LYNN — Numerous bus route changes affecting North Shore commuters will be implemented by the MBTA Sept. 1.
The agency says the changes will provide more frequent and reliable service for the majority of its riders. Dubbed the Better Bus Project, the T says its plans, which were introduced over the winter and came after a yearlong process, will update and modernize 53 bus routes, including many on the North Shore. The first round of changes, for 29 routes, will begin next month.
“We believe these changes will improve the frequency and reliability of our service while removing the complexity and leading to a more positive experience for all of our riders,” wrote Steve Poftak, MBTA general manager, in a correspondence obtained by The Item.
“MBTA transit riders will see improvements in service,” he wrote. “However, this does require change. Sometimes, this means people will have to ride a different bus, walk to a different stop, or require a transfer between different services.”
But some Lynn commuters are not convinced they’ll see much benefit. Riders who rely on the 448, 449 and 459 buses will see their routes eliminated, causing concern among some residents, who believe the changes will result in a longer commute.
State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said he, along with many other state legislators, have fielded emails and calls from concerned constituents who rely on the bus routes and connections to the subway to get to work. He and other legislators requested a meeting with the MBTA to discuss those concerns earlier this summer, but was told that there had already been related community meetings in Lynn.
“I’m hopeful this results in a better transportation experience for the rider,” Cahill said. “But it’s really hard to get the public to buy into this when the entire MBTA system is absolutely failing. So, as a legislator, I see the work that the MBTA has put into this. But unfortunately, there’s such a low level of trust from the public that I don’t blame people who immediately believe this is going to be a huge failure.”
According the MBTA, Routes 448 and 449 are being replaced by additional service on Routes 441 and 442, which the agency says will allow it to provide more frequent service along the North Shore between Wonderland and Marblehead. The 441 and 442 stop at most 448 and 449 stops, and provide service to Wonderland for connections to Boston.
Melissa Dullea, MBTA senior director of service planning, said the decision was made for 448/449 because traffic congestion in the tunnel increased travel times to the point where service was unreliable. Only 3 percent of the T’s ridership are using that very costly transport” into downtown Boston, she said.
Wes Edwards, assistant general manager of service development for the MBTA, said the proposal was derived from seeking alternatives to ease congestion in the region. The MBTA believes getting people from the bus to the Blue Line will provide a more reliable commute.
For instance, with the 459 bus, all services on this route run to Downtown Crossing. With the change, the route would end at Wonderland, which would help offer twice as many trips on the 455 route.
Edwards said with the increase in traffic backups in the Ted Williams Tunnel, the 459 stop at Wonderland would minimize the three-hour round trip into the city. The change wouldn’t cut the service, it would just reinvest into the 455, he said.
But Jeff, a Lynn resident who requested his last name not be shared, said the changes will make his commute to work more difficult. The 448/449 and 459 buses would all get him to his job in the Seaport area of Boston, but he believes that his commute would take longer if he took the 441 or 442 route, which makes all local stops.
He’s concerned about the winter months when he would have to make multiple transfers during his commute. The bus would get him to Wonderland, where he anticipates he would have to wait in an unheated area for the Blue Line, which would take him to Logan Airport, where he would transfer to the Silver Line 3. The changes will likely alter his commute entirely, he said.
“In all likelihood, I’m going to have to use the commuter rail,” Jeff said. “I need reliability and having to transfer twice makes the bus/Blue Line/Silver Line commute time to be too open-ended.”
Deborah Pikarsky, a Lynn resident, also believes the route changes will make her commute to work twice as long because transfers would result in her taking four modes of transportation, which includes a 20-minute wait for a company shuttle she would have to take from the South Station.
But her options are limited since she doesn’t feel safe at the commuter rail station in Lynn. In addition, in the wintertime, she said the train is sometimes 30 to 90 minutes late leaving passengers out in the cold.
“There are numerous folks on the bus who indicate they will now drive into Boston, (which is) very ironic since this is the job of the MBTA, to encourage riders to take public transportation so the tunnels are not overcrowded.”