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

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.

OP-ED: Update on Repairs to the MBTA’s Red Line

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

Please see also 7/26 update further below. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak called me this morning to brief me about the Red Line’s troubles and his response. Below is a summary of our conversation. The Timeline for Service Restoration

Normally during rush hour, there are approximately 14 trains per hour. Unfortunately, at least through Labor Day, there will only be 10 trains per hour.

Overnight Closures on Mass. Pike Begin Soon

The following information was provided by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has announced that there will be various overnight impacts including lane closures on I-90 east and westbound as well as short-term detours of Commonwealth Avenue east and westbound in the area of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and the Boston University Bridge from Monday, July 22 through Saturday, August 10. These impacts will take place during overnight hours only and will allow crews to safely and effectively conduct scheduled construction operations on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The impacts will vary depending upon the work being conducted, but in general, the I-90 lane closures will take place from approximately 9 p.m., through 4:30 a.m., and the Commonwealth Avenue detours will take place from 1:30 a.m., to 4:30 a.m.

As always, work is being conducted in ways that minimize impacts on the traveling public and local community. For example, operations are being conducted during overnight hours to prevent travel disruptions. These impacts are associated with the larger bridge replacement project and are necessary to conduct final scheduled construction activities per project plans.

OP-ED: MBTA Behind on Climate Change Adaptation

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

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

At a recent MBTA board meeting, it became alarmingly clear that the MBTA is behind in its planning for climate resiliency.  Add that challenge to the challenges of catching up on maintenance, assuring safety, and expanding service. Andrew Brennan, Senior Director for Energy and Environment, explained to the board that the MBTA completed a “high-level” vulnerability assessment of the system in 2017.  His presentation materials are here and his talk begins at 2:55 in this livestream of the June 10 board meeting. The 2017 high level assessment revealed the obvious: Namely, that the most exposed asset is the Blue Line and that the greatest risk to the Blue line comes from flooding due to sea level rise. Only months after the assessment, the winter high tide of 2018 flooded Aquarium station. As to the lowest lying assets on the Blue line (Aquarium station and the Orient Heights Maintenance Facility), more detailed engineering studies have been completed to identify just how they would be flooded and what can be done to protect them: for example, raising openings like vent shafts and raising the most water sensitive components like transformers.

MassDOT Seeks Input on Mass. Bicycle Transportation Plan

The following information was provided sent out by MassDOT:

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) urges members of the public to comment on the Draft Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan through January 31. The draft plan can be found online here. MassDOT is focused on making the Commonwealth’s transportation system more sustainable – to make it safe for people to choose to walk, bike, and take transit for more of their daily trips. The Plan is important because residents, members of the business community and visitors choose to use a bicycle for daily trips, choosing bike to work, to school, to run errands, for recreation or to reach transit locations. The Draft Plan defines a vision for Massachusetts in which all people have a safe and comfortable cycling option for short trips. The goal is to have a plan which presents an action-oriented strategy which will lead to increased use of trails for short trips made by bicycling. Travel on designated bike and pedestrian thoroughfares will also lead to safer conditions, helping to prevent injuries and fatalities.