Karen Deaton along with son Sam points out Shoppingtown mall on a map of Erie Boulevard East to other community members, where she suggested a bus hub be added. (Riley Bunch)
By Riley Bunch
The Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) is currently conducting the Erie Boulevard East Pedestrian Study to generate recommendations to improve the pedestrian experience and safety in the near term.
In partnership with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the City of Syracuse and the Town of Dewitt, the coalition aims to document the existing conditions on Erie Boulevard East between Beech Street and East Genesee Street, a total of 4.3 miles.
This past week, SMTC hosted its first public meeting regarding the Pedestrian Study to gain input from the public on how the corridor is currently used and existing transportation issues in the corridor related to walking and biking.
“The main difference between this study and other studies we do is usually we are thinking about 5, 10, 20 years down the road,” said SMTC Director James D’Agostino. “Now we are looking at things you can use tomorrow to make pedestrians lives easier. To make it safer now while we wait for a major construction project.”
Erie Boulevard hosts an estimated 17,000 to 22,000 vehicles on its roads daily. Centro Route 68 which runs along Erie Boulevard has been listed as having the eighth highest ridership out of Centro’s 25 routes. The road has only one bus shelter for public transportation riders.
Pedestrian safety along the busy boulevard is of high concern in the community. Pedestrians often use the asphalt strips along the sides of the road, originally put into place for snow storage, as sidewalks. However, most of these areas do not have curbs are only about three feet wide. Due to a complete lack of bike lanes, bicyclists are forced to travel on the road.
SMTC hopes to examine the structure of Erie Boulevard and develop recommendations to address issues in the near term. Low investment changes such as temporary crosswalks, crossing signals and bus hubs are being considered. The Town of Dewitt has also begun pushing property owners to add sidewalks in front of their establishments themselves.
Danielle Krol, senior transportation planner for SMTC, noted areas of concern along the four-mile strip.
“One of the big things we have noticed are a lot of curb cuts and driveways that can get dangerous,” said Krol. “The data we collect will prioritize locations. We can’t wait that long to help people get across the street.”
The vegetated and paved medians along Erie prove problematic because they have for a long period served as unofficial pedestrian walking areas between the roads of rushing cars. In many areas, bus riders who take public transportation to work have to cross the road to get to the opposite bus stop that takes them home at the end of their day.
From 2004 to 2014, the number of accidents along Erie have totaled to 2,391. Out of that number, 26 accidents have included bicyclists and 23 included pedestrians. Out of those 23 pedestrian accidents, two were fatal.
At the study’s first public meeting, community members voiced their concerns about specific places on Erie Boulevard and gave suggestions on maps of pedestrian and bike designated areas.
Mike and Karen Deaton, who are frequent travelers along Erie, came with concerns for their older neighbors who have difficulty traveling.
“Living in the area we see people that don’t have access to places along Erie because they don’t drive,” said Mike Deaton. “We see a lot of people in dangerous situations.”
Both coming from a social work background, the couple suggested a large hub for Centro busses within Shoppingtown Mall in Dewitt.
“We are always thinking about walkability. We live in an older neighborhood with many neighbors who can’t walk with a walker down roads to access places,” said Karen Deaton.
SMTC hopes to have a final report with detailed transportation recommendations for Erie Boulevard East by December 2017.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.