OP-ED: Sen. Brownsberger on MBTA Bus Bunching

An MBTA bus in Watertown. The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

I often get complaints about bunching and related gaps in service on MBTA buses.  Sometimes you’ll see 4 buses go through together and sometimes you might wait 30 minutes for a bus that is supposed to come every 5 or 10 minutes. Bunching is a perennial challenge for MBTA bus operations, especially on the trolley lines (71 and 73) where buses cannot pass each other.  I recently sat down with senior bus operations managers at the MBTA to get an update on their efforts to keep service properly spaced. Current technology is a major barrier to addressing the bunching problem.  Other than the farebox, everything on the bus is run by a system originally procured almost 20 years ago called “Transit Master.”  Transit Master keeps records on who is driving the bus, displays the route signs on the bus, provides radio communications, makes the stop announcements, counts passengers and, most importantly, tells the driver in real time whether the bus is ahead or behind schedule. When the driver sits down in the bus at the start of their shift and logs in to the system, a schedule is loaded for their whole shift.  That schedule doesn’t change dynamically to reflect traffic conditions.  Congestion is built into schedules, but traffic is not entirely predictable and when traffic is especially bad, buses fall behind schedule.   Even if a bus is running behind schedule and the trailing bus has caught up, the trailing bus driver is being told by the system to keep pressing to stay on schedule, even if that means staying right behind the lead bus.

See How MBTA Projects Will Impact Subways, Trains in 2020

The following piece was provided by the MBTA and MassDOT:

Today the MBTA announced its plans to accelerate infrastructure projects for several subway lines and the Commuter Rail during calendar year 2020 to improve service, safety, and reliability on a faster timeline. These projects will include additional diversions of weekend service on all rapid transit lines and several Commuter Rail lines. In addition to a number of weekend diversions on the Green Line, the MBTA is planning for two one-month shutdowns on the Green Line: the C Branch in July and the E Branch in August. 

The 2020 Infrastructure Acceleration Plan will deliver these projects eight years faster than originally planned, and will result in track replacement, upgraded intersections, and station improvements. In 2019, the MBTA executed a plan to expedite projects for customers, delivering projects 2.2 years faster than originally planned across the Red, Orange, and Green Lines. Much of this work was completed through ten weekend shutdowns on the Red and Orange Lines through the core of downtown Boston. During those shutdowns, the MBTA was able to accelerate improvements by expanding traditional work windows and increasing the number of work activities that took place.

Sen. Brownsberger Hosting Town Halls on Transportation, the Census

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

The following announcement was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

Senator Brownsberger is hosting a series of Town Halls for each community in January – February 2020. These town halls will focus on Transportation, as well as the 2020 Census. Logistics about the upcoming town hall taking place in your community can be found below:

Watertown

Date: Tuesday, January 28thTime: 6:00PMLocation: Watertown Free Public Library (123 Main St, Watertown, MA 02472), Savings Bank Meeting Room

Fenway & Back Bay

More information about the January 22nd Town Hall can be found here: https://willbrownsberger.com/january-22-back-bay-transportation-2020-census-town-hall/

Brighton & Allston

Date: Tuesday, February 4thTime: 6:00PMLocation: Presentation School Foundation Community Center (640 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135)

Belmont

Date: Tuesday, February 11thTime: 6:00PMLocation: Belmont Public Library (336 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478, USA), Assembly Room

First Public Meeting on Watertown Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Coming Up

Find out about the Watertown Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan and share your experiences to identify priorities and problem areas in Town. Town officials provided the following information:

The meeting will be held at the Watertown Middle School Cafeteria, 68 Waverley Ave., Watertown, MA 02472 on Monday, Jan. 27, 20202, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Watertown encourages active transportation — walking, biking and transit — to help reduce congestion, and improve both air quality and public health. The Watertown Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan aims to help achieve those goals by identifying future improvements to the Town’s streets and walkways. Join us for a discussion on the future of Watertown’s bicycle and pedestrian transportation networks and tell us what you would like to see.

Discount MBTA Passes Now Available for Watertown Youth

Buses like this one on the 71 bus will get priority heading toward Harvard Square on Mt. Auburn Street in the new Cambridge-Watertown Bus Priority Pilot program. State officials announced youth from Watertown can receive discount passes to ride the MBTA buses and trains through the Youth Pass program. The program is aimed at people between age 12 and 25 who are not enrolled in school or college (they already qualify for passes for school or college students). Students over 18 must be enrolled in an alternative education program (such as GED), a job training program, or a federal benefit program, including MassHealth and SNAP.

Watertown Gets Boost in Road/Transportation Funds from State of Nearly $74K

A road after being milled and prepared for overlay of new asphalt.

Watertown will get its share of the $20 million added to the state’s road and transportation improvement funding as part of the supplemental budget approved by Governor Baker in December. The money comes on top of the $200 million already in the Fiscal Year 2020 State budget for Chapter 90. Watertown will receive and extra $73,924, for a total of $813,159 in Chapter 90 funding for FY20. “This funding represents our continued commitment to supporting communities as they address the maintenance and modernization of local infrastructure, which are a critical part of the Commonwealth’s transportation network,” said Governor Charlie Baker in an announcement this week.  “We are pleased to provide this additional transportation funding for local projects in cities and towns across the Commonwealth.”

Chapter 90 transportation funds support all 351 cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. Funding for each municipality is predetermined by a formula that includes factors such as population, road miles, and employment, according to the release from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

See the MBTA Schedules for New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day

An MBTA bus in Watertown. The MBTA will be running special service on New Year’s Eve, including free service in the evening. Find out more details below. The following information came from the MBTA:

New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2019

Fares will not be collected after 8 p.m.

All modes will run on a weekday schedule. 

Subway will have additional, late-night service.

Changes to MBTA Buses Serving Watertown Start in Late December

An MBTA bus in Watertown. Watertown public transit riders will soon see some changes to bus routes as part of the MBTA’s Better Bus Project. Beginning Dec. 22, 2019, the 70 and 70A buses will see changes in its service to north Waltham,, and the 71 bus will have shortened routes during the morning and evening rush hours. Also, stops will be eliminated on the 52 bus, which runs out of Watertown Yard.