Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

When the Lime Bike rental program returns to the streets of Chelsea this spring, riders might notice a little extra oomph in their ride.

Chelsea took part in a program with Lime Bike, along with 16 neighboring communities, last year. Council President Damali Vidot said the bike rentals will be up and running again this year.

However, there will be a difference this year, as Lime is unveiling electric-assisted bicycles throughout the region.

Because electric bicycles are currently not allowed in Chelsea, Vidot has introduced an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for the vehicles as long as they do not travel faster than 15 miles per hour.

“Since the late Summer of 2017, the City of Chelsea has been experimenting with dockless bikes, initially as a pilot with the company Ofo and then, last year, as part of a regional Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) contract with Lime Bike,” City Manager Tom Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council. “Notwithstanding some minor complaints, I believe the experiment has been successful.”

Last year, more than 4,000 people used the dockless bikes in Chelsea, taking almost 20,000 separate trips, according to the city manager.

“The City would like to continue this dockless bike program in 2019,” stated Ambrosino. “However, there has been a change in the marketplace for dockless bikes. All the companies in this arena are moving away from pedal powered bikes to electric assisted bikes, including Lime Bike.”

To continue with the regional effort with Lime and allow the bikes in Chelsea, the City will have to change the current ordinance that prohibits the vehicles.

“Over the past month, we have explored the options of replacing Lime Bike with another company that might offer dockless pedal only bikes, but no operator is interested in the restriction,” Ambrosino said.

While the change in the ordinance would allow for the electric-assisted bicycles, Ambrosino said there are no plans in the works to allow for electric scooters to operate on public streets.

“I am just alerting the Council that the use of such scooters may soon become ubiquitous in surrounding communities,” he stated.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said he’s looking forward to the transportation upgrade.

“I’m looking forward to them,” he said. “I took a practice ride, and it was quite fun.”

•In other transportation-related news, Ambrosino told the City Council it should keep the future appearance of autonomous vehicles in the back of its mind.

“Right now, testing of such vehicles is underway in Boston and other communities,” he said.

As with the electric-assisted bicycles, the Council would have to adjust its ordinances to allow for autonomous, self-driving vehicles. A MassDOT and MAPC agreement could allow for a pilot route for the vehicles in the Industrial District.

“It is likely to be some time before autonomous vehicles actually appear on this pilot route,” Ambrosino said. “Again, such testing cannot occur until the City has given express permission. However, I just wanted to give the Council notice that this transportation innovation is moving forward and may someday make its way to Chelsea.”

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Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

A roomful of commuters and elected officials roundly rejected proposed MBTA fare hikes during a public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the State Transportation Building in Boston.

Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, outlined the increases, which would go into effect July 1 and raise fares an average of 6.3 percent system-wide.

Under the proposal, the cost of a local bus Charlie Card would increase to $1.80 from $1.70 while a subway Charlie Card would rise to $2.40 from the current $2.25. The monthly LinkPass, which provides unlimited bus and subway travel for one customer, would jump to $90 from $84.50, and a seven-day LinkPass would rise to $22.50 from $21.25.

The proposed fare increase would bring in $32 million in additional revenue to help recoup losses against the budget shortfall of $111 million projected for the next fiscal year.

The last hike came in July of 2016, which raised fares an average of 9.3 percent across the system, but since that time, the Legislature has passed a law limiting fare hikes to a maximum of 7 percent every two years.

After Poftak’s opening remarks, City Councilor Michelle Wu presented T officials with a petition she circulated calling for unlimited year-round passes for seniors and children, as well as a lower fare for the city’s poorest residents, which had already garnered 2,700 signatures by the time the meeting commenced.

“This moment in history demands aggressive action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” Wu said. “Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities beyond their home neighborhoods.”

State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, read from a letter on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation urging the MBTA board of directors to hold off on fare hikes at this time.

“Public transportation is a vital resource for residents of Boston, and especially for low-income individuals, seniors and students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation,” the letter read in part. “We realize fares bring needed revenue to the operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services. We believe that there needs to be a more in-depth discussion with the MBTA about the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any fare increase.”

James White, chairman of MBTA Accessibility Advisory Committee for the past 18 years, advised against raising fare until after planned improvements are made to the Red and Orange lines, including the replacement of both fleets by 2023.

In response to the MBTA’s own projection that a fare hike would amount to a 1.3-percent loss in ridership, State Rep. Andy Vargas, who represents Haverhill, said, “At a time when we have increased ridership on the T, we should be doing everything we can to encourage that.”

State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents Brookline, took to the podium with a can of Arizona Iced Tea in hand.

“It costs 99 cents, says it right on the can,” he said. “It has cost 99 cents for 18 years. What the good people of Arizona Iced Tea figured out is if you don’t improve the quality of the tea, you don’t raise the prices,” Vitolo said before drinking from the can as the audience applauded him.

