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.
The MBTA recently released its “Focus 40 Investment Plan.” On pages 13-19 of that plan, the MBTA gives an overview of which communities it considers “Priority Places” in its Focus 40 investment plan. https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/projects/focus40/2018-07-30-focus40-draft-plan-digital.pdf
I believe that Watertown (East Watertown in particular) deserves the “Priority Place” designation because it’s fits many of the criteria for a Priority Place listed on page 14 including:
“• Lack rapid transit service, but bus usage exceeds available capacity
• Face traffic congestion that compromises the performance of MBTA buses in mixed traffic
• Host major centers of activity or dense residential populations, but lack efficient public transit access
• Feature population or employment densities that support higher frequency transit”
I urge Watertown’s residents and local and state representatives to contact the MBTA to add Watertown to its “Priority Places” so that our small but growing city can get the public transit investments we need for our future,
A variety of projects – from the Community Path to crosswalks to traffic calming – made the first cut in the creation of Watertown’s Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. Town officials, however, still seek input about which should make the final list of 15-20 projects. Wednesday night, consultants hired by the town to create the Prioritization Plan discussed why some of the projects made the grade and others did not. The town will be able to apply for funding from the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for projects on the Prioritization Plan.
The Town of Watertown will host a public meeting on planned improvements to public transit on Mount Auburn Street, including new technology for traffic signals and piloting a bus-only lane for the 71 and 73 buses on a stretch of the street. The Department of Public Works sent out the following information:
Please join the Town of Watertown for a Mount Auburn Street project meeting to discuss bus transit planning along the corridor. We will also discuss potential technologies and amenities that could be incorporated into the project to improve bus service and reliability for the more than 5,000 daily riders. At the meeting, we will touch upon an exciting joint bus rapid transit (BRT) pilot project with the City of Cambridge and the MBTA to improve Route 71/73 service between Belmont Street and Fresh Pond Parkway. Although the pilot project will proceed independent of our Mount Auburn Street Complete Streets project, we hope to use the results and data collected from the pilot to inform our design.
Watertown officials announced Wednesday that the Bar Foundation, as part of its BostonBRT initiative, has awarded the community a grant to conduct a pilot project testing bus rapid transit (BRT) features in collaboration with the City of Cambridge and the MBTA. The pilot will seek to create a faster and more reliable commute for more than 12,000 daily bus riders on routes 71 and 73. The pilot, which will take place during 2018, will take bus riders out of car congestion through the creation of all-day dedicated bus lanes for significant segments on Mount Auburn Street between Belmont Street and Fresh Pond Parkway. It will also include inbound “queue jump” lanes to give buses
priority in intersections on Mount Auburn Street and Belmont Street near where they meet, and timed traffic signals where feasible so that buses get more green lights. The pilot is a temporary demonstration.
The MTBA’s Watertown Yard is the starting point for several bus routes, including the express buses to Boston, and Watertown officials believe it can be improved to make it a nicer place to catch the bus, and perhaps someday the Watertown TMA Shuttle. In September, MBTA officials lead a tour of the facility located on Galen Street, just south of the Charles River from Watertown Square, for Town Councilors, State House representatives and Town officials. Some of those on the tour that day met Thursday evening for the Town Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation. The general feeling was that Watertown Yard is a large facility that is not being used to its greatest potential. “What struck me is the tremendous opportunity to improve transportation in Watertown,” said Town Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli.
Sometime in the future, self-driving shuttles could be transporting people around Watertown, and that future may not be that far down the road.
The Town Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation asked Town officials to look into opportunities for grants and pilot programs to test autonomous vehicles to provide public transportation in Watertown. The town would not be the first community to test such self-driving shuttles. Las Vegas and London have started programs and Columbus, Ohio, is exploring the idea, according to this report by CNET. They can also be seen on campuses and as inter-terminal trains at airports. In October 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order promoting the testing and deployment of automated vehicles.
Watertown’s first shuttle will likely run down Pleasant Street to Watertown Square and could start as soon as this fall, but may have to wait until the nice weather arrives in 2018. On Wednesday night, members of the Town Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation were eager to find out when they could see Watertown’s first shuttle. The Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) will run the shuttle, and if all goes right the first shuttles could start rolling this fall, said Allison Simmons, a consultant from Ease Consult hired by the Town to form the TMA. However, it may have to wait until spring. To get the shuttle started this fall, Simmons said, the Watertown TMA board would have to approve the shuttle pilot at its August meeting and get members to agree to fund it soon after.