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Arabic-Speaking Focus Group Feedback

1/22/22 Summary of comments:

  • People take a combination of bus, subway, walk, and driving to get around. The Red Line is very easy.
  • People think a school bus tracking app for would be useful and did not realize the school department offers an app for this. People are also interested in learning more about the Transit app, which helps people know when the next school bus, MBTA bus, and subway will arrive. It would also help to have more clearly marked bus stops and more screens around that show when the next bus will arrive, especially around the high school.
  • Some people like the protected bike lanes for their kids, but are frustrated that the bus-only lanes are often not being used by a bus. They would like to know if cars are allowed to use it when there are no buses there and make the rules easy to see.
  • Parking is not stressful if people have a spot in their building at home, but it is very expensive to rent a spot. People with low incomes cannot afford to pay for parking in their buildings.
  • People who use resident permit parking on the street sometimes have a very hard time finding parking near their homes, especially during snowstorms and street-cleaning days. Cold weather makes it unpleasant to walk far from a parking space.
  • Some people are frustrated that there is no resident parking on the street in their area (Cambridgepark Drive and Concord Ave).
  • At night, parking far from home is scary because people feel unsafe walking from their cars. In addition, people have seen animals near Alewife at night.
  • Driving can feel confusing and sometimes unsafe because it’s not always clear who can go next—a person driving, a person walking, or sometimes a bus.
  • It is nice to have trees near homes.

Questions asked:

  1. Can we have a left turn arrow on Cambridge Street and Beacon Street to be able to turn left in Inman Square? Also on Hampshire Street onto Prospect to make up for no more driving straight onto Cambridge Street at Inman Sq going towards Galleria.
    Answer: Inman Square is being redesigned to be safer for people walking, biking, driving, and taking buses through the square. You can see the final design and learn about construction updates on the website.
  2. Why does the walk signal happen at the same time as a green light for cars?
    Answer: When cars and people walking can use the intersection at the same time, we can leave the WALK sign on for much longer. People walking also wait far less time for the WALK sign to come on. Finally, the WALK sign comes on without needing to press a button. You can learn more about different traffic signals on our website.
  3. Can we have signs showing next bus information around the city and at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, like in Harvard Station?
    Answer: The city has information about real-time bus arrival signs, bus stop benches, and shelters at this page.
  4. Is there an app we can use to know when next bus is coming?
    Answer: The Cambridge Public School Department has a school bus tracker app. There are also a number of different public transit apps available to track the MBTA buses.
  5. Is it possible to mark bus stops more clearly so it's obvious where the bus will stop?
    Answer: The City is exploring ways to make the front pole of a bus stop more obvious. A bus stop has a front and a rear sign. The front sign has the bus route number and destination. We usually attach the front sign to a pole for parking signs. The MBTA has trained their drivers to try their best to bring the front door of a bus as close to the front sign as possible. 
  6. Why Is there a pass available for bus only, and bus+subway, but not subway only?
    Answer: That’s a good question. We will ask the MBTA about their pass structure.
  7. Are cars allowed to drive in the new bus lanes at certain times of day?
    Answer: It depends on the location. We have given bus lanes different regulations based on an evaluation of all the different needs on the street. You will have to look at signs for more information.
    For locations where we know many people need to access to the curb, the bus lane is dedicated to buses only during the time of day when it is most helpful for buses. Black and white signs will say when a bus lane is dedicated to buses. At all other times, you will have to stop and look at the curb/parking regulation signs. Those signs will say how long and where you can park, stop, or load.
    At other locations, bus lanes are dedicated to buses all day, every day. Black and white signs will say “buses only” at these locations.
  8. Why do residents of Cambridge need to pay to park at meters?
    Answer: Meters help make people park for short times, which means that more people can come and go all day. So a meter can serve many people in a day, rather than just one person using a resident parking space. Meters make sure that there are always a few spots available to support the businesses and to make it possible for residents who want to drive across the city to find a space. If residents were allowed to park for free at meters, it would encourage people to drive and it would be less likely people could find a spot in front of business.

