The Power of Ideas: Vineet Gupta

The director of policy and planning for the BTD is setting out to make Boston's streets safer. —By Karen Weintraub

vineet gupta BTA

Photograph by Trevor Reid

Bikers risk their lives. Pedestrians jostle for space on narrow sidewalks. Drivers curse them both for moving too slowly. There are never enough parking spots. In Boston and around the country, city streets are inhospitable to everything except, well, cars. But a new school of thought suggests the root problem isn’t with our notoriously wild drivers but with the
streets themselves.

Boston is at the forefront of Complete Streets, a national movement to reinvent the urban environment. “We’re fundamentally reorienting our streets to accommodate all these ways of travel,” says Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning for the Boston Transportation Department. The BTD is embracing a policy of street redesign that treats diverse needs equally. It’s a holistic approach that mirrors those in European cities like Barcelona and London, Gupta says. With a third of Boston’s residents between the ages of 18 and 30, we’re more likely to walk, run, cycle, and ride mass transit—meaning the hegemony of the auto has to end.

It’s not just about adding bike and bus lanes, Gupta says: The city is also thinking about technology, accessibility, and environmental concerns—for example, designing shade and foliage so that more rainwater drains into the ground to ease the pressure on sewers. “It’s not always that I need to get there as fast as I can,” Gupta says. “We need to make sure our streets accommodate our values.”