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.
Just as the Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line gets ready to launch in Chelsea on April 21, State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said in a meeting in Boston that she would like to see it eventually expand to Everett – a plan that Everett officials and the Lower Mystic Regional Transportation Working Group has touted as well.
The Silver Line 3 (SL-3) will being operations on April 21, making a 30-minute journey from the Mystic (Market Basket) Mall to South Station, via Logan Airport and the Seaport in Boston, every 10 minutes. The BRT will run on a separate bus-only lane through Chelsea and over the Chelsea Street Bridge.
Pollack said that a draft of the soon-to-be-released Transportation plan, called Focus 40, will have a recommendation for Everett to be included in an expansion of the new Silver Line service.
“That service will open on April 21, and we’re looking forward to the opening,” she said. “That is a BRT service and we hope to continue it from Chelsea into Everett and Sullivan Square and other highly congested areas. That’s one other thing we are looking at in our Focus 40 plan.”
Those statements came at a breakfast in the Back Bay on March 20 where Pollack was the keynote speaker and addressing investment in the Orange Line. She also highlighted the new Silver Line service and the agency’s hopes to expand it in the years to come.
The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the MBTA have pegged April 21 as the first day of operations for the new Silver Line Gateway (SL-3) in Chelsea and East Boston – connecting residents of Chelsea to the airport, the Seaport in Boston and South Station in what is expected to be a 30-minute ride from the Mystic Mall Station to South Station.
“Silver Line 3-Chelsea relates well to the Baker-Polito Administration’s economic development goals,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Silver Line 3-Chelsea is consistent with the notion that if the MBTA can offer an efficient, fully accessible, one-seat ride between key destinations then more people will use mass transit and the service will spur transit-oriented development.”
MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramirez said it will simplify thousands of commutes to and from Boston.
“The MBTA is excited to bring this new service to Chelsea, East Boston, and the surrounding communities,” said Ramírez. “We believe the SL3-Chelsea will simplify the commutes of many of our customers in these neighborhoods.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it will likely make the City much more desirable for those who live here and those looking to live in Chelsea.
“The City is very excited about the opening of the new Silver Line,” he said. “It has been a long time in the making. We feel it will substantially improve transportation options for our residents and make Chelsea and even more desirable place to live and work.”
Maria Belen Power of GreenRoots, an organization in Chelsea that advocates for better public transit, said it will be helpful to residents as Chelsea is highly dependent on public transit and has no subway stop.
“We are excited for service on the silver line to start in Chelsea, as it will provide another line of access from Chelsea to Boston,” she said. “As a community highly dependent on public transit with no subway stop, bus services, including bus rapid transit, are key for our community to thrive. While this is a great and necessary improvement in service, Chelsea still has the three busiest bus lines in the entire MBTA system. We will continue to hold the MBTA accountable to improve public transit in Chelsea for all of our residents.”
State Rep. RoseLee Vincent said she hopes the Silver Line introduction will help relieve the bus congestion.
“This new and expanded public transportation route will help to reduce overcrowding on MBTA buses that serve Chelsea, as well as provide residents of Chelsea an alternative and more direct route to subway routes and downtown Boston,” she said.
Fares on the SL-3 will be $2.25 per ride with CharlieCard, and a Linkpass costing $84.50 per month. Student and senior citizen passes cost $30. Children under 12 are free.
There are free transfers offered at:
Blue Line at Airport Station.
Red Line at South Station.
Bus Rapid Transit lines SL-1 (Logan to South Station), SL-2 (South Boston Design Center to South Station), SL-4 (Dudley Square to South Station).
Local Bus Routes 111, 112, 116 and 117.
MBTA officials predicted bus customers from Revere and Chelsea who tend to experience crowding issues on Bus Routes 111, 112, 114, 116, and 117 will benefit from the SL3-Chelsea. As an additional travel option, they said the SL3-Chelsea will make enhanced, new, or simplified connections to the Blue Line – at Airport Station – as well as the South Boston Waterfront and the Red Line at South Station.
Nearly 7,000 daily bus customers on these area routes take trips that can require several transfers in order to travel from Chelsea and East Boston to downtown areas. This commute is now simple and direct by using the SL3-Chelsea, filling a critical gap in access between these residents to the employment opportunities in the Seaport District and downtown.