Focus group quotes include:

  • I take bus, subway, walk. Also walk.
  • Red Line so easy to get to places. Red Line is my favorite transportation. But driving with split lanes for bus and special for bus, I have to leave at least one hour to go to Cambridge. Has become more difficult to drive around, I have to be honest with you.
  • Live on Concord Ave. Really difficult to drive around that area. Public transportation is not bad, close to Red Line and bus, but when I drive, it's hard to find parking.
  • Driving. Only use train to go to downtown. Area I live is hard to park if you have 3rd car. You cannot have spot if you go next to Alewife. During the night is scary honestly. During day is fine.
  • I take train to downtown from Porter. Sometimes in rush hour it takes too long. Next one is full of people, especially if you have kids with you. For parking, if we live in Cambridge, sometimes we don't find parking, we shouldn't have to pay for meters if we live in Cambridge.

…When we have a lot of snow, sometimes it hard to find where to park, it should have been clean all the time. And sometimes like, I live in Cambridge Housing sometimes when they don’t clean at Walden, and if you clean the spots and haul the park, they are not gonna like it. Because they need to clean the whole thing and they park when you clean your spot and someone else comes to park in your spot and the other spot is full with snow and it’s after one or two days it’s become like ice. It’s hard to clean it. I’m mentioning that for the Cambridge housing and also same thing for outside like 2-3 years ago, we had a lot of snow. Even outside the parking lot we couldn’t park. That’s one thing and for the people who have 2 cars, like my husband has a car, I have a car, and it’s a big family of 6 people, hard to find parking when you have sticker, especially at night like late night, like midnight, when my daughter went outside and came late from her work and even though she has a sticker, she’s not going to find any spot inside Walden. She has to go outside and I have to watch by the window because it’s scary for her safety, and for my son safety. 

And also, the times Cambridge housing gives out the sticker are difficult … When they give us the sticker, it’s only one day. For example, you can pick up stickers from 8 to 10 on Wednesday the 20th… first come first serve. Like me I have to call out for my work … to pick up two stickers. If I’m not there that means I am not gonna have sticker and have to park outside. If you work, you will not be able to get sticker from the office … That’s hard for us and difficult for two cars.

Even I live in Walden, but I cannot park there. I park, they’re gonna tow my car. You know, that’s hard thing too. And even you have a sticker, when it’s full or people come from outside, like a guest, they have permission to park, I have a Walden sticker but they cannot park. They have to go outside, keep around, around around, until they find something, you know. When it snows, I have to get up from my house I mean from Porter to park around there, close to my house but it’s cold. At night it’s hard, early morning before I park my car at night far away from Walden because I didn’t find parking. It’s hard to walk in snow early morning you know. Richdale is icy. Thank you.

Transportation, train and bus, I’m asking myself always, “Why do we have to pay train and bus, like $85 monthly pass, if I am taking just the train?” I feel like they are forcing me to pay the bus too. And people who take only bus, they make them pay just the pass for the bus, but the people who take the train and bus I understand that, but If I am just taking the train why make me just pay the train and not bus at the same time. I’m paying but I’m not using it, thank you.

  • Our area is very nice to me, we live next to Memorial Drive. it’s a nice area, the river, nice area. We don’t have any problem.

I work in Galleria Mall. When they have street cleaning it’s hard to park with my own money, it's problem too.

When you want to turn at the light, you want to turn right, but people are crossing the street the same time … This is not good because we have to wait for the people crossing. After we wait, the light is changed to red. I saw it in Central Square and on Mass Ave.

I want to say about the snow emergency you know, when snow is heavy and the sign say snow emergency. Is not easy to find parking, you know, in the streets and other place. We have to look around around around to find a parking for when they have snow emergency.

Central Square problem too. Parking Central Square, Porter Sq, you know any square. It’s hard to find parking too … especially it’s very bad for sometimes these degrees—12 degrees, 7 degrees it’s hard to walk to the, if you want to go to the CVS or somewhere.

  • I'm good, we have parking in our building. For kids, I drop them every morning and get them every noontime. Even for our building, my husband and I pay for 2 cars, $240 per month, it's very expensive for us.

