This past week, June 10 - 16, was #CarFreeWeek and Bryan set out to explore the different non-car options accessible from Newtonville. He began Monday morning with a quick bike ride to the Newton Highlands T Stop where Bryan then hopped on the Green Line and headed into Boston. Tuesday took him to the Commuter Rail from Newtonville to South Station followed by the Red Line to Park Street. Bryan tested the 553/554 Express Bus, his goto when commuting to Boston, resulting in his quickest trip of the week at 57 minutes door to door! Thursday involved a longer route from the 553 bus from Washington @ Lowell with a transfer at 400 Centre Street to 57 bus and then the Green Line at Kenmore. A little circuitous, but a great option if it is off peak hours.
Friday was a bike day! Bryan went from Newton to Storrow Drive, then the bike path. Even as a self-proclaimed slow poke, Bryan only took an hour and 12 minutes to get to the State House. On the route back, he took a break to catch up with his friend and noted bike enthusiast Nathan Phillips at the Owl’s Nest. The Owl’s Nest is an open air beer garden right along the river, a stone’s throw from the bike path. If you haven't visited, it is really fun!
The weekend was a mix of events and canvassing, with Bryan’s bike being his exclusive form of travel. For getting around Newtonville, if you’re able, you just can’t beat the bike. It would’ve been much easier and safer with at least some protected bike lanes, though!
All in all, we deem #CarFreeWeek a success! For the most part, the public transportation was clean and easy, with each trip ranging from a little under an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. The goal was to highlight how accessible different options are and Bryan found five different ways to get from Newton to Boston. It is important to understand the transportation options available as we welcome new neighbors at the Austin Street and Washington Place residences who we hope will utilize these non-car options. Bryan recognizes that there are challenges that may come with utilizing options like public transportation and biking, including limited options for people with a disability, variance in accessibility and chronic delays. #CarFreeWeek did bring to light many improvements that have to be made to increase safety and accessibility. We don’t want to sugarcoat it – biking and public transportation don’t work for everyone. The week involved two Red Line derailments, which Bryan did not encounter, but we see that there are still improvements to be made.
Bryan’s week brought to light two important revelations about Newton – it is “bike-able” and it is “bus-able!” The busses do run throughout Newton and most people aren’t aware of these routes. Like with most things, there is room for improvement, but #CarFreeWeek allowed Bryan to gain insights on getting around Newton and into Boston using a combination of biking and public transportation. And lets not forget that for those who are unable to drive a car, cannot afford a car, or choose not to own a car, this is their daily reality. Their representatives in local government should understand what they go through.
In the end, does Bryan think it is it doable for those who want to go carfree? Yes! There will be off-peak hours or places you want to visit that require an occasional car from ride sharing or Zipcar, but there are a variety of options for people who want to lose the keys for good.