Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

The Select Board at its June 27 meeting followed recommendations by town planning and unanimously approved consolidating MBTA bus stops on Park Avenue.

The board’s motion includes a caveat to reexamine and possibly reestablish the Wachusett/Hillside stop, though it’s not contingent that it must happen. The board will seek feedback from planning, MBTA and outside consultants.

For a full schematic of all proposed bus-route changes, see among all of the agenda documents >>

'Safety nightmare'

“Park Ave. and Wachusett Ave. can be a safety nightmare, so I’d want Hillside and Wachusett put back in before we vote on this,” said board member Eric Helmuth. “Several of my neighbors have disabilities and need that stop.”

Board member John Hurd said: “This looks good on a flat map, but it’s a hilly area, and can be a burden on people if we remove these stops. A lot of people use the Wachusett and Hillside stops, and I see several residents going up and down this area in wheelchairs. We want the bus accessible for them.” 

MBTA Senior Transportation Planner Olivia Mobayed said, “It’s difficult to make the intersection of Park Ave. and Wachusett Ave. accessible, and provide a safe crossing across Park Ave. That was a main reason to move that pair, along with low ridership; many routes affect fewer than 10 riders a day,” said.

Daniel Amstutz, town senior transportation planner, said, “In general, the public didn’t want any stops removed, but certain stops have challenges in being made accessible, including those with pedestrian or traffic safety issues. These are more difficult to retain.” 

Proposed improvements

Bus stops 

The accessibility upgrades and relocation, elimination and consolidation of Arlington’s bus stops is part of the MBTA’s Bus Stop Accessibility and Safety Improvements Program. 

These changes aim to create safe and accessible bus-stop locations for all riders, and improve service and reliability. Specifically, they improve bus stops for ADA access, consolidate bus stops too close to one another into new stops and eliminate high-barrier and low-ridership stops, according to a Dec. 3, 2021, Department of Planning and Community Department notice.

MBTA Project Manager Bob Zou said this project would: 

  • Improve customer safety, accessibility and ADA compliance for customers with mobility issues; improve sidewalks to make them ADA compliant; and add bus stop signs; 
  • Add high-priority bus stops that currently have major access barriers; and 
  • Enhance speed and reliability operations through stop optimization.

Seven bus stops will be improved, six removed and three stops consolidated into two stops. For a complete schematic of bus stop changes, see the link to agenda documents.

Mobayed said that several considerations went into designing the bus-stop improvements and removals, specifically roadway configurations and safety considerations. 

“The standard assumption that we used is based on a multitude of factors, including congestion, stop lights versus signs and ridership. For each bus stop removed, the run time can save about 30 seconds. With a busload of people, that can add up to multiple minutes or even hours per day,” said Mobayed. 

Planned changes 

The following bus route changes are planned: 

  • Route 62 (Bedford VA Hospital – Alewife): weekday peak a.m. and p.m.
  • Route 76 (MIT Lincoln Laboratory – Alewife): weekday peak a.m. and p.m. 
  • Route 62/76 (Bedford VA Hospital – Alewife via MIT Lincoln Laboratory): weekday midday and evening, Saturday
  • Route 78 (Arlmont Village – Harvard Station): weekday, Saturday, Sunday

“The proposed network does not recommend any changes to the way that buses navigate throughout this area; the changes are in terms of service levels. “We propose that Route 62 runs seven days a week, instead of the current six days. Route 76 will be peak only on weekdays. Route 62/76 would be separate routes. Route 78 would have some potential scheduling changes as well,” said Mobayed. 

Route 84 has been suspended, because of Covid, for at least 18 months, and is not part of the proposed redesign, said McMahon Associates Project Manager Natalie Raffol. 

Schedule 

“We plan to finish this project during this construction season. This is a realistic schedule; we’re finalizing the presentable design, and then it takes time for us to mobilize and conduct some surveys,” said Sandra Clarey, McMahon Associates project manager and senior transit planner.  

Board praises overnight/permit parking pilot forum 

 The townwide overnight/permit parking pilot forum June 23 drew helpful feedback, said Select Board members said at its June 27 meeting. 

The forum discussed how the board should move forward to pilot overnight and permit parking. Arlington’s Police Chief Julie Flaherty and Officer Corey Rateau attended, and presented data regarding complaints and ticketing.

Approximately 80 people attended the forum.

Attendees were “pretty much evenly split among people who support doing it versus those in favor of keeping the status quo, although it tipped more toward us doing something. Strong opinions were expressed civilly, so it was a good forum, and we got a lot of good ideas,” said Len Diggins, board chair and forum co-leader.

“It’s not a matter of whether we do it; it’s a matter of how we do it. We want to get back to the residents by October at the latest,” added Diggins.

Board member and forum cochair Steve DeCourcey agreed that “there were differing views, but it was a great discussion. All the comments were helpful. We’ve realized that the more you look into this pilot, the more you realize how many facets it has.”

Board member Eric Helmuth added, “I was struck by the fact that people, even if they disagreed with one another, listened to and respected each other.” 


This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

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