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MBTA and Lynn at odds over proposed bus layover location

Buses will no longer idle in the John Flenniken Triangle following a compromise between city officials and the MBTA. (Olivia Falcigno)

LYNN — Residents and city officials are steaming over a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) proposal that would allow buses to idle at a busy intersection on the Lynn/Swampscott line. 

The MBTA is considering creating a layover space at the John Flenniken Square, also known as the John Flenniken Triangle at the intersection of Ocean Street, Eastern Avenue and Lynn Shore Drive.

“I am in vehement opposition to this location as it will negatively affect traffic flow and serve as a nuisance to this neighborhood,” said City Council President Darren Cyr, who added he was blindsided by the proposal, in a statement posted on his Facebook page Monday night.

Cyr, who represents Ward 3 where the triangle in located, told MBTA representatives at a Lynn Traffic Commission meeting Tuesday night that creating the layover space would eliminate much-needed parking in a highly populated area. He said it was disrespectful to allow a bus to sit and idle at an island dedicated to a WWI veteran. 

The John Flenniken Triangle is one of three options being considered by the MBTA for layover space in the same general area, according to Kat Benesh, chief of operations strategy, policy & oversight for the MBTA. The agency is working with city and state officials to schedule a public hearing on the proposed locations in the next two weeks. 

Benesh and two other MBTA representatives were scheduled to speak at the meeting about bus stop consolidation in the city as part of the agency’s Better Bus Project, which included 53 route changes on the North Shore, 29 of which went into effect Sept. 1.

But the commission opted to allow the layover proposal, which wasn’t on the agenda, to be discussed because more than 50 residents and elected officials packed the Lynn Police Station Community room solely for that topic. 

The creation of layover space is necessary, Benesh said, because of the increased service created in the city by eliminating Routes 448 and 449. The routes were replaced by additional service on Routes 441 and 442, which the agency has said would allow it to provide more frequent service between Wonderland and Marblehead. 

The routes together carry more than 3,800 riders a day, 25 percent of whom are between Central Square and New Ocean Street. The change allows the MBTA to provide a 50 percent increased frequency of trips to Wonderland for riders in those two areas, Benesh said.

“However, in order to provide this additional service, we now need to turn buses around near this New Ocean/Ocean/Eastern variant,” Benesh said. “At the end of every trip, we put a little bit of dwell time, layover time/recovery time, where we actually have buses hold anywhere from three to five, eight minutes typically so they can start their next trip on time, so that’s what we’re looking for.” 

If the MBTA can’t put a layover spot at the triangle, or somewhere around there, Benesh said the agency would have to reconsider how it provides service on the 441 and 442. 

But residents who live nearby were not pleased. 

Pam Knight, who lives at 16 Ocean St., said buses have already started idling at the proposed location, which creates a serious safety issue in a congested area. 

When a bus was parked one day, Knight said it obstructed her view from her driveway and she almost got hit when pulling out. She and several other residents were also concerned about breathing in fumes from the parked buses. 

Roberto Gallo, who resides at a condo building at 3 Lynn Shore Drive, said the fumes would prevent him from enjoying the ocean breeze at night.

“That’s one of the reasons I live on the beach, because I want to open my windows and doors and enjoy the atmosphere there,” he said. 

Swampscott Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and Board of Selectmen chair Peter Spellios submitted a letter of opposition to the proposal. 

“We find it unacceptable that the MBTA would advance a project like this without reaching out to Swampscott to discuss the impacts and alternatives,” reads the letter. “As one of the most densely settled towns in the Commonwealth, the impact to open space and the desecration of a war memorial park clearly reflects the lack of careful planning.” 

The Traffic Commission voted to table all votes on proposed MBTA bus consolidations, at the request of Cyr, until a public hearing could be held on the layover proposal. 

“I think all options are on the table,” said state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn). “I think the three options were what the MBTA looking at it objectively thought was helpful to creating a better experience for users and reducing traffic in that area. 

“However, residents and community members have a different opinion and that’s why the meeting was postponed and the discussion will be moved to a proper forum to pick the most optimum location for the MBTA, residents and the commuters.” 

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