How does Strong Towns affect your work?
Answered by Sam – after learning more about Strong Towns, Sam ensures fiscal responsibility when working on new projects. For instance, developers may often want to build new projects with water, sewer, and roads. Before moving forward with the project, the question is always asked: how does it get paid for? Ensuring the town does not overextend by assuming liability for things they cannot afford is a major contributor to many decisions made nowadays.
The high cost of infrastructure also changes how the planning board considers densification, or lack thereof. Running one mile of pipe for sewer to one house is inordinately expensive and may not pay for itself. Running one mile of pipe for sewer to a complex with 40 houses is much more likely to pay for itself.
This is not the only factor considered, but a new and important point of conversation when planning.
Main St – moving to 2 lanes were contentious, will we have to go through that every time we try to move back to 2 lanes?
Answered by Matt – 2 lanes on Main Street (rather than 4) was originally supposed to be a COVID only thing so folks would feel safe about eating outside. However this is something that the town would like to do again, not just because of COVID though. There is consideration around reshaping Main Street, but of course with such an important street both for automotive and pedestrian transport, there is much that has to be considered.
As the future of Main Street is considered, there will be community outreach, traffic studies, and more. Pedestrian impact will be considered as well of course.
– Some folks interjected here talking about the PAC may bring much new foot traffic to Main Street, so it is extra important to consider pedestrian safety and traffic to Main Street. Both officials agreed.
Matt and Sam went on to discuss that restaurants will likely have to pay if they would like to use street space for additional seating. If they don’t use it, this will potentially open up new opportunities for the land use that are not parking (food trucks were considered).
Could we get more “holiday strolls?”
Matt discussed how it is an enormous amount of work to shut down Main Street, but given the resounding success of the last Stroll, it is certainly something he would like to do.
– One of our members interjected and asked if perhaps we could have days where some of the side streets that are “less critical” to transportation are closed off to traffic for smaller events in the middle of the year. Testing small bets is something that is critical to Strong Towns. Matt said this would be considered.
When talking to other residents – should we consider discussing how higher density will lower tax burden?
Answered by both – it is something that is probably worth mentioning especially given the tax rate hike. It is not something many residents probably have thought about before.
Why is there no bus from downtown to Boston or to the Outlet Malls?
Answered by Matt – Route changes especially to businesses are subject to chartering restrictions. Moving to specific areas can be difficult (although this does not mean it does not get done, it just takes time).
As of now it is possible to get to Boston solely by bus, but NTS won’t take you fully there, you have to take the NTS to the Boston Express. To go all the way to Boston on the NTS wouldn’t be feasible as it would be in competition with the better funded Boston Express.
Why can’t we have the Boston Express show up in downtown Nashua?
Answered by Matt – this isn’t something I’ve considered. I will bring it up in a meeting later.
Why are there no Sunday buses?
Answered by Matt – this is something we’d love to do, but lack both the funding and the labor to do it. It is unfortunately difficult to even run on Saturday, but something we are committed to.
Why is there no shade/cover over bus stops?
Answered by Matt – This is a matter of both funding and in some cases land use. Funding for the NTS is far too low to afford bus shelter shade, but also in some places we don’t have proper permits to add shelter on bus stops.
Why is there free parking in garages in December, but NTS rides are not free?
Answered by Matt – We would love to be able to provide free NTS, but we have a difficult enough time funding it properly as is. With that said we have been exploring free NTS ride passes for workers on Saturday, as it is difficult for many of them to get to their jobs otherwise.
On the topic of the bus, Matt also wanted to add a few extra points – Like many other transit systems, our ridership is currently at 53% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This makes it even more difficult to fund. Our buses are clean, comfortable, and great for the environment. If you have the ability to ride a bus to get somewhere and it lines up with your schedule, please do! The more ridership there is on the bus, the better we’ll be able to advocate for expansion/more rides.
The bus goes until 10PM and has bike carriers.
One of our members then challenged everyone to take the NTS to our next meeting (likely some time in mid-late January). All routes can be found here and it is absolutely something we (Nashua Strong Towns) will try to make as easy as possible to for folks to do at our next meeting.
What is the status of commuter rail in Nashua?
Answered by Matt – The commuter rail plan has changed a few times. Currently Manchester + Nashua are the priorities for the commuter rail. Nashua would get two stations, one near downtown, and one near the malls. According to current calculations, the commuter rail would actually run at a profit which is both unexpected, but good news for Nashua rail.
How it would currently work if the rail were implemented:
- The state would handle uptake on operational of the rail line
- The city would take on station maintenance+building
We are serious with regards to constructing commuter rail, but much of it is contingent on whether or not we get the federal funding for it.
The MBTA is also an authority on whether or not the line would actually get built as well. There is still some discussion that has to be completed with the MBTA. There are also questions on where the overnighting station will be.
With all that said, the state is pushing for rail, and it’s possible make some strong progress in early 2023 after getting some more financial data.
As the town is committed to Transit Oriented Development lots of new housing would likely be built near commuter rail stations.
Amherst St/Main St intersection is dangerous, how can we make this better for pedestrians?
Answered by Matt – this is a difficult question to answer. In order to make this intersection better we need to work on driving down volume in this area. It is a critical junction for folks going to Hudson and much other traffic.
This is something that will likely go up for community review. We will need support from the public for any major changes in this area.
The master plan is great – how do we keep up with developments in the master plan and make sure we show up to meetings to support it?
Answered by Matt – we recommend joining an alderman’s email list to see what new meetings are coming up. The town’s site UI is not the best, so it can be difficult to know what is going on otherwise.
Matt then recommended to either join ward 8 alderman’s email list (Derek Thibeault). All of the town alderman can be found here.
For more on the master plan, see the official site here.
Those were all of the questions we had time for. The meeting lasted until around 8:45PM. We really appreciate both Matt and Sam making the trek out for our meeting and then spending so long with us chatting with our group. The meeting went over the scheduled end time by over an hour, and yet both were willing to stick around and answer each of our questions.
If you see them around, make sure to give them a hearty thanks as a Nashua Strong Towns member for taking time out of their day to talk with us.