Sudden Stop: City Looking to Halt The ‘Uber Stop’ with Fenway Pilot

It’s been a frustration for thousands of city dwellers since the advent to ride-sharing companies a few years ago – and that frustration would be the habit of such Uber or Lyft drivers of suddenly stopping right in the middle of moving traffic.

Whether pedestrian, bicyclist or driver, all have had their hearts in their throats as a passenger pick-up or drop-off suddenly happens in front of them.

Now, City officials are looking to pilot a ride-share (known as Transportation Network Companies or TNCs) program in the Fenway that would have designated pick-up and drop-off locations on Boylston Street – and those drivers who stop suddenly will be disciplined as well.

“This will be looking to establish a pick-up and drop-off zone for TNCs in the Fenway area,” said Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Director Gina Fiandaca. “We’re working with Uber and Lyft so they can direct their customers to locations where they can rendezvous with the driver so there is predictability on the roads.”

The pilot will run for one year and there will be signage and enforcement along with it. Private passenger cars will also be able to access the pick-up and drop-off zone.

Vineet Gupta, director of planning at the BTD, said they hope to roll out the new zone this month. It would be located on four metered parking spots on Boylston Street near Kilmarnock Street. The spots would convert to a TNC zone at 5 p.m.

Fiandaca said they have relied on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) report last year that found there were 100,000 TNC trips in Boston every single day. As part of the business model for those TNC companies, they assure that drivers will go to exactly where the customer is and will drop off the customer exactly where they want. That often results in stoppages in the middle of a travel lane as customers jump in, or hop out, of a TNC.

“We’ve all seen them just stop in a travel lane or double-park,” she said. “Drivers have to go around them and cyclists too. Sometimes they choose places that aren’t the best location to pull over and have customers get in or get out of a vehicle. This is an opportunity to identify locations where there is a lot of TNC trips and provide a place for them to drop off and pick up and not cruise the roads.”

She also said the Fenway area was chosen because there are a lot of trips there, and also because many people take TNCs to the Red Sox games.

“The Fenway area is a key location and we know a lot of people are taking TNCs to Kenmore and Fenway Park,” she said. “We had a similar program with Uber during the Boston Marathon last year.”

The announcement of the new TNC zone in Fenway was one of several made by Mayor Martin Walsh at the Greater Boston Municipal Research Bureau meeting on March 7.

“We’re working hard for our hard-working city – and doing things differently in Boston,” said Mayor Walsh. “It’s our work that defines our vision for Boston, and from transportation, to the environment, to education, we’ll continue to take on the tough challenges, and create a stronger Boston with more opportunities for the next generation to come.”

Fiandaca and Gupta said they would closely monitor the zone during the pilot year to see if it is helping the problem, and whether it helps to change the behavior of TNC drivers and passengers.

•Among the other new initiatives announced last week was an effort to lower of the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph. Mayor Walsh championed the idea, and it’s one that Councilor Ed Flynn has suggested for quite some time.

“I’d like to thank Mayor Walsh for his progressive leadership on this issue,” said Flynn. “Councilor (Frank) Baker and I wanted to open up a dialogue with public safety advocates to ensure we’re doing all we can to try to save lives and realize Vision Zero. We know that infrastructure changes, like speed humps and raised crosswalks, are necessary for traffic calming; however, a combination of these physical changes to our built environment, enforcement, and a lower speed limit within our neighborhoods will improve safety for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.”

Flynn said data from the city’s website and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicated that the chances of a serious or fatal crash at 30 mph are 50 percent, while at 20 mph the chances significantly drop to 18 percent. We thank Mayor Walsh and his staff for their strong leadership on Vision Zero and efforts to make Boston safer for all.”

Fiandaca and Gupta said they would initially concentrate on implementing the lower speed limit in areas like school zones, adjacent to elderly housing and near community centers. However, an overall change will require City Council approval and State House approval.

“The objective would be to have the speed limit down to 20 mph on our residential streets in the city,” said Fiandaca.

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