Vision Zero Boston

Boston, United States

The City of Boston has adopted a Vision Zero strategy in an effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and reduce serious traffic accidents by 2030.

The Vision Zero concept was created in Sweden in 1997 and is widely credited with a significant reduction in fatal and serious road crashes since that time. Vision Zero deems that traffic accidents are unacceptable and preventable, that human life should take priority over mobility objectives and mobility systems should adapt in order for human error to be better anticipated.

In May 2015, the City of Boston launched a Vision Zero strategy. The strategy considers the statistics of the human and economic cost of traffic crashes, the barriers created by busy high-speed roads in the heart of the city and the impact of speeding on neighborhood streets that can limit access mobility and opportunity in communities that need it the most.

Vision Zero Boston prioritizes safety and takes a people-first approach to transportation and community building with an aim to make the city more walkable, bikeable, transit friendly and safe for drivers. 


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City information
City
Boston

Size and population development
5,130,000 (metropolitan area)

Main functions
capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Main industries / business
Global city with strengths in financial services, biotechnology, transportation and tourism,

Political structure
mayor–council government system

Administrative structure
23 neighborhoods

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Background and objectives

Between 2010 - 2014, 79 people were killed in a motor vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian crash on Boston roads (source: Boston Police Department - BPD).  Bicycle fatalities have been stable with car fatalities slightly decreasing and pedestrian fatalities increasing over the same period. In 2014, 1274 people required Emergency Medical Service (EMS) due to a pedestrian or bicyclist crash on city roads. Statistical data shows that arterial roadways are disproportionately dangerous for all transportation modes. At least eight times more pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers have died on arterial roads than on local roads.

OBJECTIVES

Reducing speeds and building safer streets

The City of Boston’s strategy combines street design and law enforcement measures to reduce speed on arterial roads and neighborhood streets. As a result, the number and severity of crashes should decrease and the quality of life increase as more people walk or use a bicycle.

Tackling distracted and impaired driving

While drunk driving has decreased over the past three decades, the increased use of mobile devices has created more distracted drivers. The City of Boston is committed to provide public information and education on this topic, supported by a law enforcement program and the use of innovative new technology.

Engaging Bostonians with Vision Zero

The success of the strategy is built on the commitment of residents and their willingness to act more responsibly when driving a car. To support this attitudinal change, the Vision Zero Boston Action Plan includes a public education and awareness component to ensure traffic safety is a citywide priority.

Holding ourselves accountable for results

As the City of Boston has committed to achieve the goal of zero fatality or serious injury by 2030, the city government is being evaluated by a “coalition of partners” on progress made.

Implementation

Achieving the ambitious goal of Vision Zero is a serious challenge for the City of Boston. The City is committed to reaching the objectives outlined in the strategy by focusing on those actions it can take to make a difference

  • The City can and will effectively manage the problem by ensuring a well-informed data drive and community–led response to the issue to traffic safety.
  • The City can and will regulate driving behavior, speed, vehicle design, and the operation of the city streets to make vehicle movement safer for everyone.
  • The City can and will move quickly to design and retrofit city streets, starting the most dangerous corridors, to reduce both the number and severity of crashes on Boston’s streets.

1) Task force

Shortly after the Vision Zero strategy was adopted, the Mayor of Boston appointed a Task Force with members from other public agencies and local advocacy groups and monthly meetings were convened. Its mission is to analyze the reasons for fatal traffic accidents and provide a short-term response and make recommendations for change.

The Task Force, also called “Rapid Response Team” does not only respond to fatalities but acts proactively to anticipate possible accidents. With the help of interactive crash cluster maps (see below), the team is tasked with “monitoring feedback from the community to quickly identify and respond to traffic safety issues that are emerging at particular locations or involve common behavior or vehicle types that require attention.”

2) Crash cluster maps

To identify high crash areas, the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology created crash cluster maps for each mode of transportation (pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists). Through this crowdsourced mapping system, citizens can report safety concerns in real time to the city administration. The objective is not only to help local government identify problem areas in the city, but to create civic engagement for the strategy and awareness for the road safety issue. Six months after the map was launched, more than 11,000 citizen safety concerns had been registered on the platform, helping to identify new safety priority zones. Common safety concerns reported by citizens include obstructed views or chronic speeding. Due to color-coded icons, citizens can report their concerns in a playful way through the app.

3) Street interventions

The implementation of Vision Zero Boston strategy also includes interventions on streets. In the two priority areas identified by the strategy (Mass. Ave. and Norfolk Street), interventions improved visibility on the streets (moving a bus stop, trimming the vegetation), increased security for pedestrians and cyclists and better regulation of car traffic (lowering speed limit, installing new markings and warnings, etc.).

Financing and resources

The City of Boston is the lead agency for the project.

Results and impacts

One year after the implementation of the Vision Zero Action Plan, the first evaluation was conducted and revealed the following achievements:

  • Priority corridors

Two priority corridors were identified based on the high number of fatalities that had occurred. On these roads, the speed limit has been reduced, pedestrian crosswalks improved and increased security for bicyclists through the creation of dedicated bike lanes.

  • 25MPH citywide default speed limit

On 9 January 2017, the citywide default speed limit was reduced from 30 to 25MPH (50 to 40 KM) and speed radar boards were installed throughout the city. A public awareness campaign was launched, including mailing of a multi-lingual flyer, a social media campaign, advertising on trains and buses and signs informing drivers of the new speed limit.

  • Neighbourhood slow streets

The Neighbourhood Slow Streets Program includes traffic calming devices on the streets to reduce speed in residential areas has been activated in two pilot areas.

  • Safe crossings

Improved security at street crossings using different tools, including high-visibility cross-walks, additional pavement marking signs, flex posts and signal changes.

  • Rapid Response visits

At crash sites where fatalities and serious injuries occur, the Task Force has been commissioned to make site visits and formulate recommendations to improve safety.

  • Boston’s safer driver app

A mobile app to provide feedback on driving behavior and a reward system for safe driving has been established. This provides incentive for safe driving and greater public awareness of Vision Zero.

  • Community engagement around traffic safety

- More than thirty community meetings and events have been organized.

- A safety concern map has been launched for citizens to share their transportation safety concerns.

- An online interactive crash map has been created for tracking traffic injuries and fatalities.

Barriers and challenges

Despite the efforts made by the City of Boston in implementing the Vision Zero strategy, fatal traffic injuries are still being registered. In 2016, an evaluation report undertaken by the coalition of partners, recommended that an increase of resources was required in order to accelerate the process for the successful implementation of the Action Plan.

Moreover, the coalition recommended “greater coordination and collaboration” between the City of Boston and other cities in Massachusetts that have adopted a Vision Zero strategy -  If cities build a strong coalition, they can apply for increased funding, resources and administrative support from other levels of government.

Lessons learned and transferability

The city of Stockholm records the lowest number of traffic fatalities per capita, (http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/uploads/city_traffic_deaths.png), this can be attributed to the successful implementation of Vision Zero for two decades. 

Vision Zero constitutes a set of principles that are easily applicable and adaptable in different urban contexts and a growing number of cities are implementing their own Vision Zero action plans.

The success of a Vision Zero strategy relies on both the financial and human resources allocated to its implementation. The commitment of a varied group of stakeholders and strong community engagement will help guarantee its longevity and effectiveness. 

References

External links / documents