seemed cast in a musical about Boston in winter.

Praise to the T…and to fortuitous timing. I appreciated jolly Dan on the ride down as well. Mass transit and cheap buses worked wonderfully. May all of my and all of your commutes and special trips be so blessed.

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Brookline: Just Go Away!

November 30th, 2010

goawayProbably all of us as adolescents had our cranky periods. Brookline never outgrew its.

Unless you live there, they are too good for you anyway. They don’t even want you parking there. They don’t need your damned tourist dollars. If you are from a neighboring town, why don’t you just stay there?

Speak to someone from Brookline and you are likely to hear how friendly they are. After all in schools, income, personal achievement and every other way, they are superior and have a lot of reason to be happy.

Brookline as a town makes its attitude plain on every street and road coming it. I think of it particularly as I bicycle around Eastern Massachusetts. (Fortunately for lesser mortals such as me, Brookline does not put up toll roads at its borders…yet.)

Other burgs in the area, such as Boston, Newton, Somerville and Cambridge, are different. Signs on streets entering those have this curious term that seems unknown in Brookline — WELCOME. Driving, cycling or walking into those ordinary places read WELCOME TO…

The Brookline version appears here. You are not welcome. You will not park anywhere in town for more than two hours, and there will be places that permit less time or none at all for non-residents. You will not park on the street anywhere overnight.

Go home. You don’t belong there.

It doesn’t work the other way, of course. Many from Brookline work in the financial district, medical facilities, corporations and universities of Boston and Cambridge.

thumbYou get a sense of the long standing of the Brookline attitude from its geography and governance. Brookline is a self-selected island of Norfolk County. As you can see from the map, it appears to be a thumb protruding into Boston’s bottom.

The rest of Norfolk County is to the South. Brookline refused to join Boston on several occasions, the last in 1873 when the town of West Roxbury agreed to annexation. Now Brookline is an exclave (not coincidentally sharing the first four letters with exclusive).

Back to bicycling, for all its snootiness, Brookline as a town is OK by riders. They don’t have nearly enough bike racks (goes with the car-parking attitude surely), but the cops there expect drivers to play nice with riders.

It has one nice, large park, plus the Olmsted site. We attend an old UU church there. The Brookline Village and Coolidge Corner areas have numerous OK, some good, but no great restaurants. (Note: Be very careful in the Village in the evening. Predatory towing services constantly monitor all off-street parking lots of closed businesses. They will get your car within 10 minutes.) It also has a concentration of kosher restaurants and bakeries.

Brookline never joined Boston, never formed its own county and apparently never got lonely for the rest of it body and buddies. It is content to float solo.

If you want to visit, bring quarters for the meters and for God’s sake, get out within two hours!

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Snooton Doesn’t Need You

May 10th, 2010

meter man with ticket

Boston has its own parking jokes. In near-burbs like Newton and Brookline, there’s no joking.

In Beantown, for example, many downtown areas have stretched meter times to 8 p.m. from 6. We also have some South End tricks like metered spaces that suddenly turn into resident-permit-only ones at 8 p.m., often with the signs revealing that gimmick largely hidden by common linden branches.

Boston though has this weird by suburban standards idea that meters and on-street parking are for the convenience of residents, visitors and businesses. In fact, the stated concern is that there be adequate turnover at meters to encourage people to use local companies.

Don’t fantasize that this sentiment extends to any of the wealthier burbs. Your warning for predatory parking enforcement are no-overnight and 2-hour-limit parking limit signs where you would expect to see welcome-to (our fair burg) ones.

Brookline has those and they mean it. While they don’t have roving gangs of parking enforcers, they do have some and ticket as freely as they can. Moreover, most restaurants and other businesses with lots in the back contract with relentless contract towing companies who live to snatch cars when the businesses are closed. Ten minutes often means a big ticket, towing fee and the time to retrieve your vehicle. Ptui on you.

