The Better Bus Project

Upcoming Public Meetings

MBTA Community Meeting in Harvard Square
Tuesday, February 26 | 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Cambridge Rindge & Latin School
459 Broadway, Cambridge

MBTA Community Meeting in Watertown
Monday, March 4 | 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Watertown Police Department Community Room
552 Main Street, Watertown

MBTA Community Meeting in Downtown Boston
Thursday, March 7 | 6:00 – 8:00 PM
State Transportation Building
10 Park Plaza, 2nd Floor, Boston

The MBTA recently launched the Better Bus Project, a three-phase initiative to streamline system efficiency and improve user experience.

The first phase of the project – Proposed Near-Term Changes – is currently underway, with the public comment period open until March 13, 2019. Prior to any monetary investment, phase one seeks to make the existing system more efficient by consolidating duplicate routes, improving bus stop spacing, and eliminating outdated route variations.

The MBTA has proposed 47 changes that would impact 63 of the system’s existing 180 bus routes. The MBTA reports its proposed phase one changes would have the following impacts:

  • Nearly 2,000 passenger hours saved each weekday
  • 8,000 new bus riders every weekday
  • 9% of weekday bus riders affected will have a faster trip
  • 20% of weekday bus riders affected will have a shorter wait time
  • 2% of weekday bus riders affected will have to transfer who didn’t before
  • Only 0.2% of current riders would now be farther than 1/2 mile from transit services

While phase one’s full system impacts are summarized here, the proposals affecting Belmont, Watertown, Brighton and Allston are described below:

  • Route 57, Watertown Yard – Kenmore: No proposed changes
  • Route 57A, Oak Square – Kenmore: No proposed changes
  • Route 64, Oak Square – University Park, Cambridge:
    • Extend midday service to Kendall Square, creating an all-day connection between Allston/Brighton and Kendall Square, and shift service from Prospect Street/Broadway and University Park to Main Street
    • Provide faster service by shifting route from Hobart Street to Brooks Street
  • Route 65, Brighton Center – Kenmore Station:
    • Provide new connection from Brighton Center and Brookline to Orange Line, while maintaining access to Longwood Medical Area
    • Kenmore-bound customers continue to be served by Green Line transfers along route
  • Route 66, Harvard Square – Dudley Station: No proposed changes
  • Route 70/70A, Cedarwood – Central Square, Cambridge:
    • Improve Route 70 frequency and reliability between Waltham and Central Square
    • Shift midday/evening Route 70 service from Cedarwood to Market Place Drive to meet rider needs
    • Modify Route 70A to only operate between North Waltham and Waltham Center, with easier-to-understand routing and new Sunday service
  • Route 71, Watertown Square – Harvard Square: No proposed changes
  • Route 73, Waverly Square – Harvard Station: No proposed changes
  • Routes 72/74/75, Aberdeen & Mt. Auburn – Harvard Station / Belmont Center – Harvard Station:
    • Run straighter, faster and more frequent Route 74 and 75 service
    • Operate Route 72 as a peak-only service with Route 75 now serving Huron Avenue all weekdays and Saturdays
  • Route 86, Sullivan Square Station – Reservoir Station: No proposed changes
  • Route 501, Brighton Center – Downtown Boston:
    • Provide faster, more reliable service on Routes 501, 502, 503 and 504 between Watertown/Brighton and Boston
    • Have Routes 502/504 loop Newton Corner in only the inbound direction, while Routes 501/503 loop only in outbound direction

Complete details on each of these proposals can be found at this link.

The MBTA will host a series of open houses during the public comment period, at Boston City Hall and at different bus stations around the region, to solicit community feedback – the full schedule is available here.

To submit feedback on Phase One proposals online before March 13, click here. Once the public comment period ends, changes will be presented to the MBTA Fiscal & Management Control Board (FMCB) in April; if approved, changes would take effect as early as fall 2019.

Phase Two, which is scheduled to launch during Spring 2019, will entail discussion between the MBTA and FMCB regarding a Multi-year Investment Strategy. The MBTA expects to request additional resources from the FMCB to improve the frequency and reliability of service.

