Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Brandeis Campus Police have been directing traffic at the crosswalks between the Rabb Steps and Usdan, and that they’re letting vehicle traffic move through while students walking must wait. Well, my friend Matt told me he was writing an email to Ed Callahan, chief of police, so I wrote one too. Here it is:
Dear Chief Callahan,
I am writing you in response to an observation I made recently where an officer was giving priority to automobiles over pedestrians at Rabb Steps. I believe strongly that the presence of automobiles negatively effects the quality of life on campus, and a policy of prioritizing vehicle traffic before pedestrians contributes to this problem. Making driving on campus more convenient encourages more students to use their automobiles rather than walk and bike, which are much healthier options. I have also observed police vehicles idling in the area at Rabb Steps, which with passing and idling vehicle traffic emit harmful emissions in an area with a high volume of pedestrian traffic. I would like to remind you that unnecessary idling over five minutes is prohibited by Massachusetts law and by MassDEP regulations.
The current Brandeis Master Plan, established in 2001, calls for reduced vehicular traffic. The document defining the plan’s scope lists “Reduction of vehicular encroachment into pedestrian areas” and “Separation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation” as major goals and objectives. The plan itself envisions closing the area between Usdan and the North (Mandel) Academic Quad to vehicular thru traffic. While the University has improved conditions for pedestrians on South Campus with a new link in the Brandeis Walk, policies toward traffic at Rabb Steps work against the goals of a healthier, more beautiful, and more sustainable campus. I urge you to put people first, supporting safe and efficient traffic flow at Rabb Steps by prioritizing pedestrian traffic when an officer is present in the short-term and advocating for pedestrianization of the Brandeis Loop at Rabb steps in the mid- to long-term.
I appreciate your attention in this matter.
I can understand why the police have set up camp there. Traffic can get backed up pretty far during the 10 minutes between classes. There’s even a lot of idling caused because of it. Really, neither the status quo nor the traffic direction works. Both are harmful for the environment. The thing is, we shouldn’t be encouraging more driving. It’s bad enough that we have so many cars on campus, and that some people drive to class even with the inconvenience at that crossing. What’s the alternative? Pedestrianization. Cut the loop road so that the furthest you can get is to the parking lot behind North Quad. Here’s a drawing from the campus master plan of what it might look like:
Nice, huh? Imagine the possibilities… that portion of the loop road could become a plaza for all sorts of activities. Hanging out, tabling, eating, people-watching… it would be a great public space, free of pollution and cars. Emergency vehicles would still be able to get through, but it would be a place for people, not cars.