Shuttle May Be Coming to Watertown; Initially it Would Not Serve Residents

There is good news, and some not so good news for people waiting for a public shuttle bus in Watertown, the Town Council’s Economic Development and Planning subcommittee learned Tuesday night. The Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) is close to creating what will be known as the Watertown Connector, which will serve Arsenal Street and other parts of the Eastside of town. However, at first, the shuttles will only be available for people who work for businesses or live in apartment complexes that are part of the TMA. The TMA is made up mostly of companies and projects required by their building permits to contribute to the TMA (and in most cases the shuttle), some who have joined voluntarily, plus the Town of Watertown. The shuttles would be an expansion of the current Athenahealth shuttle system, said Bridger McGaw of Athenahealth who also serves as president of the Watertown TMA.

OP-ED: State Senator on the Bad Week for the MBTA

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

It has been a very bad week for the MBTA. Two train derailments injured dozens and massively inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people. 

As I write, no one seems to know yet how long it will take to repair critical signal systems that the derailed train destroyed. Red line riders may have to endure diminished service and extraordinary rush hour crowding for days or weeks. While expediting repairs, the MBTA has rightly brought in an outside consulting team to review the events. The legislature will take great interest in the results of that review. 

For me, here is the big question: What will that review reveal about the work force and operational management of the MBTA? We knew that from time to time scheduled bus trips simply don’t happen because an employee doesn’t show up. We know that the MBTA’s derailment rate is high. We knew that a terrifying runaway train incident was triggered by an operator disabling a safety device. Investigators have already concluded that the recent green line derailment was operator error. 

While safety is always nominally the number one mission of any transit agency, how strong is the safety culture really? Are line managers overextended and under too much pressure to deliver timely service with inadequate staffing? What do these incidents say about employee morale and discipline? As legislators, we tend to focus less on operational conditions, which are hard to evaluate from outside, and more on the issues of system repair and service expansion. My impression has been and remains that the MBTA’s board and leadership team have been doing a very good job in turning around a state of physical system decay that was produced by decades of inadequate investment.

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

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.

OP-ED: Changes to Traffic Signal Timing Will Make Mt. Auburn St. Bus Lanes Work Better

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger (D – Belmont) who represents Watertown:

Thousands of commuters on Mount Auburn Street and on Fresh Pond Parkway had a very rough ten days starting on Monday, November 5. That is the day that a contractor swapped in a new controller for the traffic signals and failed to properly program it. The new Siemens 60 signal controller is so sophisticated that only a few engineers have the expertise to properly program it. Commuters endured ten days of bad timing until the right specialist was able to get it working as intended. As of Thursday, Nov.

MBTA Helping Red Sox Fans Get to Parade With Enhanced Services

The Mass. Department of Transportation provided the following information:
To accommodate attendees of the parade celebrating the 2018 Boston Red Sox World Series victory, the MBTA will operate enhanced service on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The MBTA will operate subway service at rush-hour levels from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Additional Commuter Rail capacity will be added to lines that are expected to experience higher-than-normal ridership. On the Green Line, the nightly shutdown of trolley service on the D Branch has been cancelled, meaning regularly scheduled D Branch service will continue until the end of service on Wednesday night. “Because the parade coincides with Halloween, we fully expect Wednesday to be a busy day in Boston and around the region,” said MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez.

Bus Priority Lanes Going Into Effect Soon, See What to Expect, Take Survey

Changes to sections of Mt. Auburn Street will go into effect early next week which will change the traffic patters for drivers, bus riders and bicyclists. The Town of Watertown and City of Cambridge have teamed up to create a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pilot with the goal to create faster and more reliable bus service for more than 12,000 daily MBTA bus riders and shuttle passengers and improve traffic flow for all users of Mt. Auburn Street. The pilot is being funded with a grant from the Barr Foundation and is being done in conjunction with the MBTA and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Buses to Start Using New Red Lanes on Mt. Auburn Street Soon, Also Impacts Bikes, Cars

The following information was provided by the MBTA and Town of Watertown:
Beginning the week of Oct. 15, the Town of Watertown, the City of Cambridge, the MBTA, the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and the Barr Foundation will roll out a bus priority pilot funded by a grant from the Barr Foundation to bring elements of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to the Mount Auburn Street Corridor, serving MBTA routes 71 and 73, as well as employee shuttles. The project will feature painted bus and bicycle only lanes – primarily on Mount Auburn Street between Cottage Street and Coolidge Avenue in the inbound direction – as well as signage and signal changes to create faster, more reliable service for 12,000+ daily bus riders while improving traffic flow for everyone. The partners will host an official launch event with speaking program on the morning of Oct.

OP-ED: MBTA Making Changes to Avoid “Ghost Buses” on Cellphone App

State Sen. Will Brownsberger, (D – Belmont) who represents Watertown, provided the following piece:

MBTA bus arrival predictions should get better as of today and further improvements can be expected over the next few months. Representatives Jon Hecht and Dave Rogers and I learned a lot at a recent meeting with MBTA management about bus service complaints that we had received from riders. Most regular bus riders now rely on mobile phone apps to get predictions of when the next bus will arrive. Here is how those predictions are generated and how the technology is changing. Each MBTA bus is equipped with a device that transmits its location back to the MBTA’s control center.