In Partnership with the Barr Foundation
Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery
A challenge facing communities right now is how to maintain access to essential services and businesses while keeping residents safe through physical distancing. In a time when we’re required to maintain physical distance to protect public health, streets need to do more than ever.
Streets must be configured so that people are able to move safely and provide space so people can safely access food, essential services, and businesses.
There are quick, affordable, flexible adaptations you can make to your public spaces right now to 1) support increased mobility by bike, transit, and foot, and 2) allow the creation of new spaces in streets, parking lots and other public spaces. During the summer and fall, many communities began to implement projects with local support and support from MassDOT, the Barr Foundation, the Solomon Foundation and others to create more space for people and you can see images of some of these projects here.
Recognizing the need for these projects, MassDOT has extended support for this with a Shared Winter Streets and Spaces Grant Program to improve plazas, sidewalks, curbs, streets, parking areas, and other public spaces in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce. The Solomon Foundation, the Barr Foundation, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council are partnering with MassDOT to provide free technical assistance to municipalities interested in rapidly transforming their streets. The Solomon Foundation can help communities plan and get ready for Shared Streets project by helping with scoping and visioning. The Barr Foundation is supporting technical assistance providers to help municipalities with design for their applications to MassDOT. MAPC can help communities with pricing out and procuring materials for projects. There is additional placemaking funding available for eligible communities from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places Covid-19 Emergency Response-Resurgent Places program.
Simple changes = a big difference
Driving has dropped off in many communities, so now is a good time to share our streets. Here are some examples of simple changes that can make a big difference:
- Narrow lanes to both slow traffic and provide space so people can safely walk in the the street where sidewalks are too crowded.
- Offset parking from the curb to create a widened sidewalk to provide safe space for walking.
- Expand space to walk or bike by eliminating curbside parking temporarily.
- Provide curbside drop-off/pick-up zones on in business districts.
- Designate unused street space and parking lots for outdoor restaurant and store use.
- Make walking safer by adjusting signal timing and automating pedestrian push buttons.
- Install traffic calming treatments such as speed bumps, street murals, etc.
- Allow neighbors to apply for a quick permit to set up a DIY neighborhood slow street.
Foundation assistance for streets for pandemic response and recovery
As communities have identified specific needs and begun to get buy-in from municipal decision makers, we have helped with planning and preparation for a grant application for the MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program . We are available as a thought partner to test ideas. We can also help iterate on projects during and after the first installation as you learn from them and think about ways to make them more permanent.
Some of the first steps of planning for streets for recovery will likely be:
- Collaborating with key municipal staff to get their input.
- Giving neighbors a heads up that this is coming.
- Choosing streets that serve neighborhoods most in need.
- Designing a pilot project(s) and lining up needed materials.
- Choosing a date(s) for your pilots and setting them up.
- Observing how it goes and making adjustments.
- Documenting your successes and lessons learned.
- Beginning to build out longer term solutions.