Tuesday, March 04, 2008

City Cites Traffic Problems in Rejecting Brighton Landing as Site for Lowe's Store

Last week I went back-and-forth with the BRA getting a copy of the Project Notification Form for the proposed Lowe's store at Brighton Landing. It arrived on Friday; later that day, Mayor Thomas Menino announced (actually it was the BRA director) that he now opposed the proposal due to the substantial traffic impact at that location, according to the Banker and Tradesman (archive fee):
Until now, Mayor Thomas M. Menino has expressed support for the project.

But the mayor wanted assurances that the additional traffic could be managed...

"When we saw the traffic study, it became clear to everyone that this project would create an undue hardship for the neighborhood, especially on weekends," said John F. Palmieri, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). "We want to continue to work with Lowe's to find an appropriate location in the city, but the Brighton site is not viable for that use."
What was the traffic problem highlighted by the study?

I did not attend the public meeting last Monday at which the traffic consultants for Lowe's presented their traffic study. But the preliminary traffic study that was in the original PNF is probably close enough to understand why Mayor Menino changed course.

Assumptions. The number of vehicle trips that would be generated by the proposed Brighton Lowe's was based on 198,000 square feet of retail space (excluding parking), along with parking for 378 vehicles in a parking structure. According to national data, 48% of trips for a home improvement "superstore" are "pass-by trips," i.e., where the vehicle is already traveling in the area (commuting, going to another store, etc.).

In the PNF, the traffic analysis reduced the number of generated vehicle trips by 25%, not 48%, so as to create a conservatively high estimate of the impact of the store. According to one attendee at last week's meeting, however, the traffic presentation may have adopted a more generous 50% reduction in trips; if so, then the project may create significantly larger traffic impact than their latest study, indicating that the traffic problem could be even worse.


Time PeriodTotal Trips to Lowe's (100%)Diverted Trips (25%)New Trips (75%)
Weekday Daily5,9001,4784,422
Weekday Morning Peak Hour (Entering+Exiting)
Weekday Evening Peak Hour (Entering + Exiting)
Saturday Midday Peak Hour (Entering + Exiting)

On weekday evenings, there will be 363 new trips per hour, i.e., one additional car entering or exiting the immediate neighborhood every ten seconds.

At midday on Saturday, it's more than twice as bad -- a new car every four-and-a-half seconds. According to one attendee at the meeting, the new Saturday vehicle trips would increase midday vehicle trips on at least one street by 150%!

There aren't many routes into or out of the site: a one-way to Everett Street by the Stop-and-Shop, a traffic signal at North Beacon Street by the Volvo dealer, or a traffic signal at Market Street by WGBH. Splitting up the exiting traffic to North Beacon Street and Market Street, roughly seven additional vehicles would have to make it through each two-minute green traffic light-cycle.

The Brighton Landing site is right next to the Massachusetts Turnpike, but it is nearly a mile away from an entrance to the Pike. The standard route to and from the Pike would have to pass through a one-lane bottle-neck on Cambridge Street southeast of Harvard Avenue at Allston Village. These kind of big box stores are usually best placed near to highway on-ramps.

If that location were to have a offices instead, 200,000 square feet would probably
result in 400 employees or around 1000 vehicle trips per day (based on methods used for the Harvard science complex traffic study) -- compared to the 4,422 daily vehicle trips for the 200 new, permanent jobs that would be created by the store.

I bet that Mayor Menino looked at the trade-offs for the site, traffic, and the nature of the mostly low-paying jobs that would be created, and decided that it just wasn't worth all the expense and bother.

There has been some amount of discussion about the topic on the AllstonBrighton2006 Google Group.

PNF (June 2007) Preliminary Traffic Study:

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