Bigger buses get positive reviews on Blue Hill Ave.

The MBTA’s route 28 bus line is notorious for crowded, slow, and inefficient service. T officials this weekend responded to the complaints with the deployment of 25 new, 60-ft long articulated buses. The new buses, which hit the streets on Saturday, have been well received by riders, who appreciated the extra leg room, seats for all and a quicker ride during their daily commute.

“I really like the new buses,” said Dorchester resident Robin Jeffreys. “This is definitely an improvement over the last buses as far as comfort,” she said, admiring the new accommodations.

The new buses, each valued at $900,000, were purchased with federal stimulus money from the American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA). The buses are diesel-electric hybrids, and are equipped with several video cameras, a “kneeling” capability, lower floors and ramps for disabled riders.

While some riders still find problems inherited from the last generation of T buses — the unstable holding straps or the lack of anything to hold on to in the buses’ articulated centers were the most frequent examples — the overall response is positive.

“This is luxurious,” said young rider Louis Jones. “There’s much more space. In the old buses, you always felt like you were stuffed in.”

“They actually handle pretty nice,” said one driver, who wished to remain anonymous, as he guided the bus through a slick left turn at Grove Hall. Despite the length of the buses, they seem to perform well along the congested Blue Hill Ave. However, the driver questioned how the buses would navigate city streets come the fall, when schools return to session.

News of the deployment was announced during a meeting at the Mattapan Branch Library on Wednesday, June 23. Residents were invited for tours of the bus interiors and many echoed the enthusiasm of the riders and saw it as an asset to business activity.

Spencer DeShields, executive director of the Mattapan Community Development Corporation (CDC), said,“Just look at how many people go down [Blue Hill Ave.] every day. This community needs these buses.”

After the buses rolled out on Saturday, Mattapan Board of Trade Secretary Steven Busby called the buses “wonderful,” and applauded the greater carrying capacity for the route, which he hopes would stimulate business.

Many local businesses responded favorably to the changes despite that parking spaces will be sacrificed for the longer bus stops. Mass. Dept. of Transportation officials have determined that 60 to 95 parking spaces would have to be temporarily eliminated to accommodate the new buses’ greater length. State officials plan to replace the lost parking spaces by consolidating many of the stops on the route. DOT officials say they have not yet made any commitments to which stops would be removed and plan to negotiate with affected communities.

While the Mattapan end of the route was receptive to the new buses, there have been murmurings of discontent further up the corridor. Michael Kozu, the community coordinator for Grove Hall’s Project RIGHT sent around e-mails to neighbors calling for a petition to delay the running of the new buses until citizens from Grove Hall had been engaged by the DOT. Route 28 stretches from Mattapan Square to Dudley Square and then to Ruggles Station in Roxbury, but the only meeting concerning the new buses was held at Mattapan Library.

Robin Jeffereys was fortunate, hearing about the new buses on the news in advance, but many riders, like Louis Jones, who boarded at Dudley Square, were only informed about the changes through clapboards at the terminal stations or by just seeing the buses in action Saturday.
“It was like I just woke up one day and they had these longer buses out,” said Jones.