The fare increase would put an even bigger burden on commuters living outside the city as illustrated by statements from Egan Millard, a 27-year-old Weymouth resident who works in Cambridge and currently pays $217.75 for his monthly commuter rail and subway pass.

“I, and I’m sure most T riders, already feel we’re paying too much for such abysmal service,” Millard said “Commuter rail service is so infrequent I have to plan my entire day and sometimes week around it. I have lost, at this point, days of my life on the T that I can’t get back.”

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Rep. Ryan Pleased with Assignments

Rep. Ryan Pleased with  Assignments

State Rep. Dan Ryan said this week he is pleased in what is considered a step up in becoming the vice chair of the Post Audit Oversight Committee – a powerful committee that runs investigations of government operations and actually has subpoena powers.

“I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for this appointment, and my House colleagues for voting to affirm his trust in me,” said Ryan. “I look forward to working with Chairman Linsky and other committee members in continuing to bring solid, cost-effective government programs to the electorate.”

Ryan said Post-Audit Oversight certainly isn’t a household name for most people in the Town, but said it has a unique mission and is a sought-after committee on Beacon Hill.
“The Post-Audit Oversight Committee is a select House committee that has a unique mission,” he said. “Members of the committee are tasked with ensuring that State agencies are abiding by legislative intent and the program initiatives put forth, by the legislature, through the budget process. When necessary, the committee will work with administrative agencies to propose corrective actions to best serve citizens of the Commonwealth.”

One of the most visible investigations conducted by the Committee came several years ago in the previous administration when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came under fire for its handling and management of numerous cases involving children.

Ryan has also been assigned as a member of the Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery Committee, and as a member of the Transportation Committee.

•Just across the North Washington Street Bridge, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz came away with one of the biggest scores for the Boston delegation in getting assigned as chair of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.

Rep. Ryan said that having such an important chair nearby will be very good for Charlestown as well as the North End. That will particularly be apparent with projects like the North Washington Street Bridge, which affects the North End as much as Charlestown.

Michlewitz told the Patriot-Bridge that he is humbled by the appointment, and that while he has to build consensus across the state, he will keep his district and Boston in the forefront.

“I am honored that Speaker DeLeo believes I can do the job,” he said. “The first order of business is creating and debating a $42.7 billion budget. A lot of work has been done in committee, but we have a short timeframe to get a lot done. The thing I was to stress is my district is my number one priority.”

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MBTA Better Bus Kick-Off

MBTA Better Bus Kick-Off

Steve Poftak, who has been the MBTA General Manager for about a month, expresses his commitment to Chelsea during the inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24. The Task Force plans to continue meeting for the next six months regarding MBTA issues and the Better Buses program.

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Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

The people of Chelsea are demanding increased frequency on the Silver Line, more reliability, and additional bus connections from the MBTA. Over the next two years there will be three major construction projects in Chelsea that will adversely impact bus traffic, and City leaders and residents are concerned that the already poor services will worsen.

“There have been big shifts in population and ridership, and the bus routes have stayed largely the same,” admitted Steve Poftak, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager. “The T is playing catch-up.”

On January 24, Poftak sat with locals and members of the City Council during the first inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall. The goal of the committee is to gather once a month for six months of interactive discussions with the community and Poftak to develop solutions.

“For a lot of us who live on both of the hills, buses are the only means of transportation,” commented a Bellingham Square resident. “Every year or two, they threaten to cut off both of the hills. That would leave us totally stranded, and I’m not having it.”

Many aren’t content with the massive traffic that builds with the 20 minute rising and 20 minute lowering of the Chelsea Street bridge, which slows bus travel. The MBTA noted that active discussions with the Coast Guard regarding the creation of a period of time during peak hours of commuting when the bridge does not open have been hindered by the government shutdown.

“We have limited control over the bridge. Maybe we could have some predictability with windows when we know the bridge will be active and when we know it won’t,” said Poftak.

The Better Bus Project is investigating the quality of the current bus network and working on cost-neutral proposals that will result in more frequent services for customers. Researchers have been speaking with riders to learn more about where people’s trips begin and end, the economic demographics of the area, and where jobs are located.

“We are advocating for fair mitigation,” expressed Council President Damali Vidot. “We’ve needed quality service for years and are working at a sub-par level. Chelsea was an afterthought in the Better Bus Project. We want to make sure we’re getting the service we deserve.”

The Better Bus Project has 47 proposals for changes in the MBTA bus system that will impact 63 out of the 180 routes in 35 of the 50 communities that are served. Proposals include removing bus routes with low ridership, and re-investing resources elsewhere.

The Transportation Task Force is suggesting more inspectors, less cancellations, and easier transfers between Chelsea and Lynn on the Commuter Rail.

