By Beth Treffeisen
The Chester Square Area Neighborhood Association (CSNA) gathered on Wednesday, Jan. 3, to elect new officers and share in a potluck dinner. The election was quick, with Carol Blair continuing her role as president and Michael Rodriguez stepping up as vice-president.
Talks quickly turned to what the newly elected board wanted to see in the new year and the major topic of concern was transportation.
“Massachusetts Avenue operates poorly, and anyone who has to travel along it knows that,” said Blair. “I’ve noticed people using North Hampton Street as a short cut from the traffic on Massachusetts Avenue. I would like to figure out who to talk to.”
Blair said there are a lot of people working on transportation from the Mayor’s office to City Council, to the Boston Transportation Department and the MBTA. She hopes to coordinate with them to start solving these issues.
“It is time to move from the planning of Imagine Boston and Go Boston 2030 to specifics,” said Blair. “How does this all come together?”
One project the group has already been working on is making Comet Place, a small alleyway that loops behind the Boston Housing Authority living center at 155 North Hampton Street to Shawmut Street.
Right now, cars can travel in both directions, causing traffic problems and unsafe conditions. CSNA is proposing to make it one way.
“There are a lot’s of things we want to do, and I imagine we’ll get this one done,” said Blair.
Blair hopes to coordinate with the Mayor’s liaison and Boston Transportation to work on going through the necessary steps of changing the road direction this year.
But the hardest thing they want to tackle in their neighborhood is parking. Although it is a citywide problem Blair hopes to start a few pilots in their neighborhood to test out whether some of their ideas might work on a larger scale.
Some ideas include designating a few short-term parking spots near senior living facilities in the area. Blair said that some of the seniors need at-home care or have visitors that come more often and wouldn’t want to deter that from happening if there is nowhere to park.
Another idea was to give ZipCars or other shared rental cars resident permit parking stickers. This would make it easier to go grocery shopping or run other errands in the neighborhood and might persuade more residents to ditch their personal car for a shared rental one.
“We’ll find a way,” said Blair. “It is such a big issue I think it would be better to start in one little spot and then spread from there.”
Blair said the South End Forum, a coalition of the South End neighborhood associations, took on transportation and wasn’t able to make a difference.
Other ideas include installing a dedicated bus lane along Massachusetts Avenue and Harrison Avenue, both densely traveled roads with a lot of congestion. The group recognized that there is only so much space in the South End, and it is hard to dedicate entire lanes to buses and take away parking.
One of the biggest improvements to the neighborhood the CSNA wants to take on is beautifying the Chester Square Park and connecting the two sides, which are currently a cut through by the busy Massachusetts Avenue.
Initial plans include putting a giant crosswalk down the middle to help make it easier to walk between the two sides.
In addition, CSNA hopes to work with Northeastern Students in a 5D art class. Blair hopes the students will work on projects that will better design the Massachusetts Avenue area to better fit the human experience within the neighborhood and come up with a long-term transportation solutions.
With more housing coming to the South End, these transportation problems will only get worse. Blair has some hope that some of these ideas will come to fruition soon, saying, “It seems like a no brainer so it will happen.”
Election of officers 2018:
Carol Blair – president
Michael Rodriguez – vice president
Alyssa Faria, secretary
Sara Mitchell and Kyndal Feinman as co-treasurers
Bud Larievy, outreach coordinator