Abundant public comments lead to substantial changes in future Somerville routes
(Somerville Wire) – After receiving more than 20,000 comments on its plan to reorganize its bus routes, the MBTA announced a revised plan last week.
The new version of the map makes changes to more than half the routes announced in its initial proposal in May.
“We revised our May proposal to improve access to hospitals, senior centers, and other destinations, reduce walk distances for older adults and other riders in locations with uneven ground or sidewalks, preserve existing one-seat rides to many destinations, and balance resources,” the T said in its Oct. 27 announcement.
The new plan increases service by 25 percent over the current level, and doubles the number of high-frequency corridors—“buses running every 15 minutes or better, all day, every day.”
For Somerville riders, it’s mostly good news, as many routes that were eliminated or cut back in the first proposal have been returned.
The new plan restores Route 80 service from Arlington to Davis Square via Boston Avenue, and also extends that service to 1 a.m. Route 83 inbound from Rindge Avenue will continue going to Central. Instead of being eliminated, Route 85 (Spring Hill to Union to Kendall) will be greatly extended, running from Assembly Square to Ruggles via Union, Kendall, and Longwood Medical Area.
Route 87 will not lose the Davis to Lechmere portion of its route, and Route 89 from Davis to Sullivan via Broadway through Winter Hill has been restored. However, Route 91 from Sullivan to Central is still slated to be eliminated, replaced by two high-frequency lines, T39 and T109, that each cover part of the old route.
The Bus Network Redesign is just one part of the MBTA’s Better Bus Project, a $9.6 billion, five-year capital investment plan. Bus stop accessibility improvements, bus electrification, and electronic sign installation are all currently in progress.
Despite traffic patterns shifting tremendously in the past few decades, the bus network has stayed largely the same. The redesign is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to make bold improvements to the MBTA’s bus network for the people that depend on it most,” the T said.
“We thank our community of riders for sharing their comments with us and helping us to shape the future of MBTA bus service,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement last week. This week, Poftak announced that he will be stepping down as MBTA general manager on Jan. 3.
And here in Somerville, the Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee will discuss the bus network redesign with Melissa Dullea, Senior Director of Service Planning at the MBTA. The public is welcome to attend the virtual meeting this Thursday, Nov. 3 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, the MBTA is conducting an equity analysis of the revised bus network, expected to be completed by December. The MBTA board of directors will vote on the revised plan in December, and if approved, changes are expected to be implemented starting as early as next summer, over the course of five years.
Photo credit: Selection from “An inbound #87 bus approaches Union Square on Somerville Avenue” Photo by Pi.1415926535. CC-BY 3.0 Unported Pi.1415926535.
Linda Pinkow is a reporter for the Somerville Wire. She is also a development consultant for the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.