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Cambridge fracas: Should city stop shutting Memorial Drive to cars on Saturdays?

The Harvard Crimson provides an overview of the growing brouhaha over whether Cambridge should rescind the pandemic-inspired Saturday shutdowns of its river road. On the one hand: Bicyclists and others who appreciate the addition to the long-standing seasonal Sunday shutdown. On the other hand: Nearby residents who say they are trapped in their homes by drivers diverted from the road.

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Comments

I didn't realize it was still closed on Saturdays.

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Voting closed 17

Well, the DCR’s press release doesn’t realize it’s closed overnight on Saturdays either. https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-traffic-advisory-riverbend-parkmemorial-dri...

Neither does Cambridge’s sign at Mt Auburn and DeWolfe, which doesn’t mention Saturdays at all.

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Voting closed 9

how an excess of cars that "traps residents in their homes" is somehow due to bicycles and pedestrians being allowed to circulate.

the problem Cambridge and metro Boston need to address is auto traffic and the obviously insufficient public transit. Make it easier for people to get around by a way other than private cars.

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Voting closed 98

just screw the neighborhoods while we wait roughly 20 years for public transit improvements.

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Voting closed 25

in Cambridge is actually GREAT for the neighborhoods. Cambridge, especially in the neighborhoods we are talking about, has the best public transportation in the area and just about everything is walkable/bike-able. And the less cars for people who don't need it, the more space for transportation for the elderly or less-abled.

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Voting closed 47

You do realize, of course, that most of the traffic on Memorial Drive is from people just passing through rather than those who live in Cambridge? And the areas closest to the river are a fairly long walk from the T.

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Voting closed 21

there were a parallel roadway that drivers could use when passing through that area

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Voting closed 39

There’s a river in between, and many of the streets that connect to Memorial Drive don’t cross it.

The other problem is the terrible jam approaching the Western Ave/Memorial Drive intersection, since the DCR didn’t bother to adjust the traffic lights for the major shifts in traffic flow. Specifically, more green time is needed for the right turn from Western Ave to Soldiers Field Road west.

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Voting closed 5

i was responding to a comment about thru traffic

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Voting closed 5

See the thread just above this one.

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Voting closed 4

is the topmost thread for me. are you suggesting that sfr / storrow isn’t a workable solution for drivers passing through the area?

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Voting closed 7

are you suggesting that sfr / storrow isn’t a workable solution for drivers passing through the area?

Not if it gets shut down as some are suggesting in that other thread.

I have no dog in this hunt, so please, skip the "are you suggesting". It was an observation, not some kind of advocacy.

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Voting closed 5

you’re reading sarcasm into what i said. i was sincerely asking what you meant since you didn’t say anything, you just pointed me to another thread.

fwiw, i’m *still* not exactly sure what you mean. i’m not aware of any shutdowns on sfr / storrow, nor have i seen anyone here suggest that it would be shut. especially not on the weekends when mem drive is also shut!

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Voting closed 9

the default perspective in US city planning is "let's make sure we do what's easiest for the car drivers", even though that forces long, convoluted, energy-consuming roundabout detours precisely from the road users with the least energy available to do them.

it's utterly backwards and it results in entitled, lazy drivers.
but it can be fixed.

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Voting closed 11

Reconfigure the full length of memorial drive to be one lane in each direction 24/7/365 and then there is all that extra space to configure as desired for recreation. Simple.

When everyone loves that. Rinse and repeat on the other side of the river.

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Voting closed 62

we don’t already have the worst traffic in the nation

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Voting closed 23

A weird thing born out in traffic study after traffic study is that adding lanes to roads makes traffic worse. The more lanes on a road the more people will choose to use that road over others or over other modes of transportation.

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Voting closed 84

Citations? Links?

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Voting closed 7

"Induced demand"... A much studied phenomena. Google it if you'd like to go beyond the Wired article.

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Voting closed 28

Rinse and repeat on the other side of the river.

You understand that much of the reason they've been able to close Memorial Drive on weekends is that a lot of the traffic diverts to Storrow Drive, across the river. You're claiming it goes away, but it doesn't--you're just making it Boston's problem.

I know the study you're referring to about reducing roads reduces traffic, however in Cambridge you can only easily (most of the time) take the Red line into downtown Boston. That's it, that's the only location. On the Boston side of the river, there's only commuter rail until the B line at BU and we all know that's horribly slow. Many people travel up & down the coast, and the most efficient way to do that is to take these roads to I-93 or Route 1. If you close them, you're increasing pollution as you require them to hit tons of red lights, while also driving through neighborhoods. You'd also be making emergency (ambulance) transit more difficult as well.

