MBTA Reducing Service in Effort to Curb Spread of Coronavirus

An MBTA bus in Watertown. The MBTA announced Monday that beginning March 17, service will be cut back in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, also called the Coronavirus. Most buses and trains will be running on a Saturday schedule, and the 504 express bus from Watertown Yard will also be impacted (click here to see the schedule). The T will also be cleaning vehicles and stations, according to the announcement. The MBTA released the following announcement:

Reduced Service for March 17, 2020

Updated Monday, March 16, 2020, 2:49 PM

At the start of service on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, trains and buses will run with reduced service to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Council Approves Road Work Funds, Two Years of Repairs Will be Done

Watertown will get a double dose of road repair projects this year after the Town Council approved funding for the 2020 road and sidewalk repair projects. Tuesday night, the Town Council approved the borrowing of $2.5 million to pay for the reconstruction of seven roadways. This is on top of the 2019 road projects, which were delayed after the bids came in about 33 percent higher than was budgeted. Town Engineer Matt Shuman said the roads will undergo full-depth reclamation, where the top four inches of the roadway are removed, ground and pulverized and put down in a new layer of asphalt. They will also install new sidewalks with handicap ramps and granite curbing. The seven roads to be repaired as part of the 2020 road program are: Kimball Road, Downey Street, Wheeler Lane, Louise Street, Frank Street, Tappan Avenue and Piermont Street.

MBTA Installs Electronic Sign in Watertown to Give Real Time Updates

The MBTA’s new electronic signs will provide riders with live updates on buses. Watertown bus riders have a new electronic sign that tells them when they can expect buses to arrive. The solar-powered sign in Watertown Square is one of 18 E Ink (electronic ink) signs installed by the MBTA in several communities, including Watertown, Belmont, Cambridge, Boston, Chelsea and Everett. “The signs display stop-specific real-time information — bus arrival predictions and service alerts,” the MBTA announcement said. “This is the same information that’s available today on our website, in the Transit App, in Google Maps, and more.”

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:


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)


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.