Town Council Disappointed to Hear About Delay of Watertown Shuttle

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The Town Council is working on ways to cut traffic in Watertown by requiring new developments to reduce single driver vehicles.

A Transportation Management Association – TMA – with a shuttle is one effort by the Town Council to reduce traffic in Watertown.

After years of pushing for a shuttle as an addition to the public transportation options in Watertown, Town Councilors were disappointed to hear that for the second time the roll out of the shuttle buses would be delayed, and that there was a suggestion to do away with the shuttle.

On Tuesday, the Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation report from its Jan. 12 meeting was presented to the Town Council, including word that the shuttles would not start in the spring, as hoped, but in the fall of 2017 – at the earliest. This comes after it was announced in September that the start of the shuttle would be delayed from the Fall of 2016 to the spring of 2017.

The effort to create a Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) is being spearheaded by the 128 Business Council, which has been hired as a consultant. Some progress has been made, said Councilor Aaron Dushku, chair of the Transportation Committee.

“The first meeting of some of the seven developers whose permits include a requirement to participate and fund a TMA and shuttle services, as well as long standing businesses and residential developments took place Nov. 17,” Dushku said. “And it and included preliminary discussions of membership, duties, and a potential shuttle service.”

The groups have tentatively committed to $30,000 in funding for the TMA, but representatives from the 128 Business Council estimate the effort it started will take around $150,000. The groups have also been working on a draft Memorandum of Agreement about what they would contribute to a TMA, Dushku said.

Establishment of the TMA could take place within the next three to six months, Dushku said, but the shuttle will take longer.

During the presentation by the 128 Business Council in January, the consultants said that Watertown officials should not assume that a shuttle will necessarily be a part of the TMA, which can also include programs such as ride shares, guaranteed ride homes, efforts to encourage using transit or bicycling to work and more.

“A shuttle service should be seen as a separate objective from the creation of a TMA. Watertown should not assume that shuttle service is needed to address the traffic congestion issues facing Watertown,” the consultants said, according to the report.

Councilor Susan Falkoff said this report worried her.

“At previous meetings they talked about shuttles and how many shuttles we should have, now it’s vanished,” Falkoff said.

Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said the message of the consultants presentation is maybe the town needs to adjust its expectations, and be cautious.

“(128 Business Council Executive Director)Monica Tibbits-Nutt and Allison Simmons (of Ease Consult) wanted to convey we have one shot, let’s get it right,” Magoon said.

Councilor Tony Palomba, who sits on the Transportation Committee, said he was also disappointed at the Transportation meeting, but now he feels more confident.

“We were reassured by Mr. Magoon that shuttle service is a critical part of the TMA, and it will not be forgotten,” Palomba said.

Dushku also said that the Transportation Committee expressed its concern that the shuttle was not a priority of the TMA being designed by the 128 Business Council.

Dushku added that the 128 Business Council has had some turnover, and a former employee who had been working on the Watertown TMA may have made some promises that could not be kept.

“I think they need to take a step back and do some soul searching about what they can provide to us,” Dushku said.

At the next meeting of the Transportation Committee, on March 7 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, the consultants have been asked to bring the Memorandum of Agreement, prepare goals, a timeline, and a budget for the establishment of a Watertown TMA, Dushku said.

30 thoughts on “Town Council Disappointed to Hear About Delay of Watertown Shuttle

  1. Great job! Kudos to the Planning Dept and the Town Council for making a dent in the traffic issues that are just in their infancy after all the development that has been approved! We don’t need that traffic manager position after all! How about another hotel? Or another 200,000 square foot apartment complex! Maybe we could use some of the millions and millions of new tax dollars to fund a shuttle if all those great mitigation deals have come up 5x too short! Great planning!

  2. We are only getting $30,000 from seven developers? Are you kidding me? These people are making millions and changing our community profoundly. Their contribution should be more like $30,000 each. Why are we not getting a better deal from these developers.

  3. While we’re on the subject of developers in this town, what’s the status on the boondoggle that is the intersection of Arsenal St. and Louise St.? At the last meeting for the Mt. Auburn St. project (another nightmare in the making), someone causally mentioned the problem (as yet another example of the towns ineptitude and failure to address issues), and Superintendent of Public Works, Gerald Mee, had no clear or satisfactory answer other than “we’re working on it”. How and why this was even approved is beyond me. Did the developers go beyond what was permitted? If so, then shouldn’t the town demand that the situation be corrected, either by fining them XXX
    dollars per day, or have the town fix the problem and send the developers the bill?
    Why wasn’t someone inspecting and checking on the work while it was in progress?

