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South Boston shuttle service aims to pick up where the T drops off

Posted by Patrick Rosso  February 28, 2013 11:36 AM

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Some in South Boston are fed up with bus service in the neighborhood, especially on First Street, and they are turning to a private company to fill in the gaps left by the MBTA.

Dennis Conway, an area resident, has been working behind the scenes to develop a private bus that would transport residents around the neighborhood and to other transit connections.

The company, South Boston Transit System, has already purchased a wheelchair accessible mini bus as well as a transit van for what will most likely be a subscription based system, said Conway.

"With issues of parking, overcrowded T buses, and long waiting time for taxi's our service will work to supplement current transportation services as well as to develop alternatives to the parking issues in South Boston,” Conway said.

Although the vans, set to debut March 4, will compete with some of the T’s bus routes, Conway said the service is aimed more at filling in where the T misses, especially with seniors and the disabled.

“Although we will be a for profit company we will be offering a in South Boston service free of charge to the seniors and disable neighbors who were impacted by the price increase on the T Ride last July,” added Conway.

The service will be debuted in phases. The first phase will be the dinner time restaurant shuttle that will transport riders to area restaurants free of charge; the businesses will pay for the service. The second phase will be the “Free Senior Shuttle” that stops at South Boston businesses, and the final phase will be the East-West First Street shuttle that will run to South Station.

The idea has been gaining traction with members of Planet Southie, a green advocacy group, and area developers.

“There are just not enough buses on the street,” said Fred Gordon, a Planet Southie member and owner of the Distillery Building on East Second Street.

Gordon said often times busses along the First Street corridor are overcrowded during rush hour and infrequent during off-hours.

“It comes to a point where people say, ‘I’m sick of it,’” said Gordon.

Gordon is putting his money where his mouth is, working with Conway to bring the idea to fruition and educating other building owners on the benefits. As developer and building owner Gordon sees the new system as an investment in his residents and building, and possibly a way to shake up transit in Boston.

The South Boston Neighborhood Associations Committee recently created a map that highlights development projects in the area. To check it out, click here.

“I think the transit debate is old and I’d like to get a new player in,” said Gordon.

The issue of overcrowded busses, long waits, and general frustration aimed at the T isn’t new and Joe Pesaturo, a spokesperson for the T, said the system is doing what it can to better serve residents and address its own cash flow.

“We do not disagree that more bus service is a good thing, but the T's limited resources are already strained trying to maintain existing levels of service,” said Pesaturo. “At this time, the MBTA does not have the funding to increase bus service, but the governor's proposed budget provides the MBTA with additional operating resources so that service could be improved to these and other routes.”

Although some excitement has been generated around the idea, Conway said the group is working quietly to make sure when the service debuts next week it will be ready to serve.

“A website is being developed and the actual launch is planned for Monday March 4th. We are not rushing into this, rather taking steps to ensure a high quality service that will be a benefit to the entire South Boston community,” said Conway.

Although details still need to be worked out, Planet Southie and its Transit Action Team will be discussing the proposal Thursday night at its month meeting. The meeting will be held at the Distillery Building in South Boston from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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