Dismantle Storrow Drive

Most brilliant idea so far this year. In brief, Storrow Drive was never supposed to exist. Now it needs massive repairs, which will be both expensive and disruptive. Rather than fix it, some are calling to simply remove it, similar to when San Francisco decided to tear down its elevated highway after it was severely damaged in an earthquake. Proponents of dismantling Storrow Drive include former Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci and former DPW associate commissioner Ken Kruckemeyer. Not your typical wild-eyed anti-car fanatics.

The nay-sayers — and this Radio Boston episode shows there are many — fail to understand induced demand. Many share the naive belief that if a highway is removed, all the traffic it once carried will be redistributed to other roads, thus further increasing congestion. But it’s not a zero-sum-game. Numerous examples show that tearing down a highway can actually relieve traffic — not to mention result in enormous aesthetic and environmental benefits. Road networks are dynamic systems — change one parameter and the rest will readjust as well: gas prices, tolls, road congestion/capacity, suburban and urban property taxes, MBTA fares and service levels, regional land use and transportation planning policies, all feed into each other. One caller to the Radio Boston show claimed she needs to use Storrow Drive daily because there isn’t enough parking at Alewife! (I don’t think I need to spell it out, but I think we can safely assume that improving the Alewife parking garage will be a good bit cheaper than rebuilding Storrow, without needing to look up the precise numbers. Plus it will reduce congestion, improve air quality, and increase T ridership).

Of course it would be equally naive to assume any road can be removed without consequence on congestion, but dismantling Storrow Drive seems like a perfect start for the post-carbon era.

MBTA Blocking TPM

I’ve been happy to see WiFi appearing on nearly every MBTA commuter rail car recently. I was less happy to see this:



I guess I’ll have to wait until I get home to find out why this bothered Steve so much.

Oddly, the MBTA’s web filter also blocked access to my WordPress editor, but unlike the TPM block, I could select “yes, I really want to do this” to get here.

I’ve never understood why web filters so often block these sorts of sites on apparently generic settings. “General News/Blogs/Wikis” are dangerous? Reputation “neutral”? I’d be surprised if anyone at the T actually did this on purpose, but I suppose it would fit the general pattern of operational incompetence.

Update: the problem appears to be real.

Roslindale Scoop: Himalayan Bistro Coming to the Neighborhood

Update 3/16/09: I recently heard (from the restaurant) that the Roslindale location for Himalayan Bistro was in doubt. I suppose in this economy there are no sure bets.

I have it on very good authority* that our favorite Indian/Nepali restaurant, Himalayan Bistro, is coming to Roslindale (from West Roxbury), into the oft-turned-over location last assigned to NuVo, and Gusto before that. Perhaps the third “-o” restaurant will be a charm. Assuming they serve up the same superlative food and atmosphere as the West Roxbury location, I’m sure this one will be a keeper. (My only concern is that having the two restaurants so close to each other may result in self-competition.)

*Authority = Himalayan Bistro delivery guy. You don’t get much more authoritative than that.

In other Roslindale Restaurant news, we heard via RVMS recently that Robyn’s Bar and Grill has changed hands to the owners of the Halfway Cafe in Dedham, which could be a change for the better. Roslindale did not need another pizza/sports-bar, and still does not need one, although maybe that’s all the Robyn’s location will ever be. Even more recently, however, we heard an unconfirmed rumor from a neighbor that the sale fell through and Robyn’s is not changing owners.

In other potentially disappointing news, the Roslindale Emac and Bolio’s has changed owners again, this time to a co-owner of the Blue Star Restaurant. I want to like Blue Star, but they can’t seem to get the most basic short-order cooking tasks right. A diner must, first and foremost, deliver greasy food fast, hot, and at the same time for the entire group. At worst, serve the kids first. It also helps for the food to be consistent. Blue Star in our experience (many visits) only occasionally satisfies the basic diner requirements, much less delivers any sort of creative urban-chic reinterpretation of the classic retro diner. (By contrast, Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown is our current Greater Boston favorite — it’s always a good sign when a greasy spoon also actively caters to vegans.)

