Boston’s Vision Zero: Intersection of technology and safety

By: Jason Small
Boston street view

The intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street.

Vision Zero, originally founded in Sweden, is an internationally proven urban safety program employing the latest technology to transform cities’ most dangerous transportation challenges.

The program has spread and in a city like Boston, where roads carry over 1.5 million people every weekday, it’s leading to real change. Vision Zero Boston is the city’s commitment to use proven strategies and resources with the goal of eliminating fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030.

Since adopting Vision Zero in 2015, the City of Boston has taken many measures to help eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes on Boston's streets.

It’s not an easy job, particularly given the unpredictable streets of Boston. The city’s roads carry over 1.5 million people every weekday; a multitude of factions traveling by motor vehicle, MBTA, motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard or on foot. But the city is addressing the many challenges that come with such an active system and making material changes to improve public safety.

"Since adopting Vision Zero in 2015, the City of Boston has taken many measures to help eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes on Boston's streets," said Charlotte Fleetwood, Transportation Planner with the Boston Transportation Department.  "The work of our Vision Zero Task Force was instrumental in Boston's default speed limit being reduced from 30 to 25 mph this year.  In addition, we implemented the Boston's Safest Driver Competition to raise awareness of distracted driving, we installed safety improvements at targeted locations citywide, and we've enacted a policy of ensuring that all major roadway reconstruction projects focus on improving safety for all users of our streets.”

Many of these changes are better informed thanks to data that gives visibility into specific risk factors that drive improvements.

Data drives change

The city of Boston has been working with Verizon to leverage non-invasive data-gathering devices in specific areas around the city connected to Verizon’s web-based platform which analyzes the data, then visualizes and reports back on specific recommendations.

The data provides insight around remedies to alert distracted pedestrians, warn risk-taking bicycle riders, and put the brakes on speeding drivers.

 For instance, the data can help inspire changes that could: 

  • Discourage Boston pedestrians from encroaching on corners
  • Limit pedestrian and cyclist access to cutting across intersections
  • Prevent cyclists from riding outside of bike lanes
  • Forestall drivers from racing through to “make the light”

Acting on the implications of collision data analysis, the City of Boston has made many improvements in 2016:

  • Synchronized crossing and signal timings at 60 traffic signal intersections
  • Widened sidewalks
  • Added parking protected bike lanes and flex posts
  • Implemented traffic flow improvements
  • Built crossing islands for pedestrians
  • Raised median strips

Boston’s “Beacon-Mass Ave” intersection has a history of serious and fatal incidents but has made a dramatic shift to safety, with physical countermeasures warning drivers and pedestrians to slow down, and a 6.5 foot wide protected bike lane.

The city continues to make improvements with the goal of eliminating fatal and serious traffic crashes by 2030. By teaming with Verizon to re-imagine Boston’s streets the city will leverage technology to drive real insights around complex transportation patterns and work towards saving lives together.

Verizon and Boston

In 2016, Verizon was named the city’s high-speed fiber optic network provider and in nearby Waltham, nestled in Massachusetts’ high-tech corridor. Verizon’s Innovation Center is advancing wireless technology, connecting people, places, and things in meaningful new ways. Verizon’s technology platforms, including 4G LTE, are enabling Boston businesses, educational institutions and hospitals to perform with high quality wireless-enabled services, all while enabling more citizen-engagement and promoting economic advancements.

At Verizon, we don’t wait for the future, we build it. We are partnering with visionaries to use technology and data to turn innovative ideas into realities

Learn how Verizon can help make your community smart

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com

About the author(s): 

Jason Small leads storytelling for the Verizon communications team. His background includes online and offline roles in digital marketing and communications within corporate, agency and startup environments across more than 20 brands. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonSmallChats.