Pond Avenue Crosswalk Plan

Transportation Board Meeting
Thursday, April 28, 2011, 7pm
Selectman’s Meeting Room, 6th Floor, Town Hall

Item 4: Discussion and Action on High Street Portion of the High Street Hill Safety Improvement Plan (High Street & Pond Avenue), 7:40pm
(all times are approximate; arriving 30 minutes early is strongly recommended)

High Street Safety Improvement Plan (pdf).

Last February, after months of discussion, the Transportation Board (TB) voted to proceed with its plan for crosswalks along Pond Avenue. But, due to a HSHA request from High Street residents citing new information from traffic expert Peter Furth, the TB decided to take additional time to consider traffic calming along High Street.

The first page of the new plans is the proposed staff plan, a modified version of the original plan. The next two pages show an alternative proposal that incorporates ideas put forward by Peter Furth.

It looks as though the new staff plan differs from the last version (“Final Plan“) in the following ways:

  • addition of a painted crosswalk at Oakland Rd Ext.
  • addition of pavement markings near the SW corner of the intersection (SB side of High) to denote narrowing of High St and no parking.
  • addition of a stanchion in the High St crosswalk at Highland
  • addition of 25 mph advisory signs on High, one facing NB traffic on High between Hall Rd and Highland and one facing SB traffic just south of Edgehill
  • addition of a stanchion in the crosswalk on High at Irving Street

The alternative’s main feature is a pedestrian island in High Street at Highland.

A Second Report about Traffic Calming on High Street
Peter Furth, April 3, 2011

I went back last week to examine High Street after the snow was gone and the in-street “Yield to Peds” sign (“knock-down sign”) was back in place at the High / Highland intersection.

Desirable Speed versus Actual Speed

Earlier, I reported about the need for a 25 mph speed limit near Edgehill Road due to limited sight distance over the crest. However, the more compelling reason for limiting traffic speed, which applies throughout the corridor, is the lack of any buffer between moving traffic and pedestrians. There is no parking lane or tree lawn between the travel lanes and the sidewalk. Everybody understands how uncomfortable it is to walk close to fast traffic; the greater the speed, the more separation people desire. 30 mph is not an appropriate speed limit for a street like this; the appropriate limit is 20 or 25 mph. Pedestrians also need safer crossings; the combination of heavy traffic and high speed make this street a barrier to children, something that should not be tolerated as we try to encourage our kids to walk to school and other destinations.

Given that 85-percentile speeds were measured to be in the 36 to 38 mph range, and that the desirable speed for safety and livability is at most 25 mph, the need for action to limit speeds on High Street is clear and compelling. Relying on police enforcement of a speed limit is not a viable strategy, because the narrowness of the street does not afford police any safe place to pull cars into. The design has to be altered to induce slower traffic.

Median Refuge at Highland Street

At Highland Street, the value of a median refuge to crossing High Street safely will be obvious to anybody who goes to the site. Crossing from the east to the west side, the limited sight distance looking to one’s right (north) due to the crest of the curve makes it impossible for a pedestrian to be sure that it’s safe to cross; one has to start in blind faith, not knowing what’s coming over the hill. With a median refuge, crossing becomes easy and safe: one crosses only one lane at a time, and the sight distance is ample in both directions for confirming that it’s safe to cross that short a distance to reach the safety of the sidewalk or the refuge.

This is an important crosswalk for children, being part of the route to Brookline High School and the Lincoln School from Downes Field and the neighborhood.

On the south leg of the intersection, where the crosswalk is, High Street is 33.6 ft wide. That is ample for a median refuge, for which the minimum width is 6 ft. Considering that the lanes on the north leg of this intersections are 13.3 ft wide from curb to centerline, it would be appropriate for a median island to allow 13.3 ft between curb and island, leaving 7 ft for a median refuge. By having lanes of the same width as found on the northern leg of the intersection, the median refuge won’t present a hazard to motorists or cyclists.

As mentioned earlier, there currently is a knockdown sign at this intersection. Its placement, along the centerline, leaves a 15 ft gap for northbound traffic between curb and sign, and casual observation will show how easily cars speed through a gap this wide. A gap of 13 to 13.5 ft will be far more effective.

A median refuge will also by increase the degree of horizontal deflection drivers face as they transition between the different lane positions south and north of that intersection. (The different lane positions arise because of the street being wider, yet having a parking lane, south of the intersection.) Northbound, a driver’s path now involves a horizontal shift of only 2.5 ft; with an island, that shift will increase to 5 ft, forcing drivers to go slower. Southbound, there will be no change in total defection (about 6 ft); however, a median refuge will force drivers to make that shift over a shorter distance. (Today, one can see how drivers spread that deflection over a long distance, making it comfortable to drive fast, by driving partly in the parking lane when it isn’t occupied.)

