A lot has been happening through the summer at the MBTA and I wanted to offer a few updates.
First, Belmont and Watertown bus riders can expect to soon have a dedicated lane through the chronic traffic jam in front of Mount Auburn cemetery. We had hoped to see this ready earlier in the summer, but we still expect it before the end of the construction season.
Second, the MBTA is moving forward with a contract to repair the Alewife garage. The project will take a little less than two years. During this time, the loss of parking will be very limited – approximately 200 out of the 2700 spaces at any one time. These fixes are not a permanent solution – the structure will likely need to be replaced within a decade or so.
Third, parking fees will be restructured at MBTA garages effective Saturday, September 1. Weekday fees will be dropping at some installations that are underused and rising at the most congested facilities. Weekend fees will drop at most facilities. The idea is to better utilize all resources. For my district, the only relevant facility is Alewife and we will see an increase to $9 per day there.
Fourth, the MBTA is beginning its public engagement process around their new fare system, currently known as “Automated Fare Collection 2.0”. Once it is rolled out fully in 2021, it should be a huge improvement. The most obvious service improvement will be that passengers will be able to board using any door on buses and the Green Line. That will reduce station dwell time and speed up service.
The subtler improvement will be that Instead of having value residing on cards that could be lost or damaged, value will reside in a user account. Riders will be able to pay through that account in multiple convenient ways. The new model will create a lot of new options for fare structure that the current model does not support. Fare structure will always be a combination of economics and politics, but we can attract more riders through pricing that better reflects value.
Finally, the Rail Vision study is underway. The advisory group has been organized and has met twice. One thing I am starting to understand is that the right answer will not be the same for all rail lines.
For example, I have a strong bias towards the concept of more frequent rail service on the Worcester line connecting Brighton and Allston into downtown Boston. Subway like service for only a few stops could share the tracks with the long haul service for Worcester.
The light rail service to Allston and Brighton, the Green Line, is maxed out. I am thrilled about the plans in motion to improve the Green Line, but the overwhelming volume of residential development in Allston and Brighton, which are already dense areas, is likely to also justify rail service improvements.
I’d also love to see more frequent service on the Fitchburg line going from Belmont into Boston, but the case for subway like frequency will be weaker than on the Worcester line. At current population density, the ridership in Belmont will necessarily be less and the avenue towards service improvement may simply be more frequent long haul runs as opposed to the more radical concept of subway like service sharing the tracks.
Improving public transportation will continue to be a core priority for me as a legislator.