I'm all for better mass transit, but it won't just appear. Until we properly fund the T and add new subway lines, we can't simply close these arterial roads!

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Voting closed 24

The section of Memorial that's closed on the weekend is parallel to Soldier's Field Road, not Storrow. There's hardly any traffic on Soldier's Field Rd on weekends, so displaced traffic there is not an issue. Its also just generally a more efficient drive - fewer lights and crosswalks.

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Voting closed 9

….”We can't simply close these arterial roads!”

Another opinion…. Yes we can!!!

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Voting closed 23

….”We can't simply close these arterial roads!”

Another opinion…. Yes we can!!!

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Voting closed 13

They’re also narrowing it to one lane each way, starting with the section west of JFK Street.

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“I have never been in a time where I cannot leave my house without being stuck in traffic for 20 minutes,” Adkins yelled.

I'm curious, is this person being overly dramatic, or does the closure cause traffic issues?

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Voting closed 21

There are side streets that clearly go where you would need to go (if you lived there), but everyone trying to come into Cambridge from west would be on those streets too.

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Voting closed 23

The obvious alternative to Memorial Drive for drivers is Soldiers Field Road, across the river. That's what I use when I'm driving in the area on weekends. The residential side streets in that part of Cambridge aren't useful for getting anywhere quickly, so if there is traffic there it must just be very confused drivers.

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Voting closed 7

Most of Memorial Drive is parallel to Storrow Drive.
Diverting Cambridge's problem to Boston is not a solution at all.

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Voting closed 3

Waze, Google Maps, etc. 'know' about the closures and will route, in semi-real-time, drivers through neighborhoods. Streets that never see traffic (frequently narrowed by parked cars) will suddenly become bottlenecks as the AI sends vehicles down them. As a side-street clogs, the AI will choose a different route, spreading the congestion.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Voting closed 43

The closure does cause some longer car travel times during certain times of day, especially on Putnam Ave at the Western Ave traffic light. HOWEVER, rarely, if ever, is it more than an extra few minutes.

So yes, this person is being overly dramatic.

Most of the traffic is probably people trying to take memorial drive and not realizing it's closed, so signage could help, if people actually read signs. I believe google maps now shows the closure in red dotted lines, so we can't blame google maps for it.

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Voting closed 30

If people knew well in advance, they could plan to take Soldier's Field Rd and skip all the traffic. If you don't know and are letting Waze drive for you, you may find yourself stuck on some back street.

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Voting closed 13

I always forget about the closures when on bike and I’m always on the road before/after the narrow window it’s closed anyway.

It would be more fun if Storrow was the closed river road, especially since the Esplanade gets so jammed packed when it’s warm.

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Voting closed 12

Waze knows about the closures. It’s the one thing the DCR did right to publicize this. As opposed to the terrible lack of advance signage, until you reach the closed section and are stuck in a jam.

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Voting closed 4

I live a few blocks off Memorial Drive, have a car and drive on weekends. Yes this person is being overly dramatic. Traffic is much worse during weekday evening rush hours than at any time on weekends.

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Voting closed 33

There was a quote from someone about it was nearly impossible to get to the river due to four lanes of traffic as if there weren't multiple crosswalks with lights. It's not like they have dash across I-90 or something.

Both sides have legit arguments (traffic does end up on local streets and there is something nice about access to more open space.)

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Voting closed 10

And what moron insists on driving in a city when they know they will be sitting in traffic?

Whining drivers should be ignored because they will never be happy. They are a miserable bunch who will complain and take resources from other people until their last breath.

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Voting closed 26

Look, the Sunday closures have been going on for decades, so anyone who isn't used to them by now is lying. They are talking about the Saturday closures. Sundays were easy, since they tend to be quieter days. Saturday is not a quiet day. It's the day when people who work weekdays (you may know one or 2) get out to do their errands.

Still wondering if you found out how the goods you consume get to you. I'll give you a hint- it's neither bicycles nor dirigibles.

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Voting closed 22

Goods are not delivered via Memorial Drive which has height and commercial traffic restrictions. Amazon is able to get to my building, a few blocks off Memorial Drive, multiple times per day on weekends.

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Voting closed 26

This website's #1 automobile hater will probably suffer a heart attack when he finds out how things are delivered to the stores he shops at.

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Voting closed 10

It's just wrong, and obviously so.

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Voting closed 9

Whining drivers should be ignored because they will never be happy

How about "whining Kinopio should be ignored because they will never be happy"

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Voting closed 20

We've tried giving drivers what they want, and they still whine. How about we try giving Kinopio what they want and see how that works for a change?

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Voting closed 25

Looks like you chose poorly.

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Voting closed 12

I doff my hat to you, sir.