I have heard concerns voiced that a median refuge might not provide enough space for large vehicles (e.g., school buses) making a left turn from Highland onto High Street. As a matter of principle, design should be based on serving the classes of vehicles using a street regularly, with accommodation for occasional larger vehicles. The needs of larger vehicles turning left can be met by measures such as forcing them to travel at crawls speed, setting back the island, giving the island’s nose a mountable curb, or directing school buses to exit the Downes Field area via Jamaica Street.

Controlling Speed on the Narrow Part of High Street

The main, narrow part of High Street is about 26.5 ft wide. That’s a standard design width in Massachusetts, wide enough for a broken down car (6 ft) and two lanes of travel (10 ft each). Therefore, it is clearly wide enough to host an in-street Yield to Pedestrians sign at the Irving St. crosswalk. The sign’s width is 1 ft, leaving about 12.7 ft between sign and curb, which is plenty for buses (they are 8.5 ft wide) and other traffic.

With a knockdown sign at Irving Street, the remaining stretch in need of slow points is between Highland Street and Irving Street. I understand that there is a reluctance to use raised elements (speed humps) to create vertical deflection. Limited right of way makes horizontal deflection impractical. Narrowing lanes with chokers is ineffective on multilane streets unless the choker allows only one lane of traffic to pass, something that would be impractical with High Street’s traffic volumes. My suggestion is therefore to create two additional narrow points by installing flush median islands on which would be mounted knockdown in-street signs of the same physical design as in-street Yield-to-Peds signs. These flush islands could be marked with paint only, or could be constructed with a corrugated concrete surface. One should be placed on the north side of the junction with Cumberland St., and one on the south side of the junction with Edgehill St., with the latter positioned so that the in-street sign will be visible to motorists climbing up the hill from Highland St.

I can suggest three possibilities for sign content: (a) Object Marker (a standard sign with heavy diagonal lines alternating yellow and black), (b) “Keep Right”, or (c) a speed limit reminder. Signs with “25 mph” in a yellow diamond would be appropriate whether 25 mph is an official or advisory speed limit.

While I don’t know of any application of in-street knockdown signs other than the Yield-to-Pedestrian sign, I think they would be appropriate for traffic calming on High Street. The speed-controlling effect of the in-street Yield-to-Peds sign has been clearly observed, and there is no reason to limit the benefit of that treatment to crosswalk locations only.

I have two other minor recommendations to help increase separation between pedestrians and moving traffic. The first is to draw the street’s edge lines (fog lines) 2.5 or 3 ft from the sidewalk instead of the current 1 to 2 ft. The second is, through enforcement and neighborly pressure, to get the residents of the street to be more diligent about cutting back shrubbery at least 1 ft beyond the edge of sidewalk.

Transportation Board Approves Raised Crosswalk Plan (Brookline TAB, February 18, 2011).

Transportation Board Meeting
Thursday, February 17, 2011, 6:30pm
Denny Room, Public Health Building, 11 Pierce Street

Item 9: Proposed Safety Improvement Plan For Pond Avenue And High Street, 8pm
(all times are approximate; arriving 30 minutes early is strongly recommended)

Final Pond Avenue and High Street Plan (pdf).

The High St/Pond Avenue traffic calming plan which has been in discussion since last April is coming before the Transportation Board (TB) but there have been some new and interesting last minute developments.

A group of High Street residents who feel that the High Street portion of the plan was not meeting their needs has been doing some extra work and, with some help from a local expert, has offered some new suggestions. On Monday, February 14, the HSHA Board discussed those recommendations and found they have merit. We are now asking that the Transportation Board consider these proposals in the spirit of “getting it right” for neighborhood residents as well as for those who use our streets.

You are encouraged to read the rather lengthy letter that explains this latest development and come to the TB meeting to express your comments directly. TB Chairman Michael Sandman has already replied that the Town staff would look closely at the suggestions we’ve conveyed. You can also email comments to Todd Kirrane, Town Transportation Administrator at todd_kirrane@town.brookline.ma.us.

From: HSHA Board
To: Michael Sandman, Chairman, Brookline Transportation Board
Date: February 15, 2011
(copies were also sent to the Board of Selectmen and the Precinct 5 Town Meeting Members)

I would like to thank your board once again for postponing the vote on our neighborhood’s traffic calming plan at your last TB meeting. Although citizen attendance at your meetings over this issue has been sporadic, these issues are very important to our residents, and the Transportation Board members have been extremely accommodating during these protracted discussions. For Thursday’s TB meeting we have alerted the neighborhood.

