For Town Meeting, November 2018: Warrant Article 23---

Resolution calling for study of restoring the Olmsted bridle path
along the median of Beacon Street in Brookline (and inclusion of
funding in the Town's Fiscal Year 2020 budget for such a study)---

Resolution calling for a study of the feasibility of restoring
the Olmsted bridle path along the median of Beacon Street
in Brookline (for framing of such a study, toward inclusion
in the Town's Capital Improvement Plan by Fiscal Year 2021-2026)---

By Jules Milner-Brage, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 12:
    August 24 - 29, 2018
Revised with Advisory Committee, Select Board, and Town staff:
    September 27 - October 18, 2018

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To see if the Town will adopt the following resolution:

WHEREAS Beacon Street is a cherished and prominent public space
which provides one of the important east-west routes across Brookline
and also serves many local residents and businesses;

WHEREAS Beacon Street was designed by Frederick Law and John Charles
Olmsted in the 1880s, "to make [it] attractive, not only because of
the unusual convenience secured, but also because of the sylvan beauty
to be enjoyed in passing over it;"

WHEREAS the Olmsteds' design for Beacon Street conceived of it as,
"first, [being] a spacious, direct trunk-line thoroughfare, specially
adapted to pleasure driving, riding, and walking; and, second, [having]
a cable railway...laid in the midst of [the] avenue...[and] screened
on each side by two rows of trees growing in well-prepared borders;"
and it remains essentially so to this day, except for one element;

WHEREAS the Olmsteds' original design included a dedicated facility
along Beacon Street's median to accommodate (horseback) "riding" use,
a facility known as the "bridle-way"---which abutted the "railway" on
its wider side and was distinct from the (driving) "carriage-way"
further toward the street's outer edge there---that was enjoyed by
local residents for decades before it was obscured in the 1930s;

WHEREAS the Olmsteds' goals---that the "bridle-way" (specifically)
be a space "where those using it may have greater enjoyment of the
sociability of a promenade" and that Beacon Street (broadly) be both
"a resort, and...a route of travel"---were served, in their original
design, by consolidating "riding" activity in a dedicated, common
(two-way) facility and by positioning both the median "bridle-way"
and the two outer-edge "sidewalks" directly alongside (and thus within
the shelter of) shade-tree plantings;

WHEREAS separating modes of traffic with differing mass and/or speed
---as a means for reducing conflicts and increasing safety and comfort
for all street uses---was a design principle championed by Frederick
Law Olmsted, was a central aspect of Beacon Street's original design,
and today is considered a transportation-engineering best practice in
the design of major thoroughfares;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Town Meeting calls for study of
the feasibility and impacts of one/more approaches to (re)establishing
a protected path suitable for two-way, moderate-speed person-scale
non-car travel abutting the median railway along the whole extent of
Beacon Street in Brookline (between Ayr Road and Saint Mary's Street);

and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that appropriation of sufficient funds for
such a study, within the Planning Department, in collaboration with
the Department of Public Works, be proposed to Town Meeting in the
Town's Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Town Meeting requests the Town
Administrator to assign staff as he deems appropriate to develop a
Scope of Services necessary to engage a consultant to study the
concept and feasibility of establishing a protected path suitable for
two-way, non-motorized travel along the median of the full length of
Beacon Street in Brookline, estimate the costs associated with such a
study, and identify potential funding sources; said Scope would be
prepared in sufficient time to be considered for inclusion in the
Town's Fiscal Year 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

Or act on anything relative thereto.

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(Source for all quotes above---)

F.L. and J.C. Olmsted, "Preliminary Plan for Widening Beacon Street
from the Back Bay district of Boston to the Public Pleasure Ground at
Chestnut Hill Reservoir and for Connections with Massachusetts and
Commonwealth Avenues," Nov. 29, 1886.  (Courtesy of the National Park
Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, MA.)




Cross-section: (Current)
Remixed cross-section: + Separated bike/car facilities

            View W.: S. side:
                Lancaster Ter. / Fairbanks St. - Summit Path mid-block
                    (5:56 PM, Sun., Oct. 1, 2017)
View W.: S. side: Lancaster Ter. / Fairbanks St. - Summit Path mid-block (5:56 PM, Sun., Oct. 1, 2017)

Per earlier study, it seems that there are feasible approaches to
restoring the bridle path along Beacon St. in Brookline, an integral
element of F.L. and J.C. Olmsted's design for the street and of
historical built versions of it, and a means for rendering the street
broadly more humane.  And it seems that one/more of these feasible
approaches would involve little car parking loss.

Restoration of Beacon St.'s bridle path would reduce conflicts
among different modes of transportation and would improve support
for person-scale car-alternative modes which are space and energy
efficient, generally naturally have very few pollution emissions,
and many of which intrinsically provide some physical exercise.

Thus, restoration of the bridle path would provide Brookline and the
region numerous benefits: increasing safety for all uses of Beacon St.;
reducing strain on Beacon St.'s roadway capacity; improving public
health; and reducing environmental damage---all by means of reclaiming
an element of the Olmsteds' design that is not lost but rather,
fortunately, is simply currently hidden in plain sight.

This call for further study of Beacon St.'s bridle path is an
outgrowth of preliminary study and analysis pursued over the past
year (July 2017 - May 2018) in collaboration (first) with the Bicycle
Advisory Committee and (second) with Prof. Peter Furth, of the
Northeastern University Civil Engineering Dept., and his student
Jackson Lynch.

This spring (Apr. - June 2018), the results of that preliminary study
were presented to, and discussed with, the Tree Planting Committee;
the Public Transportation -, Pedestrian -, and Bicycle Advisory
Committees to the Transportation Board; and the Transportation Board
(under an informational agenda item).

Given compelling benefits, and seemingly modest downsides, now is the
time to study restoration of Beacon St.'s bridle path further: to look
to the past to explore an improved way forward along this street that
is so central to both the function and character of our Town.

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(1) Historical view:

        A collection of historical photos of the median of Beacon St.
        during the period---circa 1890s - 1900s---shortly after
        the Olmsteds' design for the street was first realized,
        when the original bridle path was intact.


(2) Concept (introduction) (July 18 - Sep. 26, 2017):

        Frames the concept of a modern incarnation of the bridle path,
        precedents, and a course of study to further develop design
        and implementation specifics, in order to support evaluation
        and discussion by Beacon St.'s broad array of stakeholders.


(3) Concept bottom line (Dec. 9, 2017 - May 7 [- June 22], 2018):

        Results of preliminary CAD modeling and ground-truthing study
        of the feasibility of (re)establishing a median non-car path---
        for protected bicycling (primarily, at least initially), and
        to shorten cross-walk distances and moderate car travel speeds
        ---along the whole of Beacon St. in Brookline.

        Illustrates and examines this potential improvement by:

        [A] updating Mass. DOT's traffic plans for the street's
            last major renovation (largely its current built form),

        [B] via a "shrink to fit" cross-section transformation
            (modestly narrowing and shifting the car facilities on
            the wide side of the train tracks).

        Especially addresses the degree of geometric fit and specific
        challenges to implementation presented by existing conditions.