OP-ED: Citizen Group Critical of Slow Roll Out of Watertown Shuttle

Print

The following piece came from the Watertown Transportation Task Force:

The Watertown Transportation Task Force (WTTF) today released a report on the status of proposed shuttle buses for Pleasant Street and Arsenal Street, titled, “Shuttle Buses for Arsenal and Pleasant Streets: What’s Happened, What Hasn’t, Why?” The report is critical of the lack of progress made to date and recommends changes the Town should make going forward.

The Task Force report describes the efforts to get shuttle buses running along Pleasant Street to Watertown Square and along Arsenal Street to a mass transit station. It recommends that the Town should fully enforce special permit conditions which require “proportionate financial participation” by developers to fund effective TMA shuttle operations. The WTTF has strongly advocated for shuttle service, but the report also proposes that Town funds should not go to any shuttle program until (1) a realistic multi-year financial analysis forecasts the budget for shuttle operations on each corridor and estimates any budget shortfall due to inadequate private funding, and (2) strong pre-conditions are set for all Town contributions to a shuttle program.

The concept for the shuttles was that a Watertown Transportation Management Association (known as a TMA) would be created to implement transportation demand management programs for large new developments along these corridors which would include shuttle busses. Transportation demand management can employ a variety of measures to reduce the number of vehicles using large property developments. The WTTF report says that before 2012, the Town encouraged and approved accelerated development on these corridors without requiring significant transportation demand management. After 2012 the Town began requiring major developments to participate in a TMA that offered shuttle services and to proportionally fund such shuttle services. The new Watertown TMA does not and has never offered shuttle services.

The WTTF found that changes in the Town and TMA personnel working on the project resulted in delays and inconsistent plans and timetables. According to the report, key developers along the Arsenal and Pleasant Street corridors have not committed enough money to operate a shuttle service and some have provided only their own private shuttle services rather than participate in consolidated TMA services.

The TMA management is working on starting a one-year pilot shuttle on Pleasant Street, estimated to cost $150,000. The Pleasant Street developments required to proportionately fund the TMA shuttle service are not being required to fund the entire cost. The WTTF says that instead, current Town policy expects these developments to collectively fund 17 percent of that cost, while the Town is expected to fund (in kind or in cash) 50% of the cost ($75,000), and funding for the remaining 33% of the cost has not yet been identified.

Aaron Dushku, chair of the Task Force, said, “It’s reasonable to conclude that until a source is found for the estimated $50,000 Pleasant Street shuttle shortfall, this is never going to happen. If the Town is to commit a contribution so much greater than the private contributions, we should all have a better idea of how much more of our money will be needed, and we should be setting some sort of conditions for it. Furthermore, the time is running out for the Town to easily enforce some very clear permit requirements and to achieve our goal of creating a shared public shuttle service. Our report demonstrates how the Town Council, the Planning Board and the public have very deliberately stated this objective and why our patience wears so thin.”

The full report is available online at http://wpttf.org/shuttle_report.pdf

The Watertown Transportation Task Force (formerly known as the Watertown Public Transit Task Force) is a volunteer community organization that seeks to improve the quality and quantity of affordable transit services for Watertown residents and workers while reducing reliance on single occupancy vehicles.

One thought on “OP-ED: Citizen Group Critical of Slow Roll Out of Watertown Shuttle

  1. I just learned that the Town Council committee meeting on Monday has been postponed with a new date TBD. Please stay tuned and follow this issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *