By Adam Swift
The MBTA has made adjustments in the latest draft of its massive Bus Network Redesign project, but Charlestown State Representative Dan Ryan still has concerns about how the changes will impact some of his community’s most vulnerable residents.
The MBTA held a virtual public meeting on Monday to review system-wide changes it made to its bus routes since the release of an initial draft of the plan in May.
Since May, T officials said they have received and reviewed 20,000 comments about the bus route changes.
“The public feedback was key,” said MBTA bus route project manager Doug Johnson. “We reviewed all the comments from May to September and beyond and incorporated them into the revised bus network.”
While the MBTA could not incorporate every change that was requested, Johnson said the new bus network is just as was proposed in May in that it would still increase service by 25 percent across the network and double the number of high frequency corridors (defined as a bus leaving a stop at least every 15 minutes, seven days per week) across the system.
“We ended up making changes to 85 of the 133 proposed routes in the May, 2022 draft bus network,” said Johnson. “The changes include new routings, restoration of existing routes, the addition or subtraction of routes, and modifications to frequency of service.”
In Charlestown, the latest draft has the T101 and T7 buses running east and west through the neighborhood, and the T111 running north and south.
Ryan said his major concern is that with the elimination of the 92 bus, there are now no routes that go directly past five senior housing developments in Charlestown.
“Charlestown is built into Bunker Hill, that’s why the name Bunker Hill is on everything, but we are also taking away a route that serves five elderly homes, and they are being told that if they want to get to downtown Boston, they just have to climb the hill that is 120 feet above sea level,” said Ryan. “I know that at least 200 people have written in to try to get the T to take another look at the 92 bus, which will end up being the T101 or the T7.”
Ryan asked how much balance the MBTA places between where it thinks the buses should go and where the riders actually live. He also noted that many of the people who will be affected by the changes are not necessarily comfortable using Zoom or taking part in virtual meetings.
The representative also mentioned the heavy burden Charlestown has when it comes to being a transportation hub for the entire region.
“The bus yard that makes all of this happen makes Sullivan Square inaccessible for us during the rush hour commute,” said Ryan. “We don’t use, as residents, Sullivan Square Station, that is used for the surrounding region to get buses and trains to where they need to use them.”
MBTA officials noted that while not all the changes were made to take care of all issues across the system, that there would be more high frequency bus routes in Charlestown creating easier access to trains and downtown Boston.
Still, it could be a few years before riders see changes to the majority of the bus routes.
“We anticipate implementation of the new network to take about five years, beginning in 2023,” said Johnson. “Over that five year period, we intend to make changes to routes incrementally every year until by the fifth year, the whole network is in place.” The Bus Network Redesign is one portion of an overall Better Bus Project for the MBTA, he added. That project aims to transform, modernize, and decarbonize the entire bus fleet, create more dedicated bus lanes and signalization, update and modernize bus stops, and modernize how the MBTA collects fares for its bus trips.