I am, by day, a software product manager. Broadly speaking, product managers are responsible for making research & development investment decisions — build new features, enhance old features, attract new customers, retain existing customers, &c. One thing we do as a matter of course is to instrument the features we build. We are desperate to know who is using what we build and how.

Years ago, when Chestnut Hill Square was petitioning for a special permit, Srdj Nedeljkovic and I proposed language for the new zoning provision that would cover the properties being developed. One of the provisions we suggested was a requirement that, to validate traffic predictions, the developer submit periodic reports of traffic volume into and out of the development. Basically, we urged the city to have the developer instrument the site and provide the data publicly.

Fast forward to the upcoming reconstruction of Needham St. The plans and designs are based on some intermittent measurements, but there is nothing proposed (that I’m aware of, anyway) to continually monitor traffic volumes and behavior on the street. The technology is certainly available. The miles/ minutes signs on the highway in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) sniff bluetooth and cellphone signals and track how long it takes them to get from A to B. While the toll gantries on the Turnpike are primarily there to collect revenue, they also gather the volume and speed of traffic throughout the day. The state should invest in appropriate technology to continually measure traffic on Needham St., so we can make good planning decisions and understand the impact of various changes in the region.

We need to have a smart street.

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