Watertown Officials Hoping Watertown Yard Can be More Rider Friendly

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Charlie Breitrose

An MBTA bus in Watertown.

Charlie Breitrose

An MBTA bus in Watertown.

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.

Some suggested that some relatively small changes could make the facility much more enjoyable for commuters and other T riders. One opportunity he saw was to transform a small house on the property used for as as a place for drivers to relieve themselves.

“It is not open to the public,” Piccirilli said. “But would you rather stand in the rain and snow waiting for a bus or would you rather wait inside a building, get a cup of coffee and stay warm?”

How to make this happen is the question. The MBTA controls the property and the buildings on it. Watertown State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said that the town and the contingent in the State House should keep the discussion open with the MBTA.

“They are not going to give up a large portion of the property,” Hecht said. “They have the little hut there, and possibly they could make it an amenity for the riding public.”

In the meantime, the Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) is planning shuttle routes from Pleasant Street and Arsenal Street into Watertown Square. Members of the Transportation Committee said they hope the transit hub could also be a stop for the shuttle

Also on the site is a large green building that used to be where trolleys were maintained when Watertown Yard was one end of the Green Line’s A Line. The trolleys were dropped in the late 1960s and replaced with the 57 bus.

Today, the facility is used to service the electric buses – or trackless trolleys – that serve the 71, 73 and other routes. It also stores parts from bygone eras.

The rest of the site does not get a lot of use. The MBTA has been looking for a place to house and maintain the electric buses, and Piccirilli said he could see Watertown Yard as a place to do that.

There is also the possibility that the trackless trolleys are replaced by a new wireless electric bus. The T is testing five all-electric buses on the Silver Line as a possible replacement for the diesel/electric buses that need to stop to switch modes, Piccirilli said.

“They seem very excited about that,” Piccirilli said. “There is the possibility of upgrading the 71 and 73 if the (the test) is successful.”

The timing may work out well for Watertown, he noted, because the town plans to do a major overhaul of Mt. Auburn Street, which would require taking down the electric lines for the trackless trolleys. Instead of putting the wires back up, Piccirilli said, the T could use the wireless electric buses and house them at Watertown Yard.

“If the buses are housed in Watertown, we will get better service,” Piccirilli said.

Assistant Town Manager and Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon said Watertown Yard is probably not big enough for bus storage, but he could envision building a multistory garage on the site for the buses.

4 thoughts on “Watertown Officials Hoping Watertown Yard Can be More Rider Friendly

  1. Anyone who has shivered in the snow,sleet & rain while watching buses idle empty know that the Watertown yard is a pathetic use of valuable space. Why has it only dawned on our representatives that something needs to be done. The building is a waste. Knock it down, build a bus station. It can’t be that difficult.

    • Bruce, I think that the hope is to build a bus garage and maintenance facility. Every time we ask the T for more bus service, their response is that they have too few buses, but cannot increase the fleet until they have more garage and maintenance space. So many who are involved in transit advocacy have pointed to Watertown Yard as an ideal place to base our bus service and augment it.

      Making a more rider friendly waiting area should be part of any plan for the property.

      This isn’t a new idea, but it seems to take ages to even get discussion going.

  2. The facts about the MBTA yard on Galen Street

    When I was a Councillor at large I found out how we lost out on the most terrific deal
    I met a very respected Newton attorney I knew who told me how a year before he met with the town planner Mark Boyle – representing a client with a plan to buy the mbta building on Galen st.- plan included residential beneath with a lower floor for 200 cars – with flowering bushes, trees etc.
    I was so upset I went into the t and met with the t’s real estate official to see if I could salvage it.
    He told me he couldn’t help me – the deal was made a year prior and it’s over and it is leased- he told me Watertown was crazy to throw away an opportunity of a lifetime- win win for Watertown’.

    He told me how hard he negotiated and got the interested buyer to have a room inside the building – for commuters – heated in the winter – air conditioned in the summer. Every time I see the commuters out in the elements I want to cry!

    If anyone wants to meet with me I’ll tell you the details of this major loss for Watertown- all behind the scenes – I found out the truth outside Watertown government. (617)840-7689

    • Oops please excuse an error
      This was the proposal offered to Watertown at the mbta yard – a movie theatre -,commercial beneath and a lower area for parking of 200 cars – heated room in the building for commuters- in winter – air conditioned in summer/ outside trees – flowering bushes etc – it should have gone before the town council for a vote – only the council could approve . Kept secret!
      Never was never told about the offer ever by anyone in Watertown government !
      I’m available to all who are interested in the “rest of the story “.

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