4 | Dudley

This 3.1 mile segment of the corridor begins at the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA) and passes through Yawkey Station, the Fenway area, Ruggles Station, and then through Dudley Square and Dudley Common. This section is notable for the presence of major health institutions at the west end and by areas of historic marginalization and segregation at the east end. Primary design goals are to contribute to the revitalization of Dudley Square, decompress traffic and development in the Longwood Medical Area, and improve the transit connections between the two.

Ruggles

Proposed redesign for Ruggles Station entry

Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA)

The Longwood Medical Area encompasses 213 acres of space and 24 institutions, which are members of an organization called MASCO. These institutions include:

  • 3 research or research treatment centers
  • 3 Harvard graduate schools
  • 6 historic colleges
  • A health maintenance organization (HMO)
  • A state mental health center
  • A children’s treatment center
  • An international pharmaceutical research company
  • A healthcare insurer
  • An art museum, a public high school, and a private secondary school

Together, over the course of 2012, these institutions generated $7.7 billion in revenue, employed over 45,200 individuals and hosted 21,000 students, and attracted approximately 107,900 daily commuters to the area. The LMA is one of Boston’s most significant and fasted-growing employment and revenue generation areas.

High levels of employment, as well as patient and visitor traffic, contribute to a significant congestion problem in and around LMA. MASCO has a very progressive
commuting program to incentivize non-SOV commuting, and its member institutions operate eight shuttles routes that link LMA facilities with parking lots and other institutions around Boston. Despite these programs, many employees, patients, and visitors still drive to the area. Around-the-clock shift schedules preclude many individuals from taking transit, which typically operates from 6 am until midnight or 1 am. The nature of care being administered presents another unique transportation challenge: patients often visit LMA institutions for serious care and are not physically able to use transit to get to and from a hospital. This congestion could impact the speed and reliability of a BRT system using surface routes through the area, but a tunnel could be prohibitively expensive.

Dudley Square and Roxbury area

The eastern portion of this section is centered around Dudley Square, Roxbury’s primary commercial center. Dudley Square itself encompasses a one-quarter square mile area with a population of 7,300. Median 2011 household income and rent were $28,900 and $424, respectively, significantly lower than neighboring Boston ($49,000 and $1,118). Population density is twice that of Boston – 24,000 per square mile compared to 13,000 per square mile. Roxbury, and Dudley Square in particular, hold an important place in Boston’s history. Roxbury has been home to Boston’s immigrant and minority communities for generations. It was home to Boston’s Jewish and Irish communities in the early 20th century and has been majority African-American since the 1940s and 50s. Dudley Square itself is considered the soul of Boston’s African-American community. Recent decades have also seen an influx of new immigrants from Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, and Eritrea, among others. The neighborhood is home to a number of well-established community organizations and community development corporations, such as the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, and Madison Park CDC.

Paralleling the experiences of many inner-city minority communities across the country, Roxbury and Dudley Square has suffered from decades of minimal public investment, bank redlining denying financial services, race riots, white flight, and other policies exacerbating housing segregation and inter-generational poverty. In recent years, Boston’s mayor has made a concerted effort to bring resources and urban development into the area. These developments continue to bring improved security and access to the city’s resources, though also rising concerns about gentrification and displacement of its most disadvantaged residents.

In Dudley and Roxbury in general, it will be essential to ensure that a new service adequately meets the needs of community members and offers greater access to employment opportunities. Transit represents a particularly sensitive issue. The southern section of the Orange Line, known as Washington Street Elevated, connected Dudley Square to downtown Boston until 1987, when it was closed down and rerouted. Residents were promised a replacement service of equal quality and have been sorely disappointed with the Silver Line BRT—generally considered to not match the standards of an efficient BRT system such as dedicated lanes and offboard payment—and other surface transportation attempts.