Which brings me to Emac and Bolio’s, which apparently will be renamed “Select Café.” First, why give up the goodwill associated with the Emac’s trademark? Second, the initial signs of the change-over are not promising. A handwritten sign posted in the window announces that the cafe is under new management, and (1) no credit or debit cards will be accepted and (2) no Emac and Bolio’s gift certificates will be honored. I’d love to be proved wrong about this, but I’m pessimistic that this is going to be the Change We Need in Roslindale — namely, a top rate artisanale snobby espresso shop. We can only hope that Simon’s, Flatblack, Cafe Nation, Diesel, or another of their ilk will come occupy one of the vacant storefronts on the courtyard. That we have any vacancies at all in the square, much less several, is a crime against humanity.

[Tags]Roslindale, Restaurants[/Tags]

Walter Michalik and the Roslindale Community Center

I’ve had little time in the four years I’ve lived in Roslindale to get involved in community volunteer efforts.  My wife Rachele, however, has devoted several years to efforts such as the Roslindale Community Center, Roslindale Village Main Streets, and Roslindale Clean and Green. She has served as chair of both RCC and one of the RVMS committees.

Over the past few months, I’ve been disappointed to see the RCC board endure repeated senseless attacks by a perhaps overzealous community member, Walter Michalik, who has effectively paralyzed the organization. I have nothing personal against this guy, but I thought I could do my part here by publishing an example of an email he broadcast to the committee, which I think is embarrassing enough on its own merits to need no editorializing from me, except to say any email that starts with “just so you won’t be surprised when the IRS launches its investigation” can be neither productive nor taken seriously.

The context is a response to an announcement sent out pursuant to the Community Centers By-Laws scheduling a special meeting to discuss the recent upheaval on the Council. There’s no reason this should not be in the public record:


Just so you won’t be surprised when the IRS launches its investigation, be advised that YOU DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CALL FOR A SPECIAL MEETING.  The By Laws do not allow the President/Chair to call for a Special meeting – that right is reserved for the MEMBERS to have a power over a hostile or non-performing President/Chair.  It was created by a Membership wary of annimosity within its ranks in order to protect itself from falling into a useless dysfunctional body.  That’s why our By Laws require the majority of the membership request it through the Chair and not the other way around.  So you screwed that up too.

Your continuous violation of rules and laws have proven beyond a doubt that this current Roslindale Community Center Council has violated the trust behind its IRS-designated not-for-profit status.

The failures are on so many significant levels over 6 months it is readily apparent that the Roslindale Community is better served without a Community Center Council.

There is no longer any excuse to allow the residents of Roslindale to be denied the services they deserve that you and the officers have no idea how to deliver.  Because that’s what you are supposed to do – serve the residents of Roslindale and not preseide over a self-serving board.  You’ve taken us from dysfunctional to non-functional over the past 60 days.

You and your officers have already driven away our Archdale partners and now the merger is off.  Congratulations.  You got what you wanted.

You and the officers have withheld information from the Members of the Council imposing gag orders along the way and in more than one instance spreading lies within this community.

There are so very many lapses on your part and the rest of the officers that it is very apparent that the Roslindale Community Center exists IN SPITE OF the Roslindale Community Center Council – not because of it.  It would be far better indeed, if the Center were run without the Council.

What have you done in 6 months?  All you do is avoid the work of leadership.  Please, just gracefully step aside and let a real leader emerge – or dissolve the Council and let the Center run itself under BCYF  before the IRS makes that happen.

Of course this is my stated opinion.  You can choose not to belive it.  You can huddle with a group of self-serving officers and invent excuses or change the agenda away from the message and continue with your ad hominem attacks against the messenger.  I’m thick-skinned.  Feelings aren’t important to me – services to residents are important to me.

While I have, in fact, enjoyed the confidences of others within this community and their true displesure with this Council, I will produce that to the appropriate authorities as I see fit along with the Bill of Particulars I have produced with documentation for all charges.

As a founder of the Roslindale Community Center Council I can no longer support you or the officers as any legitimate authority in this community.

[Tags]Boston, Roslindale, Walter Michalik[/Tags]

No time for blogging, but…

I’ve been on the road a lot lately with no time to blog (or sleep).  Following are a couple items to keep this space from going completely dead.

A wild turkey stopped by our backyard (in Boston):

a turkey

I called city animal control, and they said these guys are everywhere. Apparently there is no more wild left for the wildlife.

In other news, Gears is finally available for Firefox 3! For me, at least, this is a big deal, since I frequently depend on offline mode for Google Reader and have otherwise fully migrated to FF 3 for the speed benefits. Since RC2, it’s mostly stopped crashing as well.

