This week at the Southampton Bus Garage and
Maintenance Facility, Governor Charlie Baker, MassDOT Secretary and CEO
Stephanie Pollack, and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak gathered to celebrate
the introduction of the MBTA’s first brand new, zero-emission, battery-electric
bus (BEB) prototypes into the MBTA’s Silver Line fleet.
“The procurement and testing of new
battery-electric bus technology is exactly the type of investment we aim to
continue with the Transportation Bond Bill in order to help the MBTA plan for
the future,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration will continue to
explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Commonwealth’s
transportation system and we look forward to more improvements as the MBTA
makes progress on delivering a more reliable bus system.”
“These new zero-emission, completely
battery-electric bus prototypes are an emerging technology aimed at providing a
safe, reliable, comfortable ride while lowering energy costs and reducing
dependence on fossil fuels,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie
Pollack. “We are pleased to take steps forward with the process of evaluating
whether these kinds of new technologies that promote sustainability are
appropriate for daily service for MBTA customers.”
“We’re excited to introduce these first
battery-electric buses into service on the Silver Line to test how they operate
in real-world conditions on Boston streets and in the Silver Line tunnel,” said
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “This is an exciting first step in testing
new technologies to electrify our bus fleet, save on fuel costs, and reduce our
maintenance needs. We look forward to seeing how these buses perform, gathering
data on power consumption, and testing their range during extreme weather as we
continue to seek ways to reduce greenhouse gases and improve service for our
With support from a $10 million federal
grant, the MBTA procured from New Flyer the production of five zero-emission,
battery-electric, 60-foot, articulated buses. All five are currently in Boston
with the first BEB prototype having arrived in April 2019 to begin testing and
operator training. Three BEBs are entering service today on Silver Line Routes
SL2, SL3, SL4, and SL5 with the next two anticipated to enter service on these
routes by the end of the summer.
Five charging stations are also being built
within the Southampton Bus Garage and Maintenance Facility as part of the
project where each BEB will be “refueled” overnight.
These BEBs are powered by both rear axle and
center axle electric motors to enhance safe operation during the winter months.
The majority of 60-foot Low Floor articulated buses in service in North America
utilize only the rear axle to provide propulsion power by pushing the bus,
which can experience traction issues during winter months when snow and ice are
present. The performance of the BEBs’ axle placement will be one feature
specifically tested and studied while in service.
The MBTA will also be one of the first
systems to test 100 percent electric heat for comfortable onboard temperatures
during winter months. Previously, U.S.-built BEBs operated diesel-fired
With a commitment to vehicle efficiency,
energy conservation, and sustainability, the MBTA continues to explore
available technologies and new vehicles that are capable of zero-emissions
operation in the Silver Line Transitway Tunnel, which serves the World Trade
Center, Courthouse, and South Station stops. Innovative projects like the MBTA
Silver Line Zero Emission Bus Project directly reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
emissions and also help improve ridership by offering a quieter, emission-free
During a two-year period following the
introduction of the BEBs into service, the MBTA will test and gather data on
this emerging technology to measure BEB performance and operational
effectiveness with a focus on power consumption of electric heaters, operator /
passenger comfort, vehicle range impact during extreme conditions, charging
requirements, and projected operating costs. The MBTA will operate these buses
on Silver Line routes to measure the capabilities of the technology for
consideration in future zero-emission bus procurements.
Over the past four years, the Baker-Polito
Administration has invested unprecedented levels of funding for transit
improvements that have included the purchase of hundreds of new buses as well
as the purchase of hybrid vehicles:
•The MBTA has purchased 575 new buses with
381 already in service and 194 additional hybrid buses in production.
•More than one third of the bus fleet was
recently replaced. Once the additional hybrid buses are in service, more than
half of all MBTA buses will be less than five years old. These new buses
replace the oldest and least fuel-efficient vehicles in the fleet and provide a
more comfortable ride for passengers.
•The piloting of these five zero-emission,
battery-electric buses is also the first step in testing new technologies to
electrify the fleet.
