Bus stops could be moved, eliminated on 28 bus route

Representatives from the state’s Department of Transportation and the MBTA held a meeting at Central Boston Elder Services in Dudley Square last Thursday to discuss the consolidation of bus stops along route 28, which funnels thousands of commuters per day through Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. At least 20 stops might be moved or eliminated along the route, which the MBTA equipped with new, state-of-the-art articulated buses over the summer. The 60 foot-long buses accommodate more people, but demand longer stops along the busy arteries of Blue Hill Ave. and Warren Street.

Federal stimulus money paid for the upgrades to the buses and will also pay for the next phase of the project, including new shelters and seating at bus stops. The DOT’s preliminary suggestions are expected to free up some parking spaces along the route, which runs its first leg down Blue Hill Ave. from Mattapan Square.

Route 28 has long been criticized for slow and inefficient service by riders. During the summer of 2009, state transportation officials proposed a massive overhaul —dubbed the 28X proposal— which would have built out dedicated lanes along the center of most of Blue Hill Ave. The project was ultimately dropped after considerable resistance by civic leaders, many of whom criticized the project lack of community input in its earliest stages.

The T rolled out several 60-foot articulated buses along the line in July 2010r—a change that received mostly positive reactions by bus riders. However, some activists have complained that the T did not adequately plan the changes in conjunction with civic leaders, especially around Grove Hall.
The consolidation of the stops is a precursor to a larger 15-month study that will is set to be undertaken by DOT. At the end of the study, DOT officials expect to have several solutions to improve bus lines in Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury.

 “I think that the real issue is improved performance; that’s the real way to improve trust,” said Scott Hamwey, DOT Project Manager.

Guests at last Thursday’s meeting were invited to join a community advisory committee organized by the DOT to review their suggestions. Several members had been part of previous committee for the 28X project.

Michael Kozu, Community Coordinator of Project RIGHT (Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together), has been critical of the T’s approach to community outreach in recent months.

“The MBTA has to be committed to reaching out to and holding a real community process,” said Kozu. “They might hear some stuff that they don’t want to hear, but the need to listen to that and take action.”

Kozu distributed an email following July’s debut of the new 60-foot buses, in part because of a lack of outreach or warning for the Grove Hall community concerning the new buses. Project RIGHT is holding a community meeting, with the MBTA, to discuss the buses on Tuesday, October 5.  The meeting will be staged at the Grove Hall Community Center, 51 Geneva Avenue.

City councillor Chuck Turner, State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz and 5th Suffolk Democratic nominee for State Representative, Carlos Henriquez, were among those who attended last week’s meeting.

“Respecting community process means that the community is there on the ground floor,” Henriquez said. “Before you make your first map, the first meeting should have already happened.”

State officials hope to complete the bus stop consolidatiosn within three months. There are plans to have at least one more meeting between DOT the community concerning the stops, while the Community Advisory Committee plans to convene separately in the near future.