Many Watertown Bus Routes Will See Service Changes in Fall

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Charlie Breitrose

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 71 bus will have increased service beginning Aug. 30. It is one of several MTBA routes serving Watertown that will see changes.

Several bus routes serving Watertown will see changes in service beginning August 30, including increased service on the 70 and 71 buses.

Other routes begin operating on a limited schedule, or route, one will have increased weekend service and one will continue to be suspended. The 73 bus will run on its regular schedule.

The changes were announced by the MBTA this week.

“Bus service in particular has seen our most durable ridership. The changes coming on August 30 prioritize safety and the T’s efforts to limit crowding on vehicles,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “We will also be adding service above our previous regular service schedule in communities that have few transit alternatives and which have many essential workers who use the MBTA to get to their jobs.”

Poftak also thanked riders for their patience and for continuing to wear face coverings while using the system.

The MBTA will host a virtual public meeting on the bus service changes. The first, in Spanish, will be on Wednesday, Aug. 12, and one in English will be held Thursday, Aug. 13.

Also, starting Sept. 1, riders paying with CharlieTicket and cash will be paying the same fares as CharlieCard prices. The changes were approved by the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on May 21. See more about the fare changes by clicking here.

Bus Route Info

(Click on the Route number for schedule)

52 (Watertown Yard to Dedham) – Resuming limited weekday service, peak hours only.

57 (Watertown Yard to Kenmore Square) – Increased weekend service.

59 (Watertown Square to Needham) – Regular schedule.

70 (Waltham to Central Square, Cambridge, via Main Street and Arsenal Street) – Significantly increased service.

71 (Watertown Square to Harvard Square, via Mt. Auburn Street) – Significantly increased service.

73 (Waverley Square to Harvard Square via Belmont Street) – Regular schedule.

502 (Express Watertown Yard to Copley Square) – Continues to be suspended.

504 (Express Watertown Yard to Downtown Boston) – Significantly increased service. Nearly all buses will serve the Copley/Back Bay area.

554 (Express Waverley to Downtown Boston via Belmont Street) – Resuming limited weekday service. Local service only, will not get on Mass. Pike at Newton Corner. Transfer to 57 (Kenmore Square), 501 (Copley Square and Downtown Boston) or 504 (Copley Square and Downtown Boston).

558 (Express Riverside to Downtown Boston via Pleasant Street) – Resuming limited weekday service. Local service only, will not get on Mass. Pike at Newton Corner. Transfer to 57 (Kenmore Square), 501 (Copley Square and Downtown Boston) or 504 (Copley Square and Downtown Boston).

For more information on fall 2020 bus route service go to

Health and Safety Measures

Buses will continue to have reduced capacity due to COVID-19. In order to accommodate the expected increased ridership while still allowing for decreased capacity, buses will be diverted from less-crowded routes to more heavily used ones. The MBTA announcement said:

  • Bus ridership is expected to return to 50 percent of baseline by September with ridership growth expected to continue throughout the fall. However, this growth is not expected to be consistent across all routes. Decisions have been based on the assumption that growth will likely occur on the routes that had the steadiest ridership during the pandemic.
  • Crowding thresholds have been prioritized over service frequency when deciding where to add service in order to provide the safest ride possible. This means that resources have been diverted from less-crowded routes to accommodate routes where heavy crowding is observed, even if it means decreasing service below the frequencies in the MBTA’s Service Delivery Policy.

The MBTA announcement also detailed the steps being taken to disinfect vehicles and stations:

  • Stations and facilities: disinfecting touch points in high-traffic facilities twice a day; disinfecting touch points on surfaces such as handrails, fare gates, and fare vending machines in subway stations once every four hours; and hiring additional vendors for disinfecting using chemical fogging, electrostatic sprayers, and manual disinfecting wipes/solutions.
  • Bus and rail vehicles: decontaminating all vehicles nightly with disinfecting wipes; performing mid-day decontamination at layover locations daily by wiping down operator cabs and high-touch locations; wiping down cabs, fare boxes, and entrances for first/second shift bus pullbacks; performing electrostatic fogging for 100% decontamination every two weeks for all bus vehicles; isolating and electrostatic decontamination of any vehicle reported as operated by an employee who tested positive for COVID-19.

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