Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

The people of Chelsea are demanding increased
frequency on the Silver Line, more reliability, and additional bus connections
from the MBTA. Over the next two years there will be three major construction
projects in Chelsea that will adversely impact bus traffic, and City leaders
and residents are concerned that the already poor services will worsen.

“There have been big shifts in population and
ridership, and the bus routes have stayed largely the same,” admitted Steve
Poftak, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager. “The T is playing catch-up.”

On January 24, Poftak sat with locals and
members of the City Council during the first inaugural Chelsea Transportation
Task Force meeting at City Hall. The goal of the committee is to gather once a
month for six months of interactive discussions with the community and Poftak
to develop solutions.

“For a lot of us who live on both of the
hills, buses are the only means of transportation,” commented a Bellingham
Square resident. “Every year or two, they threaten to cut off both of the
hills. That would leave us totally stranded, and I’m not having it.”

Many aren’t content with the massive traffic
that builds with the 20 minute rising and 20 minute lowering of the Chelsea
Street bridge, which slows bus travel. The MBTA noted that active discussions
with the Coast Guard regarding the creation of a period of time during peak
hours of commuting when the bridge does not open have been hindered by the
government shutdown.

“We have limited control over the bridge.
Maybe we could have some predictability with windows when we know the bridge
will be active and when we know it won’t,” said Poftak.

The Better Bus Project is investigating the
quality of the current bus network and working on cost-neutral proposals that
will result in more frequent services for customers. Researchers have been
speaking with riders to learn more about where people’s trips begin and end,
the economic demographics of the area, and where jobs are located.

“We are advocating for fair mitigation,” expressed
Council President Damali Vidot. “We’ve needed quality service for years and are
working at a sub-par level. Chelsea was an afterthought in the Better Bus
Project. We want to make sure we’re getting the service we deserve.”

The Better Bus Project has 47 proposals for
changes in the MBTA bus system that will impact 63 out of the 180 routes in 35
of the 50 communities that are served. Proposals include removing bus routes
with low ridership, and re-investing resources elsewhere.

The Transportation Task Force is suggesting
more inspectors, less cancellations, and easier transfers between Chelsea and
Lynn on the Commuter Rail.

“We are re-imagining the infrastructure on
Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “We will be presenting the City
Council with alternatives that do away with two fast lanes to make travel
safer. One idea is incorporating a dedicated bus lane.”

Gentrification has also forced many Chelsea
residents to relocate to Lynn because of the high cost of rent. One Chelsea
resident, who works in Lynn, voiced that it takes her up to two hours to
commute from Lynn to Chelsea using public transportation. She commented that
the only line that directly connects Chelsea to Everett is the 112 bus, and
many avoid it due to the lifting of the bridge; and recommended that the 426
bus through Lynn could stop in Chelsea, as it already passes over the Tobin
Bridge.

“In the overall bus network redesign, people
on the north side of the city are particularly interested in going to Lynn and
Malden,” Poftak concluded.

Better Bus Project proposals will be available
at www.MBTA.com with maps and data. The MBTA will also be providing riders with
a warm place to view proposals at Haymarket Station, where they see the most response from Chelsea residents.

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Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

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