Newly Elected Councilors At-Large Talk About Their Priorities for the Next Term

Watertown Town Hall

The winners of the big race in the 2019 Watertown Election, the Council At-Large seats, can now look forward to what they would like to do over their next two years on the Council. The four winners, Anthony Donato, Tony Palomba, Caroline Bays and John Gannon, each talked about issues they would like to make a priority. Tony Palomba got the second most votes in the election, and returns for a sixth term on the Council. He said that his level of community engagement and his work to help those most in need appealed to voters. Palomba said he would like to “Continue to move the needle on creating affordable housing in Watertown.”

Town, TMA Seeking Grant to Launch Watertown Shuttle

For the past few years, Watertown officials have sought to start a shuttle service to serve Pleasant Street, which has no MTBA bus service. The Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) has applied for a grant from the State to start a shuttle. The grant would be from the Mass. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Workforce Transportation Program, said Watertown’s Transportation Planner Laura Wiener. The Town Council sent a letter in support of the TMA’s grant application.

Town Councilors Disappointed That Starting Date For Watertown Shuttle is Still Uncertain

Progress on getting shuttle buses on the roads of Watertown appears to have stalled, with no start date in sight. The news disappointed Town Councilors and others at the Economic Development and Planning subcommittee meeting. In August, coordinators of the Watertown TMA (Transportation Management Association) hoped to get a pilot for a shuttle on Pleasant Street started by the spring of 2018. On Tuesday night, Michele Brooks from TransAction Associates, the firm hired by the Watertown TMA to mange the TMA, said the start of the shuttle will have to wait. She has been meeting with the TMA’s Board of Directors, which includes members paying into the TMA.

Watertown Exploring Testing of Self-Driving Vehicles for Public Transit

Sometime in the future, self-driving shuttles could be transporting people around Watertown, and that future may not be that far down the road. 

The Town Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation asked Town officials to look into opportunities for grants and pilot programs to test autonomous vehicles to provide public transportation in Watertown. The town would not be the first community to test such self-driving shuttles. Las Vegas and London have started programs and Columbus, Ohio, is exploring the idea, according to this report by CNET. They can also be seen on campuses and as inter-terminal trains at airports. In October 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order promoting the testing and deployment of automated vehicles.

Developers Will Pay More for Shuttle, TMA When They Move Forward

The $30,000 pledged by developers toward Watertown’s Transportation Management Association is just the start of the funding, said Assistant Town Manger Steve Magoon. A report of the Town Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation in February said that the owners of large commercial and residential projects had committed $30,000 towards the TMA. Magoon said this money will help establish the TMA, and once it gets going the members will pay more. “A big part of the work establishing a TMA is front loaded,” Magoon said. “It’s hard to get payments when there is not an organization yet.”

Town Council Disappointed to Hear About Delay of Watertown Shuttle

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.