Friday, January 25, 2013

Connect Historic Boston initiative Links Boston’s Past with a Transportation Future

Advocates and stewards biked from Black Falcon
Terminal to Faneuil Hall in early November.
City of Boston transportation planner Addy Smith-Reiman introduces us to a new initiative of the Menino administration and the National Park Service.

Have you ever found yourself disorientated in downtown Boston?  Maybe a little lost when coming out of the wrong exit at a T stop?  Confused by the cacophony of wayfinding and directional signage?

It’s not only tourists who are often fumbled by the historic street network of alleys and one-ways, tripped up (no pun intended) by the differing textures of cobblestones and brick, or misled by a sign that points from this way to that.  Bostonians old and new have a hard go of it, too.
But is it really that difficult to get ‘theah from heah?’

It shouldn’t be and that’s what Connect Historic Boston is trying to solve.


Through a Federal grant, the National Park Service and the Boston Transportation Department have partnered to develop the Connect Historic Boston initiative that will link the ferry, bus, T and Hubway to historic sites throughout downtown.  Key sites for this phase include Faneuil Hall, the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Abiel Smith School House along the Black Heritage Trail in Beacon Hill.

The goal is to increase non-vehicular access to downtown sites and build awareness of the alternatives.  The charge: to make it fun and easy, convenient and accessible. 

Since September 2012, Connect Historic Boston has been convening public stakeholder meetings, walks and bicycle rides to explore key issues and propose upgrades to the built environment along the streets, sidewalks and bridges that link transit to destinations. 

 Additionally, new tools for wayfinding including digital applications, traditional maps, and navigation are being explored. 

The initiative is building a coalition of partners that include various non-profits and stewards of historic sites, advocates for walking and biking, neighborhood associations, and government agencies that will help promote the findings of the Connect Historic Boston initiative as the way to get around downtown Boston.  

Historic sites, T stations, bus stops and Hubway docks are embedded in a dense and rich urban fabric, abutting cultural institutions, public green spaces, businesses and residences.  The challenge, really, is how do we propose improvements that access to all sites within the scope, maintain historic integrity and not isolate corridors to key destinations.  Stay tuned.   

Over the next few months I will be posting updates on this exciting  initiative highlighting great opportunities, inevitable challenges and sample case studies from other national and international cities that link transit to heritage and encourage active and alternative transportation.   

Addy Smith-Reiman is a Transportation Planner with the Boston Transportation Department and Project Manager for Connect Historic Boston.  She is excited to be working on a project that uses design and planning to successfully engage people to celebrate local identity, shared histories and future use. 


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