•In April 2018, the MBTA introduced the
Silver Line 3-Chelsea service, providing a direct link between Chelsea and the
Seaport District. This project was the first new MBTA service since the
Greenbush Commuter Rail Line came online in 2017 with the $56.7 million project
jointly funded by MassDOT ($7.6 million) and the MBTA ($49.1 million).
•Following positive results from a Transit
Signal Priority (TSP) pilot, the FMCB approved plans to expand the T’s TSP
pilot to include broad corridors of the MBTA street-level system. TSP provides
faster service to bus passengers by using signal technology to reduce dwell
times for vehicles that operate in mixed traffic.
•As part of the Better Bus Project, the MBTA
has partnered with cities and towns to implement dedicated bus lanes and queue
jumps, resulting in faster trips for bus passengers. Bus lanes currently exist
on Brighton Avenue in Allston, Washington Street in Roslindale, Massachusetts
Avenue in Cambridge, Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge and Watertown, and
Broadway in Everett.
The MBTA is currently investing more than
ever before to upgrade its infrastructure under its current $8 billion,
five-year Capital Investment Plan already in place, and the Baker-Polito
Administration’s Transportation Bond Bill includes approximately $5.7 billion
for the MBTA to continue funding improvements.
The bond bill also includes a number of
proposals to accelerate capital investments that include investments in the
MBTA’s bus system, including continued funding for the dedicated bus lanes,
signal prioritization, bus shelters and other infrastructure; for sustainable
transit system modernization investments to modernize the bus fleet and support
the Better Bus Project; and for maintaining the bus fleet and operational
improvements. There are additional provisions to allow for the use of
design-build procurement for smaller projects, which reduces the timeline for
delivering capital improvements, and job-order contracting, which is a faster,
more cost effective way to address outstanding maintenance needs. The bill
would also establish a process to leverage private-sector investment to fund
and build transit improvements.
The provisions in
the bond bill that seek to expedite the T’s pace of investment come on the
heels of the T’s plan to accelerate capital investments by exploring more
aggressive closures overnight and on weekends, increasing the regimen of
proactive inspections, negotiating with contractors to compress project
schedules, augmenting the existing workforce with a flexible team that can
provide necessary services such as flaggers, bus operators, and power, signal,
and track personnel to support capital investments.
The Massachusetts Department of
Transportation (MassDOT) began the closure of one of three southbound travel
lanes on Route 1 in Chelsea and the Tobin Bridge the morning of Tuesday, May
14, snarling traffic in many parts of Everett as commuters looked for an
The public was also reminded the one-lane
northbound closure on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 was expanded the morning of
Tuesday, May 14. MassDOT anticipates that these lane closures will lead to
increased travel times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for
drivers and MBTA bus customers for months to come.
These traffic impacts are associated with
MassDOT’s Tobin Bridge/Chelsea
Curves Rehabilitation Project and lane closures will remain in place for
approximately two years. Additional overnight lane closures will be necessary
throughout the project meaning only one lane of travel may be open during
certain evening hours.
In order to accommodate travelers during
this necessary construction work, MassDOT is opening the I-93 southbound
carpool lane between Medford and the Zakim Bridge to all vehicles regardless of
the number of occupants. This lane will continue to function as an “express
lane” and vehicles in this lane on I-93 southbound will not have access to Exit
28 (Mystic Avenue) or Exit 26 (Storrow Drive).
“North Shore commuters should be aware that
beginning the morning of Tuesday, May 14, a travel lane will be closed on Route
1 southbound in Chelsea, and the lane closure that is already in place on the
Tobin Bridge and Route 1 northbound will be expanded,” said Highway
Administrator Jonathan Gulliver last Friday. “MassDOT is carrying out this
necessary rehabilitation work in order to ensure the continued use and
reliability of Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Viaduct. We appreciate the cooperation
and patience of the traveling public and advise everyone to make smart
decisions such as considering public transit, using the appropriate technology
apps to find the best route and time to travel, and building extra time into
their commutes to account for potential roadway congestion.”
Travelers are also reminded of options such
as free fares in the inbound direction on the MBTA Silver Line 3 bus line
offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue
stops for the duration of construction. In addition, public transit customers
will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea
on the Commuter Rail. The MBTA is also running additional MBTA Blue Line trains
to increase capacity. These measures are all being funded by MassDOT Highway
Division project funds.
