This is a hypothetical map of Davis Square if space that’s currently taken by cars was reallocated to walkers, bikers, and transit takers instead.
Some features of this plan:
- Public space is opened up along Elm St and in the Splat for gatherings and restaurant seating.
- Highland becomes two-way and takes through traffic away from Elm St.
- Elm St local traffic is significanly calmed, making Elm St a more comfortable place to spend time.
- Safe bike facilities are provided on Elm St, and the Somerville Community Path is connected.
- The intersection is squared off and shrunk, making it safer and easier to cross in every mode.
- Buses are streamlined. (See below.)
- Car through traffic is cut from two fast lanes in each direction to a level more appropriate for a busy square.
- Space is taken from the oversized Elm/Summer intersection for more park like space. (Those trees would be better off shading benches than signal controls.)
All 6 bus routes that use the square move to highland instead of Elm. The splat will become slower for cars, so buses get a dedicated lane through that congestion. Consider the bus lane and the off-street bus-only zone as opposite directions of a single two-way street.
The routes become much straighter in this plan. The 96 and 87 can use Grove instead of zig zagging on Cutter and Highland, and the 94, 89, and 90, which terminate at Davis, have a much smaller loop. This, combined with the benefits of the bus lane, means that routes will be faster, more reliable, and cheaper to operate.
Losing bus access on Elm St is unfortunate, but it would be difficult to have efficient bus access while keeping Elm St drivers slow and giving space to pedestrians. The new bus stops at Grove/Elm and the major hub (with all 6 bus routes) inside the Splat will be a longer walking distance from the center of Elm St than today’s stop, but the walk will be more comfortable and the buses will have better service. It’s a tradeoff.
- The bike lane would be removed from Highland until Willow. Elm and the community path provide more comfortable parallel routes that bikes would be encouraged to use.
Questions for improving the design
- The northbound Elm/Grove bus stop gives buses a disadvantage getting into that intersection. Is there a better place to put that stop?
- How does the turning radius of buses coming out of the T stop affect where the College Ave stop bar can go?
- How do bike lanes on College Ave connect to the rest of the bike network?
- How would construction be staged?
Other relevant links
It was inspired by this Twitter post. Discussions about a previous version are on Twitter and DreamWidth The previous version removed all cars from Elm St, but received pushback, so this version imagines Elm St having local car access.
The most up-to-date version of this plan and the source svg are on GitHub
- Davis Square Neighborhood Plan Draft, April 2018, which includes some similar intersection changes.
- Somerville By Design
- Proposed improvements from 2012 (pdf)