The MBTA has announced New Bus Routes. Some of the proposed bus route changes are deeply troubling news for Cambridge residents who had hoped for more public transportation options not fewer. As with many of our city’s streets, it looks as if a key MBTA outcome is to use their system to move people from elsewhere to a few Cambridge sites and/or elsewhere. What gets left out are (again) the needs of Cambridge residents. Already we are hearing lots of frustration being voiced by residents of East Cambridge, North Cambridge, West Cambridge, and Cross-Cambridge. We will update this post as we hear more from people.
Read more about the MBTA bus lane changes l HERE
Provide Feedback to the MBTA HERE
CCC has been a strong advocate for better public transportation both for environmental reasons and to keep vehicles of both residents and people crossing through Cambridge to get to someplace else from clogging our streets. Alas for many Cambridge residents, the proposed MBTA changes are a major step backwards, particularly for those who use the MBTA to get around in Cambridge itself.
CROSS-CAMBRIDGE: We see losses. Bus 68 (Harvard-Kendall/MIT) will follow same route but will operate now ONLY at peak hours leaving out the needs of workers and others (including many students) whose use is not necessarily predicated on the regular hours of 9-5 businesses. Instead, residents are expected to use nearby services on Cambridge St, Hampshire St, and Ma Ave for more frequent service. We address Bus 69 (Harvard-Lechmere) below which will continue operating but is far from regular.
NORTH CAMBRIDGE: The Porter-Harvard bus (96) will be replaced by a new bus (T77) which goes from Arlington to Porter to Harvard. 96 does not serve Porter square and residents are expected either to use T77 or travel from T96 at Porter.
WEST CAMBRIDGE: the new MBTA plan guts bus service along Concord Avenue in Cambridge, reducing overall trips from 4 pr hour to 1 per hour, and ending service at 7pm instead of the current 10 pm. For a neighborhood slated for several thousand new housing units (and where we just built 100 new affordable units), this is entirely unacceptable. The MBTA plans to shift the current bus 74 (Concord Ave. to Cambridge) to a new route (78) from Arlmont Village to Harvard. On the positive side the 72 (Belmont-Harvard) will be replaced by 75 which will follow the same route but with ore night service (this bus is replacing 74 – the Concord Ave-Belmont bus).
EAST CAMBRIDGE: The new MBTA Plan drastically reduces service in and out of East Cambridge. East Cambridge is home to three elderly/disabled facilities and many other seniors live independently in their homes. These are the people who travel to Market Basket, McKinnon’s, Somerville Hospital, Union and Davis Square and many of the doctor’s located within the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) system but in offsite offices. While the "T" is increasing ease and access for the “new” (often younger) population at Northpoint and Kendall , not only did the "T" relocate the Lechmere Station across a treacherous artery with no accommodation for locals, but to reach this station requires hiking up 60 steps to get to the GLX platform. In addition, the MBTA now has eliminated Bus Lines, 80, 87, 88. When challenged at a recent meeting, T representatives proposed that one could solve the problem to take three separate buses (called in MBTA lingo "a three seater" (meaning two changes and three bus rides) but for young families carrying shopping from Market Basket or for the elderly or disabled, it is not feasible to imagine ever doing something like this.
In short, of the four buses that currently terminate at Lechmere Station (no buses run through it currently), three are eliminated, and the replacements for the two some use most often, don’t go where some need and want to go, Davis Square for example. A new route, the T 101, will be the only other line serving Lechmere. It will run between Kendall square and Medford Square by way of Sullivan Square. The 69 does not appear to be increasing in frequency during the week, and it sounds as though we might get a second bus on weekends (currently, one bus makes the loop between Lechmere and Harvard Square). In short, at the same time that still more employees will be coming to East Cambridge, the MBTA has reduced service to East Cambridge, both by changing the routes of the buses to and from Lechmere Station and Highway. The newest proposal removes all of the bus lines whose routes are not solely in Cambridge (the 80, 87 and 88), leaving only the 69, whose route takes it from one end of Cambridge Street to the other, and introduces a new route, the T101, which runs between Kendall Square and Medford by way of Lechmere and Sullivan Stations.
This change drastically affects not only the ability of people to travel between East Cambridge and doctors' offices or Market Basket in Somerville, but also places like Porter Square (which may sometime in the distant future be reconnected by way of an extension of the Union Square Green Line branch) and Davis Square (which many use to get to North Cambridge). It is nice that the new T39 will connect Cambridgeport and Central Square to Market Basket, but there is no reason to deny residents of East Cambridge that same access that has been so valuable to so many of us. The 87bus line may not run that often but having to change from one line to another makes it more inconvenient and more onerous to get from here to there. Juggling heavy bags of groceries while you do sot increases the burden.
OVERALL: These proposed route changes inspire little confidence especially since we have watched the T be unable to meet its current schedule for buses in places like Lechmere and are late to work or meetings because a run that one had counted on was skipped. Cambridge residents deserve better and for a city that is increasingly removing parking spaces, advocating to end all parking minimums, promoting an even larger population size and commercial base (with large scale lab and other increases, key aspects of these proposed changes are not viable. And, sadly, they may lead to more people who live here needing acquire cars to get them where to go. Our goal is to have more public transportation and fewer cars, not the reverse.
Why is the MBTA doing this? What is being proposed here in bus route changes is to find a way for faster (and higher frequency) transport to and from outside areas to and from a few sites in Cambridge (Porter to Medford, Central to Longwood, Harvard to Union Square ad Everett). But the down side (and it is a serious one) is that it offers far less access for the 120,000 residents living in the city who need to travel to sites either in Cambridge or elsewhere for reasons of work, shopping, medical appointments, and other needs. Yes the aim of the MBTA changes is for better access to major destinations, but this leaves out the local residents.
Some of these proposed changes will create immense hardships for many people who depend on public transportation to get around. We deserve better and should be able to rely on our government officials to make smarter choices. Is the city itself willing to fund its own public transportation system to take up the losses we are seeing in this proposal? Are we any closer as a city to what many European cities are now promoting – a means to get everywhere in the city within 15 minutes? No.