Phase Three, scheduled for 2019 and beyond, will entail a system-wide analysis designed to produce recommendations to better serve existing riders and attract new riders.

10 replies on “The Better Bus Project”

  1. Hi. I am deeply concerned about the proposed changes to the Route 74 Bus. What is your position on this?

    The stop at Bright Road at Washington Street is a major stop for Belmontians like me who live west and south of that intersection. The MBTA has cut service along that route over the last 20 years and now proposes to eliminate that stop altogether, leaving only the 75, which runs less than once an hour, to service that stop. For those of us who rely on that stop, we are left with very unpalatable choices. I can try to fit my schedule into the very limited 75 schedule, walk 3/4 mile to Concord Ave. to catch the 74, walk a mile to the nearest 73 stop, or walk a mile to the nearest 78 stop. Walking on a nice day is pleasant – but it’s inconvenient to walk that distance 2X day, and the weather isn’t always nice, and with daylight ending long before I head home for half the year and with streetlights unreliable it can be unpleasant, difficult or actually dangerous. If it has snowed and people haven’t shoveled, walking that distance on Belmont’s busy streets is dangerous. Of even more concern are the days – we’ve had many in recent winters – when the snow melts and then freezes. I walked home up School Street last week well after sunset and a flash freeze; it was really difficult and really dangerous – black ice underfoot and street lights out in places. Anyway – I am deeply concerned and upset about this proposed change, which benefits a few “upriver” Belmontians and the entire Cambridge 74-riding population at the expense of a good chunk of us Belmontians who rely on the Bright/Washington stop. I have used the T to get to and from my office in Boston from my house in Belmont for 25 years. This change, on top of the prior reductions in service, is making ridership extremely difficult. If the goal is to make Uber and Lyft less attractive to T users, this proposed change is driving exactly in the wrong direction.

    1. HI Sarah,

      I think you nailed it when you said the change benefits “upriver” Belmontians and the entire Cambridge 74-riding population at the expense of a good chunk of us Belmontians who rely on the Bright/Washington stop.

      The T is taking a data driven approach to getting the most out of the resources they have — that does mean choosing among user groups and benefiting larger groups at the expense of smaller groups.

      I am not taking a position on particular route change proposals, but I am supportive of the process. They have to be able to make this kind of decision and I believe that they are doing it in a responsible way. I have had a lot of contact with the planners involved and I believe that they are both competent and public-spirited. My role is just to make sure that they are hearing from all affected.

      In the long run, we need to keep expanding service and providing the T more revenue and I understand that this might appear to be a step backwards. But it is really a first phase of a broader effort to improve service. Phases 2 and 3 of the Better Bus project are about expansion. The current phase is about streamlining.

  2. I wish to voice my opposition to the change to the 74 bus route proposed as part of the Better Bus project; namely, realigning route 74 to stay on Concord Avenue while skipping the stops along Bright and Blanchard Roads. Unless this change is coupled with a significant increase in the frequency of route 75 runs, it will result in a severe decrease in service for riders who use the three stops that the 74 will skip. I have used the 74 and 75 buses on an almost daily basis since 1992 (27 years), including weekdays and weekends. My observation is that the stop at Washington Street and Bright Road, in particular, is one of the most used stops in Belmont for both boarding and exiting the 74 and 75 buses.

    The MBTA’s description of the 72/74/75 proposal is not very specific but seems to say that 75 buses will be more frequent only during off-peak hours, implying that the 70-minute interval during weekdays will remain. It also implies that other service will be available within an 8-minute walk, presumably to route 74 stops along Concord Avenue. This may be acceptable to younger and able-bodied riders but the people who most depend on public transportation are not all in that category. There are regular users of the Washington/Bright stop who are in their late 70s or older and would find it difficult to walk from Washington Street to Concord Avenue, adding to the walk to Washington and Bright that riders living along or south of Washington Street now make. At night, in inclement weather, and during and after snowstorms, many more riders will not want to or be able to walk to the 74 bus route.

