Town Council Will Prod MBTA About Transportation Improvements

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MBTA bus.

Charlie Breitrose

MBTA bus.

The Town Council wants to make sure that the MBTA has not forgotten about the transportation problems and needs in Watertown. 

In May, transportation advocates and elected officials invited MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott to town. She came to tour the town and speak with residents about the problems with the 71 and 73 buses, as well as other services – such as the 70 and 57 buses. (Read about her visit here).

She talked about ways to make improvements in the short and long term.

Along with improvements to the heavily used routes to Harvard Square – the 71 and 73 buses – a group of elected officials, business owners and advocate groups requested a study of improvements to the 70/70A line that operates along Arsenal Street – an area expected to have multiple new large development projects. (See details of the request here).

Since then, little has been heard from the MBTA, according to Town Councilors.

Last week, Town Councilor Aaron Dushku brought up the subject at the Council meeting. The board discussed whether to make a request to meet with MBTA officials again.

Town Council President Mark Sideris suggested instead to send a letter to the MBTA requesting an update on steps being taken.

“I appreciated Councilor Dushku’s and other residents’ frustration with the lack of action,” Sideris said.

Dushku agreed that sending a letter would be a good idea.

MBTA Update

On Nov. 17, MBTA Assistant General Manager David Carney responded to a request for an update from Councilor Angeline Kounelis saying that they T will continue to look for short term and medium to long term solutions.

“There are times of the day when Route 71, and Route 73 are crowded and warrant additional service,” Carney wrote. “We have a proposal under review to increase the amount of off-peak service on these routes pending identification of additional resources.  However, adding peak service will be a challenge since all peak buses are in service, and adding peak service will mean reallocating service from other peak routes, which are also usually crowded.”

He also said the MBTA supports studying ways to improve traffic at the intersection of Mt. Auburn Street and Fresh Pond Parkway, which could speed up the 71 and 73 buses.

Carney also provided some statistics about the 71 and 73 buses.

He noted that right now both routes “frequently meet” the T’s goal of being on-time at least 75 percent of the time.

He wrote that Route 71 has 5,548 weekday riders, which places it 22nd highest out of 168 bus routes in the MBTA, he said, and Route 73 has 6,424 weekday riders, which places it 17th highest.

“Both Route 71 and 73 are crowded every day and both are members of a group of approximately 12-15 routes which would be our top priority for adding rush hour service if additional vehicles were available during peak periods,” Carney said.

Councilor Tony Palomba wondered what the impact on the MBTA would be from the ballot question voters approved on Nov. 4 that removes automatic increases of gas tax for inflation.

One project coming down the line that could impact Watertown is the redevelopment of the Mass. Pike and the creation of West Station in Allston. That will be a transportation hub for the area west of Boston, Dushku said.

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