[Tags]Wild Turkey, Wildlife, Gears, Boston, Firefox[/Tags]

MBTA On Time

After my many philippics against the MBTA, I should give the T credit for being nearly 100% on time this week (at least within five to ten minutes of target), so much so that I am often sprinting to catch the train because I had gotten used to it being late.  That the trains are only half-full due to people’s vacations must be related. So maybe the long-term solution is to alienate enough riders that they leave the system?

[Tags]MBTA, Boston[/Tags]

Proof of Winter 2007


We were hit pretty hard in Boston. My office was shut down and deserted by mid-afternoon, but I decided to stay until late afternoon — big mistake. You might think the trains wouldn’t be as affected by the snow. And they weren’t — it only took me twice as long to get home, while it took my brother over six hours to drive from Somerville to Roslindale.

Still, it was a pretty extraordinary scene at South Station around 4:30pm. It was packed inside and out. A few trains arrived, and no one got on or off. I was wondering if they were ghost trains until finally things started moving.

The odd color balance in this photo set is because these were all taken in the dark with very long exposure times. But the apocalyptic cast may actually be appropriate.

Earlier: Proof of Fall 2007, Blizzard 2007, Blizzard 2005, First Snow 2004, Winter Sunset 2005.

[Tags]Boston, Roslindale, Snow, Blizzard[/Tags]

MBTA Followup

This Universal Hub thread and Boston Globe article sum up my several MBTA complaint postings nicely (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11). The “work to rule” comments are particularly interesting.

Okay, if I’ve really written twelve entries on this topic, I’m done for now.

[Tags]MBTA, Boston[/Tags]

Is the MBTA killing its passengers?

A few days ago, I asked, is the MBTA killing itself? Now I’m wondering if it’s actually killing its passengers.

The following is cut-and-pasted from my submission to the MBTA “write to the top” program for commuter rail:

My wife boarded the Needham Train in Roslindale this morning (around 10am) with a carriage for our newborn baby. The only place you can board the train in Roslindale with a carriage is the last car which has a ramp. When the train arrived at Back Bay station (where she intended to get off), there was no way to exit the train from the back car, because the train didn’t pull far enough into the station, so there was only a wall at her exit. The carriage was too big to fit through the door to pass between cars (which I understand is discouraged while moving anyway). She pressed the emergency call button three times (and heard the emergency call announcement) but was  ignored by the conductors. She was unable to get off and thus ended up at South Station, two miles from her destination. The same problem would occur for someone in a wheelchair. This seems like a major ADA violation and a safety concern — how can you ignore the emergency call button pressed three times?

Okay, I’ve probably had enough hating on the MBTA for one month. What is wrong with these people, though?

[Tags]MBTA, Boston, ADA[/Tags]

Smooth Velouria Espresso

I just discovered the recently-opened Velouria Espresso in Jamaica Plain via this subscribers-only article in the Atlantic. Velouria marks the latest arrival in the single-origin coffee movement pioneered by George Howell. In a nutshell, the idea of single-origin coffee beans is that if beans are identified with a particular region (or even particular grower), the farmers will have more incentive to distinguish themselves. Ultimately, coffee beans will be known like fine wines, and the best growers will earn premium prices (thus bringing even more money to underdeveloped areas than coffee sold as fair-trade). Flatblack Coffee Company, near my office, operates under similar principles. More details in this episode of On Point with George Howell.

Velouria distinguishes itself with its focus on brewed coffee rather than espresso (although they have plenty of that as well). The shop features the “Clover” coffee machine (“Bring out the subtle nuances of all of your coffees through complete, independent control of all of the important brew parameters: grind size, dose, water temperature, and contact time.”)

I got a cappucino and a single-origin Kenyan coffee made with the Clover Machine. (Actually, two distinct single-origin Kenyan coffees, which Steve surreptitiously swapped on me while I wasn’t looking). They were all excellent.

My cappucino started with a little foam heart in the crema:


Amazingly, even when it was finished, the heart was still faintly visible:


Steve enjoyed his espresso as well:


Velouria has no website that I could find. it’s at 389 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02131. Beware the Yelp page as it has inaccurate hours information — just call them at (617) 522-2400 if you’re wondering if they’re open.

Now if we could only get a place like this in one of the vacant storefronts in Roslindale

[tags]Coffee, espresso, flatblack, single origin, velouria espresso, Boston[/tags]