Each of the Routes 111, 112, 114, 116, and 117 will also connect directly to or very close to brand new SL3-Chelsea stations, making hopping off a customer’s regular route to board the SL3-Chelsea easy and convenient. Route 111 connects at Bellingham Square Station, Route 112 utilizes a stop approximately 50 yards from Bellingham Square Station, Route 114’s City Hall Avenue bus stop is just three to five blocks from both Bellingham Square and Box District Stations, and Routes 116 and 117 connect at Box District Station.
The SL3-Chelsea route will operate 60-foot, high-capacity buses serving four new stations through dedicated, bus-only lanes in Chelsea and via the Coughlin Bypass in East Boston.
SL3-Chelsea buses will operate approximately every 10 minutes with the time between Chelsea and South Stations anticipated to be between 20 and 30 minutes.
This new service is the first brand new service to be introduced to the MBTA system since the MBTA Greenbush Commuter Rail Line began in 2007. Construction of the SL3-Chelsea route began in March 2015 with construction of dedicated busways and four new stations. Construction of this $49-million investment was managed by MassDOT’s Highway Division and jointly funded by the MBTA (approximately $42.1 million) and MassDOT ($7.6 million).
MBTA officials will present an overview of the new SL3-Chelsea service, discussing schedules, routes, and stops at the following two public meetings this month. Both meetings will provide Spanish language interpreters.
the potential to be spoiled – like many Chelsea commutes – by the often untimely lifting of the Chelsea Street Bridge.
The Bridge is a key pinch point on the new SL-3 route as it heads to and from Chelsea to East Boston and the Seaport. As great as the projected 30-minute ride to South Station sounds, it could easily be thwarted by the Bridge being in the “up” position.
The Chelsea Street Bridge goes up multiple times a day, and from start to finish lasts more than 20 minutes. Such delays could drastically impair the service of the Silver Line.
That was identified as early as last summer as a looming problem for operations of the SL-3 by the MBTA Board.
On Monday, in a presentation to the Board, the MBTA revealed a new software system that will help in trying to mitigate what could totally ruin the reliability of the new service.
The new software will be used by the Chelsea Street Bridge operator, who will notify the MBTA bus dispatch center when the bridge is going up.
The software will provide bus dispatch with estimated duration and projected travel time for each of two possible detours around the Bridge. The dispatch will then use that information to determine the best response for each bus.
MBTA officials said that the Bus Operations Division is in the process of developing a Standard Operating Procedure to divert the SL-3 service in response to the Bridge going up. An alternative roué has been identified and will be tested during various times of the day to project run times and reliability.
ofo, the world’s first and largest station-free bike-sharing company, has been popular among Chelsea residents and has big plans to expand its presences in the area, according to company representatives.
ofo operated pilot programs in four Boston area cities, including Chelsea, from September to December 2017, and looks forward to building on those programs and further expanding in the coming months.
In Chelsea, as across the Greater Boston area, ofo has hired a local team, including experienced fleet managers and mechanics who together have more than 30 years of experience in the local bike industry.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the ofo pilot program as company officials were very responsive from start to finish,” said Councilor at-Large Roy Avellaneda. “As an advocate for eco-friendly and improved public transportation for Chelsea, I was thrilled to be able to have the city offer a bike sharing program to Chelsea residents. The amount of positive feedback from users and the usage data provided by ofo at the end proved two things: 1. That a bike sharing program is needed in Chelsea; 2. There is much room for growth and use in our community.”
The company has worked closely with local city officials to ensure smooth operations leading up to and through launch, and will continue its collaboration to help improve urban travel and ensure all corners of the city have access to this new affordable and convenient way to get around. ofo has also sponsored local events, such as Chelsea’s bike-marathon.
“Collaborating with local officials to bring this affordable, convenient and green transportation option to Chelsea has been a great experience,” said Head of ofo U.S., Chris Taylor. “Thank you to the residents who’ve welcomed us into the community. We look forward to continuing this partnership, growing our business and offering more bikes to folks throughout the Boston area this year.”
ofo currently operates in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and more than 250 cities worldwide. Since ofo’s launch in the greater Boston area in September, users have taken more than 35,000 trips and traveled nearly 70,000 miles.
ofo’s founders pioneered the concept of station-free bike sharing, which eliminated the inconvenience of docking stations and their expense to city taxpayers. The bikes can be parked anywhere and cost only $1 per hour.
To get started, Chelsea residents can download the ofo app available for iOS and Android. The app helps users find a nearby bike via GPS and unlock it by scanning a QR code. Once a ride is complete, locking the bike ends the trip automatically and the user will receive a digital receipt and map of their route.
The new Chelsea Station behind the Market Basket on Everett Avenue is nearly completed now, with a goal of opening up service at the four new stations on the new SL3 line in April.
A projected 19 minute ride with no transfers from downtown Chelsea to the Seaport in Boston is but months away as the MBTA puts the finishing touches on four stations and the dedicated busway in Chelsea’s new Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line – which will be known as SL3.
Already, a great amount of excitement has built throughout the community as the stations begin to look like finished products and the lettering denoting ‘Eastern Avenue’ and ‘Chelsea’ have been affixed to those stations. A spokesman for the MBTA said the T is excited to start service in April.
“The MBTA and MassDOT are very excited to be just months away from introducing Bur Rapid Transit service for customers traveling to and from Chelsea,” said Joe Pesaturo, for the MBTA. “The MBTA anticipates beginning Silver Line Gateway service in the early spring of next year. The existing Silver Line in Boston has been very popular since its launch because of the frequent levels of service and increased capacity. MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez is looking forward to a celebration in the spring in Chelsea to mark the start of service.”
The completion of the four new BRT stations and the dedicated busway will conclude Phase 1 of the Silver Line Gateway expansion project – which has essentially brought the Silver Line from Logan Airport over to Chelsea. The new Chelsea service, however, will not go to the airport and the SL3 line will bypass the airport with a stop at the Blue Line Train Station where airport shuttles can be taken to terminals.
In documents presented to the MBTA Board last summer, the new service expects to have a total daily ridership of 8,730 people, with new transit trips being 2,500 (meaning people that will use the service who now do not use the MBTA).
At peak, it is estimated there will be 22 BRT buses on all three Silver Line routes, and that the SL3 Chelsea wait times will be around 10-12 minutes at peak times and 12-15 minutes at off-peak times.
MBTA estimates show that currently to get to the World Trade Center stop in the Seaport from downtown Chelsea takes 37 minutes and requires two transfers. That would be paired down to 19 minutes and no transfers on the new SL3 line.
To go from the airport to the World Trade Center station now takes 20 minutes with one transfer. The SL3 line would take seven minutes and no transfers.
The entire first phase of the Silver Line Gateway project cost $46.5 million and included rebuilding the Washington Avenue bridge, constructing a 1.1 mile dedicated busway, a half-mile shared-use path and the four new stations.
A second phase has been fully funded at about $29 million and includes building the Chelsea Intermodal Center, which includes a new Commuter Rail Station and a new railroad signaling system to improve traffic flow in Chelsea. The new station, unlike the existing station, will be fully accessible. The MBTA expects to solicit construction bids for Phase 2 this winter, with work beginning next summer.
One of the key initiatives for MBTA General Manager Ramirez, he said, is to get a comprehensive strategy for marketing a promoting the new service well in advance of the launch. Many of the new service options introduced by the MBTA in recent years suffer from low ridership due in many cases to people having little information about the new service.
The MBTA right now is working to select a qualified firm to handle the jobs of:
•Advertise the new service to existing and prospective customers.
•Highlight the benefits of Silver Line Gateway service relative to existing bus services in the area, including dedicated lanes and limited stops.
•Promote the ongoing work the MBTA is doing to improve its transportation offerings.
“The firm will work with the MBTA to develop well-rounded marketing and communications strategies that achieve the goals, including but not limited to market research, specifying target audiences, generating message concepts, proposing an effective mix of media, and partnering with local community organizations as part of the public outreach strategy,” said Pesaturo.
The Chelsea Fire Department recently received two new pieces of fire apparatus, and at the moment both are being outfitted a preparing to be put into service.
The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has taken delivery of two new fire vehicles this week. Both are currently being outfitted and will be put into service later this month.
First, the new Ladder 2, which replaces a 1999 aerial that runs from the Mill Hill Station on Broadway, was purchased by the City as part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This new truck is currently being customized with equipment and going through the training process, and will be in service by the end of November.