MassDOT is also advising the public to also
consider using the Haverhill or Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail lines and
note that the Haverhill Line historically has parking capacity at Haverhill and
Bradford stations. The Newburyport/Rockport Line historically has parking
capacity at Newburyport, Salem and Lynn station. Customers can monitor
@MBTA_Parking on Twitter for capacity updates and information. In
addition, the MBTA has installed a digital parking capacity sign at the Blue
Line Wonderland parking lot so drivers approaching the lot can get “real time”
information on parking availability.
carrying out work on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at
the same time so that the most impactful work will be completed by 2021. If the
projects were done at separate times, drivers would be inconvenienced for
additional years. This work will eliminate the need for weight restrictions and
postings, and MassDOT will use accelerated construction techniques to shorten
the overall construction time.
At a packed house in the GreenRoots office
Tuesday night, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she would use her legislative
power to help improve issues of transportation inequity for her constituents.
The Chelsea Transit Equity Roundtable was one of a series of meetings Pressley is holding throughout the 7th Congressional District to gather input about the issues affecting the region, she said.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was on hand at GreenRoots Tuesday night to discuss Transit Equity in Chelsea and throughout the district.
While the evening focused on issues
surrounding public transportation and pedestrian and bicycling access, the
Congresswoman did also touch on her thanks for local support from Chelsea, her
first 100 days in office, and her gratitude for the activism of GreenRoots and
other local organizations.
“I appreciate that when I come to Chelsea,
they always put me to work,” said Pressley. “I think GreenRoots is at the
center of community building. GreenRoots is such an inclusive movement.”
Pressley said the idea behind the equity
roundtables for transportation and other issues is to create an intimate space
to actively listen to residents about their needs and concerns.
“Developing the best and most sustainable
legislative solutions is what we are after,” said Pressley. “Inequities and
disparity did not just happen, they were made by policy, and that’s why the
mitigation has to be through lawmaking.”
Some of the highlights of the roundtable
included discussions of transit challenges for the disabled, for cyclists, and
for young people.
Disability rights activist Colleen Flanagan
pointed out that Boston and the surrounding area have taken steps to make
transportation more accessible to disabled people, but that there is still a
long way to go. She said price increases and attacks on non-emergency medical
transportation are having a negative impact on disabled public transportation
“We need to continue to show that access to
transportation is a civil right,” said Flanagan.
Pressley also talked about the public
transportation issues facing young people, especially low income youth who rely
on MBTA buses and the subway.
One youth leader Pressley spoke with said
she feels like she is punished because she is a low-income person who has no
other options for transportation.
Cycling educator and activist Gamal Smith
made his way to the Chelsea roundtable from Chelsea on two wheels.
“It’s faster and more reliable to be on two
wheels for almost any distance” in the Boston area, Smith said.
But while cycling can be faster than other
modes of transportation, Smith said there are still many challenges for
cyclists, including safety, with a multitude of roads that have no safe
crossings for cyclists or pedestrians.
Smith said the speed of getting around on
two wheels also highlights the at-times substandard service of buses and other
public transportation options. He said his son takes the MBTA bus to school,
and it can wreak havoc on keeping track of schedules.
“I shouldn’t have to wonder if it’s going to
take my kid a half-hour or an hour when he comes home on the bus,” said Smith.
Pressley encouraged anyone who wants to continue
the discussion on transit equity, or equity on other issues, to use the hashtag
#APequityagenda on social media.
The Massachusetts Department of
Transportation (MassDOT) announced the Department will be rehabilitating the
surface of the Tobin Bridge and complete required maintenance to improve the
structure which will require lane closures and result in significant traffic
impacts on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1
beginning April 1.
These impacts will lead to increased travel
times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for drivers and MBTA bus
The Department also released details about
transit options available to travelers such as free fares in the inbound
direction on the SL3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square,
Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops for the duration of construction. The
MBTA also announced that they will be running additional MBTA Blue Line trains
to additional capacity, and these measures will be funded by MassDOT Highway
Division project funds.
