State making hard push for okay on 28X line plan

By 
Alex Owens, Special to the Reporter
Jul. 30, 2009

The state Executive Office of Transportation (EOT), clearly trying to push along to approval its 28X dedicated line up Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan, held yet another community gathering on Monday concerning the proposal, this time with plenty of visual aids to illustrate the plan for guests.

The event, dubbed an “open house” by the EOT, featured four tables with display boards, maps, renderings, and graphs detailing information about the project which, if completed, would replace the current #28 bus line with a bus “rapid transit” system that will run in the center of much of Blue Hill Ave. The meeting at the Mattapan Library was one of two events this week; a second was planned for last night in Grove Hall.

Getting T riders into the community meetings has been a goal of the EOT in the past week. Transit officials, including Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi, have mobilized out onto bus routes to spread the word about and worked open houses.

Said Aloisi during an interview this week with the Reporter’s editorial board: “In [Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester] there is a sense that residents haven’t gotten a straight deal from the T. There is a hunger for better transit and honesty.”

Monday’s open house seemed to have a much more positive atmosphere in contrast to previous meetings on the issue. The EOT was ready to address community concerns in one-to-one conversations an while some community residents remained skeptical, they were able to voice their opinions directly to planners and officials.

“People are really starting to have dialog,” said Gwen Vincent, a Dorchester resident and a member of the T Riders Union. “There’s a lot of mistrust with the T, some of it justified. But, when you have a dialog, that’s when people start to listen.”

“The number of #28 riders does not balance the number of people that will be affected by the project,” said Barbara Crichlow. Crichlow, among other residents, suggested alternatives to removing Blue Hill Ave.’s median strip, such as adding more buses to the existing line or adding an express line that would simply stop fewer times along the route.

"We are sitting down and trying to answer questions. Will they be satisfied? Maybe not, but we’re trying to answer them the best way we can,” said Ralph DeNiso of the Central Transportation planning staff.

“I think [28X] is going to be a good thing,” said Mattapan resident Jim Clark “If it’s done right, it can be a model for the country... This isn’t just about us, we need to be thinking about our future, about the ones who are coming up.”

Some community members are appreciative of the EOT’s gestures and believe that these open houses are a step in the right direction. “The EOT has been absolutely terrible...but they’re improving with every meeting,” said Steve Busby, head secretary of the Mattapan Board of Trade. “I don’t know if the EOT has reached Nirvana yet, but they’re learning.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Menino says he supports the controversial line, saying bus service is needed to get people to their jobs. “I think we have to have better transportation,” he said in a half-hour appearance on TOUCH 106.1 FM last Thursday.

In voicing his support, the mayor appeared to make an error: One caller complained that some parking spaces would be eliminated through the creation of the bus lane. “That’s not going to take any of the parking spaces,” Menino responded. “That’s going to relieve some of the traffic congestion we have.” State transportation officials have acknowledged that while they’ll work to minimize parking loss, some parking spaces, including those along the median, would have to be removed to make room for the buses, as well as some of the greenery on the median.

City Councillor At-Large and mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty said he supported having the buses come more frequently and on time. “I do not believe that requires tampering with the median,” he said. “Folks in that community have fought long and hard to get the median as well as the beautification efforts surrounding that median.”

Sam Yoon, also a mayoral candidate and city councillor at-large, criticized the roll-out of the project but declined to take a position for or against it. “It’s not about taking a position right now,” Yoon told the Reporter. “The process has to be driven by the community.”

Kevin McCrea, a South End businessman running for mayor, was unavailable for comment. He was in Bogota, Columbia, for the week due to the death of his brother-in-law.

On the radio, Menino expressed frustration with past transportation proposals, noting that he signed an agreement for an “Urban Ring” project to get people from Dorchester and Roxbury out to jobs near Route 128. “That was twelve years ago,” he said. “We’re still waiting for them to implement that.”

Gintautas Dumcius conributed to this report.

Tags: