End downtown Boston’s busmageddon

Add reworking bus routes to the MBTA’s to-do list

THIS WINTER’S PUBLIC transportation crisis offers our elected and appointed leaders a unique opportunity to undo decades of questionable decisions.  Others can opine regarding commuter rail and other segments of the system.  Here are a few thoughts, based upon decades of study, observation and utilization of the MBTA system, specifically concerning its impact on downtown Boston.

A new generation of Americans has made a conscious decision to drive less, if at all, and to use rapid transit. There are 35,000 fewer cars in Boston than at the peak a few years ago, even though our population continues to increase.

Zip cars, Lyft, and Uber are replacing the privately-owned automobile.

Hubway bikes are everywhere. The fact that within a few hundred yards of Downtown Crossing, one can access the Blue Line, Green Line, Red Line, Orange Line and Silver Line, with connections to most anyplace one would want to go, means that downtown properties are important to the future of the entire metropolitan area and that thousands of people now choose to live downtown.

We need a comprehensive policy regarding usage of the public way.  Loading must be done during limited hours, as is the case in other great cities.  To keep the city from devolving into perpetual gridlock, we also must address tour buses and MBTA buses downtown.

Let’s get the buses off of our streets so that pedestrians and bicyclists can be safe.

As Doug Most reminded us in The Race Underground, Boston constructed the first subway tunnel in the late 1890s to get trolleys off the street; we can certainly do likewise today by making good on the commitment to a tunnel connecting South Station with the Silver Line spur that heads to Dudley Square.

There is also no reason why people wanting to go to Salem should have an express bus waiting for them around the corner from Macy’s, nor should city street patterns necessitate that a bus make a left turn from a right lane to meander through downtown streets to get to the Mass Pike.

Large buses making wide turns on narrow downtown streets, even more narrow because of mounds of snow, clog the streets and imperil the safety of the public.  We should eliminate bus lines which make no sense and relocate the terminus of lines now heading downtown to South Station and North Station, where there is access to underground transit, commuter rail and the interstate highway system.

Meet the Author

Even as we eagerly await the Red Sox return to Fenway Park, and the melting of the last mounds of snow (most likely in that order), we should be thinking – and planning – ahead.

Lawrence S. DiCara is a partner at Nixon Peabody in Boston and a former Boston City Council president.