Turnout skimpy at MBTA session on Bus Line 28

Several Mattapan community residents on Tuesday weighed in on changes to the Route 28 bus line, which is undergoing changes to its stops along Blue Hill Avenue and elsewhere.

The early evening meeting at the Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library system, which drew about ten people, focused on a bus course that has a conflicted past. In 2009, transportation officials withdrew a proposal for an express busway, dubbed “28X,” that opponents in the community said would have eliminated key parking spaces and torn up the avenue.

Since then transportation officials, with $10 million in federal stimulus funding, have embarked on a route improvement program, aiming to reduce trip times and ease riders’ experiences along the way. The routes in the program include the 15, the 22, the 28 and the 32, and are in the last phase of implementation and in the last round of public comment.

Route 28, which runs from Mattapan Station to Ruggles Station through Dudley Station, is a frequent target of criticism from MBTA customers who say the ride is slow and inefficient.

Attendees of Tuesday night’s meeting, who haggled with consultants over the placement of some bus stops, said the proposed improvements were good for local businesses that want more parking and less loitering, and residents who want bus stops.

“It’s going to balance out for businesses and residents,” said Sherelle Wadsworth, business manager for several Blue Hill Avenue shops.

Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) also sounded a note of support. “It’s a thorough look at the entire route,” he said.

Holmes, who had supported the Route 28X proposal, said he was disappointed with the turnout at the meetings. The movement of some bus stops will have a “huge” impact on neighborhoods, he said.
Additional public meetings on the changes have been scheduled for Tues., June 26, and Thurs., June 28. The former starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Grove Hall Community Center on Geneva Avenue, and the latter begins at 6 p.m. at the Dudley branch of the Boston Public library system on Warren Street in Roxbury.

Transportation officials are hoping for fewer stops along the route, which they say will mean a faster trip for riders. Improvements such as shelters, benches and signage are also planned.

The ideal spacing between stops, officials say, is between 750 feet and 1,320 feet, or four to seven stops per mile. On Route 28, the average is 650 feet between stops, and some stops are as close as 250 feet, leading to the bunching up of buses. For example, one stop on Blue Hill Avenue and Tennis Road may be removed, leading to the creation of four parking spaces, and putting the distance between bus stops at Mattapan and Almont streets at 870 feet.

Many of the current stops are no longer necessary, but were never moved due to historical reasons, such as the past location of the Mattapan Community Health Center, according to Ralph DeNisco, a consultant hired by the MBTA to work on the improvement project.

Some stops were also lengthened to accommodate the 60-foot long buses, rolled out in 2010 after the 28X proposal imploded.

Many of the recommendations incorporate changes proposed at a public meeting in April, which saw about 20 people attend.

More information about the program is available at mbta.com/keybusroutes.