I want to take this opportunity to describe some very recent neighborhood developments concerning the High Street/Pond Avenue plan. These were discussed at our High Street Hill Association board meeting last night.

The first development is that we want to note our support for the Pond Avenue portion of the plan involving the 5 raised crosswalks. It solves the two issues that we asked for help with, namely, reducing speed and enhancing safety for pedestrians going into Olmsted Park. Although there has been disagreement over the number or type of crosswalks, we’re confident that the Town’s design will perform well. Also, we’re thankful that the number of signs has been reduced to a minimum.

The High Street portion of the plan, however, has continued to be a hot topic, driven mostly, as you would expect, by residents on that street. The chief concern is that, while Pond Avenue has gotten “fixed,” High Street still needs attention on speed and safety issues. Frankly, we as a board have been hesitant to take a strong stand in part because this is a localized concern but mostly because we didn’t know if there were any further alternatives to consider.

Some High Street residents, however, have not given up trying to find a set of options, either new or in combination with those currently proposed, that could lead to a better solution. To that end, they recently met with transportation planner Peter Furth to ask advice and develop recommendations for consideration. Last night, the HSHA board discussed those recommendations and found they have merit. We are now asking that the Transportation Board consider the following in the spirit of “getting it right” for neighborhood residents as well as for those who use our neighborhood streets.

Similar to Pond Avenue, the main purpose of traffic calming on High Street should be to make the street safer for pedestrians crossing or walking along the street as well as make it safer for motorists. Just as Pond Avenue will soon have a carefully thought-out succession of “slow points” to moderate traffic speeds, High Street needs the same; and just as Pond Avenue uses physical measures to slow traffic and emphasize pedestrian priority at crosswalks, High Street needs the same.

1. We request that the Town redouble its effort to ask the state to lower the speed limit to 25 mph for the entire section from Route 9 to the existing 20 mph section near Cypress Street. Given that this 25 mph zone is close to a 20 mph zone at one end and a stop sign, steep hill, and traffic signal at the other, it makes sense to mark the entire street from Route 9 to the existing 20 mph section at 25 mph.

An alternative, or concurrent, tactic would be to post an advisory speed in both directions of 25 mph ,in place of the existing 30 speed limit signs. According to national standards for geometric design of streets, the section of High Street between Hall Road and Cumberland is not safe for 30 mph travel, according to Peter. We measured the stopping sight distance on the vertical curve there to be 170 ft, which is considerably less than the 197 ft stopping sight distance needed for 30 mph. The appropriate speed limit for this available sight distance is 25 mph, for which the safe stopping distance is 152 ft.

Also, in light of the above, we feel it would be good to reconsider whether the electronic advisory board is necessary. It may be effective, but a comprehensive plan without it would be cheaper and more in keeping with a historic district.

2. In place of the proposed bulb-out at High Street and Highland, Peter suggested we request a median refuge island. Compared to a bulb-out, a median refuge is far more effective in making crossings safer and in slowing traffic. A bulb-out at this location will probably not have a noticeable impact on speed, especially outside peak hours when the road will offer a clear width of at least 24 ft; in contrast, a median refuge, much like our experience with the removable crosswalk stanchion, will confine motorists to a 12-ft wide channel, giving it a strong speed-limiting effect 24 hours a day. While a bulb-out would help a little bit with visibility, a median refuge makes crossing visibility far better, and makes crossing far easier and safer (especially for children), because one only has to look at and cross one direction at a time.

It is also worth noting that the Town’s Bicycle Advisory Committee has written a general policy statement for the Transportation Board taking issue with bulb-outs that extend into areas normally used by bicyclists, which is certainly the case here.

3. Another suggestion is to add a physical device to slow traffic and reinforce pedestrian priority at the Irving Street crosswalk. This would form a succession of slow points that would have the desired traffic-calming effect: a median refuge at Highland, the crest curve near Edge Hill, a treatment at Irving, and the stop signs at Allerton.

There are two alternative treatments for the crosswalk at Irving. One would be an inexpensive, in-street “Yield to Pedestrians” sign or stanchion, which has proven very effective on other Town streets. The curb-to-curb width there is 26 ft, which would provide a 12 ft passage on either side of a 2-ft wide sign — enough for cars and buses to pass, but confining enough to limit traffic speed. However, if the Town’s experience with knockdown signs suggests that, on streets this narrow, the sign may lead motorists to drive so close to the sidewalk that they endanger pedestrians, then the alternative treatment might be a raised crossing, similar to those planned for Pond Avenue. They are effective at both limiting speed and in reinforcing pedestrian priority.