The addition of this new ladder truck gives the department a viable spare aerial device that can be placed in service when a front line ladder is down for service or repairs, which is a great safety net for the city.
Second, the new Rescue 1 will replace the current Squad 5 and a step van that was utilized as a Special Operations vehicle.
This Rescue was acquired through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program that was applied for by Fire Chief Len Albanese.
This $600,000 Rescue was obtained at only a 10 percent co-share by the City. This truck will be equipped with Special Operations equipment, most of which has been provided to the City through the Metro Boston Urban Area Strategic Initiative (UASI) program. As part of the regional preparedness, Chelsea specializes in Technical Search for structural collapse.
When needed for Regional Response, this new Rescue can quickly get a large amount of equipment and to the scene of an incident. This truck will be customized next, once the Ladder is completed. Then the department will conduct additional training and the project will be completed by the end of the year if not sooner.
The department hopes to be able to eventually staff this Rescue with the expansion of the additional eight firefighters obtained through SAFER Grant.
For now, it will be in service – unmanned and taken when needed, the same way the current Squad 5 has been used.
“My goal with the SAFER grant that provided eight additional firefighters and the acquisition of the Rescue was to get more boots on the ground in the field and eventually get the Rescue staffed,” said Chief Albanese. “The city manager and the council have made a commitment to support funding for these projects. Time will tell if we are able to bring this goal to fruition within our budget. There are several factors that will affect that possibility.”
The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has begun collecting new, unwrapped, non-violent toys at our Central Station located at
307 Chestnut St., from now until December 15.
Anyone who would like to drop off a toy may come by the station between the hours of 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Last year the CFD collected three large pickup trucks of toys for the Toys for Tots program. After doing some research, CFD organizers found that there are 750 families and more than 1,300 children in the City of Chelsea who are provided Christmas gifts through the Toys for Tots/Globe Santa program.
Sadly this number has nearly doubled since the first year the CFD started up their drive.
“This program is a great opportunity for all of us to help bring a little happiness into the hearts of so many local families that have so little,” said Phil Rogers.
For those who are needy and looking for donations, time is of the essence as the deadline for requests is Nov. 20.
If an individual family needs toys, they should make contact with their social worker, their Pastor, local city or town hall or The Globe Santa for possible help. The cut-off date for toy requests in 2017 is November 20, Midnight. This is due to the high volume of requests.
Globe Santa- toy request info
contact the Department of Transitional Services at (877) 382-2363.
The Toys for Tots program has been in existence since 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles. Some 5,000 toys were collected during that campaign before Christmas of 1947.
The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, non-violent, unwrapped toys each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the Greater Boston community. Toys for Tots also wants to assure the less fortunate families throughout the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts that their children will be taken care of throughout the holiday season. There is no better satisfaction than seeing the smile of a child during the holiday season.
“On behalf of all the children made happy and the members of the Chelsea Fire Department, thank you so very much for all of your help,” said Rogers.
The Chelsea Fire Department announced this week that they have secured a major federal grant to pay for the hiring of eight new firefighters in this year’s budget – with Chief Len Albanese saying the new recruits could hit the streets by Thanksgiving.
The Homeland Security grant provides $1.4 million of federal funding over a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the salary and benefits for two years. The third year of the grant will cover 35 percent of the share of salaries and benefits.
In the fourth year of the grant, the City would be responsible for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new hires.
Albanese said that in the end, concerns about not getting the grant due to Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status did not factor into whether the City did or did not get the grant as the application was put in last year.
Overall, the big news is that the Fire Department will go over 100 members for the first time in decades.
The grant will put the contingent up to 102 member.
“We’ve had 92 members for quite a while,” said the chief. “Prior to my arrival and when I got here and that’s a situation I assume goes back to the 1990s – post-receivership. (Last year), we added two members to get up to 94 and with the intention to add more. With the SAFER grant now in place, we can add eight new members and that brings our staffing up to 102…Having 102 is what we consider to be a really good staffing level for the Fire Department.”
He said that Revere’s contingent is at 98 and Everett – which also has a SAFER grant- is at 111.
He said adding the new members won’t eliminate overtime, but he believes it will bring it down to a reasonable number – eliminating what has been many years of controversy surrounding overspending on overtime.