  • When you reach Inman Square, Cambridge Street becomes one-way. So you have to go to Hampshire Street and then make a left turn … [Can there be traffic lights to make a left there?] This is a main street and there is a school in Cambridge Street and can go open, like. I live in North Cambridge, this is the only way I have to take. And then when I have to wait like a couple minutes at the traffic light I have to wait sometimes 4 cars in front of me, so imagine 4 cars are waiting for traffic light for so long, so a couple minutes or I think it’s easier if they do a traffic light a yellow arrow to make a left turn.

  • It happened to me yesterday and it’s confused. The time you’re waiting for the green, your brain with the green light for you to turn, then suddenly someone crossing and you pay attention, “Is that his right to cross, and your right to turn?” And if in a rush, our brain’s gonna be all, “Am I right to turn?” We are not going to pay attention to who is crossing. That is scary.

  • I need to address that there is no street parking on Concord Ave between Walden Street and Belmont. There is zero street parking in that area, even off of Concord Ave. Other than that I have no problem.

  • I used to walk a lot and use the bus around Cambridge. Some bus stops have a sign that is not clear. They should do a seat for it or make it bigger. For example, Cambridge St or on Broadway the bus stop is not clear. Especially if someone has poor vision, you cannot tell where is the bus stop. 

And also, I know in the big stop like in Harvard and Galleria Mall there is a screen showing how many minutes for bus to come so is there any possibilities to put it in different bus stops too, like 68 bus because it's also I don’t know when it will come. Sometimes I check online and then they say it comes and then I wait for it and it didn’t show up. This is also big issue for students, this area. I have kids I have my daughter in high school and sometimes I told her to wait for bus and it didn’t show up and we check online and it’s not accurate. Like sometimes you cannot rely on bus. A lot of students they use the transportation because there is no school bus, but it’s very hard to know when the bus come, should I walk to Harvard Square and then take the bus? In winter it’s very hard because some days are very cold. 

I have an idea if it might be helpful. Since most of the students in high school are using the bus, if they have like in Harvard Station, a screen showing you, the bus 68 will come in 8 minutes, 69 it will come in 4 minutes. If they have something like this in front of school or something … it will encourage them more and it has lots of benefits … like “I will wait inside building 5 minutes if it’s very cold, I know I have to go now because it’s only 5 minutes.” It’s more safe. (edited for clarity)

  • I agree with the sister because our kids’ high school and they are using bus and train, if you can create an app for them to track the bus—which number is going to go this way, what time it will be. Like school buses, that would be so helpful for them especially, they are technology future.

  • I’ve been living in Cambridge all my life. You know, Cambridge is my favorite place. I love Cambridge. Too many changes happening that makes things harder for us to live. I just moved recently to Alewife, Cambridge Park Drive. About 4 or 5 blocks, there is no resident parking whatsoever, so in order for me to park my car I have either to rent an outside parking is about $75 or an inside parking is about $250, which is a lot of money. I’m unemployed now and you know, with the pandemic work is not like before. So this issue is really important. If I want to park my car, I usually park in Rindge Ave, I have to cross the street and walk home, you know, especially in this weather it’s really hard for me. So I am not sure if there’s any plans, I know too many companies construction going on but I think we need at least a couple, three handicap parking—there is no handicap parking. I think there is only one all the way to the end of Cambridgepark Drive. So I hope you guys take this into consideration. it’s difficult to park. Thank you for listening.

Well, at least, you know, we need to have some parking for residents. this is really important. I just moved like a year ago, I used to live on Cameron and Mass Ave, we have plenty of resident parking there [and parking underneath]. But it’s really frustrating for me to just park, you know I’m getting old for that walking from Rindge Ave all the way to Cambridgepark Drive. It’s hard especially in the winter … Mostly people who live in these apartments are professionals. MIT and Harvard and they make a lot of money most of them. They afford to park inside or outside. I know they have no problem. But just regular people like us, you know a lot of people who have housing, you know a lot of people who live next to me they have the same problem. I mean we can’t park, you know? This guy my neighbor he parked the same thing like me … He park on Rindge Ave and he walk, he have to cross the street to Cambridgepark Drive. We like to have some resident parking. It’s not like everything is like two hours, whatever. If I’m going to park two hours, then I’m going to put an alarm so I can go back and move it a distance. It’s really frustrating, you know?

