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Superfluous bus stops, and another try of a downtown shutdown

Posted by Nichole Davis  January 29, 2013 12:16 AM

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Writing to you tonight as yet another snowstorm moves through here in Boston. With any luck, your commute was (somewhat) painless and quite safe. In this entry, we'll talk about why the T has too many bus stops, the closing of 93 through downtown Boston, and a traffic problem brewing for the end of the week on the Waterfront. There's, of course, a list of construction for the downtown Boston area as well.

Later this week I'll be writing about the Government Center stop -- what's the latest with the closing down of it? We heard about that months ago, but when's it actually supposed to happen? I'll also (finally) talk about the Green Line GPS development (app builders, hark!).

Of course, any questions or comments, send them my way: at gmail dot com.

All right, let's give this another whirl.

You may remember that, earlier this month, the DOT was going to shut down the span of Interstate 93 that runs through Downtown Boston -- only to have that ground to a halt due to inclement weather. This time, it's looking like (freak winter storms notwithstanding), we should be good to go.

Sara Lavoie, spokeswoman for the DOT, has informed me that they're going to try the shutdown again Tuesday night (the 29th), starting at about 11:00 PM. The road will be completely reopened in time for the morning commute at 5:00 AM.

Traffic will be detoured off the northbound side at Mass Ave onto Frontage Road. If you want to head north of the city on 93, you'll need to follow Frontage Road to Atlantic Avenue, and then access the highway near TD Garden. If you're trying to get to the Pike, you can access those ramps directly from Frontage Road. If you're planning on heading to the Tobin Bridge, just stay on the surface streets and the detours will direct you there.

So what are they doing exactly, that requires a complete shutdown of the road? Well, they've done this sort of thing before in the O'Neill and in the Ted Williams Tunnels -- relatively recently in the Ted Williams, actually. They'll be inspecting the electrical and communication systems, getting some extensive cleaning done in places that crews normally wouldn't be able to access safely, and fixing little things here and there.
If you're a frequent rider of the buses across the Greater Boston area, chances are you know of at least one route where, in your opinion, there's just far too many stops. It feels like you're stopping every thirty seconds (and, in all honesty, you might be). A few-miles-long trip could easily turn into an hour plus excursion if you add traffic and overcrowding in as factors.

An editorial published this week in the Globe addresses this issue. In the piece, the author discusses a specific situation on the 39 bus, a very popular route that goes through the Copley Square area, Longwood Medical Area, Mission Hill, and Jamaica Plain. In the interest of efficiency a few years back, the MBTA was proposing the shuttering of some stops on the route:

An improvement plan proposed eliminating several redundant stops, including one in an absurdly dense cluster of stops along a short stretch of Centre and South streets in Jamaica Plain... The T’s usual standard is for bus stops to be between 750 feet and 1,320 feet apart, so it was entirely reasonable for the agency to target at least one of the four stops within less than a quarter mile of roadway in Jamaica Plain. Fatefully, though, the agency proposed to eliminate one near the Harvest Co-Op. When the food store complained, the T gave up on the idea.

Okay, that probably wasn't the best planning on their part. People have to get to the grocery store, and anyone who has tried lugging thirty pounds of groceries on a bus will sympathize with me. But why didn't the agency just close down another of the four stops instead of the one by the grocery? Why drop the idea all together?

The editorial goes on to tell the MBTA to "show a stiffer spine" as they start to pull together some new route changes on major bus thoroughfares. I'm not one to disagree with this. Of course people are going to get upset when it's their bus stop that's shut down -- nobody wants to walk any further than they have to in order to get on the bus. But, if we're looking to have more efficient bus routes that actually get to where they're going on time (or at least closer to it -- you can only do so much about traffic), a few less slowdowns for the driver to have to worry about might help.

Now, out in the suburbs, I know this isn't much of a possibility, considering bus stops are much more spread out. I'd be a supporter of the removal of stops in more urban areas where the stops are almost on top of each other.

Full disclosure: up until a few months ago, I was (an often frustrated) regular rider of the 66 and 57 buses. I could tell you at least four or five stops off of the top of my head that could be removed on the 57 between Boston University and Oak Square. There's really no excuse for the bus to stop every single block -- especially in residential areas that house mostly college students that, presumably, are young and full of vim, vigor, and enough energy to walk one extra city block to catch the bus. Or run down it chasing the bus they just missed...

Are there any lines that you think could use a few less stops? Let me know in the comments below.
If you frequent the Waterfront area, here's a heads up for you:

Later on this week, the annual Yankee Dental Congress will be convening over at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). The event is set to start on Thursday and run through Saturday, with an expected attendance of over 28,000 -- that means, of course, that we can expect traffic to be a mess through South Boston, the Waterfront, and the South Station area.

If you're heading over there and can do so, public transit is strongly encouraged. If you have to drive, try not to navigate the area during the morning or afternoon drive times. Our buddy Mac Daniel, who is now with the Convention Center Authority, says that parking will be available at the BCEC South Parking Lot, but that will be filling up quickly. You may want to consider the Boston Marine Industrial Park for alternate parking. The T (Silver Line to World Trade Center, mainly, or buses) will be the least troublesome way, though, to make it over to the event.
You'll find slowdowns here... (Downtown Boston edition)

Expressway / O'Neill Tunnel southbound

The ramp from Leverett Circle to the O'Neill Tunnel southbound will be closed Tuesday through Thursday nights from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The off-ramp from the O'Neill Tunnel southbound to Government Center and the Callahan Tunnel (Exit 24) will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramps from Purchase Street to the O'Neill Tunnel southbound and the Mass Pike westbound will close on Wednesday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Expressway / O'Neill Tunnel northbound

The ramps from Essex Street and Atlantic Avenue to the O'Neill Tunnel northbound will close on Tuesday from 10:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from Frontage Road northbound to the Zakim Bridge northbound will close on Tuesday from 11:30 PM to 5:00 AM.

Mass Pike eastbound

The exit ramps to the O'Neill Tunnel (Exits 23 and 24) will be closed on Tuesday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

Mass Pike westbound

The ramps from Congress Street and the Ted Williams Tunnel to the Expressway will be closed on Tuesday from 11:59 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramps from the Albany Street connector to the Mass Pike westbound will be closed Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

The ramp from the O'Neill Tunnel southbound to the Mass Pike westbound will close on Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM -- but you can still access Albany Street.

The ramp from Harborside Drive to the Ted Williams Tunnel westbound will close on Wednesday from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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