Patrick, Menino unveil plan for "enhanced bus service" along Blue Hill corridor

State plans enhanced bus service to Mattapan: A rendering shows a "street view" of the changes along Blue Hill Ave. Source: EOTState plans enhanced bus service to Mattapan: A rendering shows a "street view" of the changes along Blue Hill Ave. Source: EOTGovernor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino announced at noon today that the 28 bus from Ruggles to Mattapan Square will be beefed up with a new Bus Rapid Transit service. It will be phase two of a project that will also connect Dudley Square to South Station as part of the existing Silver Line—a bus service between Dudley Station, downtown, and Logan Airport.
“With smart, strategic use of federal recovery funds we can bring rapid transit to some of Boston’s busiest bus routes, connecting key neighborhoods and delivering reliable service for tens of thousands of commuters who rely on the MBTA,” said Patrick at a press conference in Dudley Square.
Though MBTA and state officials have often touted the Silver Line as “bus rapid transit,” many transit advocates have countered that the dedicated bus lanes along Washington Street have not sped up service significantly compared to other bus service. What is called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) around the world typically involves lanes that are physically separate from other traffic, allowing buses to bypass all traffic.
The state’s secretary of transportation, James Aloisi, is well known to be an advocate of BRT.
The new, burlier Route 28—using part of the $100 million in stimulus funds that are already secured for both projects, according to Sen. John Kerry’s office—would use dedicated bus lanes only on “portions” of Blue Hill Avenue and Warren Street that are wide enough to accommodate them, using “queue jumps” in intersections where lanes are not possible. These would allow the bus to pass cars at red lights, and take off before the light turns green for general traffic.
The distance between stops would also increase to one-quarter mile along the line, and the stops themselves would be improved along with other elements of the streetscape.
As of the winter of 2007, the 28 bus was averaging 12,071 weekday boardings and was one of the busiest lines in the city.
Very few outside of the Governor’s and Mayor’s adminstrations and the Senator’s office appear to have been privy to the Mattapan stretch of the plan. Apparently, even many local state representatives and city councillors were not aware of the plan until it was announced today.
“For me, I was a bit taken aback,” said state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, whose district the new line would run through. “I was just hearing about it today. I’m not sure the community was even aware of it. This [the Silver Line] has never come up before… There has to be input and collaboration and I feel this did not happen in Mattapan.”
Rep. Willie Mae Allen was also unaware of the plan, according to several sources.
Spencer DeShields, director of the Mattapan CDC and member of the Indigo Line Coalition, which advocates for better service on the Fairmount Line commuter rail service, was befuddled as well.
“Nobody knows that I know of,” said DeShields. “We’ve got a big problem if the governor’s making announcements like that without those two [Forry and Allen] knowing.”
According to documents release by the Executive office of Transportation today, the new connection to South Station, which is essentially an additional twist to the existing route through Downtown Crossing—which will continue to be served—will be complete by September. The stretch to Mattapan however, will not be complete until January 2012.

More on this afternoon's announcement from Universal Hub.

A map (PDF) of the proposed extension was posted today at the Executive Office of Transportation website.