OP-ED: MBTA Service in Watertown Takes the Cake: Worst Service Ever!

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MBTA buses operating in Watertown Square. (Photo by Mark Pickering)

By Mark Pickering

When it comes to MBTA service, residents in numerous Boston neighborhoods and abutting communities would love to say they have the worst. They’d be wrong.

Watertown “wins” hands down.

A Boston Globe article (“Missed connections at Nubian,” Feb. 20 ) lays out the many problems with the MBTA’s bus service at Nubian Station. There’s certainly lots of room for improvement at that Roxbury terminal.

But at least there is an actual terminal. Watertown, of course, has no bus terminal at all. In fact, Watertown lacks any of the basics for a modern transit system such as a trolley, subway or commuter rail stop. Watertown lacks any of those 21st century-style dedicated bus lanes, too.

Watertown Square’s buses operate out of several separate places. This situation makes clear that a unified T station in Watertown Square would be a major upgrade.

For its part, the inbound No. 70 bus, which could be nicknamed the “tortoise,” does not actually stop in the heart of the square.

If you wanted to get a downtown bus, you could get off on Main Street and, then, walk for blocks and hope your bus hasn’t taken off in the meantime.

Along the way, you’d pass by the bus stops for the No. 59 to Needham, and the No. 71 to Harvard Square. Those are in front of a brick office building in the square.

If you were continuing to walk to the downtown buses, the next obstacle would be crossing the Mount Auburn Street/Galen Street intersections. That’s a free-for-all mess on both sides of the Charles River.

The so-called Watertown Yard is a run-down area that has been in a state of decay since the MBTA got rid of the Green Line “A” branch in 1969. That shutdown was met with fierce community resistance.

Similarly, in the 1980s the relocation of the Orange Line ran into community opposition in Roxbury. Critics did not want to have buses replace the Orange Line service to Dudley Square, now known as Nubian.

Sure Roxbury has more people than Watertown roughly 60,000 versus 35,000. But Roxbury also has stops on the relocated Orange Line.

Ultimately, the MBTA replaced the elevated Orange Line to the Nubian station with “Silver Line” service. Those bus lines have numerous dedicated lanes or stops.

In contrast, the T replaced the Green Line trolley to Watertown Square with the No. 57 bus, which runs through Brighton. There are no dedicated bus lanes on that route or any other in Watertown.

In sum, MBTA service to Watertown is the worst of any Boston neighborhood or abutting community. We deserve better.

The city of Watertown has been focused this year on making improvements to the square. Improving MBTA service, in both the short and long term, should be part of that process.

Mark Pickering is a veteran of the local news business, having worked on the business desk and the opinion pages of the Boston Herald.

2 thoughts on “OP-ED: MBTA Service in Watertown Takes the Cake: Worst Service Ever!

  1. I hear ya. I bike because the busses are terrible. Biking is at least consistent and reliable.
    However, biking is also very challenging around here. Have you seen Watertown’s bike infrastructure? me neither.

    In a dense city like Watertown, it makes no sense to prioritize cars which are the most inefficient form of transportation. They pollute the air we breathe, emit CO2, have extremely low throughput, take up tons of space, they make our city loud, they endanger pedestrians and bikers, encourage a sedentary lifestyle, they cause traffic, and they slow down busses.

    Yet, more and more parking garages are springing up around Watertown… seems like instead of shying away from car culture, we’re doubling down on it. Last I checked, Watertown has a goal to reduce single occupancy car trips. I have to ask, has Watertown done anything at all towards that goal? From my perspective the answer is “no”

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