    What was even the reason for expanding the sidewalk to begin with? It’s an area with very little (if any), foot traffic. The best that I can come up with is that “The Gables” owners seeks to redevelop the area to accommodate a quaint little village of open air coffee shops, specialty stores, sandwich shops, etc and provide outdoor seating.

    Yet another example of the towns gradual move to millennialize the community.

    Makes me wish we had given Wal-Mart the go ahead when we had the chance.

  4. Mr Levendsuky, I take it since you’ve concluded it should be 30k each you must have working knowledge of each developers P&L Statements?? An en•tre•pre•neur is defined as a person who assumes the financial risks of business. Why are folks so consumed with what others make and can and cant afford. Arsenal Yards is spending/Investing over 300 million dollars in our town, on land that once was home to a nuclear reactor. The planning board and the town put them and others through a very arduous process, as they should. After that, do you have any idea how much tax revenue they and others will contribute to the town, some of which can be used to fix our crumbling school facilities?

    • John, you are being disingenuous. Everyone knows what kind of money is being thrown around and that we are not getting enough.

    • Mr. Labadini, you talk as though the Arsenal Yards developers are a nonprofit entity. They are investing over 300 million dollars into their development and stand to make huge profits. The Planning Board/Town Council gave them changes to the zoning which increased the value of their property exponentially. And, if they can invest $300 million into their property, then they most certainly can afford a contribution of $30,000 to the city. $30,000 is pennies for them. And, as to the taxes, do you know how much tax revenue they and others will contribute to the city? I didn’t see you providing any figures on that.

  5. “Everyone”?I beg to differ, sir. “Everyone” includes me and I know I’m not alone. “Disingenuous “too? Now you’re an authority on my sincerity as well? What we need is more folks blessed with the clairvoyance you’ve been blessed with to be such an omnipotent soothsayer and sage.

  6. John, we will badly need more public transit service as Watertown grows. These developers are building high density, high impact developments in a town that already suffers from traffic problems. There are many people that I know who do not believe that Watertown has gotten enough remediation for the impacts that these developments will present.

    I know nothing of your sincerity. I have never even met you in person. But you answered my comment in a condescending, patronizing manner, questioning my sense of business. So you get what you give. What I do know is that Watertown has some of the last large developable tracts in close proximity to Boston. That gives us bargaining power. We don’t have to bend over backward to please developers. They will want to do projects here even if our demands are stiffer.

    Since our public transit in Watertown is all surface, traffic not only snarls private vehicular traffic, but also our PT. It is my contention, that after a certain point, small increases in traffic volume have an exponentially increasing impact. We are past that point. These developments, if they are successful, will be adding traffic volume to our streets. This will impact all of us and detract from our quality of life here in Watertown. I think it only fair that developers help us cope with the problems their projects will create.

    One solution that has been touted by many is the TMA shuttle. Now it appears the shuttle will be underfunded. If the shuttle doesn’t happen, we will have little reduction of traffic impact. So where do we stand then? We will be in deep trouble, I believe. $30,000.00 is coffee money on most of these projects. Would you personally prefer to pay more property tax so the town can bring the shuttle funding up to level, or would you rather have the developers contribute more?

    I believe that the majority of Watertown residents would rather have the developers pay more.

    • Boston Globe May 20, 2015 ‘“They’re not making more dirt in Boston and Cambridge,” said William McQuillan, the firm’s principal. “You go up the Charles River and Watertown is the next piece of land you reach, whether you’re a pilgrim or a real estate developer. It’s in the process of becoming a fantastic market.”…Steve Magoon, Watertown’s director of community development and planning, said…“A lot of the businesses coming out of Kendall, they’re growing, but they find the space there is just not available or affordable,” he said…“Those companies come to places like Arsenal. And even if they grow more and leave for the suburbs, other ones are coming behind them to fill the space…“Having that role in the region, it’s not a bad one for Watertown.”’

      • Just because we are the next piece of land ready for development doesn’t mean we have to be push overs. Pleasant street is a free for all……Arsenal street is only getting worse. Developers can build anything they want but if you dare build a tree house…….you’ll be summoned. I’m still waiting for all these biotechs to leave cambridge and move to watertown ….missed opportunity

