Oh, Freedom

This month the trolley tracks in Jamaica Plain were paved over. All gone. It took two days. They had been a hazard and a nuisance, especially for cyclists, causing many injuries. And they had not been used by a trolley since December 1985. That’s 22 and 1/2 years of unnecessary pain. Completely unnecessary, because the plans for trolley “restoration” always called for replacing the existing tracks to provide greater support for the “Light Rail Vehicles” that are now the only kind used on the Green Line (and which are ironically heavier than the old PCC cars previously used in Jamaica Plain).

The absence of track now gives bicyclists freedom of movement without fear of falling. In the past few weeks I have easily and without worry passed stopped buses and doubled-parked cars and executed left turns — even in the rain.

I am trying to organize a Freedom Ride to mark the paving over of the trolley tracks. It would be fitting to do it around the July 4 holiday.

Now for the first time in the 16 years I have lived in Jamaica Plain, all of the major streets are reasonably smooth and free from hazards. Even Amory Street, which had been in horrible shape as long as I can remember, is now covered in smooth black asphalt from end to (almost) end. Lamartine St was repaved a few years ago, after being horribly potholed and dug up by utilities for years.

There is still more work to be done: the Southwest Corridor path is showing its 20 year age. Tree roots have caused heaves in many places. Crosswalks are missing. The original design defects, such as narrow curb cuts, lack of side clearance, and, in one place, a very steep slope are still there. But don’t hold your breath waiting for repairs. The DCR is chronically underfunded. Ten years ago when I asked about improving the surface quality of the path they offered to supply the materials if I could provide a crew of volunteers. The path needs to be rebuilt in many places and tree root barriers installed. I can think of only one case where badly needed path improvements were actually made (the old section of the Cape Cod Rail Trail). There are too many counter-examples: the heavily used Charles River paths are still a horror show.


  1. If they were only paved over, they will reappear every March. I can show you some streetcar tracks in Pittsburgh that have been paved over for at least twenty years, maybe fifty. They come back every spring, just like the crocuses.

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