If Prescott Street is to be more inviting, then let such an effort start with painting the crosswalks red.
That’s just what happened on Sunday morning when volunteers from the street and volunteers from the NeighborWays organization got together to take their first action after several months of planning and recruiting on the street – which is a major cut-through for those going from Main Street to Air Force Road.
Mark Chase, the founder of NeighborWay and a Tufts University professor, said they have been working with and talking with neighbors on Prescott Street for several months about ways that could make the street a more pleasant pedestrian experience – while at the same time slowing down cars.
“It’s a very community-based effort,” he said. “We been working with people who live on the street to get them motivated to think of ways to make the street more friendly for walking. The idea is to make the street more comfortable and reduce problems encountered with getting around on foot, especially for things like walking a dog.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the effort on Prescott fits into his larger vision for making Everett more pedestrian and public transit friendly. He encouraged more residents on the street to get involved.
“I want to thank all the residents and neighbors who helped paint the Prescott Street crosswalks,” he said. “You have shown our community how to make it safe for children to play and bicycle and give pedestrians priority over cars. This artwork provides connections between to the Northern Strand Community Trail, the Madeline English School, the Riverwalk, and recreational facilities.”
Chase said he is a transportation planning teacher at Tufts University and students came up with the idea to do such a thing about five years ago in Somerville, creating the concept of neighborhood greenways. Three years ago that idea became reality, and they also did other projects in Boston.
Now, they have turned to Everett, and Prescott Street is the first place they decided to focus upon.
“Prescott Street is interesting because it connects with the Northern Strand Trail,” he said. “We have been planning for a while and having lemonade socials, but the crosswalks were our first action. The crosswalk idea is very cost effective and makes an impression. It also motivates people to get involved. Once they see that kind of change, they might want to get involved.”
The effort on Sunday focused on the gateways to Prescott Street, mostly up by Main Street where so many cars bang a right or left to go down the street. Because it is wide and downhill, many people go about 25 to 35 mph, Chase said. The goal is to find ways to slow them down to about 20 mph or slower. The crosswalks grab their attention, he said, and it’s something they have learned has some effect.
As the winter rolls around, Chase said they will be working with the Art Department at the Madeline English School to come up with some public art projects for Prescott Street.
“I’m not sure what that would look like or be, but it’s a 30-foot wide street so there’s lots of extra space to do something interesting there,” he said. “The key will be having residents and kids find what they want to do and then work to get it done. Right now, this is going to be our winter planning project.”
Chase said the major focus of NeighborWays is to pick one street, and then encourage residents to take over the momentum of the planning. That’s because Chase said their purpose is to let residents, not NeighborWays, lead the effort.
“We try to encourage residents to take control of it so they are making these decisions about what they would like to see, and not us,” he said.
A long-term hope, Chase said, is to see Prescott Street have more park-like attributes such as trees or curb bump outs. Right now, he said, the idea is to get people on the street all rowing in the same direction.