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Voting closed 6

Part of the fun of the universalhub comment section is all the commenters with strong opinions, especially the single issue commenters with strong opinions. It's all good.

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Voting closed 11

Yeah drivers are the most entitled people in the world

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Voting closed 6

Even if you don’t care about making car access to someone else’s house much worse, traffic jams have negative effects for neighbors even while they aren’t driving. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to deal with the noise of a jam while at home, nor walk through it to cross my street, nor bike through it.

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Voting closed 6

You *are* traffic.

Sounds like the actual issue here is "too many cars".

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Voting closed 28

Pro-tip: cities are densely populated and therefore congested. I’m sure the Berkshires are lovely for casual bike riders like yourself who lack the skills and temperament for urban cycling.

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Voting closed 6

If there’s a new car jam that didn’t use to exist, and I’m stuck in it on a bicycle, am I traffic or in traffic?

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Voting closed 6

how can a bicycle get stuck in a traffic jam?

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Voting closed 6

It's easy to see why some people might want Memorial Drive available for recreational purposes, but what is the actual utilization on Saturdays vs. Sundays? When I have been by there on weekends the roadway seems relatively empty much of the time. The grassy areas at the river's edge seem far more popular, and there's also a paved path.

I have no dog in this hunt, and I rarely drive or bike on Memorial Drive, but I have to question whether this hot burning issue is really about recreational opportunities or simply about general hostility toward motor vehicles (pleasure or otherwise).

Personally, I'd rather go hiking in the woods than rolling on the asphalt.

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Voting closed 19

.., infinitely more pleasurable to walk on when there are no vehicles whizzing by spewing exhaust and noise. You don’t need to be actually walking the asphalt to enjoy the fact that the road is vehicle free.

Good for you that you can get out of town and hike in less congested areas. It’s not an option for everyone.

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Voting closed 22

As a regular runner on Mem Dr in summers, Sundays in the mid-to-late summers have always been a lively time on the cleared roadway. Families with young kids riding bicycles, friends out for a walk, elderly couples strolling, rollerbladers, unicyclers, etc.

It is an amazing way for the local community to claim a little space for its residents in Cambridgeport, Riverside and West Cambridge neighborhoods (vs the folks who are just trying to drive through). And yes, the roadway being closed makes a huge difference - the paved path in the park narrows, and is often not wide enough for more than two/three folks, especially with bicycles and strollers in play.

Early summers are a little more sparse - I think it takes a few weeks for folks to remember that the roadway closes in the summer.

Same with the Saturdays - it was not so heavily used in the first month or so after they included Saturdays, but lots of folks took advantage of it as they realized it was available.

I also drive a car and live - traffic is nowhere near as bad as normal weekday rush hour traffic.

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Voting closed 7

In 2020 and 2021, Riverbend Park was open to people (closed to cars) from 11 am to 7 pm on Saturday and then the same hours on Sunday. (Before 2020, it was only on Sundays.)

This year, it's from 8 am Saturday all the way through to 7 pm on Sunday. While I enjoy the extended hours, they aren't what the City Council asked for and aren't in line with previous years. I wonder if reverting to last year's hours might quiet down the objectors.

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Voting closed 19

Though it would mean twice as much work for the barricade crews.

How many people are using the park overnight? I’d be nervous about crime.

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Voting closed 4

They shut down the blue line for awhile. How bout we close 1A for a few weeks? Get some sick Instagram shots that evoke a zombie apocalypse while rollerblading.

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Voting closed 14

Are you referring to this? Unfortunately, I don't see any day set aside for rollerblading in the tunnel.

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Voting closed 4

the point is that nobody bats an eye when the blue line is closed for weeks on end. it’s more of a grand point about how we see cars as default

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Voting closed 24

Thank you

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Voting closed 8

Blue line closures are a necessary evil. Mem drive closures are an optional evil.

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Voting closed 10

cars as default

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Voting closed 12

Not letting me drive on the sidewalk is an "optional evil". Why should pedestrians be entitled to all that space when my car has to be sitting in traffic???!?

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Voting closed 11

Actively replacing rails? Because that’s what your logic is indicating and I think that’s a terrible idea.

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Voting closed 8

I want people to treat road closures as a necessary thing for the health and safety of all, just like we do for rail closures. Cars not being able to access a space is not "evil"!

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Voting closed 9

‘Necessary evil’ not ‘evil’. There’s a big difference.

Roads get shut down all the time for maintenance just like the T. Shutting a road down for pedestrian use is by definition optional.

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Voting closed 6

Who says nobody bats an eye? I heard plenty of complaints about the Blue Line.

The alternative to closing it would be letting the tracks and harbor tunnel deteriorate. Yet everyone’s angry at the T for doing it.

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Voting closed 5