September 23, 2022 By Vaseline

Boston objects to changes proposed for 3 MBTA bus routes

Local

“These routes need to be added, not removed.”

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

A number 28 bus runs to Ruggles Station on Blue Hill Avenue in March. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The MBTA is planning the first major overhaul of its bus network since the 1960s.

In May, the agency boasted a blueprint for a bus network redesign that will give 275,000 more people access to high-frequency services, with a bus running essentially every 15 minutes or less every day of the week in five years.

Bus service would be expanded from the current 15 to 30 corridors, as stated in the preliminary proposal, with the new all-day service expanding to Everett, Lynn, Medford, South Boston, West Roxbury and Somerville.

But there are a few things Boston officials are asking the MBTA to reconsider as the process moves forward.

Mayor Michelle Wu on Wednesday highlighted the city’s opposition to the change to bus routes 11 and 55 and plans to shorten a section of the current Route 39 bus route, which connects Jamaica Plain to Back Bay, in a letter to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak on Wednesday .

“We know that certain existing neighborhood routes are critical to our drivers — including older adults and those with disabilities,” Wu wrote. “These routes need to be added, not removed.”

In official comments to the MBTA, the city wrote that officials have “significant” concerns about removing Route 39 service along the existing route from Brigham Circle to Copley Square. The route currently passes through Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill and Brookline en route to Jamaica Plain.

“This single-seat ride is essential for residents of the Jamaica Plain who lost E-Line trolley service in the 1980s and never restored that connection, despite MBTA claims at the time and later Big Dig-era commitments ‘ officials wrote. “This connection must be maintained as a radio frequency service.”

If accepted, the current MBTA proposal would rename the Route 39 bus to T39 and expand service from Brigham Circle across the Charles River to Central Square, Union Square, and Porter Square.

To do this, however, the MBTA would also cut the portion of existing Route 39 between Brigham Circle and Copley Square.

Drivers wishing to continue to Copley Square would need to transfer from the T39 to the Green Line.

“While the city supports better connections (Longwood Medical Area) to Cambridge/Somerville, this route should not come at the expense of direct service from Jamaica Plain to Back Bay,” officials wrote. “The city would strongly favor continued service on the current Route 39, as well as new service using the proposed T39 route.”

For the Route 55 bus that connects Fenway and Kenmore to Back Bay, the city supports the MBTA’s vision to maintain a connection from Fenway to Kenmore Square. However, the city wants the agency to “provide accessible transfers to the Green Line and serve local needs for connections to downtown and other key destinations.”

Wu noted in her letter that Bus 55 operated downtown before the COVID-19 pandemic — another change the city hopes to make a reality.

Officials added they were “dismayed that the MBTA is removing all bus services from Heath Street.”

“This is an important connection for residents of Mission Hill, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain,” the filing said. “We strongly believe there should be a transit service on Heath Street. Given the significant concerns surrounding the diversion of the T39 and Route 55 to Cambridge, we believe an alternative connection could be a route from Jackson Square to Porter Square via Heath Street and the (Longwood Medical Area). This would provide the connection to Cambridge while allowing the current routes to be maintained.”

The city is also concerned about plans for the Route 11 bus, which will traverse South Boston to Broadway Station. Officials wrote the route is an “important neighborhood link for South Boston residents to Tufts Medical Center and serves the growing A Street corridor.”

“This service must be maintained and improved to continue to perform this vital function,” officials wrote.

However, the city is not directly opposed to the remodeling efforts.

According to Wu, officials support many of the key tenets of the redesign. She called the plans for high-traffic routes and improved crosstown connections “critical to the future of the transportation network.”

Aside from the issues the city sees with surrounding neighborhood routes, however, Wu would like to see more details from the MBTA, “particularly regarding operational and financial plans to ensure consistent, frequent, and reliable service.”

“The MBTA must outline supporting resource commitments
that will make that vision a reality,” the mayor wrote.

Wu also urged the transportation agency to prioritize driver experience and accessibility.

“Boston residents and my administration deeply appreciate MBTA’s recognition that buses are at the heart of the future of public transit,” Wu wrote in her letter. “We value our strong partnership with MBTA and look forward to working together to ensure Bus Network makes Redesign
our buses work better for everyone.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the T told Boston.com that the agency is reviewing the city’s comments.

“With a shared goal of designing a bus network that reflects changing demographics, emerging employment areas and changing travel patterns, MBTA continues to engage in a productive dialogue with the city,” the statement said. “The network redesign team is reviewing the city’s comments along with the approximately 20,000 additional comments received on the network map design. As part of the ongoing review process, the redesign team is evaluating possible changes to the map in response to public feedback.”

The MBTA plans to have recommended changes to the proposed network by the end of October.