Columbia Road: Local Voices

IMG_2537.JPG
A 14-foot median with empty planters on Columbia Road, Dorchester (Next City)

Columbia Road is a 2.2 mile stretch of road that runs between Franklin Park and Moakley Park in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Lined with apartment buildings, businesses, churches, libraries, health centers, and historic buildings, it is a busy corridor at any time of day. But when we take a closer look at the existing design of the road -- more than 100-foot+ wide, 14-foot wide medians without any greenery, unprotected bike lanes -- it becomes clear that the road may be creating more barriers than access points for people. Here are some of the comments we’ve heard from local residents:

 

    • Noah Hicks is the owner of Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen, located at the intersection of Columbia Road and Dudley Street. He says that he and his employees see people on their bikes get hit weekly in front of their shop. He says that the existing painted bike lanes on Columbia Road fail to address vehicle-bike conflicts due to parking and double parking. He knows that when the bike lanes are physically separated and provide connectivity within a larger bike network, people who currently ride will be safer and everyone in the neighborhood will have more opportunities for recreation and transportation.
    • Will Cole-French of the Hancock Civic Association thinks that Columbia Road would be more inviting if it looked like Commonwealth Ave, with the addition of trees and landscaping. He says that the bike lanes are significantly neglected and outdated parking requirements contribute to the poor use of space along the corridor. He would love to see the City create an advisory group composed of a cross-pollination of neighborhoods along Columbia Road.
    • Kevin O’Rourke, Director of the Bird Community Center in Uphams Corner, knows firsthand the shortcomings of Columbia Road. His after-school programming needed to be pushed back to 6pm because the school buses are stuck in too much traffic to get students to the community center by 6pm. Along with traffic congestion, he sees speeding on the road at night increase and thinks that on-street parking could be improved by adding meters to encourage more turnover.
    • Members of the McCormack Civic Association point out that poor signal timing at intersections makes it difficult and dangerous to be a pedestrian on Columbia Road. One resident said that they often see emergency vehicles stuck in traffic that is compounded by on-street and double-parking along the whole corridor. Another suggested that planning for Columbia Road should take into account the big new developments happening at South Bay and Dot Block.
    • Members of the Uphams Corner Westside Neighborhood Association agreed with many others that double parking is a serious issue along this stretch. One resident pointed out that it is a difficult road because it bottlenecks at Uphams Corner and then shrinks to a single lane between Everett Square and I-93. Suggestions from the group included the addition of a dedicated bus and emergency vehicle lane, reallocating the median to the outer edges of the road where maintenance of landscaping would be easier and people walking could enjoy it, and rebuilding the old trolley line that was originally planned and built along Columbia Road. 

Redesigning Columbia Road was designated as a Go Boston 2030 priority project in 2015, with the goal of creating a neighborhood-friendly street and green connection between two major parks. Currently, both Franklin and Moakley Parks are undergoing visioning plans and improvements. Progress for Columbia Road has been fragmentary, lacking any collective vision. We’re continuing to help build momentum locally by meeting with various civic associations, neighborhood associations, and community centers along the corridor to get community voice on what people want to see. We will be conducting additional outreach this fall with a group of students from the Northeastern Graduate Design Studio. The design students will be looking at vacant, city-owned parcels along the corridor and working with community groups to determine what can be done with those parcels to improve placemaking along the corridor.


What do you want to see for Columbia Road? We encourage you to fill out this brief online survey and let us know!