1.252J | Fall 2016 | Graduate

Urban Transportation Planning


Assignment 3

Assessing the Impacts of Growth in the Lower Mystic

What: A 15 page (max) double-spaced memo to the Boston Chief of Streets Chris Osgood

Who: Groups of 3

Due: Week 12

Presentations: Recitation, week 13


For the first part of this assignment, you are part of a three-member team advising Chris Oswood, the transportation and Public Works director for Mayor Marty Walsh, on the likely transportation impacts of the Wynn casino in Everett and other development proposals in the area around the transportation corridor from Sullivan Square, the traffic circle, to the Orange Line station and I-93, and the Rutherford Avenue to Prison Point Bridge to City Square, over the Charlestown Bridge to North Station.

The Wynn casino was approved by the state gaming commission, with its roughly 5000-car parking garage, notwithstanding not having completed its Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) analysis. The MEPA approval by Secretary Matthew Beaton ignored the fact that the analysis by Wynn consultants assumed rebuilding of the decrepit Sullivan Square tunnel, owned by Boston, which the city and neighborhood activists had proposed to eliminate and replace with an at-grade transit oriented development urban grid.

Wynn is now under construction, and the after-the-fact Lower Mystic Regional Working Group (LMRWG) study is underway, with the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) analyzing a large number of possible transportation investments in the corridor. The LMRWG is looking not only at how to deal with the casino traffic generation, but also the Assembly Square redevelopment and densification; the Brickbottom and Inner Belt redevelopment; and the city of Boston’s desire for densification along Rutherford Avenue and around North Station. The city has initiated a public process to evaluate three options for Rutherford Avenue: 1) the earlier no-tunnel, at-grade urban grid; 2) a one-way southbound Rutherford Ave. tunnel; 3) a two-way tunnel under Sullivan Square, with similar cross sections at the Prison Point Bridge.

In addition, several other road and transit projects have been proposed by the surrounding cities and stakeholders. The city of Boston has proposed a new northbound ramp from City Square to I-93 North, to reduce flow northbound on Rutherford Ave. Somerville has required a new U-turn ramp to accept northwest-bound traffic from Sullivan Square to reverse direction and join I-93 to the south, along with recommending the elimination of the HOV lane on I-93, to encourage traffic to stay on I-93. A Better City (ABC) has proposed the introduction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) along the Newburyport commuter rail corridor to connect to the Silver Line BRT in Chelsea to Logan Airport, while others have proposed a new diesel multiple unit (DMU) service from North Station to Sullivan Square, to the casino to Revere and Lynn; a dramatic improvement of the Orange Line signal system; and Everett has proposed a new Orange Line spur to Everett and Malden. There is some potential to get partial funding from Wynn for transit or roadway improvements, and some possibility to apply for funding from the Gaming Commission’s anticipated casino revenues.

Together, your team is to assess the impact of the land use growth projected due to the Wynn casino and surrounding developments on major transportation infrastructure in the area. One member of your team is to attempt a “little numbers”/back of the envelope analysis of the I-93 corridor, with increased traffic generation from the casino and Assembly Square redevelopment. A second member is to consider the impact on the Orange Line, already over-crowded today. The third is to consider the three options for at-grade or tunnel configurations at Sullivan Square circle.


In this assignment, you will be exposed to thinking about regional development and travel demand, and how to plan to accomodate multi-modal access. You are asked to attempt a “little numbers” analysis of the impact of the growth in the area, to the best of your ability with the data available. Each member of your group with be primarily responsible for one of the following questions, but you must coordinate amongst yourselves to have an internally consistent and coherent assessment of the three questions. Given the projected and planned-for jobs and housing growth in the Lower Mystic study area:

  1. What is I-93’s basic capacity at different speeds, and how close to capacity is the corridor currently? How much do you estimate traffic will increase on I-93, and what will this do to accessibility?
  2. How much do you estimate demand will increase on the Orange Line and other transit services in the study area? What are the basic capacity constraints, and how close to capacity is the corridor currently?
  3. How will increased demand from the surrounding developments impact the Rutherford Avenue corridor and the city of Boston’s plans for that area

In addition to these three guiding questions, as a group consider using the following steps of the 19-step process and sub-questions in particular to guide your thinking:

  • Step one: who you are as a group, and your relationship to the relevant actors.
  • Step two: scan the environment, review history, identify trends, project future conditions.
    1. Begin by reviewing the documents recommended to organize the relevant numbers for existing conditions, as well as planned growth (such as new housing units, new jobs, new trips generated, and projected mode-share) for each of the plans in the study area.
    2. Evaluate capacity: identify basic capacity constrains and current demand for major transportation infrastructure in the study area, especially the Orange Line, I-93, and the Rutherford Avenue tunnel.
    3. Evaluate connectivity given current and future conditions. What does access to jobs via driving look like under current conditions? What about if I-93 were more congested? What does access to jobs look like via public transit? Consider doing a very basic accessibility/isochrones assessment using Google Maps under congested and uncongested conditions, and CoAXs for transit.
    4. Evaluate mode share: assess whether the projected new trips and mode share are compatible with existing infrastructure. What more share would be compatible with existing and planned transportation infrastructure in the area?
  • Step three: identify relevant actors, primary roles and interests, and culture.
    1. What are the goals of the city of Boston with respect to this area? Who is Chris Osgood and what are his interests?
    2. Who are the other important stakeholders (including but not limited to, the city of Somerville, city of Everett, and MassDOT), and what are their interests? What are the goals of the various redevelopment efforts?
  • Steps five and six: Define problems and identify opportunities.
    1. From your analysis in step 2, what are the primary transportation problems you see arising, and what are the primary opportunities to address them? What alternatives have been proposed thus far?
    2. What would happen if the level of growth predicted transpires, and no investment is made in the area’s transportation infrastructure?

The results of your team’s analysis will be submitted by week 12 and discussed at recitation week 13.

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