Final meetings set for state’s transit needs study

Officials from the state’s Department of Transportation are making the last rounds at community meetings in Dorchester and Mattapan beginning this week to wrap up two separate transportation studies.

This Thursday, residents will get an update on the Roxbury/Dorchester/Mattapan (RDM) Transit Needs Study that was launched in January 2011. Planners have combed through 1,400 surveys and community responses at meetings to come up with short, medium and long-term suggestions.

Project manager Scott Hamwey says his team and the advisory group will continue to hear local’s concerns, but have to remind attendees of the MBTA’s strained budget. The study does not have a dedicated funding stream lined up for medium and long-term recommendations.

“There’s not funding available today, so it’s going to require ongoing advocacy from stakeholders and Mass DOT officials,” he said.

The advisory board has received suggestions ranging from increasing service on the 19 and 21 bus lines to adding new express routes, which Hamwey notes are all much-needed improvements, but they are outside of the state’s current financial means.

But there are some smaller scale upgrades backed by federal programs that residents can look forward to this year. Officials are aiming for improving sales and fare collection with better enforcement around the terminals. The group is also soliciting more retail vendors as places to activate Charlie Cards.

The minimum amount of money you can add to your card at the fare box may also increase. Hamwey says these proposals will need to be better publicized to see riders take advantage of them. There has been no date set for these improvements.

MBTA police officers will also be asked to better enforce no parking zones at bus stops and operator safety. Police will be asked to ticket more vehicles and submit numbers in order to monitor progress.
The last of these three public meetings will be the final opportunity to submit recommendations and solicit ideas for other areas of funding. This Thursday’s meeting will be held at the Mattapan Branch Library, 1350 Blue Hill Ave. at 6 p.m. The advisory board will continue to meet on a quarterly basis with MBTA officials.

“There are still things that we’re going to look for in the recommendations. But it’s going to take sustained advocacy and community meetings for other areas of funding,” Hamwey said.

After the RDM transit study comes to an end, the “Key Bus Routes” study will continue next month. MBTA has identified 15 “Key Bus Routes” across its system, for which it has allocated $10 million in federal stimulus funding for improvements. Four key routes are located in the RDM study area: 22, 23, 28 and 15. Hamwey says changes to route 23 will be implemented later this year.

The Morton and Gallivan Street intersection project will also hear more community input at a meeting on Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at the Taylor School, 1060 Morton St. Representatives from MassDOT will provide an update on where the study stands.