By Seth Daniel
By the numbers, the change in direction for Allston Street has been a total success, according to figures released last week by the Boston Transportation Department (BTD).
To a person, not everyone likes the new configuration – which took away Allston Street as the one street on the west end of Medford Street that went up the hill.
The new configuration, which was initiated in a pilot program last year by the BTD, changed the direction of Allston Street so it matches the rest of the streets in going down the hill from Bunker Hill Street. As the only street that went up, it was often known as the ‘Highway Up the Hill.’ With it being so narrow and a major cut-through, some residents advocated for a reversal due to public safety concerns.
In October, the BTD initiated a 90-day pilot to see what the effects of reversing the street would be.
Last week, they said it was a success, as it slowed down traffic and didn’t push anyone onto neighboring streets.
“The results of this study indicate that the recent change in direction of traffic flow on Allston Street has significantly reduced the daily traffic volume on Allston Street, while not significantly increasing the daily traffic volumes on adjacent streets,” read the BTD report. “Also, travel speeds did not increase on any of the streets within the study area, and actually decreased on seven out of eight streets. These results are consistent with the City’s initiatives aimed at reducing the number and severity of crashes on local residential streets by lessening the impacts of cut-through traffic and reducing travel speeds.”
That said, the change does reverse a traffic flow that many have grown accustomed to all of their lives – and a good majority of the traffic going up the hill were local residents. So, there has been some grumbling over the change and the inconvenience of having to drive all the way to Main Street to get up to Bunker Hill from Medford Street.
Those advocating for the change, such as Marney McCabe, said last year it came from new residents and old residents, and was all about the safety of children, families and the elderly.
“There are a lot of residents who have lived here a long time and there are also a lot of people like me who are newer to the street and have made our homes here with the intention of raising our kids here,” she said in October. “We all have a lot invested in our street and we all are very happy with this solution…We have been working with the City on this a number of years and are happy our voices were finally heard. We are happy that we have the support of City Hall and that we have the support of the greater neighborhood too.”
The greatest decline in volumes, quite obviously, was on Allston Street, where the numbers of vehicles per day decreased by 693 – with volumes going from 854 per day to 161 per day. The study measured volumes on June 25, 2014 versus Jan. 11, 2017.
The only streets to increase were Sackville Street, but only by eight cars a day. Polk Street increased by 56 per day and Elm Street stayed the same.
The other street volume changes are as follows:
•Mystic Street, 306 to 261 (down by 45)
•Sackville Street, 198 to 206 (up by eight)
•Belmont Street, 223 to 176, (down by 47)
•Cook Street, 354 to 272, (down by 82)
•Pearl Street, 310 to 243 (down by 67)
•Elm Street, 510 to 510 (no change)
•Polk Street, 981 to 1,037 (up by 56)
At the same time, average speeds compared from June 25, 2014 to Jan. 11, 2017 also decreased.
On Allston Street, speeds decreased by the most, at 3 mph (from 21 to 18 mph on average). Cook Street was the second slowest, going down 2 mph (from 20 to 18 mph).
All other streets, as listed above, decreased by 1 mph. Only Polk Street had no change in speed, staying at 22 mph – though that has likely changed in recent weeks with the construction of a new apartment building there.
The City will likely make a final decision on whether to keep the street downhill soon, but based upon the data, it appears that change is likely to be permanent.