“We are re-imagining the infrastructure on Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “We will be presenting the City Council with alternatives that do away with two fast lanes to make travel safer. One idea is incorporating a dedicated bus lane.”

Gentrification has also forced many Chelsea residents to relocate to Lynn because of the high cost of rent. One Chelsea resident, who works in Lynn, voiced that it takes her up to two hours to commute from Lynn to Chelsea using public transportation. She commented that the only line that directly connects Chelsea to Everett is the 112 bus, and many avoid it due to the lifting of the bridge; and recommended that the 426 bus through Lynn could stop in Chelsea, as it already passes over the Tobin Bridge.

“In the overall bus network redesign, people on the north side of the city are particularly interested in going to Lynn and Malden,” Poftak concluded. Better Bus Project proposals will be available at www.MBTA.com with maps and data. The MBTA will also be providing riders with a warm place to view proposals at Haymarket Station, where they see the most response from Chelsea residents.

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State Rep Dan Ryan Inaugurated Wednesday for New Term

State Rep Dan Ryan Inaugurated Wednesday for New Term

Chelsea’s State Rep. Dan Ryan has been inaugurated for another term in the legislature this week, and he said he is ready to tackle issues from transportation to opiate recovery research in the new term.

On Wednesday, with the new class of the state legislature, Rep. Ryan took the oath of office along with Gov. Charlie Baker and the rest of the Commonwealth. It will be his third full term in office, and he said it will be an interesting term with new faces and a Republican governor in his second round.

“I think the voters of Chelsea and Charlestown first and foremost for giving me two more years,” he said. “It will be my third full term and Gov. Baker’s second term. We’ll have some big changes in the House and it will be very interesting to see what those changes look like. It will be interesting to see what happens with Gov. Baker’s second term. He was easy to work with in the first term with very moderate Republican stances. Second terms are different so we’ll see what that dynamic looks like.”

Ryan also praised House Speaker Bob DeLeo for his leadership in 2018, and his new term in 2019 – having also been sworn in as the House Speaker again on Wednesday.

“I’ll be supporting the Speaker in this next term,” he said. “He’s had a strong hand in this legislative session with everything going on in the Senate, the House needed to be the grown up in the room and the Speaker was very pragmatic in moving things forward.”

Ryan is now the vice chair of the Substance Abuse/Mental Health Committee, and also serves on the Transportation, Post Audit and Veterans Affairs Committees. He said he has also been appointed to Task Forces charged with looking at the Commuter Rail and looking into issues related to the Opiate Bill passed last year.

“There’s going to be a lot of movement in the chairmanships, but I think I’m going to be on the same committees,” he said. “I’ll be spending a lot of time doing transportation work. That’s not always the issue that gets a lot of attention, but it’s very important.”

Ryan said the last session was very progressive, including legislation on criminal justice reform, the opiate bill, pay equity, the transgender accommodation bill and banning bump stock firing devices for firearms.

“We got a lot of progressive legislation though in the last two years,” he said. “Even though some didn’t think we were progressive enough, I think it was one of the most forward looking sessions in a long time.”

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Chelsea Viaduct Contract Approved

Chelsea Viaduct Contract Approved

The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has approved the contract for construction on the Chelsea Viaduct project, with the low bidder being Skanska McCourt at $169.37 million, some 3 percent below estimates for the massive rebuilding project.

A key part of the scope of work identified in the documents includes keeping the Arlington Street on-ramp, an entryway that had been considered for possible removal.

The project was bid out in July, and a Notice to Proceed is expected in January, with substructure repairs starting shortly after that and into the spring of 2020.

The Chelsea Viaduct is the elevated highway that runs from the County Road overpass to just beyond the 4th Street off ramp. The project has been in the planning stages for more than a month.

The scope of the project includes repairing and retrofitting the superstructure underneath the viaduct. That will take the rusted steel beams and retrofit them with new concrete structures that will be decorated with murals.

That work is expected to begin in the early months of 2019 and will proceed through the spring of 2020 – lasting more than a year.

That will be followed by replacement of the superstructure, which is the decking that the cars and road operate upon. That will be replaced primarily through a pre-fabricated bridge pieces that will be lifted into place and secured. Only two small pieces of the Viaduct will require traditional repair techniques. That will be over the railroad tracks and by the 4th Street off ramp.

There will be no traffic impacts on Route 1 during peak travel times. All work will be performed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the substructure rehabilitation.

In the fall of 2020, the superstructure replacement will feature some traffic impacts, as they move three lanes into two lanes southbound and two lanes northbound. There will also be interim ramp closures at that time and some parking impacts as well.

As a part of the mitigation for the community, a new community parking lot will be constructed below the Viaduct to help with downtown parking. There will also be improved lighting and a solid snow fence built around portions of the Viaduct.

Completion is expected in 2021.

MassDOT officials said they are in the process of assembling a Chelsea Task Force that will analyze public transit, vehicular travel and other travel options throughout construction and work to ensure reliable transportation for all. More is expected on that Task Force in the coming months.

