Readers' Ideas About Davis Square Streetscape Improvements Vary Widely
What some commenters said about planned changes to Davis Square's streets and sidewalks.
Based on readers' comments, there's little agreement about how—or even if—to improved Davis Square's streets, sidewalks and public spaces.
The city held a series of meetings over the summer about streetscape improvements to the square, and some of the recommendations include altering the shape of roads and sidewalks, improving traffic-light signals and using materials other than brick for sidewalks.
To change or not to change
While some commenters welcomed changes to Davis Square, others feared change could make life worse for drivers and pedestrians.
"What's with all the traffic changes … the ideas don't sound good to me. Don't fix what ain't broken," said Somerville Home Owner.
Nancy wrote, "Adding lights? Removing the slip lane? Narrowing traffic lanes on Elm? I walk and bike Davis, too, but these changes would surely just create more general congestion. Eesh."
Other's disagreed. "As a resident of Davis Square, I am completely frustrated in the set-up for pedestrians," wrote JJ. "It is broken, it should be fixed. Crossing the street 3-4 times just to get from one point in the square to the other is insane."
"It's a nightmare. I'm glad the city is working on it!" said Benjamin Mako Hill.
Thoughts on "slip lane" removal
Nancy's comment about the "slip lane" refers to a recommended change to the square that would eliminate the special traffic lane, outside Mike's Food & Spirits, that allows drivers to turn left from Highland Avenue onto Elm Street.
Under the proposal, the city would eliminate that lane and convert it into a pedestrian space.
Hill likes the idea, commenting, "The addition of a nice pedestrian plaza would be an incredible benefit for the local businesses, like Mike's, by making the area more open."
He later wrote, "Right now, the whole slip lane is unusable for anything except the occasional car going through … the regained space from the slip lane would still be a huge net positive."
Others, like Chris Devers, thought removing the slip lane would create a traffic nightmare. He commented, "Turning left from Highland to Elm without that cutout seems like it would be extremely awkward—that's like a 200 degree angle or something, and many vehicles (e.g. delivery trucks) won't have a small enough turn radius to get onto Elm without plowing into the front of the CVS."
A point of agreement, sort of, on bricks
Commenters seemed somewhat united on a desire to keep bricks in Davis Square, as opposed to converting sidewalks to concrete or something else.
Jennifer D wrote, "Removing the brick??? Come on! It is a historical aspect that gives character to Davis Square. So what's the plan, rip it out and make it look generic, like any other square?! Ludicrous!"
Ron Newman wrote, "I like the brick, but it's a difficult surface to maintain, as the bricks loosen and become uneven over time. If I were using a wheelchair, I'd probably hate it."
Matt C thought the city could keep the bricks and make sure sidewalks aren't uneven. "The brick is great and adds character," he wrote. "[R]ather than replacing it with concrete they can update it to more modern brick paving technology—that way they can address the concerns of loose, uneven walkways while maintaining the character."
One commenter suggested the city hire professional traffic engineers to work on some of these issues.