Letter on Bus Network Design (Metrowest)

June 28, 2022   Letter

The Honorable Steve Poftak

General Manager

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

10 Park Plaza, Suite 5610

Boston, MA 02116

Dear General Manager Poftak,

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to provide written feedback on the Massachusetts Bay

Transportation Authority’s proposed redesign of the region’s bus network. I believe that on the whole,

the proposal strengthens the MBTA’s bus service, and I’m grateful for the hard work that went into

developing it.

However, the devil is in the details, and there are a few areas of Newton in which I believe the

redesigned bus network comes up short. In this letter, I’d like to highlight those areas and suggest ways

in which the MBTA can amend its proposed redesign of the bus network to ensure that Newton receives

adequate service.

Express bus service

My biggest concern is that the proposal would decimate Newton’s express bus service, leaving residents

with few good options for commuting into downtown Boston. The MBTA has proposed consolidating

several express bus routes serving Newton into one route, the new 505. The new 505 would not serve

Auburndale, and it would offer a much longer trip, making multiple stops between West Newton and

Newton Corner before running express to Copley Square and then to downtown. The proposal would

also reduce service levels so that the 505 only runs during peak hours. Given the highly irregular

commuter rail service at Newton’s three stations on the Framingham/Worcester line, the proposed

reduction in express bus service would leave many Newton residents without a reliable transit option.

Reduced service would also be inconsistent with the state’s goals for both housing and climate change.

The state has encouraged cities and towns to address the region’s housing shortage by promoting transit-oriented development, and Newton has responded by facilitating substantial development along the

Washington Street corridor. Reducing transit service in the area would undercut the rationale for those

projects. It would also lead more Newton residents to drive, amplifying congestions problems and

increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. To reach our climate goals, we should

be taking the exact opposite approach: enhancing transit service so that residents elect not to drive.

I respectfully request that the MBTA restore express bus service in Newton to pre-pandemic service

levels, when multiple express buses traveled directly from Newton to Boston. At the very least, Newton

deserves express bus service that runs throughout the day and on weekends, to make up for its irregular

commuter rail service.

Newton Corner and Nonantum

I’d like to make two additional points about express bus service in Newton. First, I ask that all inbound

and outbound buses serving Newton Corner continue to make stops on both the north and south sides of

the traffic circle. Newton Corner is a dangerous environment for pedestrians, and although making two

stops will slightly lengthen trips, it is necessary to ensure that residents can commute safely. Second, the

proposed reduction in service would hit the neighborhood of Nonantum especially hard. Nonantum is

home to many residents who rely on the MBTA, as well as a growing cluster of technology companies,

and the proposed bus map would leave the neighborhood without adequate transit connections. As you

finalize the redesigned bus network map, I ask that you pay particular attention to Nonantum and ensure

that its residents and workers are connected to downtown and to other nearby transit hubs.

Route 52

 

Finally, I would like to make an important request about Route 52, which provides service to several

important schools and institutions that serve my constituents, including the Carroll Center for the Blind,

Catholic Memorial, Newton Country Day School, and more. Many students rely on the 52 bus to make it

to school in the morning, and when schedules are not aligned with the start of the school day or buses

routinely run late, those students are forced to miss valuable class time. I ask that when you set the

schedule for the 52 bus, you consult with schools along the route and ensure that students commuting

from any point on the route are able to get to the first class of the day on time, even if the bus is running

10 or 15 minutes late.

Thank you, again, for providing me with the chance to provide feedback on the proposed bus network

redesign on behalf of my constituents. I hope that you will amend your proposal to ensure that Newton

residents have access to convenient, reliable express bus service that offers a quick connection to

downtown Boston.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Stone Creem

State Senator

First Middlesex and Norfolk