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T proceeds with plan to reduce stops on No. 1 bus route

Posted by Roy Greene  June 14, 2011 01:07 PM

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By Justin A. Rice, Globe Correspondent

The MBTA’s Route 1 bus stop at Columbus Avenue is safe — for now — but the Shawmut Avenue stop and 14 others remain on the chopping block as the T proceeds with plans to streamline its fourth-busiest bus line.

As part of a $10 million, one-time federal stimulus fund to enhance 15 of its busiest bus routes, the T proposed major changes to Route 1 in January, including eliminating stops in an effort to prevent buses from “bunching” behind one another.

The T’s latest and slightly less aggressive Route 1 proposal was presented at the South End United Settlements on Monday. A similar presentation on the route that runs from Harvard Square to Dudley Station will be made at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Cambridge Senior Center.

In March the T proposed a 50-stop route and the current proposal reduces
the route’s 69 stops to 54. The route begins in Harvard Square and snakes down Massachusetts Avenue through the Back Bay and the South End to Dudley Station

Every eliminated stop shaves about 15 seconds off the route’s run time.

“Stack enough of those up and you’re able to save three to five minutes, transportation consultant Ralph DeNisco said, “which doesn’t sound like a lot but the whole run is only 30 minutes.”

But while the Columbus Avenue stop was saved in part by a lobbying effort by State Representative Byron Rushing, the nearby Shawmut stop, for example, didn’t receive as much support.

At Monday’s poorly attended meeting, Patricia Hayden of Dorchester argued that Shawmut is crucial to nearby senior housing even though the closest stop is 430 feet away.

“They think just because people don’t come out to meetings it’s OK to eliminate their stop,” she said. “You have to go out and talk to people before you eliminate it. You can’t please everybody but you at least have to be fair.”

Residents were disappointed to learn at Monday’s meeting that the latest round of bus stop improvements will not include fare vending machines similar to the ones on the Green Line’s D-Branch or countdown clocks similar to the ones on the Silver Line.

Improved signs, however, will clearly post the stops' unique number so riders can call the T’s customer service line to learn exactly when the bus will arrive.

The renovated and new stops will also increase accessibility for disabled riders. A 5-by-8 foot landing pad will line up where the front of the bus hits the sidewalk.

“The way to think about it is it’s enough space for someone with a wheelchair to get off and turn around,” DeNisco said.

And while all the stops will be made long enough for buses to pull all the way up to the curb, Lee Matsueda of the T Riders Union said bus drivers don’t always pull all the way up to the stops that currently accommodate their entire vehicle.

“It’s huge,” Matsueda said of the added space. “Now all drivers need to use it.”

The T hopes to present its final Route 1 plan during a fourth and final round of public meetings at the end of the year and begin construction in the spring of 2012.

“Our customers are clamoring for a quicker ride,” T General Manager Richard A. Davey recently said. “One way to have a quicker ride is to have less stops and consolidate stops. What you’re doing is asking folks to walk a block or two farther from their home or somewhere else.

“It’s like anything else, all politics are local, all transportation bus stops are local. People have their own bus stops. That’s why there’s a public process. We’ll work through it with the community.”

For detailed project information, please visit www.mbta.com/keybusroutes.

E-Mail Justin A. Rice at rice.ju@gmail.com

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