Columbus Ave. bus stop off the chopping block
MBTA asking for final feedback to Route 1 changes
The MBTA opened the floor to members of the South End community for the third time in the past six months on Monday night, June 6 at United South End Settlements (USES, 566 Columbus Ave.) in order to garner feedback concerning proposed changes to the Bus #1 route. The changes are a part of a larger initiative to improve 15 key bus routes in the city.
The meeting, attended by 14 residents, was led by Ralph DiNisco of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, who said design plans for the proposed changes along Route 1 were 30 percent complete.
Previous meetings, held in Boston and Cambridge in January and March, focused presenting the MBTA’s preliminary proposed changes for Route 1, including stop amenities and the addition of pavement markings, as well as the removal of several stops along the route.
Since the MBTA’s last meeting at USES in March, the plan to eliminate inbound and outbound stops at the intersection of Mass Ave. and Columbus Ave., near USES, has been withdrawn as a result of a flood of protests from the surrounding community.
"These stops are operationally more difficult and create slower service," DiNisco said. "However, we heard quite a bit of feedback and have decided to keep both of them."
Protests to the removal of the Mass Ave. and Colombus Ave. stops were based on a desire to maintain accessibility to one of the thoroughfares of the South End. Proposed changes at the stop now include new signage and pavement markings indicating the beginning and end of the stop, which DiNisco said should improve operations.
Both the inbound and outbound stops at Massachusetts Ave. and Shawmut Ave. are still up for elimination due to low ridership and also as part of an effort to provide better bus stop spacing, DiNisco said. The walking distance between stops will increase from 970 ft. to 1360 ft. as a result of the stop elimination.
"We’ve looked at each one of these stops in detail, gone out to each one of these stops to look at how what we’re proposing will affect each stop to find out a little bit more about what is working and what problems we might meet," DiNisco said.
The removal of the stops at Mass Ave. and Shawmut Ave. may most affect those living at the senior housing complex at 155 Northampton St.
DiNisco said that the MBTA has made an effort to be sensitive to seniors and other populations that could be affected by the bus stop change. He added that while the seniors from the Northampton St. complex would have to walk further, the MBTA is planning to install benches and shelters at remaining stops to make them "more accommodating."
MBTA senior transportation planner Greg Strangeways added, "Yes, people will have to walk further to the nearest stop. If it isn’t possible to walk further because of disabilities then maybe they could take advantage of services we offer like The Ride." The Ride is the MBTA "paratransit" car service for disabled patrons who are unable to use the subway or bus systems.
The Route 1 improvement project is funded by $10 million in grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which requires all of the money must be spent on one-time improvements, such as the addition of amenities to stops. Work is required to start by early 2012, Strangeways said.
An elderly man in attendance voiced concern over how the additional amenities would be maintained in the future, since the ARRA funds can only apply to one-time changes.
"There is going to be four months a year where weather alone will require constant maintenance on these changes," said the man, who wished to remain anonymous.
Strangeways did not confirm that there were funds for maintenance, but said the MBTA is working with the city to "make sure they know that there may be maintenance required subsequent to these changes."
Final feedback to the Route 1 changes is needed over the next few summer months so the MBTA can begin to put out bids to contractors by the fall. "We really want to know what you’re saying here because you’re hitting on what the MBTA needs to do to change the culture and visibility of these key bus routes," Strangeways said.
More information on the Key Bus Route Improvement program can be found at http://tinyurl.com/3wxmj5d. Comments and feedback may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to MBTA Project Director for Operations, 45 High St, Boston, MA 02116.