Roxbury residents also experienced a significant increase in asthma rates after the Orange Line was re-routed and replaced by fossil-fuel buses. Buses created additional traffic and raised actual and perceived commuting times. Community groups have actively lobbied for a light rail service and may show significant resistance to a BRT system if they perceive it to be inadequate. The Roxbury-Dorchester-Mattapan Transit Needs Study recognized these challenges and recommended the conversion to light rail and other long-term infrastructure
improvements, though progress on the study has been slow. Because of this history, it is critical that any new transit provide a high level of service for this community.

Proposal

Transportation

Overall, the area’s lack of infrastructural investment and poor service levels must be addressed. Doing so presents challenges, however. Narrow streets make it difficult to accommodate the many circulating buses and their increased frequencies. Congestion makes rapid and reliable bus service difficult to accomplish. The transportation proposal for the Dudley area attempts to address the two key issues mentioned above while taking into account the area’s challenges and constraints.

Connectivity to downtown Boston
The fastest way to reach downtown from Dudley is the Silver Line, which has a fairly direct route: along Washington Street straight downtown, with almost no turns, which should achieve high performance. This would be true if the Silver Line were a “real” BRT line. Unfortunately, the Silver Line lacks effective transit priority measures in places where congestion is the worst. As a result commuting downtown may take up to three times the “acceptable” time for only a roughly 2.2 mile distance. This, not surprisingly, tends to be one of the main concerns of local residents. Service improvements could potentially be achieved by increasing the amount of the route operating on dedicated lanes, implementing traffic signal priority, and running express buses.

Connecting Dudley and LMA
Several bus routes connect Dudley to the LMA, (Routes 19, 66, 45, and 47, among others), but transfers are required for riders coming from high demand corridors such as Blue Hill Avenue. Traffic congestion is also a challenge, even on the 1.5 mile trip from Dudley Square. Longwood Ave., Melnea Cass Blvd. and some intersections in the area have very complex transportation challenges. The area needs an efficient alternative. An attractive new service would offer benefits on two fronts: it would increase the number of people who use public transport while relieving some of the area’s congestion problems. This would achieve a cycle of improvement and efficiency.

Proposed Alignment

This alignment differs significantly from the LPA outlined in the Urban Ring DEIR. We have decided not to include the 1.5 mile Fenway/LMA Tunnel, which would have stretched from Landmark Center to Ruggles Station. This decision was made based on cost and feasibility concerns. The RDEIR estimated that the tunnel would cost $1.7 billion, or two-thirds of the entire project budget. In 2015 dollars, this amounts to approximately $2 billion. The entire Diamond Ring alignment we propose has an estimated cost of $350 million. Adding the tunnel expense would completely transform the scale of funding required and the scope of the project.

Alignment and Right of Way

Alignment and Right of Way

We assess that this transformation would raise prohibitive costs and jeopardize the feasibility of the project. Federal, state, and regional funding sources are limited, so such a large-scale project (particularly involving a tunnel) would required aggressive financing strategies, likely involving policies that are unfavorable to the public and unappealing for
policymakers to champion.

Without a tunnel, bus travel speeds would be lower in this area, and trip times commensurately higher. To address this, we have selected two alternative surface routes. The first proposed alignment avoids Longwood Avenue by taking Fenway/Park Dr. Although not serving the heart of the LMA, from the proposed stop at Fenway to Longwood Avenue would take approximately 8 minutes (via Louis Pasteur). We recognize that having to walk or transfer from a BRT stop to the LMA institutions is not ideal for passenger satisfaction. However, we also recognize that MASCO shuttles operate throughout the area and may offer sufficient service for employees, students, and other visitors in order to make the Diamond Ring more attractive. A second proposed alignment, shown in the Design section below, includes service on Longwood Avenue.

Another advantage of this proposal is the creation of an extra station in Dudley: Dudley Common. Since the demand for connecting the areas of Dudley, Dorchester and Mattapan to the LMA is very high, or around 2,000 expanded daily trips according to the 2012 survey, this extra station would help to alleviate demand at Dudley Station.