  7. I’d like to think I know a little bit about business too having had numerous successes and failures on the business field of battle. That’s where I leaned not make a habit of counting other peoples money. Do you think 30k is some arbitrary willy, nilly number that feel out of the sky? It was negotiated and deemed to be fair and reasonable by the parties involved. I think if you feel the way you do your issue is with town officials, not the development community, and I think our officials did a good job here. And, lets not forget about the tax revenue. It’s real and it’s needed. As far as traffic, I just don’t get it and I drive everyday. Does anyone ever leave our 4 square miles? We act like traffic only happens to us? We abut a major metropolitan city. If you go around the communities that abut Boston, from Quincy, Milton, Dedham, Newton, Brookline, Watertown, Somerville, Everett Chelsea and Winthrop there’s traffic. I would gladly leave a little earlier and have our town and schools benefit from the desperately need tax revenue. The greater Boston area and traffic go hand and hand. Always have, always will. Traffic can be mitigated but it cant be eradicated.
    Email is and I would welcome the opportunity to meet or chat. I have provided and offered on numerous occasions. You just sound like you’re never satisfied.

    • John, I find your reply both defeatist and short sighted. If there is one complaint that I hear again and again from my neighbors, it is about traffic. Though I take the T, I believe that too many of my friends spend too much of their precious lives stuck in traffic. It is a quality of life issue and an environmental issue.

      We will not be able to sustain the types of increase in level of private vehicle traffic that we have experienced in the past into the future. In dense urban areas, that means public transit. In Watertown, that means buses, which get stuck in–guess what–traffic. We must try to look into the needs of the future and prepare the infrastructure necessary. That is how progress happens.

      One must find a way to pay for progress. Most of the developers who are building in town will sell off what they build and get out of town. They have little loyalty or emotional investment in the well being of our town. If they contribute to increased density in Watertown, they should pay their fair share toward infrastructure that helps solve the problems that that density creates. Otherwise, the taxpayers get stuck with the bill down the road. That amounts to the taxpayers subsidizing the developers, which is a situation that most of us would find unacceptable.

      You are right in perceiving that I am criticizing the town government for not getting a good enough deal from developers for the citizens of the town. We have let them off too easy again and again. In the future we will be bemoaning that fact.

  8. Wenall have to ” deal with it” everyday and make descisions accordingly, like leave early or take alternate transportation, work from home sometimes, etc. I said “it can be mitigated not eradicated” and I would think there is a basic expectation of certain things when one chooses where to live, trafic among those things. This to me is all about expectation management. The original post by Mr Levendusky is a little presumptuous suggesting the 128 council got snookered by agreeing to 30 k. Does he know the totality of mitigation fees and other concessions or agreements with the development firms involved? He wasn’t in the room and doesn’t know what else was agreed to anymore then the rest of us. From what I saw at EVERY meeting I attended open to the public was the developers all had reputations of listening, engagement and making changes where they could. I didn’t see him there asking questions, just more Monday morning quarterbacking after the fact.

    • John, you can’t make an argument, so you have to attack me personally. I am not even going to answer your bogus charges. Is someone paying you to shill for these big developers over the interests of your townsfolk. When traffic is out of hand in ten years will you be the one to tell your neighbors to manage their expectations?

      • Mr. Labadini does seem far more worried about the developer’s pockets than he is about Watertown. And attacking people personally seems to be Mr. Labadini’s MO.

    • Mr. Labadini, as you said, “there is a basic expectation of certain things when one chooses where to live”, like traffic. So, for someone who chose to move to Watertown 10 years ago not knowing the traffic was going to increase exponentially, I guess you’d suggest they should just get up and move somewhere else. Not everyone can just get up and move that easily.

      • No one should have to move from Watertown because of declining quality of life factors like traffic. We can and must act to make the future better. I submit that a better Watertown is what we all want to hand down to posterity. But there must be a will to act. And there must be the will to hold developers accountable for the problems that their developments create. That is only basic fairness. Few in town can afford to subsidize Bill McQuillan, except, of course Mr. McQuillan.

        Mr. McQuillan is stating the obvious when he characterizes Watertown the new frontier in terms of development. So we needn’t have an inferiority complex and cave too easily to him and his colleagues. If they want to be a part of Watertown’s future, they must contribute to making that future a positive one. And that means more than taxes.

        We so badly need more and better functioning transit. I have always wanted for public transit in Watertown to be so good that even Mr. Labadini and Mr. DiMascio might be tempted to use it. And Mr. McQuillan too.

  9. John, this is basically about the old adage about cleaning up one’s own mess. If you create a problem, you work to fix it. That is what the developers must do. And the town must make them do it, or we kick the can down the road to the next generation of taxpayers. That’s all I have to say.

  10. John,

    Did you read the shuttle is going to cost $600k per year and that RESIDENTS HAVE TO PAY FOR THE SHUTTLE as developers won’t be picking up the entire tab.

    This is another example of the hidden costs of development.