Luckily, I have a friend who work as concierge in my building and if I need a spot, he give me a paper so I can park in the visitor parking. Plus if I have an appointment with my mother-in-law to go to the hospital the second day, he gave the paper, it is really a blessing that I can park once in a while in the visitor parking. Like I said, I love Cambridge, I’ve lived here for so long. Thank you for giving me the chance to talk.

…Not sure if this is the place to talk about garbage trucks. They usually have a spot that they can park, but I think they need to do. Parking in the middle of the street, there’s maybe 10-15 cars behind them and sometimes I look and find a spot that they can maybe take a right or left and do their business. So I’m not sure why they do it this way, sometimes they look at people like, “Yeah we are here. We are like the masters, if you don’t like it, just, you know. I usually just put my car on park when flashing, that’s it. But when I look, I see a lot of spots they can right, on the left, and do their business and leave. And it’s happened too many times, so not sure if this is the right place to share this or not, thank you.

…For me, it’s a lot of green, a lot of trees where I live, there’s a pond I can go and walk. It’s plenty of, like Alewife. I like to see parking in front of my house. It’s really frustrating to park. Even if you have people coming over, you can’t find parking for them. Even visitor parking, you have to have resident parking in order for you to let them use visitor parking. For me its parking—this is really important—parking parking parking. All these big companies they can afford, and all these people who work at these big companies, they can afford to park in the building. You know, they can pay $200, $300, it’s no problem. But people who have low income, it’s really bad, it’s frustrating for them to find a parking spot. Thank you. 

  • On general, I like the way, in my area, they’re encouraging biking, go green, and they offer some bike for people to get to the train. And I like the way on general in Cambridge when they put the lines specially for biking, for our kids’ safety. What my concern about the bus line—sometimes it is no buses only one line for cars and one line for bus. People start driving there, sometimes I drive too, I use that line, but at the same time I’m feeling guilty: “Am I supposed to drive that time or am I supposed to stick only with that other line, and the other one is empty there is no sign to allow us to use it or leave it empty for bus, even if there is no bus. Because when I drove through, I felt guilty. I say I can get stopped by police anytime.

Honestly, we have two spots. We have two cars—me and my husband, we are paying, we are allowed only two spots, but if my son has a car, he’s not allowed to have spots in the building, so we have to rent or he has to put it in parking lot in front of the Alewife. Going there during the day, it’s safe. Night-time, it’s really scary. They spot, many times, some animals there. The danger for people if you walk at night … between our building to Alewife. Coyote, they spot a coyote one time, and usually deers. My son he get scared from that news, we read about it and I say no way. I walk though that area and I told him no more. If my kids stay late and they’re going to use train, I have to drive to go to Alewife, pick them up and come. Only for safety issue, honestly.

… I would love when I get out from my building to see trees in front, to start with fresh air, fresh mind to deal with the stuff after. But totally my spot is saved in the building.

  • Yeah, I believe the sister have a nice idea, a nice point. When there’s no buses whatsoever in the morning and we have a stretch of cars—let’s say ¼ of a mile—you can’t take the bus lane. They should have something like, if this is empty we can ride like taking the side of street or something I think that should be addressed. Too many times there no buses its empty you can’t use it. Thank you.

  • Hi, I just want to note, like the MBTA buses, I know that they are like big vehicles, so they need like space on the road, so when they’re turning, that’s fine. It’s just when they drop off passengers and they get back onto the main street, I feel like they have too much priority, they turn right away. At the signal, they don’t even bother looking. There’s so many times when I’m, like driving and they just like cut in front of me or like they squeeze in so I move out the way, kinda bully me out the way. And I, like, hit the breaks. So it’s just like they can be trained for more safety and just like sharing the road. I just feel like they think they have the priority and I know they are on a schedule and they have to like get to each spot at a certain time, but yeah, just respect on the road. I feel like they just cut too many times uh makes the are more dangerous, especially when they are turning.

  • I’m not have a car. Most people live in low income and it’s hard to pay for winter parking and they didn’t pay for summertime parking. In summertime, they didn’t find any spot to park in because Cambridgeside include many companies in this area that is why it’s harder to find parking in the morning and that made them not as comfortable. 
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