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.

MBTA Announces Recommendations to Improve Safety for Riders, Staff

The following announcement was provided by the MBTA:

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and its Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) accepted a report from the MBTA Safety Review Panel on Dec. 9 that offers 34 recommendations with 61 corrective actions to improve safety for MBTA riders and staff. The panel, commissioned by the FMCB in June after a series of derailments and other safety incidents, comprises three nationally recognized experts in transit safety: former US transportation secretary Ray LaHood; former Federal Transit Administration acting administrator Carolyn Flowers; and former NYC Transit president Carmen Bianco. “While the agency performs the necessary core functions to be considered a relatively safe system, many aspects of the T’s approach to safety and operations need immediate attention,” the report states. “In almost every area we examined, deficiencies in policies, application of safety standards or industry best practices, and accountability were apparent.”

FMCB Chairman Joseph Aiello praised the Safety Review Panel’s 63-page report.

First Winter Storm Due to Hit Watertown Sunday, Parking Ban Starts

A storm that will stretch from Sunday into Tuesday could drop as much as six inches of snow on the Watertown area, and make travel tough for people returning from Thanksgiving trips. At the same time, the winter parking ban begins in Watertown. A Winter Storm Watch has been issued by the National Weather Service from 11 a.m. on Sunday to 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Watertown is in the area forecast by WCVB Channel 5 to get 3-6 inches of snow, but areas of northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire could get more than a foot. The Cape, on the other hand, will get an inch or less.

OP-ED: Details of Hands Free Cell Phone Bill Being Considered at State House

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

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

On Nov. 18, House and Senate conferees filed their report on the hands-free cell phone safety bill. The bill is virtually certain to be approved by both branches and to become law shortly. The new hands-free rules will take effect in late February 2020, but violations will be handled with warnings through March 31, 2020. Under the new law, you can talk to your cell phone, but you cannot touch or even look at it while driving, except in true emergency.

Thanksgiving Week Travel Tips from MassDOT

The following announcement was provided by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is encouraging members of the public to plan ahead for the Thanksgiving holiday travel period by recognizing that traffic volumes and the number of travelers on public transportation will be higher than normal. Drivers and transit customers should use the appropriate resources to make informed decisions on route and timing of travel, and check public transportation service schedules. “Thanksgiving is an incredibly busy time for travel, whether on the roads, in the skies, or on public transit,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “The get-away rush will be starting Tuesday and we encourage everyone to think ahead, have a plan and exercise patience with each other.”

The MassDOT Highway Division is taking several steps to ensure safe and efficient travel on roadways, shutting down scheduled construction activities effective at 5 a.m., Tuesday, November 21. Scheduled construction will resume at 5 a.m., Monday, December 2. “The top priority during the Thanksgiving travel period is safety,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Before heading out, travelers should evaluate weather conditions so smart decisions can be made about when to leave and return from trips. We want everyone to safely arrive at their destinations to be able to celebrate the holiday with their family and friends.”

MassDOT strongly urges all drivers to minimize distractions by turning off or putting away cellphones, traveling the posted speed limit, driving sober and devoting full attention to what is ahead on the road. MassDOT encourages travelers to make an extra effort to be courteous on the roads and report to law enforcement any reckless driving.

Town, TMA Seeking Grant to Launch Watertown Shuttle

For the past few years, Watertown officials have sought to start a shuttle service to serve Pleasant Street, which has no MTBA bus service. The Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) has applied for a grant from the State to start a shuttle. The grant would be from the Mass. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Workforce Transportation Program, said Watertown’s Transportation Planner Laura Wiener. The Town Council sent a letter in support of the TMA’s grant application.

Watertown Seeks Grant to Bring in New Bike Share Option

Watertown could see a shift in bike share options, with the current provider leaving and Town officials seeking help to bring in another well-known brand. Last week, Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon told the Town Council that the Town will be joining other communities to apply for a grant to bring in bike share docks for Bluebikes, which used to be known as Hubway. “The Lime Bikes option in town is no longer an option,” Magoon said. “We are looking to bring Bluebikes.” Lime Bike has reduced the number of bikes in town, so it no longer provides a reliable option for Watertown residents.

OP-ED: Raising Our Rate of Investment in Transportation

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

The MBTA’s Board heard a presentation last week from leaders of Toronto’s regional rail system. What was really stunning was how rapidly Toronto has been investing in all forms of transit improvement and expansion. 

Since 2008, Toronto’s regional leadership has been engaged in a series of transit expansions which will add up to a total investment of approximately $60 billion by 2028. Annual spending has reached a level over $4 billion in some years. Four billion dollars in well-managed transit investments within one year represents staggering progress. In Massachusetts, we have struggled to raise our annual investment to $1 billion per year on transit. In private and public meetings officials ask constantly whether we can move more quickly, but again and again the answer has been that we don’t have the planning and management capacity to do so.