Newton though stands alone in its viciousness. It actively discourages visitors from its business districts. They would far rather charge fines than encourage shopping and service usage. They back this up with a huge crew of ticket writers and an unbelievably detailed set of regulations and restrictions.

This came to mind again this morning when the Boston Globe ran a feature on the latest effort to extract every dollar from every vehicle owner who dares to patronize a local business. The city paid $150,000 for three systems to scan license plates and notify passing enforcement crews when a car has been in a space too long.

In the garden city, a chalk mark on a tire to flag a car for a meter man or maid is not efficient enough. Such manual checks don’t churn the fines. You can be damned sure they see that investment as something requiring quick payback, thus tickets and more tickets.

The rules-are-rules types may well love that. Not surprisingly, today’s article quotes some locals as saying it’s not a good idea.

Yet, delve a little into Newton’s thought process here and see the proof of the rabid compulsion. The regs suggest they have made this a moral issue.

Click to the city site and search for parking. You’ll find:

  • parking restriction (453 times)
  • street parking spaces (341 times)
  • parking lot (187 times)
  • parking meters (187 times)
  • long term parking (150 times)
  • municipal parking lots (149 times)
  • commercial permit parking (146 times)
  • Boston College parking garage (126 times)
  • long term parking spaces (123 times)

More telling may be a separate 174-page parking regulation document. There are hundreds of special rules per street. They even have multi-paragraph, per-public school specifications for permits and limits on parking in those lots. Newton is obsessed with parking enforcement in a classic Teutonic way. Only following orders, rules are rules, it’s the law and such come to mind.

Newton doesn’t want you. Newton doesn’t need you. It doesn’t really like residents or businesses. I suspect you can find whatever you need elsewhere and can just drive on through.

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Bikes and Bottles in My Basement

December 24th, 2009

bike closet

Too much cider…too much beer…too little fridge shelf space. Oh, what to do when guests are coming for Christmas?

I never considered it in the old house, but the bulkhead was the clue here. On my frequent bike trips, I leave from the basement where I keep my bikes, up the stairway through the bulkhead.

So there I have it, in freezing temperatures, we have a 13-step cooler. It presently stocks two different ales (Anchor Christmas and Southampton IPA) and two gallon jugs of apple cider. This is a toper’s version of a root cellar.

It might even do an okay job in warm weather. The stairs run to eight feet underground with concrete walls.

So here in Hyde Park, I live a daytime subterranean life. My desk and computers are were the previous owner’s were in the basement…as are my bikes.

He really only trained for the Pan-Mass Challenge. That’s a kind of what-a-good-boy-am-I bit of charity, but useful. He didn’t see bikes as transportation or environmental statements or even convenience. He wouldn’t even get the bike out until the air hit 80 degrees.

However, blessings on him for the two-bike garage in the basement.  (Click the thumbnail for a large view.) He had the inspiration to convert a closet into bike storage. This home improvement was as simple as screwing two hooks into a rafter and tossing the closet door. That garage would be two bikes, each on its own hook, easily accessible. Jerk one down and its out the basement door and up the stairs to spin.

Cyclists of all ages who walk through the digs stop there and gawk. I don’t have to say a thing. They envy it and want one of their own. Five strides form bike garage to the outside stairs is a home improvement with daily return.

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Brookline Shows Its Anti-Cycling Colors

December 21st, 2009

Brookline wants it all ways and often gets it.

Locals there want to pretend they are urban and simultaneously suburban. They are likewise irrational about transportation — pretending to be great for drivers, parkers, cyclists, pedestrians. They feign being all things to all only the best, wealthiest, most privileged, a.k.a. Brooklinites.

There’s no hiding from all this after the town selectmen’s meeting last week. They voted unanimously to boot the sole bicycle-oriented member of the transportation board.  They will not renew Peter Furth’s two-year appointment.