Beginning April 1, lane closures on the
Tobin Bridge northbound will be put in place, although two of three travel
lanes will be open during daytime hours. One of the three travel lanes on the
Tobin Bridge northbound will be open during overnight hours.
Beginning by early May, Route 1 travel lanes
in the Chelsea Curves area will be reduced so that two of three north
and southbound travel lanes will be open in the daytime. One of three north and
southbound travel lanes will be open during overnight hours.
“MassDOT is carrying out simultaneous work
on this infrastructure which was constructed in the middle of the
20th century and hasn’t been rehabilitated since the 1970s in order to
ensure its continued use and reliability and minimize the overall impact on
commuters and the local community,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan
Gulliver. “We thank travelers for their patience as MassDOT begins this
necessary project, and we encourage everyone traveling throughout the Route 1
area to make smart commuting decisions such as considering public transit,
using the appropriate technology apps to find the best route and time to
travel, and building extra time into their commutes to account for potential
The MBTA said they will be offering the free
fares on the Silver Line and the Commuter Rail during construction.
“During construction, free fares are being
offered for Silver Line 3 (SL3) inbound customers at certain station stops and
additional Blue Line train capacity is being added. In addition, public transit
customers will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea on
the Commuter Rail,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Some MBTA
customers on certain bus routes will experience delays, so we urge riders to
consider taking advantage of these additional travel options being offered
MassDOT’s traffic modeling suggests that on
Route 1 northbound, afternoon peak travel times could increase in duration and
have significant delays. Vehicle backups are expected to extend onto the I-93
ramps, along the Leverett Connector, and towards Rutherford Avenue. On Route 1
southbound, morning peak travel times could similarly increase in duration with
significant delays expected.
MassDOT is carrying out work on the Tobin
Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at the same time so that
these projects will be completed in 2021. If the projects were done at separate
times, drivers would be inconvenienced for additional years. This work will
eliminate the need for weight restrictions and postings, and MassDOT will use
accelerated construction techniques to shorten the overall construction time.
For more information on traffic conditions
travelers are encouraged to:
•Dial 511 before heading out onto the
roadways and select a route to hear real-time conditions.
“http://www.mass511.com” t “_blank” www.mass511.com, a
website which provides real-time traffic and incident advisory information,
access to traffic cameras, and allows users to subscribe to text and email
alerts for traffic conditions.
•Follow MassDOT on Twitter @MassDOT to receive
regular updates on road and traffic conditions.
•Check parking availability at the T’s 8
largest garages @MBTA_Parking.
•Download MassDOT’s GoTime mobile app and view
real-time traffic conditions before setting out on the road.
A roomful of commuters and elected officials
roundly rejected proposed MBTA fare hikes during a public meeting on Wednesday,
Feb. 27, at the State Transportation Building in Boston.
Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, outlined
the increases, which would go into effect July 1 and raise fares an average of
6.3 percent system-wide.
Under the proposal, the cost of a local bus
Charlie Card would increase to $1.80 from $1.70 while a subway Charlie Card
would rise to $2.40 from the current $2.25. The monthly LinkPass, which
provides unlimited bus and subway travel for one customer, would jump to $90
from $84.50, and a seven-day LinkPass would rise to $22.50 from $21.25.
The proposed fare increase would bring in
$32 million in additional revenue to help recoup losses against the budget
shortfall of $111 million projected for the next fiscal year.
The last hike came in July of 2016, which
raised fares an average of 9.3 percent across the system, but since that time,
the Legislature has passed a law limiting fare hikes to a maximum of 7
percent every two years.
After Poftak’s opening remarks, City
Councilor Michelle Wu presented T officials with a petition she circulated
calling for unlimited year-round passes for seniors and children, as well as a
lower fare for the city’s poorest residents, which had already garnered 2,700
signatures by the time the meeting commenced.
“This moment in history demands aggressive
action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” Wu said.
“Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing
Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities
beyond their home neighborhoods.”
State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents
East Boston, read from a letter on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation
urging the MBTA board of directors to hold off on fare hikes at this time.
