Monday, December 26, 2005

Comment and Response: Harvard/Friends Plans for the Charles "an Improvement?," other transit alternatives for Harvard's Allston Campus: Ron, Len, Ern

A number of comments off the Association for Public Transportation (APT) list:

1. Ron.
A. Comments.
B. Bob Responds.
2. Len.
3. Ernie.
B. Bob Response.
4. Len.

1. Ron.

A. Comments:

In general this sounds like a welcome improvement to the urban
landscape. However, it's not clear what if any effect it would have
on public transportation, which is what this list is about. In any
event, we're talking about plan that can only be executed over many

B. Bob Responds.

Old bureacratic slogan (loudly said all the time in Cambridge):

It's too early, it's too early, it's too early. Golly gee, it's too late. Why did you not keep me from doing these terrible things?

This proposal in the core part of the Harvard Allston Campus CANNOT work without the railroad bridge under the BU Bridge being converted to an off ramp from the Mass. Pike.

The infrastructure for that off ramp is being done now in the Cambridgeport Roads project, in the destruction at Magazine Beach, in the heartless starvation attacks on the Charles River White Geese, in the destruction of more than 449 to 660 trees from Magazine Beach to the Longfellow Bridge, and in other initiatives known and unknown.

When these various projects are done, the truly reprehensible environmental work will have been completed and moving the off ramps will be a relatively minor "improvement."

2. Len.

Harvard has been doing better at working with neighbors, and providing money for mitigations that help the neighbors. Have a way to go to get to MIT's level of contribution.

They need to be dealt with firmly, carefully, and honorably. They are skilled negotiators and politicians.

3. Ernie.

A. If Harvard has $1.2 billion to spend on transportation let them fund a Red Line spur from the Harvard station to Allston. Anyway they'll never part with that kind of money.

APT could provide input to Harvard on what Public Transit makes sense for their plans.

Perhaps dedicated light rail alongside the sunken Storrow Drive from the BU Bridge to Eliot Bridge and beyond to their Watertown campus. Perhaps make it a fork of the Green "B" Line. Get Harvard to help fund the capital costs.

Or bring a Blue Line extension out under Storrow Drive, with a pedestrian tunnel to Kenmore station, or also fork it at Kenmore and convert the Riverside Line to Blue Line cars.

Ernie's suggestion to extend the Red Line from Harvard Square to Allston, seems to benefit Harvard far more and the rest of us far less then the two thoughts I just presented. And river crossings are more expensive.

Harvard is the kind of miser that would make Scrooge and Silas Marner look like

B. Bob Response.

Now I think you have come up with an excellent idea as a toss-out.

I really dislike all these games about the Grand Junction and I consider it destructive to make the banks of the Charles River over in whatever the consultant of the week calls the "in" style of environmental construction.

BUT talking about using the B line, the Commonwealth Avenue green line, for access to Harvard's Allston Campus could be exactly the way to go.

Comm. Ave. is above the Mass. Pike at the BU Bridge, quite a bit above. And Comm. Ave. is so wide at that point that it is wasteful.

Why not drop a B-Line extension below Comm. Ave. off a switch from the current B-line and follow the Mass. Pike in some manner?

Harvard's Allston Campus is the Mass. Pike. The Mass. Pike to the B branch would seem to be perfect.

It is not at all far by that route and does not require all these bizarre maneuvers that pretty much all the Harvard calculations seem to require.

4. Len.

$1.2 billion, the figure quoted earlier, is about 5% of Harvard's endowment. If Harvard wanted to fund it, it could be done in well under a decade, with most of that time being involved in public meetings and permitting.

Harvard is more likely to leverage public funding for these infrastructure improvements, sweetening the pie only enough to get what it decides is best for Harvard.

They are very wise. for their purposes, to want to increase river and highway crossings, and minimize the barriers that the river and river roads are. To unify their campus as much as possible.