Among the blackballers, Betsy DeWitt said, “It appeared that his participation was somewhat disruptive to teamwork.” Blunter was Kenneth Goldstein, remarking that Furth is “too focused on bicycles” and “not balanced enough in his approach to transportation.”

I would note that if a board does not have members speaking up for different components of their charge, there’s no need for the board. A single person would do just fine. How does FoxNews say it, fair and balanced?

You would suppose that Furth is one of those flame-helmeted crazed cyclists racing headlong at tweedy professors and inattentive toddlers. Instead, you’d see a transit geek, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University. His credentials look like he’d be an extraordinary resource for the transportation board and the town transportation division. He seems as wild as adding a cinnamon stick to the warm cider.

That allegedly balanced guy they want to bring back on the board, Bill Schwart, has some expertise too. He is a transportation consultant. However, he focuses on bringing in new business for his consultancy. He bills himself as a multi-modal expert.

He does seem keenly attune to Brookline residents’ desire to park right next to where they want to visit. Consider his testimony at town meeting last year about parking. He’s with the program doubling parking fines to $30. He said, “There’s gold in those streets. Brookline can do much better in managing its curb space. Let’s not give it away, but also not make it unaffordable.”

Parking is to local conversation what weather is in much of Maine.

Brookline it must first be said is one of those outsider-hostile towns in parking. There’s a two-hour limit throughout, not just in business districts. Even those who live on a street need to rent an annual permit for $25 if they want to park in front of their own houses.

Of course, this is one of the few towns with absolutely no overnight street parking, apparently for fear that the unwashed or at least unworthy, those without driveway space for all their vehicles, might dare spend the evening. Or as the town puts it:

Why does Brookline have a Resident Permit Parking Program?

The Transportation Board wants to preserve the livability of our residential neighborhoods by discouraging non-residents (e.g., commuters and commercial area shoppers) from parking on residential streets for long periods. The Brookline RPP Program does not prohibit non-residents from parking on local streets for less than 2 hours, nor does it guarantee neighborhood residents an on-street parking space whenever they want one. Participants in the RPP Program also are not allowed to park overnight or to violate any other parking regulations that may be in effect on your street. However, residents who live in areas that experience high levels of on-street parking by non-resident vehicles will benefit from not having to move their vehicles to another street every two hours during daytime hours.

This is a similar attitude that has led to so few publicly accessible restrooms in Boston, Brookline and other towns, even in their parks. Whether it’s a driveway or a toilet, you should have your own or you really don’t belong here, now do you?

Back to the board, Furth seems a plain talker. He told the Brookline Tab that “If you speak up about bicycling things, you’re not considered to represent the town.”  He noted that he sometimes has advocated keeping parking over bike lanes and at others pushed for more bike accommodation.

He figures the real catalyst for his ouster was the Carlton Street project. The Tab reports that “Though Furth admitted he was a strong supporter of a controversial bike lane option, which would have required the removal of several heavily used parking spaces, he said he’s also been blamed for some miscommunications and procedural problems unrelated to his support.”

thumb.jpgAn oddment here is that parts of the town, particularly the police department, are very bike friendly. Having attended several Moving Together conference sessions with the Brookline cops, I have been very impressed by their enlightened multi-mode mindset.  Cyclists get run down by inattentive motorists there every year and the police do their damnedest through enforcement, education and participation in planning to keep pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in motion safely. Boston cops, many of whom seem to find bikes annoying anomalies, could learn.

Another is former Gov. Mike Dukakis. We’ll try to have him on Left Ahead! to discuss transportation. He may be the biggest advocate for mass transit in the state. Yet, I have never heard him say a single phrase in support of cycling. At 76, he may stick with his shoes and Charlie Card.

To its contradictory nature, Brookline also has a bicycle advisory committee. Their literature says the right stuff. It does seem to make inflated claims about a large number of residents biking for shopping and short trips. The eye and regular counts by the town don’t seem to support that. When I bike through, I rarely see a single other cyclist also.