“Public transportation is a vital resource
for residents of Boston, and especially for low-income individuals, seniors and
students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation,”
the letter read in part. “We realize fares bring needed revenue to the
operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher
fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right
balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services. We
believe that there needs to be a more in-depth discussion with the MBTA about
the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any
James White, chairman of MBTA Accessibility
Advisory Committee for the past 18 years, advised against raising fare until
after planned improvements are made to the Red and Orange lines, including the
replacement of both fleets by 2023.
In response to the MBTA’s own projection
that a fare hike would amount to a 1.3-percent loss in ridership, State Rep.
Andy Vargas, who represents Haverhill, said, “At a time when we have increased
ridership on the T, we should be doing everything we can to encourage that.”
State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents
Brookline, took to the podium with a can of Arizona Iced Tea in hand.
costs 99 cents, says it right on the can,” he said. “It has cost 99
cents for 18 years. What the good people of Arizona Iced Tea figured out is if
you don’t improve the quality of the tea, you don’t raise the prices,”
Vitolo said before drinking from the can as the audience applauded him.
The fare increase would put an even bigger
burden on commuters living outside the city as illustrated by statements from
Egan Millard, a 27-year-old Weymouth resident who works in Cambridge and
currently pays $217.75 for his monthly commuter rail and subway pass.
“I, and I’m sure
most T riders, already feel we’re paying too much for such abysmal service,”
Millard said “Commuter rail service is so infrequent I have to plan my entire
day and sometimes week around it. I have lost, at this point, days of my life
on the T that I can’t get back.”
Chelsea residents and MBTA officials mingled
at the Chelsea Senior Center on Tuesday, February 19, where the MBTA sought
community feedback on three new system-wide changes on the horizon: a proposed fare hike, a bus system improvement
initiative dubbed The Better Bus
Project, and an upgraded program for managing ticket purchases called Automated
Fare Collection 2.0.
The event was the first meeting in a series that the Transit Authority is hosting in the Greater Boston area throughout February and early March. Other cities and communities on the list include Quincy Center, Woburn, South Boston, Harvard Square, Downtown Boston, Watertown and Worcester.
Chelsea residents perused information from the MBTA on Tuesday night at the Open House – the first of many in the Greater Boston area dealing with rate increases, the Better Bus Project and the new fare collection system.
Departing from the traditional town
hall-style meeting, there was no speaker or agenda. Rather, officials from the
MBTA were stationed at a horseshoe of tables featuring large informational posters
and fliers in Spanish and English. Residents from the Chelsea community were
invited to circulate from station to station in order to learn about the
proposed changes, ask questions and provide oral and written feedback.
The MBTA is looking to increase fares by an
average of 6.3%, which, according to its website, it needs in order to
“continue making system investments to improve service.”
The increase, which is aligned with Boston’s
inflation rate, also meets the State law allowing the MBTA to raise their rates
no more than 7% every two years. The fare hike, which would go into effect in
July, would be the first since 2016.
The 6.3% increase would be applied to all
fares, including bus and subway, commuter rail, ferry, and The RIDE.
In terms of the most common fares and
passes, a local one-way bus ticket would go from $1.70 to $1.80. A one-way
subway ticket would go from $2.25 to $2.40. A monthly LinkPass would go from
$84.50 to $90.00, and a 7-Day LinkPass would go from $21.25 to $22.50.
Those interested can read more about the
proposed fare hike at mbta.com/fare-proposal-2019. Comments can be emailed to
firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to MBTA, Attn: Fare Proposal, 10 Park Plaza, Boston,
MA 02116. Respondents can also share their opinions via an online survey
available at surveymonkey.com/r/6TW8FFQ.
THE BETTER BUS
Another project on the table is The Better
Bus Project, an expansive initiative looking to overhaul the entire bus service
of the MBTA. Its current projected rollout date is 2020.
“Too many of our bus routes still fail to
live up to our own standards,” states the MBTA on its web site. “Through the
Better Bus Project, we are changing that. Every day we’re finding new ways to
improve the experiences of the people who use and ride our buses.”
The Better Bus Project would be comprised of
five distinct elements: continuous change, analysis, proposed near-term
changes, multi-year investment strategy and the Bus Network Redesign.
