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John Mason Rudolph 1860-1900 The Baumgartner Family in January 1956 Horatio Nichols 1831-1899 Elizabeth Thankful Sunderland 1911-1986 Cosimo Lepore and Luigia Luongo Emma Louise Erskine (Grandma Johnson) 1862-1951 Sarah Rebecca Nichols 1861-1924 Lord Robert Erskine John and Pauline Yaeger Bert Erskine Rudolph 1890-1940 Arthur Thomas Nichols 1907-1969 Julia Ann Taylor 1883-1918 Alfonso Luongo Emily Bosch Edward Albert Nichols 1868-1924
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Robert Ernest Rudolph

Robert Ernest Rudolph

Male 1931 - 1986

 

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Farewell Article about Robert Erskine Rudolph as he resigned as Director Of Traffic for the City of Cambridge, MA

Robert Ernest Rudolph was Director of Traffic for the City of Cambridge, Mass. from July 1962 through April 1969. This position was a high point of his career and he was always proud of what he'd accomplished there. This and the next four newspaper items were framed and hanging on the walls of his study until he passed away.


Cambridge had never had a Director of Traffic before. He was hired to bring order to the chaos, which he accomplished quite well. I remember one time when I was about six years old and shortly after he took the position, he brought me to the top of a tall building on the edge of Harvard Square to observe the traffic there. This may have been a view of Central Square, I was quite young, but I believe it was Harvard Square. As I remember looking down into Harvard Square, there were five or six streets that came together in Harvard Square at irregular angles. The square itself was a vast plain of umarked paved black asphalt. There were no lane markings of any kind, nor traffic lights, islands or crosswalks. Cars came in from the various streets and fought their way through the square to get out to one of the other streets. There were no orderly streams or lines of cars making their way through the square. Each driver crawled toward any opening that appeared to the left, straight ahead or right of where their car was at that moment. There were constant horns honking. It sure looked like chaos to me!

The position of Director of Traffic was contentious and political. He embraced and experimented with new approaches, some succeeding and some not. He attended the City Council meeting every Monday evening and usually came home drained. As he explained it to me, some members of the City Council had an axe to grind, or a business interest somewhere in the city that they wanted traffic to flow past, and if possible be stopped in front of their business interest, so that drivers would notice their business. He introduced alternate side of the street parking and parking bans during snow emergencies, which exasperated Council members if their home or their friends' home were on the side of the street that lost parking.

During snow emergencies, he drove the streets in his city-issued black Ford Galaxy 500 sedan directing city towing operations to enforce the parking ban. He became quite the excellent snow driver, once taking me with him during one of these snow emergencies. It was snowing hard at night and the streets were deserted. We crept down a narrow snow laden street with cars parked along both sides. We got to the end of that stretch and he needed to reverse direction to see it traveling the other way. So at the end of that stretch in the middle of the 4-way intersection under the functioning traffic light, he did a slow-motion 180-degree doughnut turn, rear tires spinning the whole time until through the 180 degrees, and then slowly crept back up the street the other way. Casual and under control. I asked about the doughnut turn and he said 'I do these all through every storm to get around.'

I remember in one of these snow storms, a particular City Council member who was especially unpleasant to him at many Monday night City Council meetings and who was unaccepting of the snow emergency parking in front of his house, had left his personal car illegally parked in front of his house during the storm. Robert happily directed the tow trucks to the council member's car and the car was taken away to an impoundment lot. Of course the council member called in wanting to know where they'd towed his car too. But they just couldn't seem to find the councilman's car! As I remember, it was three days before they located the car!

I remember him describing his approach for awarding a contract for purchasing parking meters for the entire city. Parking meter vandalism and coin theft was a constant problem. Each bidder for the parking meter contract supplied one of their candidate parking meters. The candidate parking meters were then installed by the city in a row beside three parking spaces. Then all on the same day, the bidders were invited in for a competition. Each bidder was allowed to designate one guy, bringing with him whatever tools he wanted, to break into his competitors parking meter for theft. The last parking meter still holding its coins would win the contract. So one big guy with sledge hammers and crowbars at each of the candidate parking meters, Go! But Robert said that in the end it had been unfair because one the bidders had gotten their competitor's parking meter up out of the ground, laid it flat on the concrete sidewalk and then wailed away at it with the sledge hammer, smashing it open. But the rules of the competition were the rules and that smashed parking meter lost, although Robert thought that perhaps it had been the best one.

At the end of his tenure as Director of Traffic, traffic in the city was dramatically improved. The current design of traffic patterns in Central Square and Harvard Square are his best known successes, lane markings on the streets, all modernized traffic signals and a computerized traffic signal control system. His default picture on his page here shows him sitting on one of the traffic control islands in Central Square, as designed by him.


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The family history presented in this website is maintained by Bob Rudolph, 315 Mountain Road, Glastonbury, CT 06033. Contact Bob at robert.rudolph@policysystems.com. All materials contained in this website are Copyright © 1998-2017 by same and may not be used for commercial purposes without the expressed written permission of same. This site powered by The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding ©, v. 9.0.4, written by Darrin Lythgoe 2001-2017.