Cutlines –

1

A before and after view of the substructure repairs to the Chelsea Viaduct, going from rusted steel to a mural.

2 – (Timeline, no cut)

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DiDomenico,Colleagues Pass Bill to Improve Traffic Safety

DiDomenico,Colleagues Pass Bill to Improve Traffic Safety

Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate recently voted to pass legislation that aims to create safer streets for all road users. Developed in collaboration with a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian and transportation advocates, S.2570, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, includes several measures to improve road safety, lessen the severity of crashes, and standardize the collection and analysis of crash data.

“This bill is an important next step in our efforts to create safer streets for all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “We must ensure that our roadways are safe and accessible for everyone, and I am confident that this legislation will go a long way towards achieving that goal and reducing traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth.”

“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Sen. William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”

“This legislation updates basic protections for pedestrians, cyclists and others who may be on the road, and is a common-sense policy to ensure safer roadways for pedestrians and drivers alike” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “I am very happy the Senate has passed this legislation.”

“This bill takes an important step in encouraging the use of multimodal transportation to relieve the congestion and reduce our state’s carbon footprint,” said Sen. Joseph A. Boncore (D-Winthrop), who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, which advanced the legislative measure forward with a favorable recommendation earlier this year. “Ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists have more protections on shared roads is vital to that end.”

The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users,” and requires motor vehicles to apply a “safe passing distance” of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.” The bill would further require a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable road user to use all or part of the adjacent lane, crossing the center line if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.

The bill would also require certain large vehicles newly purchased, leased or operated pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth to be equipped with lateral protective devices to eliminate a vehicle’s high ground clearance and the extraordinary risk posed to vulnerable road users, who are susceptible to slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents. Such large vehicles would also be required to utilize convex and cross-over mirrors to increase a driver’s ability to see around their vehicle. These provisions would apply to vehicles purchased or leased by the Commonwealth after January 1, 2019 and to vehicles operating pursuant to leases entered into January 1, 2020.

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security would be required to develop a standardized analysis tool to report crashes and incidents involving a vulnerable road user and maintain a publicly accessible database of such reports to help inform further efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

The bill would establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of crashes. While current law requires persons riding bicycles at night to use a front white light, this bill would also require use of both a red rear light and a red rear reflector when riding at night to improve the visibility of bicyclists.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration

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Everett Avenue On-Ramp Closing for One Month on May 6

Everett Avenue On-Ramp Closing for One Month on May 6

 The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is reminding members of the public that the on-ramp from Everett Avenue onto the Tobin Bridge (Route 1 southbound) in Chelsea will be closed for approximately one month beginning on Sunday, May 6.

This traffic impact is associated with the ongoing Tobin Bridge Repair project and necessary in order to allow crews and contractors to safely and effectively conduct operations.

The Tobin Bridge work will also mean temporary off-peak lane closures on Route 1 north and southbound through November 2018, as well as some adjustments to the width of the travel lanes in order to allow crews to access work areas on the bridge. Additionally, the Beacon Street off-ramp will be closed for an approximately a two-month period beginning in summer 2018.

Three full lanes of travel will be in place on the Tobin Bridge this year during peak commute hours. Travelers are reminded that there will be future traffic impacts including permanent lane closures on Route 1 northbound during the 2019 and 2020 construction seasons.

This $41.6 million project involves repairing a section of the deck of the Tobin Bridge which carries traffic between the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and Chelsea. Work is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2020.

The full scope of work will include steel repairs to the upper and lower decks, concrete deck work on the lower deck, followed by waterproofing, resurfacing, and installing pavement markings. Operations will also consist of utility installation, installing curbing, paving, constructing a new parking lot under the bridge between Williams Street and Third Street.

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City Gets Multi-Million-Dollar Federal Grant to Fund Beacham Street

City Gets Multi-Million-Dollar Federal Grant to Fund Beacham Street

The City announced on Wednesday that it had secured a $3 million federal grant to go towards full design and construction of the Beacham Street reconfiguration project.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Planner Alex Train broke the news, which is a major coup in the $9 million project – which looks to reconfigure Beacham Street as a critical east-west corridor between East Boston, Chelsea and Everett.

That would be achieved by reconfiguring the roadway not only for cars, but also for bicycles and pedestrians. It would also include landscaping improvements and accommodations for the trucking traffic that needs to use the corridor as well. Everett has also begun a similar project on its side of Beacham Street, and both project would align when completed.

The project also has some pieces that will provide flood protection from the Island End River, which has been known to spill over its bands and threaten the New England Produce Market – a regional, critical food supply facility.

The federal grant will go along with money set aside in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the project.

Ambrosino said they would also pursue money from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) from its Transportation Improvement Fund when that money becomes available.

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