(Image courtesy MassDOT)
Improved bus service and light rail running down Blue Hill Avenue are among the ideas the state Department of Transportation is considering to improve how residents get around in a bustling swath of the city.
As part of the DOT’s Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan Transit Needs Study, residents, commuters, MBTA officials along with other city and state agencies joined together Thursday at the Franklin House in Dorchester to trade ideas on improving service for riders.
“We are focusing on those portions of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan that aren’t a half mile from [a MBTA station] that primarily rely on the bus system to get around. We’re looking at both short- and long-term changes,” said Scott Hamwey, project manager for the DOT.
The DOT has been working with residents to evaluate how to improve service in the corridor since January. The agency, with a resident advisory group, is using public comments.
At the Thursday night meeting, residents got to hear about some of the progress so far.
Short-term alternatives for improving service include selling preloaded Charlie Cards at local businesses. Long-term: building a bus or light rail tunnel underneath Dudley station.
“We’re not going to restrict ourselves to the short term or if we have funding or not,” said Hamwey.
Even though many in the room were excited to see some momentum, several attendees still had suggestions and critiques for the DOT.
“[We don’t] need more T employees. The real question we talked about as an advisory group was to train people to be better at their jobs," said Dan Richardson of Roxbury.
The MBTA took some heat from residents for poor customer service experienced by commuters. Still, one resident was quick to mention that riders could be kinder, as well.
“I’ve seen rude bus drivers, but it’s rude passengers too,” added Marlena Richardson or Roxbury.
Along with ways to improve customer service on transit systems and keep residents more informed about bus schedules and service interruptions, audience members also discussed ways to improve the consistency of service and ways to expand it.
“Some of the routes have been around 80, 90 years. So is this the best route we can come up with?” said Hemwey.
To improve service, the DOT along with its consulting team from Parsons Brinckerhoff came up with new bus routes to better serve residents.
Even though some applauded the route changes many in the audience saw the new routes as redundant or illogical.
“I think some of those [routes] didn’t make sense,” said Barbara Crichlow, a Mattapan resident and advisory group member.
One idea suggested a bus that could run from Mattapan Square to Andrew Square in South Boston. Although Parsons and DOT representatives said the goal of the route was to better serve residents on Blue Hill Avenue, some weren’t buying it.
“If that was the case, I would just take the Red Line,” said Robert Jenkins of Mattapan resident.
DOT officials and residents acknowledge that the study is still a work in progress.
The complete presentation from Thursday night, along with a schedule of upcoming meetings can be found on the DOT’s project page.
Hamwey, the DOT project manager, said he hopes to come before the community again in January 2012 to present a more concise list of alternatives.
Email Patrick Rosso, email@example.com. Follow him @PDRosso.