The selectmen seem to be in little hurry to change that. The advisory group may talk up the car-reducing potential of biking, but that board seems fixed on preserving as many parking meters as it can. That Furth fellow must have seemed very inconvenient, asking them to consider bikers and walkers at every stage of planning.

Brookline has long been a thumb in the eye or other orifice of Boston and in fact looks like one on maps. In early Colonial days when it was known as the hamlet of Muddy River, it was part of Boston, but in 1705 it incorporated and then avoided the fate of Brighton, Roxbury and Dorchester, which became part of the capital city. Now it is a Norfolk County island surrounded by Suffolk County.

It has its little ways, ways of which it is extraordinarily, and some would say irrationally, proud. Wanting to have it several ways on non-motorized transportation really is nothing that deserves pride. Fantasy aside, Brookline is not yet bike safe or accommodating.

Many there want to pretend they are fairly European in being cyclists and cycle friendly. The town government other than the constabulary clearly conflicts with that. The of-one-mind transportation board won’t be leading to a multi-modal future.

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Blowy Bike Week in Boston

May 13th, 2008

notgrumpySnark first…

The cycling convert, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, needs to dump the UMASS Boston jock suit. It’s a preschooler’s color that gives him the look of Grumpy Bear. That’s doubly unfortunate in that he was doing something vaguely athletic and he was quite jolly at the time.

Yesterday, Da Mare led the gentle pedal down Tremont to Sudbury to Congress on the way from City Hall Plaza to Post Office Square. His posse included bout 50 cyclists — not a single other one dressed like one of the Care Bears™. The occasion was the opening day of Bay State Bike Week announcements.

That gives you a full six days to get your well-intentioned rear onto a cycle saddle and into the street. To further dash excuses, the skies want you out. Yesterday was the big wind and with the possible exception of a few passing showers on Thursday, the weather will be dandy all week.

carasYesterday was indeed windy, blow-over-bike windy. I’ll include an image of Cara Seideman (without the helmet) to show what the folk at the podium who had removed their gear faced. The helmeted woman below is Boston’s cycle czarina, Nicole Freedman.

The celebration is a variation on a theme that has run well over a decade, from single Boston Bike Day events in the 1990s into a combined Boston/Cambridge one expanding into a week into the second year of the optimistically named current incarnation. This has not always been linear, as Menino used to be hostile to inconveniencing motorists (voters) in any way, even to share the road, obey state laws and city regulations, and cut down on noise, congestion and pollution.

Celebrations shrank. The marvelous Tour de Graves rides halted. By bad timing or personality or whatever, the previous bike czar ended up with little to show for his tenure, as the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee suddenly disappeared from the budget. The city continued to have terrible ratings as a place for bike commuters and recreational cyclists. Yet, the advocates in City Hall, the dogged cyclists, and the successes in such outliers as Cambridge seem to have slowly worked resurrection magic on the events. (I have quite a few Tour de Graves shirts and would love for that to return. I’ve led one ride in that series and would do another gladly.)

The mayor decidedly gets it now. Apparently, that includes enabling Freedman’s programs.

Some of those are cheap, quick and simple. Bike lanes are among those. It’s a few thousand dollars per mile to paint these. In two months, we’ll get some of those on Commonwealth between the BU bridge and Kenmore. While some cycling groups insist these can be more dangerous to cyclists that riding with traffic, everyone acknowledges that they subtly but insistently raise motorist awareness that they are sharing the road.

I have mixed feelings about these lanes. We have a few in Boston, largely cruel jokes. I think of the one at Ruggles Street, headed west past the T station. A bike lane suddenly appears for less than a block. It abruptly ends as the road narrows slightly, so cyclists have to steer into the tiny traffic lane with buses, trucks and cars. It’s chicken on wheels. The cars would win.