Vehicle considerations
Electric buses are the preferred vehicle type for the Diamond Ring corridor. Despite their higher initial investment, electric buses offer many advantages when compared to traditional fossil-fuel buses. In general, electric buses maintenance can be less costly due to the lack of complexity of the system. Electric vehicles are far more efficient than those with internal combustion engines. Energy consumption efficiency is as high as 90% while the fuel consumption efficiency for the other vehicle category is around 60%, resulting in lower fuel costs. The environmental advantages of this vehicle type also address a particular concern for the Dudley area: air pollution. Electric vehicles emit zero tailpipe emissions. They also emit very low levels of noise pollution due to the technology of the electric motor. Implementing an electric vehicle service would provide a better streetscape experience for the community and a smoother passenger experience for commuters.

Policy and Planning for the LMA

We believe that high-quality service from a new rapid transit system will better integrate LMA into the surrounding urban fabric and bring benefits in terms of decreased congestion, lower commuting times, and greater passenger satisfaction. However we also recognize that, particularly without the tunnel proposed in the LPA, surface transit operating on a limited schedule simply cannot meet the needs of the 107,900 total employees, students, patients, and visitors that commute to the area daily. With an average growth rate of over 1,000 employees per year, this problem is likely to grow over time.

The Diamond Ring service will help to alleviate some of the traffic issues in the area, but additional strategies are necessary. Based on the research we conducted and documents we reviewed, we recommend:

1. Continuing to incentivize alternative transit options through MASCO’s commuting programs.

MASCO already aggressively promotes non-SOV commuting to its member institutions. The organization operates a variety of initiatives, including: a (generally free) shuttle program, a carpool incentive and matching program, human-powered transit promotions, a risk-free transit trial program, ZipCar discounts, a free Hubway trial, and personal commuting assistance. As a result, the number of LMA employees who drive to work alone has fallen, dropping from 47% in 2002 to 33% in 2006. MASCO’s programs offer strong incentives and support for individuals who are able to commute via transit, bicycle, carpool, etc. These programs should continue and grow as the LMA institutions expand.

2. Building partnerships with hospitals in the greater Boston area to bolster their capacities.

LMA draws visitors from as far as western Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and beyond. The area offers highly specialized care and state-of-the-art treatment, particularly for patients suffering from diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, AIDS, sleep apnea, and genetic disorders. However, many ailments do not require such specialized care; if the hospitals around the greater Boston area increased their capacity and expertise in these areas, this could serve as a long-term strategy to develop a more localized model of healthcare delivery. We recommend that LMA institutions continue to seek out partnerships with institutions across Massachusetts, perhaps offering mentorship services, professional training, and other assistance.

Emerson Hospital’s Bethke Cancer Center in Concord, MA, provides an example to follow. Emerson has partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center in order to provide improved radiation oncology and cancer services to Concord-area residents, while facilitating coordinated care with Mass General’s more specialized services, if necessary12. Additional partnerships like this could be bolstered in the areas around Boston. For example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center also operates 30 health centers and practices in the communities in and around Boston. These centers are well-poised to take advantage of their connection to BIDMC’s expertise and experience. We recommend identifying a handful of these centers and targeting them for growth; this would prevent some visitor traffic from needing to enter LMA and would provide more localized care options for patients.

3. Revisiting the potential need for a tunnel after the funding and political climate may have shifted.

Ideally, this section of the Diamond Ring would benefit from the tunnel proposed in the RDEIR. Our assessment is that financing for this feature would be prohibitively expensive in the short term, thus jeopardizing the status of the entire project. Nevertheless, we recommend that the construction of a transit tunnel be reassessed in the longer term, after the Diamond Ring has been established and fixed as a feature of Boston’s rapid transit network. It is our hope that this feature will be a long-term possibility as funding and political climates shift going forward.

Policy and Planning for Dudley

The Dudley Square area is experiencing an influx of investment and new development projects. The Diamond Ring BRT route would expand transit access in this neighborhood, but must be implemented in tandem with aggressive local economic development initiatives to expand opportunities to local residents and prioritize development without displacement.