    If there were a big gain for this route change one might argue about trade-offs and balancing gains and losses. But I honestly don’t see much of a gain. I don’t think a 2-minute shorter trip to Harvard station will make existing riders much happier or attract new riders. Cutting service in half at the stops along Bright and Blanchard Roads will cause hardship for some and the potential loss of riders who have other transportation options. It’s not as if the number of potential gainers (a portion of the Belmont riders only) vastly outnumber the potential losers. And I wonder whether the 74 run really will be two minutes shorter, given that buses traveling Concord Avenue will have to wait for the traffic light at Blanchard Road rather than turning right-on-red from Blanchard.

    Perhaps the proposed route change optimizes bus service in some mathematical sense, with small gains for some somehow outweighing large losses for others. But many people have arranged their lives, including housing and job choices, based on the availability of public transportation. Among the highest priorities for better bus service should be to preserve or improve the availability of service for the people who depend on it the most. A disruptive change like the proposed rerouting of the 74 bus does the opposite.

      1. Thank you for considering my comments. After submitting them and thinking more about the proposed realignment of route 74, another downside occurred to me. While the majority of 74 riders travel all the way to Harvard station, the route provides access to other significant destinations as well. Many are located on or near Concord Avenue between Blanchard Road and Alewife Brook Parkway and include destinations especially important to older people, such as the Social Security Administration on Fawcett Street, Sancta Maria nursing facility, Neville Center (nursing and rehab facilities), the medical offices at 725 Concord Avenue, and stores like CVS, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Those living in the neighborhood of the Washington and Bright bus stop, and unable to walk to Concord Avenue, can now access these destinations on the 74 bus. If the route realignment goes into effect, however, they will have no direct bus service to these destinations. So it is not just a matter of cutting bus service in half for a number of people, as I suggested in my earlier comments. For accessing crucial destinations along Concord Avenue, their service will essentially be cut to zero. Let me add that, as the population ages, the number of people so affected will only increase.

  3. Hi Will,
    I want to add my voice to those of Sarah and Bill above. I catch the 74 or 75 bus into Harvard Square most days of the week, and my closest stop is at Bright & Washington. I also return home to that same stop. I have been doing so for most of the 20 years that my wife and I have been Belmont homeowners. She also rides those same busses to and from that same stop. I won’t bother making a detailed explanation of why this change would be a big disadvantage to us; Sarah and Bill have covered all the arguments. This will basically cut our bus service in half. I think it’s very optimistic to imagine that the T will increase service at some point in the future; after decades of ridership I find it difficult to be optimistic about the T in general, so I expect that I will be driving to work in the future, which is an unfortunate outcome.
    I also must say that I am NOT supportive of this process. The only reason I’m even aware that this is going to happen – apparently inevitably at this point – is that Bill Rodi mentioned it to me on the bus that we both ride. Whatever method the T was using to get the word out was not very successful.

    1. I also heard about the Better Bus proposal for the Belmont buses word-of-mouth. And out of five or so other riders I mentioned it to, only one was already aware of it. If the MBTA posted notices on the buses they apparently went unnoticed. Oral announcements over the bus PA system would have been much more effective, especially for people like me with impaired vision.

  4. Why are they moving/consolidating bus stops on the 74 and 75 bus routes out of Belmont Center effective June 21, 2020? All I see is paper signs on the stop posts of the 2d and 3rd stops out of Belmont Center but no information on the Belmont Town or MBTA website. Why are they making these changes causing commuters to walk a longer distance for a stop to pick up the bus when people are returning from work?

    1. Here is the response from the Better Bus Project Team:

      Thank you for contacting us. With new hybrid bus deliveries nearing completion on Route 74 and 75, there are no longer buses available that clear the posted low railroad underpass clearance at Belmont Center. The new hybrids are 10’ 10”, and the underpass clearance is 10’ 3”. We are working with the Town of Belmont to see if there are roadway striping and configuration changes that would allow for service to resume to the discontinued stops north of the underpass.

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