Likewise, in Cambridge, police seem to have stopped enforcing bike lane restrictions on Mass Ave. Those lanes are more like UPS and FedEx parking lots, forcing cyclists to veer back into the most crowded lanes in the town.

nicolefBack in gusty Post Office Square, we jammed wheels and all onto the vest pocket park to hear promises I believe will be delivered. Menino said he intends for Boston to become a great place to bike. Freedman is seeing that the city gets several hundred more bike racks (the MBTA is already adding rack to hundreds of buses to accommodate bikes on long routes).

I’ve attended the commonwealth’s Moving Together car/bike/pedestrian conferences for years. I’ve heard about the improvements in various towns and cities. As the east/west and north/south bike paths continue to expand, pockets of bike-friendly projects are slowly doing the good work.

It appears as though Freedman is the right person on this side of the Charles. While I’m impatient, she is incessantly nibbling away at the tasks. Moreover, she has the screwdriver-in-the-socket alertness and energy level this requires.

The big piece, acceptance by motorists, will be the last in place. That’s my judgment, not Freedman or Seideman’s. Our infamous drivers fill newspaper letters pages or blog comments about how much they hate cyclists and how all of us are reckless scofflaws. They hate being inconvenienced by sharing the road. However, we have to keep the perspective that they think every other driver is an idiot whose sole role is to do stupid things that anger them.

In countries and cities where cycling is common, drivers become accustomed to, to return to that phrase, moving together. Yet, it does take familiarity, seeing cyclists, being reminded (maybe by a cop) that commonwealth law gives bikers the same privileges and demands the same adherence to traffic law as motorists.

I came back yesterday with a bit of windburn, a water bottle and a tasteless KICK GAS shirt. I also returned with a reinforced sense that we can make this work. It’s a bit like gay rights, except it’s not out of the closet, but bring the bike out of the garage.

Da Mare noted that most (maybe 90%) trips in this area are under two miles. That’s perfect for a bike and may take less time than driving. He swears he’s up for it and he wants the city to be also.

Cross-posting note: This appears at Marry in Massachusetts.

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Moody Bonsai

April 18th, 2008

Hmm, a fine name for a comic detective or perhaps a ballad singer might be Moody Bonsai. Instead, I dubbed this opportunistic tree-to-be in a Waltham garage.

bonsai11.jpgFor centuries, a preferred Japanese method of finding naturally dwarfed trees, bonsai, was to visit cemeteries. Such volunteer plants might grow from a seed in a mausoleum roof or cornice. With just enough blown soil and rainwater to barely survive, those trees became stunted, without human torture to their miniature ideal.

A form of this has been occurring in the city parking garage behind the Watch City Brewing Company (I recommend the FNA, a very hoppy ale). A seed insinuated itself in a seam on top of a wall and the resulting evergreen shows the sculpting by the wind off the adjacent Charles River.

Pic Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail image for a larger view.

bonsai2.jpgAlas, some city worker may decide to save the granite from this interloper and pull it. Otherwise, it may simply die on its own from lack of nutrients. We can’t say it didn’t try.

If you have reason to visit either the pub or plant, be aware that the ticket dispensers are still hosed. The garage provides the noble service of enough space for the lunch crowds at the many and varied Moody Street eateries.

park.jpgIt’s cheap at 25¢ an hour and allegedly self service. You:

  • Enter the garage or parking lot
  • Walk up to the ticket dispenser
  • Push a button for one, two, three hours or all day ($1 for the works)
  • Insert your coins
  • Put the resulting ticket on your dash so the constabulary can see what you pay for and fine you if necessary

Last month, the dispenser would just eat the quarters and offer nothing in return. Yesterday, it produced this ticket, which as you can plainly see…nothing.

Actually, if you want to the booth on the far side of the open lot, the dispenser in the shelter there may be more functional, but less amusing.

I had a long lunch meeting and had put in 75¢, not so you could tell that. I really doubt the enforcement agent will bother until they fix the box. I’m sure I could have used a single quarter and saved an entire 50¢. I hope Waltham uses my largess to help with repair.

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