T notes: TransitMatters raises concerns on Newton proposal
Study on Mattapan Line options due in 30-60 days
A TRANSIT ADVOCATE WARNED on Monday that the MBTA’s planned rebuild of three commuter rail stations in Newton would hinder the system’s ability to provide regional rail service in the future.
At a meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday, T officials said they planned to build new, handicap-accessible stations on the north side of the tracks along the Worcester-Framingham Line in Auburndale, Newton, and Newtonville. They rejected two alternative approaches – building handicapped, accessible stations on both sides of the tracks or building one handicap-accessible station in the center of the tracks.
T officials said they had $21.5 million of the $46 million needed to execute on their approach, and indicated it would take 18 months to two years before they could move forward.
James Aloisi, a former secretary of transportation who serves on the board of TransitMatters, said he was concerned the plan the T adopted for the Newton rebuild would cement in place an approach that would make it more difficult for the agency to offer a more subway-like service in the future.
TransitMatters in February 2017 said the T’s approach wasted money and would slow down traffic on the entire line. The T eventually agreed with that assessment, scrapped its original plan, and went back to the drawing board, concluding that it would be better to address all three stations at the same time and do away with the switching equipment. T officials say they have $21.5 million set aside for a project they estimate will cost $46 million.
But by building new stations on only one side of the tracks, Aloisi warned that the T is perpetuating an approach that will hinder using the commuter rail stations for traffic moving in both directions. Riders will only be able to board trains going one way at peak periods, which means it would be more difficult, if not impossible, to deliver on proposals such as regional or urban rail that would make the commuter rail system more subway-like.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller told the control board members that her city would be willing to contribute money for the station projects, but she did not say how much could be provided.
Winchester officials also pressed MBTA officials to move more quickly in rebuilding the commuter rail station in their community. Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester said the station is literally falling down. “We are concerned about public safety at this station,” he said.
T officials say they have $34.8 million for the Winchester station project, but need nearly $54 million. The officials recommended completing the design of the project with an eye toward trimming costs by about $5 million.
Mattapan study results coming
Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager of the MBTA, said on Monday that a report outlining various options for the Mattapan trolley line that runs between the Red Line’s Ashmont Station and Mattapan will be unveiled in 30 to 60 days.
The trolleys used on the Mattapan Line were built in the 1930s and are difficult to maintain. The historic cars are beloved by many in the neighboring community, but they are prone to breakdowns and very costly to maintain.
During its first week of operation, the new Silver Line bus service between South Station and Chelsea attracted 4,400 riders, with nearly a third of them boarding at the six new stations.
MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez said the bus line attracted 2,950 riders on its opening day on April 21 and 1,950 riders on Sunday.
Officials said passenger levels on the new early morning bus service were also strong. The service began April 1 on 10 of the T’s busiest routes.
Roslindale bus pilot launchedThe MBTA on Monday kicked off a four-week pilot of a dedicated lane for buses along Washington Street in Roslindale from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to T buses, school buses and bicycles can also use the lane.
City officials, who have launched a city of Boston transit team to capitalize on transportation projects, said they expect the dedicated bus lane in Roslindale will be the first of many. At the control. Boafd meeting on Monday, officials said they are looking at dedicated bus lanes on the Silver Line running from Dudley Station to Downtown Crossing and on Commonwealth Avenue near Oak Square. Two longer-range projects include dedicated bus lanes running from Mattapan to the Longwood Medical Area and from North Station to the Seaport District.