Boston Pedestrian Study

Boston residents and visitors have many alternative options to walking as well. Launched in July 2011, Hubway is a bike sharing system that allows people to easily rent bicycles at various locations around the city. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Agency (MBTA) operates the commuter rail, bus, ferry, and subway (affectionately called the T) systems. Using the MBTA's mass transit network, people can easily visit Downtown Boston from all directions. Popular tourist destinations around Downtown Boston include Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the North End, Boston Common, and the Freedom Trail, which winds through most of area. In the heart of Boston is Downtown Crossing. It is bordered by the Theater District, the Financial District, Boston Common, and Chinatown and is within close proximity to the waterfront, Government Center, and the seaport (as seen in Figure 1.1). With 52 colleges and universities located in Metro Boston (source) some are, of course, downtown. Suffolk University and Emerson College both have buildings and dormitories located adjacent to the Downtown Crossing area.

Boston Pedestrian Zone Design Proposal

Pedestrian Zone Master Plan

Ring Road

With European Urban Centers as a model, a ring road is intended to improve circulation and connectivity in downtown Boston. The ring road also serves as a boundary that protects the zone as a pedestrian, bicycle, and low-traffic exclusive area. The major arterials that define the ring road include Tremont Street, Kneeland Street, Surface Road, Congress Street, and Court Street. To achieve the design goal of a ring road, we faced two challenges: the distance between connections and the directional limitations of the existing one-way roads.

Ring Road around the Downtown Pedestrian Zone

Tremont Street

Tremont Street is a key part of the ring road structure. Currently, it is a busy four lane one way arterial street running South. It divides the Boston Commons, a large and popular park and the Downtown Crossing business area.

With the goal of trying to make Downtown Crossing more enjoyable for pedestrians, accessibility is the top priority. There are a number of pedestrian crossings connecting Boston Commons and Downtown Crossing. These pedestrian crossings are a key part of the area for pedestrians as they provide connectivity between the pedestrian zone and the surrounding areas. While traffic is slowed somewhat at signalized intersections, the conditions for pedestrian crossings can be improved. To improve the connection between Boston Common and the pedestrian zone it is proposed to raise the pedestrian crossing at Winter Street. The raised crossing will slow down the speed at which motor vehicles can travel. By raising the pedestrian crossing, pedestrian comfort will improve while traveling across the intersection as the materials and height will create a natural transition from the Downtown Crossing pedestrian area. The raised crossing will also communicate to drivers that Winter Street is not designed for motor vehicle use. For details on raised crossings in The Netherlands, see Cycle Tracks With Raised Crossings or Raised Crossings.


Perspective Rendering of Tremont St. & Park St. Intersection redesigned as a pedestrian friendly crossing.

Court Street

The existing conditions on Court Street/State Street support one-way westbound traffic, from the intersection of Devonshire Street and Congress Street to the intersection of Tremont St and Cambridge St. Our design incorporates two-way traffic on this segment of Court St/State St. A one-lane, three-leg roundabout will facilitate traffic at the intersection of Tremont St and Cambridge. Meanwhile, the intersection of Devonshire St and Congress St is slightly changed to support right turns off of Court St/State St, as well as a bus lane for the westbound 352 and 354 MBTA connections to Burlington and Woburn. Several traffic-calming measures have been implemented to improve safety for both motor vehicles and pedestrians.

Court St. (State St.) Redesign

Physical medians are important traffic-calming measures for our design. Near the roundabout at the intersection of Cambridge St and Tremont St, there is a large physical median, separating motor vehicle traffic by direction. Also, the median reduces the width of the traffic lanes from approximately 16 feet at the roundabout to approximately 12 feet at the pedestrian crossing. This, consequently, forces motor vehicles to reduce speed when approaching the pedestrian crossing.

Pedestrian crossings also act as traffic-calming measures. In the proposed design, at the physical median on Court St/State St, a pedestrian crossing is implemented. As previously mentioned, the traffic lane width at the pedestrian crossing is approximately 12 feet wide. Therefore, pedestrians must cross only 12 feet before reaching a pedestrian refuge of 25 feet. The large pedestrian refuge not only supports comfortable conditions for pedestrians, but also constricts the width of the street to two traffic lanes, one in each direction.

Visual medians have been implemented nearby the pedestrian crossing and physical median. There is one at the entrance of the roundabout and another in front of the court house. The visual median at the entrance of the roundabout forces motor vehicles to enter the roundabout in a perpendicular direction. This entrance angle reduces the entrance speed of motor vehicles. The visual median in front of the court house constricts the road width of approximately 40 feet to support two 12-foot lanes, one in each direction.