4. For the corner of High Street and Allerton, where the current plan shows only one crosswalk on High, we think a pair would be significantly safer without adding any undue costs to the town. While it seems unreasonable to expect pedestrians arriving on one side of Allerton to cross to the other side before crossing High Street, the even greater benefit of a pair of crosswalks would be in clearly indicating to motorists that they must come to a complete stop at this intersection.

On a related note, Peter thought that, because of the existing Stop signs, there is no need for the crosswalks here to have the “high visibility” (ladder) design that is critical at crossings lacking Stop or signal control; it is sufficient to use the simple crosswalk design of parallel rails and it should be cheaper.

5. Finally, while the intersection of High Street with Chestnut is not part of this plan and we’re not sure why the current signal is being questioned, we’d like to request that the Town consider a roundabout as an alternative. Compared to a signalized intersection, a roundabout will have less crash risk, a greater traffic calming effect, less delay to motorists and pedestrians, and less fuel consumption. It also cost less, both initially and in the long term.

In summary, for this week’s Transportation Board meeting, we are asking that you split the vote — approving the Pond Avenue portion if that is the board’s wish — and allowing time for additional consideration of the High Street proposals above. You and your board have been a good partner over these issues and we will work hard to bring this process to a conclusion soon.

Rob Daves
President, High Street Hill Association

Neighbors Look to Put Brakes on Pond Avenue Speed Plan (Brookline Patch, December 28, 2010).

Pond Avenue and High Street Safety Improvement Meeting
Wednesday, July 28, 2010, 7pm
Town Hall, Room 103

Pond Avenue and High Street Revised Plan (pdf).

More treatments on High Street and elimination of advance crosswalk/advisory speed signage from every location on Pond Avenue except the entry to the corridor from either side as requested by the residents who attended the first meeting. (see below for initial plan)

There were many questions about the initial proposal and many felt that concerns about traffic and safety along High Street were left unaddressed. Todd Kirrane, Brookline Transportation Administrator, said his department would gather data and schedule another neighborhood input session to answer our questions and continue the conversation.

Traffic Study/Pond Avenue Update

On April 8 the Town Transportation Division held a neighborhood input meeting to discuss recommendations from a traffic study to install 5 raised crosswalks on Pond Avenue. There was a very good turnout and there was a lot of discussion.

A brief summary:

  • Most everyone thinks that the four-way stop at High and Allerton has been effective and should be made permanent.
  • Many, after hearing that they are the “only effective solution which would slow traffic sufficiently on Pond and provide the increased level of safety for pedestrians,” seemed to be in favor of some raised crosswalks.
  • However, many expressed their concern that the proposed signage along historic Olmsted Park is excessive.
  • Some wondered if there were alternate, less obtrusive, solutions that could looked at.
  • There were concerns that crosswalks on Pond would increase traffic on High Street.
  • Many felt that the Town had not addressed the neighborhood’s request to study traffic and pedestrian crossings along the rest of High Street, especially at the intersection of Highland Road.
  • Some expressed concern that the crosswalk on High at Irving should be maintained.
  • Transportation Administrator Todd Kirrane asserted that he saw this first meeting as the beginning of a discussion with the neighborhood and promised that residents would be engaged to develop acceptable solutions.

A few days ago Rob Daves asked Todd to describe the next steps. Here is his response:

Here are the next steps from the Town’s point of view with regards to the Pond Avenue/High Street Safety Improvement Plan:

Pond Avenue:

1) The town plans to complete a full existing sign inventory on Pond Avenue to develop a mock visual plan for the corridor showing the location and type of sign after the revised staff plan is installed. Our goal is to consolidate and/or eliminate existing and proposed signage to see the total net gain or loss of signage on the street without jeopardizing safety.

High Street:

1) The town plans to install speed and traffic volume counters on High Street at the top of the hill and in the vicinity of Highland Road to get better traffic data for this particular area. From that we will develop appropriate ideas of how best to improve pedestrian safety at that crosswalk.

2) The town will look to better locate the existing crosswalk at Irving in a place that can be made ADA compliant and improve sightlines to ensure continued service of pedestrians crossing High Street from Cumberland Avenue and adjacent areas.

After this is completed we will invite interested community members to sit down with us, review the plan and data, review federal/state/local/industry governing guidelines/principles/best practices and move the process to the Transportation Board.