    Other areas we’ll need to spend will be infrastructure, public safety, and education to support this massive development which will generate massive amount of traffic.

    Being a native Raider, you seem strangely tone deaf to the residents like Kevin MacDonald who grew up here who think these massive developments are hurting our town and that traffic will be out of control.

    Then again, its the developers who own you website, so I guess we know whose side your really on..

  11. Are you that arrogant to expect an answer when you don’t have the courage of your convictions to sign your name like the rest of us? The only thing worthy of a comment is you have no clue what you speak of when talking about the relationship the MacDonlald’s and Labadini’s have. It goes back generations. Lastly, it’s whose side “you’re” on. Don’t expect another reply without a name. There’s to many serious people with serious concerns to have discussions with..

    • Whether someone signs their name or not doesn’t make the question any less relevant or the facts they’ve presented. My assumption is that you, Mr. Labadini, do not have a response to the question. H2OHomeowner, whoever the person is, has made some very valid points and I certainly don’t care who the person is. Also, the person made no comment to your relationship to the MacDonald’s, just that your comments to do not seem to be in agreement with the opinions Kevin MacDonald has expressed on the matters of Development in Watertown and on that I would agree.

      • As far h20homeowner above she has a long history of commenting to or at me with half truths and innuendo and I guess I’ve just heard enough of it. I do indeed have a response for you. If you have been following this (and I don’t know the extent you have, so apologies if I’m being redundant) what I said earlier was that the 30k wasn’t some dollar amount that just fell out of the sky willy nilly and that we should look at the TOTALITY of the many agreement(s) which are complex, and took years to work out with town officials and different developers involved. This article pretty much spells out and confirms exactly what I said; The town and developers basically did the equivalent of opening up a joint bank account to start, which will be funded based on some formula with contributions varying from development to development based on said formula/grid that’s being created. Some of the contributing properties haven’t been built yet according to the article, so how could a number that hasn’t been calculated yet be included? The town, wanting it’s citizens to participate in the shuttle is contributing too, and again that number wasn’t provided because perhaps it hasn’t been calculated yet. h2otowns response is to scream “Did you read the shuttle is going to cost $600k per year and that RESIDENTS HAVE TO PAY FOR THE SHUTTLE as developers won’t be picking up the entire tab”. The shuttles will be available to everyone but somehow that’s not good enough for h2o.
        I spoke with my friend Kevin last night and we both found it humorous that I’d be accused of being “a shill” for anyone. Anything Kevin wants share beyond that is ok with me but I’ll leave that up to him.

        As I’ve said before, I stand behind my beliefs, have the courage of my convictions to sign my name,care deeply about what’s going on in town, and would be happy to chat at length, either via email or phone, should you wish to discuss further.

        Hope you’re warm wherever you are,


  12. John Labadini, half truth and innuendo’s? Me? Really? Please send some examples. While I’m waiting can you and Elodia Thomas explain why you lied to the Watertown News for an article published during last November’s election? You see, in November of last year, a few days before the election, Charlie Brietrose asked you, as The President of Concerned Watertown Homeowners Assocation, and Watertown Strong Schools, how much each respective group had spent in opposition to the Question 5 CPA vote for the upcoming election. It was a simple question. Here’s the article with the responses.
    Incapable of telling the entire truth, you told Charlie, “the group (CWHA) spent about $2,000 on signs and advertising.” Also Charlie’s article went on to state, “Elodia Thomas, who has been active with the Watertown Strong Schools, said they spent a few hundred dollars of members’ own money on signs and advertising.” Of course, as we’ll soon discover, Elodia’s statement was also a lie as well.
    How can I claim that you and Elodia Thomas told a fib here? Well, you see, John as Charlie reported in a different article, you forgot to fill out some of that required campaign finance paperwork on time. It appears someone or some group reported both the CWHA and the WSS to the state election authorities. How do I know this? While doing a quick internet search on “John Labadini Watertown MA” (to fact check claims about my telling half truths and innuendos) I surprisingly turned up a public document addressed to both John Labadini and Alyson Morales confirming there was a state investigation into both CWHA and WSS where both groups were found to have violated Mass state campaign finance laws. Here it is:
    The most disturbing part of the above document was my shocking discovery that the information presented earlier by representatives of both groups to the Watertown News in November was not remotely close to the truth. John, to avoid fines and jail time, it looks like you admitted to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political finance that the CWHA actually spent $3900! That amount is almost double the $2,000 you originally told Charlie for his article! Also, Alyson Morales, of WSS confessed to the very same office that in fact they hadn’t raised $300 as Elodia claimed to Charlie Brietrose. In fact, Watertown Strong Schools had raised no money at all! You see, the CWHA funded all the all Anti-CPA signage. They had some of them printed No on 5 and later with WSS info and then these were quietly ‘given’ to WSS to hand out and to make it look like they paid for them. However, because WSS accepted the gifted signs from CWHA, (without filing paperwork) they were also found guilty of campaign finance violations. Luckily, both groups cooperated with state authorities, finally filled out the paperwork, and were not given any further punitive measures.
    Unfortunately, if you read both the newspaper article and the state document linked here, the discrepancy between what Elodia and John actually told Charlie just prior to the election in November and what we now know they actually did are two wildly different things. The fact that the deception was purposeful, pre-planned, and deliberate in my mind is the worst part. Also, this wasn’t a message board blast, these were lies made to a respected hometown journalist, and he took them at their word and published what they told him. Charlie, hopefully you’ve learned not to trust either of these two moving forward. I’d suggest another article detailing the above campaign spending discrepancies is warranted. Interview other WSS and CWHA members. Why did other WSS and CWHA sit silently when these untruthful claims were made? I’m sure WSS members were aware that they hadn’t raised any money. I’m also sure that some CWHA members, besides John, had an idea how much money had been spent by the November election. Let’s find out!

