Town Council Wants a Shuttle System to Serve Businesses and Public

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Charlie Breitrose

An MBTA bus in Watertown.

An MBTA bus in Watertown.

Charlie Breitrose

An MBTA bus in Watertown.

The Town will hire an organization that has experience creating and running local public transportation systems to create a Transportation Management Association for Watertown. 

Watertown will hire the 128 Business Council to help get the local public transportation system off the ground and likely lend a hand running it. The system of shuttles will have a number of routes and destinations in and around Watertown and will be funded by both businesses in town and likely the town itself.

Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon who unveiled the plan Wednesday said he envisions the TMA having routes connecting Watertown Square to Waltham Center, running down both Pleasant and Arsenal streets, connecting to MBTA service in Cambridge and to the new commuter rail station in Brighton near the New Balance headquarters. More routes could be added as interest rises and more businesses contribute to the TMA.

Several businesses have pledged to be part of the TMA as part of recently approved projects, Magoon said. Other existing businesses have said they are interested in taking part in the group.

A number of Councilors said the system should not just serve Watertown businesses, but also the needs of town residents.

Councilors and members of the public applauded the town’s effort to create a new public transportation option.

“It is sad the MBTA is not able to provide enough service, but good for us for stepping forward and doing something about it,” said Councilor Susan Falkoff.

Joe Levendusky, chairman of the Watertown Public Transportation Task Force said he supports the plan. He said they had approached the T asking if Watertown could contribute even more toward transportation if it got improved service, but they never got an answer.

“Maybe we should keep the money and put it toward the TMA,” Levendusky said.

Getting Started

The 128 Business Council was the first group to start a local TMA in Massachusetts, and has been involved with many transportation initiatives, Magoon said. They will provide someone to help start the TMA and provide assistance once it is up and running.

Someone from the group will reach out to “key stakeholders,” Magoon said, including the Watertown Public Transportation Task Force, other members of the public and businesses that have agreed to or have interest in taking part in a TMA. The town will also be part of the formation of the new system.

Town Councilors said they want to make sure that the town plays an active role even after the TMA is formed.

“We need to be an active participant,” said Town Council President Mark Sideris. “The seed money is not enough. The town needs to provide not just bodies but money.”

Councilor Tony Palomba said he wants to make sure there is a public meeting, hopefully early in the process, where residents can talk about what they want to see from the TMA.

Routes along Pleasant Street could improve traffic on the Westside of town, said Councilor Ken Woodland. The Eastside, too, could use service, Kounelis said, including the condominiums on Coolidge Avenue where residents have to walk to Cambridge or Arsenal Street to access MBTA service.

Beyond the Shuttle

A number of people called for the creation of a town transportation coordinator. Magoon said that could be pursued as part of the TMA creation.

Councilor Susan Falkoff said she would like to see issues studied beyond just public transportation, specifically at traffic.

“The proposal does not talk about the way traffic flows through town,” Falkoff said.

The town must also continue to press the MBTA to improve service, a number of Councilors said. Mark Peterson, a member of the Watertown Public Transportation Task Force agreed, though he is not holding his breath.

“Chances of the MBTA expanding services in Watertown is small,” Peterson said. “But right now we are making people drive who don’t need to drive.”

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