Development parcels in Dudley Square

Development parcels in Dudley Square

The Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan neighborhoods of Boston (Census PUMA 03303) have the highest concentration of residents in poverty and with very low educational attainment in Boston. Forty-two percent of children live in poverty, 18% of adults hold a 4-year college degree (compared to 43% for all of Boston), and 40-50% lack a high school diploma. Of Boston families with children living in poverty, 85% are headed by a single parent, the vast majority by single mothers. Boston also faces high rates of income inequality, residential segregation, and a high cost of living that pose multiple layers of challenges for low-skill individuals and their families. Expanding transportation options plays a key role in expanding employment opportunities.

However, we must be realistic about the capacity of transit-centric approaches to address unemployment and persistent poverty. Extensive empirical research reveals a limited effectiveness of transit programs in addressing unemployment, and a strong positive effect of auto ownership programs on employment outcomes. Low-income households have more complex travel needs than average middle class households, and low-income people are more likely to work nonstandard hours. Additionally, many low-income population groups often face long working hours, additional family caregiving obligations, and other conditions that demand fast and reliable transportation. There is strong evidence that transit services are ineffective in meeting the transportation needs of low-income single mothers in particular, who face substantial parental responsibilities and tend to be disproportionately affected by a spatial mismatch between housing options for low-income residents and quality employment opportunities.

Recognizing this, the strategy for our section must include expanding job opportunities in new developments around Dudley Square and strengthening transportation access to LMA for the current Roxbury residents who have been successfully placed in healthcare jobs in the immediate area. This strategy should focus on making this local commuting as fast and flexible as possible. With extensive new development activity within a mile of Dudley Square, expanding job training and employment opportunities locally must be a key priority to expand opportunities and choice to some of Boston’s most historically disadvantaged populations.

Economic development along the Diamond Ring corridor should focus on two areas:

  1. Preserve existing successful community-based employers and cultivate local small business development:
    • Develop a Roxbury Business Center for strategic economic development and small business incubator support services
    • Coordinate with the recent projects of the Boston the Empowerment Zone Program as well as Main Streets, Microloan Boston, and a range of other local CDC support programs to streamline funding and technical support
  2. Support and expand existing region-wide workforce development initiatives tied to Boston’s key sectors, particularly those in healthcare along the Diamond Ring route.
    • Strengthen best practice workforce development programs through federal Department of Labor programs and the Boston-specific linkage fee dedicating funding to the Neighborhood Jobs Trust. These programs are run through the City of Boston Office of Jobs and Community Service and the Private Industry Council with local community college and job training partners, including the nearby Roxbury Community College and a number of small non-profits located near Dudley Square. Programs should be tailored to new created through revitalization efforts, such as training individuals for administrative positions in the new Municipal Office Center.
    • Work with existing best practice healthcare-focused workforce development programs. Seventeen-hundred employees at LMA, or 12% of the total workforce, live in Mission Hill and Roxbury. A number of Roxbury-specific programs work with LMA institutions, including Skillworks, the Student Success Jobs Program, and the Partners in Career and Workforce Development Program.

While this report has focused primarily on employment and economic development opportunities associated with the Diamond Ring implementation, a wide range of additional policies should also be pursued to minimize displacement. These include:

  • Additional affordable housing opportunities along the Diamond Ring route and particularly in the Dudley Square area
  • Equitable development tools such as linkage fees devoted to Boston’s affordable housing and job training funds
  • Community benefits agreements with local organizations to ensure greater representation in the development process and target distribution of gains to local priorities
  • Appropriate financing tools that do not redirect limited public funds to Diamond Ring project in excess. For example, if a tax increment financing (TIF) district is established, the school district should be involved in the decision and still receive some of the incremental gains for the duration of the district.

 

Design

The proposed urban design strategy seeks to re-establish the southern edge of the Dudley Square Commercial District and reintegrate this edge into the whole district. It provides quick in and outflow connectivity from and to LMA area through visually and spatially pleasant streets.

Download the full design presentation or view it below:

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