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.

This is not the first time TransitMatters has raised concerns about the T’s Newton station plans. The T early in 2017 proposed building a new Auburndale station on the north side of the tracks and demolishing the existing station on the south side at a cost of about $4 million. The T also proposed spending another $7 million for switching equipment for trains leaving the Auburndale stop to cross over to the other track to pick up passengers in West Newton and Newtonville.

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.

Gonneville said consultants have produced a report, but he has urged them to tweak the analysis of power needs on the line. He said the final report will provide cost estimates for various options of providing service between Ashmont and Mattapan.

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.

Ridership reports

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 launched

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The 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.