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State says the problem on the Arborway wasn't the new bike lanes, but a mistimed traffic light

So they fixed it. In a project update, DCR writes:

In May of 2021, DCR installed new lane markings on the Arborway carriage roads, within Murray Circle, and on the southbound direction of Arboway in front of the Arboretum. The work created new bike lanes, delineated traffic in the rotary, and created a safer parking area in front of the Arboretum.

After completing this work, DCR received some complaints about congestion on the Arborway and Centre Street northbound in the afternoon rush hour. DCR Engineering staff responded and found the cause of the congestion. The problem was caused by a traffic signal near the rotary, which was turning red too frequently. Engineers made timing adjustments to the signal, which helped to clear congestion from Murray Circle.

Changes to traffic patterns usually need a few weeks for drivers to get used to the new configurations, and this project is no exception. DCR Engineering staff will continue to monitor traffic flow in Murray Circle and make more adjustments as needed to keep congestion to a minimum.

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Comments

I've been going for afternoon walks around Jamaica Pond of late. After the changes, it was sometimes taking close to 30 minutes to get just from Faulkner Hospital to the rotary (so a couple of times, when I remembered, I'd go up West Roxbury Parkway to the Putterham rotary and use Newton Street and Goddard Avenue to get to the pond - longer in terms of mileage, but far less time).

Yesterday, though, it was a piece of cake. There were still a few cars backed up at the Arboretum rotary, but traffic moved pretty quickly (and yes, I realize the flow might be different because who's going to be in that area when there's the Cape or NH to get to at the start of a long weekend, but still).

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Voting closed 31

Here's what concerns me: When I went and stood on the Arborway median during rush hour last week, it did seem like a certain light "turning red too often" was indeed the main source of congestion. The problem is, the light in question seemed to be the one for the crosswalk allowing people to access the Arboretum main entrance. It turns red whenever people push the button and is pretty responsive, which makes the pedestrian experience there very nice compared to many DCR crosswalk. Unfortunately with only one lane instead of two, there's less space for the cars to queue while they wait for the light to turn green again, and they back up into the rotary, blocking traffic that isn't trying to access the Southbound Arborway at all. I haven't used it since they "fixed it" but I fear their "solution" may just have been to make the pedestrians wait longer or cross the road faster so that drivers don't have to.

I'll reserve judgement until I try it, however.

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Voting closed 31

Were pedestrians present every cycle?

As a pedestrian, I don’t need a walk light every cycle. I need a short wait for the walk light. I’d much prefer a light that never gives a walk until someone pushes the button, then gives one right away, versus one that gives a walk light automatically every cycle but only after cars had a green for two minutes.

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Voting closed 17

This one already behaves as you describe (only activates upon request, and then activates right away). The problem is that new pedestrians come along roughly every 90 seconds, so the light ends up being red slightly more often than it is green.. In order to reduce the amount of red time for cars, the signal would have to be configured to make at least a few pedestrians wait, and then allow them to cross in groups. This would probably help the traffic situation a bit, but it would definitely make the pedestrian experience worse. I think the "correct" solution is probably some mix of making the crossing narrower (so that the light does not need to be red for as long) and ask pedestrians to wait just a little bit longer so that they sometimes cross in groups and the light does not need to change as often. A third option would be to narrow the road a LOT, add a raised crosswalk and a bunch of other traffic calming and various other physical devices designed to encourage drivers to stop for pedestrians and then get rid of the signal altogether. This would probably be the most efficient system but not one that DCR is likely to go for (they really seem to hate anything--like speed bumps and raised crosswalks--that forces drivers to slow down during off-peak hours).

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Voting closed 11

This makes sense from my experience driving through there recently. The bike lanes didn’t change much really. I just noticed motorists adjusting to have actual lanes now unlike the free-for-all there before. And it was also very unsafe for cyclists before. Life proceeds forward.

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Voting closed 46

The telling part was that coming into the rotary from Rosi/WR was back way the hell up but coming southbound from the pond was no worse than a usual pre-covid rush hour.

They have to get those posts up because so many people just pass using the bike lane area. Yikes!

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Voting closed 31

Sadly, DCR does not believe in bollards, so I don't think there are plans to do that any time soon.

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Voting closed 12

Improving traffic signals is great and all but the only thing that actually causes traffic is drivers. If only Jamaica Plain was walkable and had multiple subway stations, buses and bike trails...

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Voting closed 35

Do try to read before you comment.

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Voting closed 33

Have you ever taken transit from the pond side of JP to the places people drive to?

Newton or Brookline: can’t do it
West Roxbury: maybe there’s a bus depending where you’re going, but it’s infrequent and might not run on Sundays.
Roxbury/Dorchester: possible, but it takes some time to transfer at Forest Hills
Cambridge/Somerville: don’t bother if you have access to a car. Transit will take 3 times as long, if you manage to catch each bus/train quickly
Further out suburbs: nope

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Voting closed 20

Every time I see the ghost bike on that corner pole it makes me think. About everything. And it should be noticed and made to make everyone think.

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Voting closed 29

.

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Voting closed 15

Mistimed traffic light. Is that why people drive 45 mph on the arborway , too?

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Voting closed 28

The new striping at the rotary made for a scary situation. Everyone else heading south on the Arborway to Centre Street decided to drive in the bike lane to turn right. I followed the lines, which meant I had to sit in a small jam, then deal with fast moving traffic coming around the rotary from my left and watch for the aforementioned corner-cutters on my right at the same time.

Not fun, and not safe.

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Voting closed 11

"Wait, you can change the timing on traffic lights?" - Most Boston traffic engineers, I assume

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Voting closed 15