It is Rob’s understanding that the money for this project will be included in the warrant before Town Meeting at the end of May but it is very important that the neighborhood and the Town finalize the proposal within the next two months or so in order that construction can begin ASAP. Rob will ask Todd Kirrane to schedule the next discussion as soon as possible.

Rollover on Pond Avenue (Brookline TAB Blog, April 29, 2010).

High Street Hill Safety Improvement Community Meeting
Thursday, April 8, 2010, 7pm
Room 111, first floor, Town Hall

The High Street Hill Association has been lobbying for years to

  • enforce the Town’s promise (made at the time of the park restoration) to keep good pedestrian connections to Olmsted Park and
  • to reduce traffic speed on Pond Avenue.

And more recently, after the series of accidents at the intersection of High and Allerton Streets, the Town promised the neighborhood they would do a study of traffic conditions in the Pond, High, Allerton and Cumberland area.

The Brookline Transportation Administrator, Todd Kirrane, has scheduled a neighborhood input meeting to present the results and recommendations of that traffic study and gather input from the neighborhood.

The most prominent recommendation is the installation of 5 raised crosswalks on Pond Avenue designed reduce traffic speed.

Initial Draft Plan (pdf) including new signs for raised crosswalks on Pond Avenue and a painted crosswalk on High Street.

Prior initial plan showing existing but not new signs:

  • Location 1 at Jamaica Road (pdf)
  • Location 2 at Highland Road (pdf)
  • Location 3 at Cumberland Avenue (pdf)
  • Location 4 at Allerton Street (pdf)
  • Location 5 at Brook House (pdf)

This is a major traffic calming proposal for the town and our neighborhood, costing approximately $60,000 and scheduled to be completed next year (2011). The Capital Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee considered including this proposal in the town budget which will go before Town Meeting on May 4 but they have postponed the vote until after our input meeting.

As happy as we are to see progress on this important topic, we must carefully consider this proposal. As we learned with traffic calming on Walnut Street, we need to fully envision the proposed changes with respect to signage, lighting, noise and predicted behavior of traffic. There is no question that a response to Pond Avenue’s woes is now due and that it is possible that the solution lies within this proposal.

It is very important that residents attend this meeting.

Included below is the content of an email exchange with Todd Kirrane in which he answers some important questions and gives locations of similar crosswalks in Newton (these would be the first crosswalks of this design in Brookline).

From: Todd Kirrane
To: Robert Daves
Date: March 17, 2010 1:14:44 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Pond Ave Initial Plan

Q (Rob). Are all 5 of these crosswalks “raised?”
A (Todd). Yes.

Q. Is the projected construction 2011?
A. Provided it is funded in this years CIP construction will be either Fall 2010 or Spring 2011. This currently in question. Next years CIP will be dedicated to the Runkle School which will be prioritized before anything else.

Q. Are there a detailed drawings of the crosswalks showing cross section, size, height, etc?
A. Not at this time. They will be available by the neighborhood meeting. Attached is the spec from the Newton crosswalk we are modeling it after.

  • Auburn Street Newton P1 (pdf)
  • Auburn Street Newton P2 (pdf)

Q. At the AC meeting I heard you or Peter say that these would be modeled after existing installations in Newton. Can you provide us with their locations so we can take a “field trip?”
A. Intersection of Auburn Street and Evergreen Avenue in Auburndale.

Auburn Street Newton Crosswalk


Auburn Street Newton Crosswalk (closeup)

Q. Are the signs that you are proposing installed locally? Can you give me a location I can refer people to?
A. They are standard MUTCD Pedestrian in Crosswalk signs (W11a-2) as called for in our Crosswalk Policy. The other signage are chevron warning signs placed at curvatures in the roadway. They can be seen on most streets included Goddard Ave and Heath Street. The pavement markings are the same as the ones leading upto the crosswalk on Goddard Avenue and the signage is the same as well minus the in-street pedestrian crossing stanchion which is not used on raised elements.

Q. Will the input session be solely about the Pond Avenue crosswalks or will there be presentation of data and discussion about the other areas addressed in the study, specifically, the High and Allerton intersection and traffic patterns along Cumberland and Allerton?
A. The meeting will cover a summary of the data collected including the destination study of cut-through traffic, the Pond Avenue raised crosswalks, and the crosswalk on High Street at Allerton. The goal is to get feedback from the residents, see if we missed anything, and move the process forward.

Brookline Officials Seek to Slow Traffic on Pond Avenue (Brookline TAB, March 29, 2010).