Continuous change refers to changes that can
be made incrementally over time as the opportunities arise. Analysis includes
reports generated from a period of outreach in which the MBTA surveyed riders
most affected by gaps in service.
“Riders want more frequent, more reliable
service,” said the MBTA. “They want more routes that run more often throughout
the day—not just during peak service hours. And we learned […] that there are
too many routes, too many complex routes, and too few routes with frequent,
Proposed near-term changes for The Better
Bus Project include 47 specific suggestions for the consolidation of duplicate
routes, the increase of space at bus stops and the elimination of some obsolete
One of the 47 proposed projects is Route
111, which runs from Haymarket through Chelsea to Revere. The MBTA aims to
“provide faster and more reliable service to Route 111 by removing service on
Park Avenue in Revere, with connection remaining via Route 110,” according to a
Better Bus Project flier.
A multi-year investment strategy will kick
off a dialog about how to best leverage resources to improve the bus system as
a whole, taking into account what riders want and need.
The ambitious Bus Network Redesign would
re-envision the current MBTA bus network in the hopes of better serving
To learn more about The Better Bus Project
and share your input, go to mbta.com/projects/better-bus-project.
AUTOMATED FARE COLLECTION 2.0
Citing an outdated system, the MBTA hopes
that its new project will make paying for transit easier. With the introduction
of AFC 2.0, the MBTA hopes to “improve customer experience, ensure equal
access, upgrade outdated hardware and software, improve revenue control,
operate buses and trains more efficiently and support future MBTA changes and
According to the MBTA, passengers will be
able to pay their fares faster with improved Charlie Cards, a smartphone app,
different payment options and digital fare readers. Under the new system,
passengers will be able to conveniently reload their Charlie Cards in a number
of venues, from schools and employers, online, over the phone, retailers and an
increased number of vending machines.
MBTA employee Anthony Thomas explained that
people could still use cash to reload their Charlie Cards at a number of
locations throughout the city, but that cash would no longer be an option for
paying on buses. The idea is to reduce the long bus queues, resulting in faster
“Our new fare system will get you moving
faster,” said the MBTA. “It’ll also get our vehicles moving faster (by up to
10% according to some estimates).”
These changes would not be rolled out all at
once, but would overlap with the current technologies available, some of them
in place for over a decade. In this way, the MBTA hopes to have a seamless transition
to the new system.
information about AFC 2.0 and to submit your feedback, visit afc2.mbta.com.
Steve Poftak, who has been the MBTA General Manager for about a month, expresses his commitment to Chelsea during the inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24. The Task Force plans to continue meeting for the next six months regarding MBTA issues and the Better Buses program.
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
“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
“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.
There has been no shortage of colorful language used to express frustration for the often ill-timed Chelsea Street Bridge closures, and now the MBTA has joined the chorus in cursing the 250-foot vertical lift bridge – a bridge that far-too-often makes a lift in the dead of rush hour traffic.
At the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) meeting on Monday, Kate Fichter – Assistant MassDOT Secretary for Policy Coordination – said that the Silver Line extension to Chelsea has been a great success, but the delays at the critical crossing of the Chelsea Street Bridge have stifled the new service.
A plan put in place to warn Silver Line drivers in advance of a bridge closure has not worked out very well, she said, and the Silver Line’s growth is believed to be hampered by people frustrated with the bridge delays.
“It impacts a lot of things and it’s been an issue a long time for Chelsea, East Boston and Revere,” said Fichter. “With the SL3, we had a plan in place that had a system for early warning with dispatch that we hoped would mitigate the issue. It hasn’t really turned out to work as well as we had hoped. It is a challenge to the Silver Line, the 116, the 117 and a lot of its other uses…The Silver Line usage has grown, and we believe if we can solve the delays at the bridge, ridership can grow even more.”
Fichter said they are working with MassPort and several other partners to propose a six-month pilot program to the Coast Guard’s Maritime Regulations on the bridge. Those regulations prioritize maritime travel over all other forms of transportation and often result in ships coming through at the worst times of the day. That has caused problems for MassPort workers trying to get to and from the employee parking garage in Chelsea from the airport, and it’s also caused problems for parents trying to get to Chelsea to pick up their children from school or day care. Likewise, it is a constant headache for commuters and commercial/industrial ventures when it goes up.