  13. Watertown News was told lies. Are they going to look into scandal involving Watertown Strong Schools, and Concerned Homeowners campaign finances? Or do these guys get a pass because they give money to this paper? I’ve been saying all along that stuff like Victory Field is being politicized and this proves it! These guys (John Labadini and Elodia Thomas) didn’t tell us the truth!!

    • Thanks for your comment Concerned Parent. Stay tuned for follow up on the election finances and other issues from the CPA election.

      As for Victory Field, I don’t think people dispute that the first effort to redo the track area was politicized. That’s why the Town Council halted it.

  14. The first discussion of Victory Field Phase II ($3 million budget) was fought for many reasons not least of which was that half of Phase I was supposed to be paid for with donations & sponsorship which never materialized so the town had to pick up an extra $1.2 million in cost (it was a $3 million dollar budget w/the town expecting to pay $1.5 million with bonds but only $300k was raised so another $1.2 million in bonds had to be taken out). Is that a political reason or a financial reason?

    There was also strong opposition to Phase II plans to install a second turf field because there are indications that artificial turf may cause cancer. Should we spend $1million to potentially put kids at risk or just keep natural fields that we can all use year round?

    Artificial turf was also opposed because it has to be replaced every 8-10 years at what was a cost of $1 million (how much will it be in 10 years?) in addition to regular cleaning & maintenance – yes, think about it, if an athlete falls/slides/tackles & gets a scrape or cut that’s biohazard on the turf that needs to be cleaned off with chemicals not just water or rain – this is different than a grass field.

    Additionally the large scope of the plans for Phase II called for renting the facility out to colleges, tournaments & large events that would have brought EVEN MORE TRAFFIC to our 4 square miles & lots more lighting to Victory Field which still doesn’t do a good job managing the current lights at night, but how many times do you complain before realizing the app in Peter Centola’s phone that can supposedly shut off the Victory Field lights either doesn’t exist or is just never going to get used because of potential vandalism at night (that’s really a serious concern/problem? I have been told that yes it is)

    Additionally, as proposed, Phase II would have replaced the grass oval with a second turf field (that didn’t include redoing the track which is another million dollars). Much of the public is not aware that turf fields can’t be used for much of the summer BECAUSE THEY GET TOO HOT – literally you can’t walk on it never mind let children play on it or have a picnic which is a regular use of the current grass oval.

    And the trees, all of Watertown benefits from our trees & Trees for Watertown isn’t wrong to fight for them especially in our parks & green spaces which Victory Field is one of our largest.

    Just thinking about our schools I can think of MANY ways to better spend a million dollars that would serve a larger student population than a second turf field or new track (technology, curriculum, staff, building repairs, heating systems, roofs etc).

    How many students actually use the track AND need the track to be redone to use it? ~50 student athletes would benefit from a resurfaced track, shouldn’t we spend $1 million dollars on things that will benefit a larger & less focused student population? Science labs maybe?

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: safe buildings, safe roads, curbs & sidewalks, sufficient staff, 21st century technology, better curriculum THEN better fields & athletic facilities.

    Concerned Parent if you’re so concerned, why don’t you go out & raise $1.5 million for Victory Field Phase II then come back & talk to us.

    Also, Charlie isn’t an investigative journalist & does a great job covering a wide range of issues for the town, what do you contribute to the conversation besides complain?

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