Campbell: Blue Hill Ave. conversation needed

Add Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell to the list of officials talking about creating a dedicated bus lane along busy Blue Hill Avenue.

In a wide-ranging interview on the CommonWealth Codcast with three members of TransitMatters – Josh Fairchild, Jim Aloisi, and Jarred Johnson – Campbell said transportation is one of the top issues in her district, which covers parts of Mattapan, Dorchester, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain.

“More and more people are paying attention to transit and transportation because they need to get to their jobs, or they need to get their kid to school, or they need to get someplace for a recreational purpose and they don’t want to be on a bus for an hour or two,” she said. “If we want them to connect to these opportunities, we have to have a really thorough and thoughtful conversation about Blue Hill Avenue – dedicated bus lanes, rapid transit, everything needs to be on the table.”

In March, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh accelerated the city’s efforts to launch dedicated bus lanes; Blue Hill Avenue was broached as a possibility at that time but city officials said more outreach to residents in the area was needed first.

Aloisi pushed for bus rapid transit service on Blue Hill Avenue in 2009 when he was serving as state secretary of transportation in the Patrick administration. That proposal had to be withdrawn in the face of community opposition. Aloisi has said building community support for such a project must be a priority.

“If we can unlock Blue Hill Avenue, it’s a master class in figuring out how to bring transit and social equity to a broad spectrum of people,” he said.

Campbell also talked about the need to reduce driving speeds, curb the number of crashes, and improve public safety.  She said an ER doctor who cycles around the city made a big impression on her when she testified at a transportation hearing from the perspective of someone who has been hit by a car and regularly treats people who have been hit by cars.

“She says we don’t respond to these crashes or fatalities the same way in which we pick up our trash,” Campbell said.  “If someone’s calling about trash and recycling in the street, we’re on it. We’re out there doing it quickly. She said yet when I’m calling related to an intersection that is creating consistent crashes, the response is not the same. This is a public safety emergency.”

Campbell said she thinks it’s a resource issue for the city – public safety departments need more money. Aloisi backed passage of legislation authorizing regional ballot initiatives, which would allow communities to raise transportation revenues on their own. He also called for requiring safety impact reviews for development projects; the reviews would be similar to the current environmental impact reviews except focused on public safety issues.

Campbell said she thinks the additional resources to address transportation issues could come out of the existing city budget, specifically out of funding for the school department. She noted the school department receives a third of the city’s budget and total spending is rising (up $26 million in this year’s budget proposal) even though enrollment is declining.

“Public safety issues are just as important,” Campbell said. “We can’t just keep waiting in this space because people are dying.”



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