Last week I attended the Architecture Boston Expo! I attended to get some insight to what our city is doing in terms of city planning, development and how that impacts you! I will do a blog on each session I attended. This blog will focus on the transformation of Kendall Square, Cambridge.
Some long-time Cambridge residents know what Kendall Square looked like in the 1960s. There was a lot of open industrial space, nothing very useful to today’s residents, but this area of land caught NASA’s attention. NASA had a plan to develop this area into an electronic center for their research and use. The project never took flight, but the area still held a spotlight for possibilities.
In the 1970s, the innovative idea of mixed-use buildings came into play. The idea that a building could have both residential and retail space or office space and retail space was a new concept. The true turning point for Kendall, was the development of the Red Line T Station as well as the new home for one of the many Marriott hotels. Slowly this little plot of land started to become the hub for research and development.
Like any metropolitan areas, new development means more traffic and difficulties in the movement of people from residences, jobs and everyday living. Kendall Square did not follow the norm. Research and Development (R&D) space steadily grew. With only so much land, most of the development continue upwards on top of existing car garage buildings. With the Kendall T station handling the influx of persons, the traffic jams feared did not come to a reality. That said, it is still not fun to drive up and down the streets of Kendall Square but there is not the traffic jam expected with the influx of development as has been the case in other major cities.
From 1999-2014, there has been a 4% increase in residents and a 4% increase in jobs and an additional 6.5 million square feet of development added. How on earth can you jam pack people into this space? Cambridge quickly learned that other modes of transportation were going to play a huge factor in alleviating traffic jams. The Red Line T station brought in many folks by way of train, eliminating the need for a car to drive and to make matters worse to park! More residents became aware of their surroundings and made a choice to either walk or ride a bike to work. As residents, jobs and development increased, traffic actually flat-lined or even decreased when major streets like Broadway, Binney, Third and Main Street were analyzed.
In 2012, The Boston Globe caught on that Cambridge was a leader in pushing the “car-free community” and the benefits this provided to the people enjoying Cambridge. Cambridge discovered that new development did not have to mean new drivers.
Since then, bike parking has taken over some of the previous car parking spaces. You can fit 20 bikes in the same space of 1 parked car. Companies joined together to create free shuttles that brought their employees to and from major connection points in the city and an overall marketing effort started to arise in places like MIT, encouraging people that they have a choice in the method of transportation to use.
With the increase of bikes also came needed development to handle the huge flow of cyclist around town. Cambridge was one of the first cities to add a cycle track down Vassar Street. An additional cycle track is expected for Binney Street. And protected bike ways on the inside of parked cars are being looked at to increase the safety of riders, pedestrians and cars alike.
Cambridge still has some challenges to overcome with the Red Line T Station hitting capacity in light of continued development. Cambridge is certainly a great example in what can be done when a community works together, but needed funds for increasing the Red line capacity are going to play a huge role in future endeavors and continued growth.