New Pedestrian Mall Slated for Charles River Campus
By Leslie Friday
BU bought Blandford, Hinsdale, and Cummington Streets from the city of Boston to create a pedestrian mall. The map above illustrates the parking and traffic changes going into effect today along this stretch of campus. Map by Boston University Interactive Design
A new mall is coming to campus, but—remain calm shopaholics—it’s of the pedestrian kind.
In June, Boston University paid the City of Boston $11.45 million to buy Blandford, Hinsdale, and Cummington Streets as part of a long-range plan to make the area more pedestrian friendly. The purchase of the streets (now called malls), and therefore the air rights above them, makes it easier for the University, which also owns all the buildings abutting the malls, to plan and make changes to the area. Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations, says the deal “unlocks and unties our hands in terms of being able to think about the planning in a much more efficient and effective way.”
Plans for the area will evolve in the coming years, but some action starts today, when the three streets will be closed to through traffic, except for emergency vehicles, transportation services for people with disabilities, and delivery vehicles with commercial license plates. Access to the Warren Towers Garage via Hinsdale Mall will not change, and a new garage exit onto Cummington Mall (at the west end of 700 Commonwealth Avenue) will give drivers a convenient path to a left turn onto the westbound lanes of Commonwealth Avenue.
The University will station a parking attendant for several months at the entrance to Blandford Mall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and extended hours during Red Sox home games to inform drivers of the change. Parking & Transportation Services and the Boston University Police Department will enforce the new rules after normal business hours and arrange the towing of unofficial vehicles parked on the malls.
In a move that eliminates 136 parking spaces, including seven handicap spots, the city will remove parking meter heads on the newly purchased streets, and the posts will become bike racks. Drivers who currently use the handicap spots should contact Parking & Transportation Services to arrange alternative plans. Webb Lancaster, director of operations for Auxiliary Services, says a Parking & Transportation Services survey of meter usage on surrounding streets found that the average number of vacant spots exceeded average demand along Blandford, Cummington, and Hinsdale Streets, indicating that sufficient meter space is available on neighboring streets.
For drivers who prefer an alternative to metered parking, officials say parking permits might be a good fit, allowing drivers access to day commuter, pay-on-entry, and evening fixed-price parking lots. Late-night visitors could use the pay-on-entry Granby Lot at 655 Commonwealth Avenue, which the University has switched to 24-hour operations, Monday through Saturday, with lower rates from now through Fall Semester while it assesses demand.
Students, faculty, and staff who use the area to drop off or pick up equipment or research specimens will still be able to park in 30-minute loading zones on Blandford and Hinsdale Malls and in a few spaces in the Warren Towers Garage.
The University’s purchase of Blandford, Hinsdale, and Cummington Streets was not done to make parking more difficult or expensive, says Nicksa. “Open space is so precious to BU,” he says, “that whenever we have the opportunity to create some calmer, more pedestrian-oriented space, we need to take that opportunity.”
This story originally appeared in BU Today on July 30, 2012.