“The purpose is to not just decrease overtime,” he said. “There’s always overtime in a 24/7 business…This will control overtime and put boots on the ground. It will stabilize overtime and increase staffing.”
Already, Albanese said he has identified the eight recruits from Civil Service, having been confident of getting the grant and taking early action. That will mean they get in the Station very quickly.
“We have eight recruits identified and they preparing to attend the Brookline Fire Academy on Sept. 5,” he said. “That means if all goes well, we will have these additional firefighters on the street by Thanksgiving.”
Along with this grant and another recently received, the fire department has garnered $2 million of federal funding from the 2016 DHS/FEMA programs.
Consultants for the City unveiled two main concepts on Thursday night, July 13, for the Re-Imagining Broadway planning effort – concepts that consultants from Nelson Nygaard said were informed on several public listening sessions that have taken place since last fall.
The two plans focus on the area on Broadway from City Hall to Chelsea Square, and consultants have tried to formulate a plan the tried to untangle the circular and inefficient traffic motions that exist along Broadway.
Those include having to go all the way around the downtown and City Hall to simply get to Fifth Street, and also the unsignalized intersections along Broadway that causes drivers crossing the street to have to edge out and do a lot of guess work to get over.
Ralph DeNisco of Nelson Nygaard described such changes as allowing drivers to move from Hawthorne Street to Fifth Street through a signal without having to circle City Hall.
He talked about a large bump out plaza jutting out from the Dunkin’ Donuts and City Hall to allow for more public space and a shrinking of the large street there.
He talked about making City Hall Avenue a two-way street, doing road calming measures for shared streets in front of the Central Fire Station, in front of the Apollinaire Theatre on Winnisimmet Street, in front of the Police Station on Park Street, and also along Cherry Street. Shared streets have a variety of meanings, but in this case they would be marked in a way to slow traffic, and also promote pedestrian usage.
On one plan, the Broadway spine remains mostly the same configuration, but on the other plan the lanes are reduced in width to create a separated bike path along the street.
Another part of one of the plans reverses the direction of Sixth Street near City Hall from eastbound to westbound, which proved a bit unpopular amongst the crowd.
One major change would be to add signals along Broadway for cross traffic, including at Fourth Street, Third Street, Everett Avenue and Hawthorne/Fifth Street. The existing signal at City Hall in Bellingham Square would continue to exist.
DeNisco said the plan is to upgrade the function of the intersections, many of which are failing at the moment.
“We believe we can improve your traffic flow on Broadway significantly by making these improvements to the intersections,” he said.
The plan includes a major bus hub across from City Hall in front of the memorial. Another bus hub would exist next to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Washington Avenue. That would indicate a move of the bus hub from in front of the old Bunker Hill Community College on Hawthornee Street – something many have been asking for a long time.
One thing not addressed, but discussed in depth, was whether to return the Broadway spine to a two-way street. Currently it is one way going southbound, but many are considering it a good idea to look at two-way traffic – especially for the purpose of reducing the circular and inefficient traffic patterns. However, the street has been one-way for generations, and many don’t think the busy corridor could handle the change.
That piece of the puzzle has been left for discussion and contemplation before a final report is made.
Much of the meeting, however, was devoted to the parking inventory and study.
That was less heartening, with the consultants indicating that parking inventories are stressed, particularly in the morning and evening hours – often spilling into the neighborhoods.
“What we usually see is that parking gets easier the further you get away from the center of the business district,” he said. “We didn’t see that here. That isn’t happening in Chelsea. That’s very unique and different about this area. We don’t usually see that in our studies.”
Figuring out the parking puzzle, they said, might require more access to private parking facilities, and also more clearly labeling existing parking lots and their rules. Many lots, they said, were underutilized because people didn’t know about them.
Some relieve could also be found by utilizing space under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge only a few blocks from the center – perhaps for resident parking and thereby alleviating the residential parking on Broadway and its immediate streets.
The plan is currently available to residents for review, and DeNisco said one very unique thing is that this is plan that will happen. There is money behind the drawings, and the political will to make big changes.
“This is real,” he said. “It’s not a simple planning exercise. The City Manager and City Council have put money behind this effort and want it to change. The improvements we’re going to talk about are actually going to happen. That’s a different challenge for us, because these plans have to be able to be implemented.”