“We are going to apply with the Coast Guard in the next couple of months to propose a pilot program to those regulations that would last six months,” she said. “At this point, we’re proposing that the bridge would not open in the a.m. peak times or the p.m. peak times for a two-hour period at each time.”
The exception would be if a fully loaded petroleum tanker sought to come into the Chelsea Creek or there was an emergency situation. The purpose of the pilot program would be to collect data on MBTA delays, as well as delays for other users.
“I am cautiously optimistic about getting the pilot,” she said. “The situation is such that we have no real leverage. We can only ask.”
She said the goal would be for the multiple agencies to seek a permanent regulation change with the Coast Guard if the pilot shows improvements. That, she said, is a tough road to travel and would likely get resistance from maritime uses on Chelsea Creek.
“They see it as a maritime facility and we see it as the bottom of a road,” she said. “It’s no secret the users of the Creek and vessel operators are very opposed to this and I anticipate they will oppose the pilot program and would really oppose a permanent change. There are plenty of regulations that have changed across the country, but it’s a tough fight…My hope is there is a compromise position where everyone gives a little and we all get some relief.”
Fichter said they would be having public meetings in the new year at some point to get input from the community, and they are encouraging everyone to come out and voice their frustrations with the bridge as it is set up now. The more people that voice their opinions, the more likely it will be that the pilot would be put in place.
She said they would like to see any approved pilot program start in June 2019.
Chelsea Silver Line extension seeing major growth in weekday ridership
MBTA officials reported this week that Silver Line ridership for the new Chelsea service has been growing steadily since implementation last April.
Members of the MBTA’s Chelsea Task Force reported to the Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) on Monday that ridership on weekdays has grown by nearly 2,000 riders per month.
The service started with about 4,100 riders per month on weekday at the outset, and now boasts around 6,200 riders per month on weekdays. At other times, though, ridership has stayed flat.
On Saturdays, ridership started around 3,000, grew to nearly 4,000 riders and has now declined to about 3,200 riders.
On Sundays, ridership started at about 2,900 and surged to about 3,000 riders in August, but has now declined to about 3,800 riders per month.
The MBTA is gearing up for the big rollout of its Silver Line SL-3 expansion on Saturday, April 21, as operations on the expansion of the bus rapid transit look to change the landscape, and the commute, of the City.
For the first time ever, “can’t get there from here” territory like South Station will be only 27 minutes from the Mystic Mall on the new SL-3 buses, according to information from the MBTA.
“SL3 will make commuting to the Airport, Seaport, or South Station better for anyone who rides bus routes 111, 112, 114, 116, 117, anyone travelling on the Blue Line, or anyone who is driving,” read information materials from the T. “Right now, your commute might be pretty complicated. If you’re going to the South Station area, you probably start out on a bus, and then make a few transfers to get to the Red Line. If you drive, you deal with a lot of traffic, and pay for tolls, and parking.”
On Wednesday, MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez was out to Chelsea to get a sneak peek of the new service, taking the SL-3 from Airport Station through to the new Chelsea Station. Deputy City Manager Ned Keefe accompanied him, as well as several MBTA officials.
The new SL-3 service will operate in Chelsea between the hours of
5 a.m. (Monday through Friday) to 12:55 a.m. On Saturdays, it opens at 5:30 a.m. and Sundays at 6:30 a.m.
Service will run every 10 minutes at peak periods, which are between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Service runs every 12 to 15 minutes in off-peak and weekend times.
It will operate in Chelsea out of three brand new, heated stations – complete with covered bike racks at each. The stations are:
Chelsea Station – 174 Everett Ave.
Bellingham Station – 225 Arlington St.
Box District Station – 200 Highland St.
Eastern Avenue Station – 40 Eastern Ave.
As part of the project as well, the 111 bus will be enhanced.
It is expected that of the 11,700 riders of the 111 bus, some 2,000 will switch to the SL-3 service, reducing the crowds on the 111 somewhat.
Additionally, the MBTA plans to work with the City of Chelsea to improve the 111 bus with potential dedicated bus lanes and signal optimization.