STEP letter to the MBTA about the Revised Bus Network Redesign

  • Post category:Buses

Hello MBTA BNR team,

We in Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) greatly appreciate the improved proposed bus changes in Somerville in the second draft of the Bus Network Redesign. It’s obvious from the revisions to proposed routes in this draft that you all took the time to listen to and incorporate much of the community feedback on the first draft, and for that we thank you for your efforts.

Like many Somervillians, we are pleased to see additional bus connections to the forthcoming GLX stops, as well as reinstating the critical routes 87 and 89, the Medford and west Somerville portion of the 80 route, new (and one-seat) connections to Union Sq, new connections to appreciate how Somerville will benefit from the new high-frequency routes.

In noting the new connections to Assembly Square, we are glad to see how the new 85 route will also connect with the East Somerville and Union Sq GLX stops. It could potentially help some workers and residents travel in and out of the Assembly Square area, at least on weekdays. And for residents in Chelsea and Everett, the new 113 route opens up employment opportunities for them at Assembly Sq. 

Although we are generally satisfied with the revised changes to bus service in the Somerville BNR map, we have a few comments/questions:

  • Frequency of some routes which are assigned in this draft of the BNR have some outmoded suburban-type “rush hour” and/or weekday only frequency, when their destinations don’t fit that kind of commuter profile. The most extreme example is the new 85 route, which is a fabulous route, but according to the BNR it will run weekdays only, mostly with a 90 minute headway except for 30 minute headways 6-9am and 4-7pm. To us, this coupled with the limited weekday and no night time or weekend service actually sabotages the very reasons we in Somerville need more connections to/from Assembly seven days a week.
  • We wonder why no routes in the BNR make use of Alewife Brook Parkway or McGrath Highway (soon to become a nice wide boulevard, perfect for north-south bus-only lanes). As we mentioned in our comments last summer, Somerville has long suffered from insufficient north-south connections between the major bus routes (and now the GLX). Although many north-south streets in the city are not busable due to the hill grades, we recommend that the BNR team explore possible routes on Washington St. and Medford St., incorporating Cedar St. in a route that connects with Ball Square, and adding one or more routes on McGrath Highway. Regarding Alewife Brook Parkway, as we also recommended last summer, buses traveling directly to Dilboy could save hundreds of car trips every week and deliver children and adults safely to the Stadium, turf and grass fields, tennis and basketball courts, swimming pool, and to the Mystic River paths there. In addition to carrying riders to Dilboy stadium and pool, Alewife Brook Parkway could provide a link between the future Route 16 Green Line station and Alewife Red Line station and the neighborhoods of West Somerville, East Arlington, and Medford.
  • The Mystic Ave EJ community is still pretty isolated from the rest of Somerville in this revised plan. The 95 bus, the only route in that neighborhood, runs from Arlington Ctr to Sullivan Sq. Please consider some crosstown routes to connect it to Davis and Union Sq in a one-seat trip.
  • We urge the MBTA to commit to revisit these bus route decisions within 5 years, due to the quick pace of development in Somerville. The lack of any bus routes on Washington St. and McGrath, two streets that will see massive redevelopment in the coming years warrants this. We should not have to wait another 50 years to get buses on those streets.
  • Finally, we agree with the sentiments Rep. Mike Connolly expressed during the November 2nd MBTA public meeting on the latest BNR regarding slowing down the approval process for this new draft so that communities can spend some time examining the changes and their impacts. We also agree with Rep. Connolly’s request to provide at least 90 days public notice before eliminating or changing an existing route.

Thanks again for your hard, thoughtful work on the redesign of the bus network in Somerville.

Best regards,

Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP)