LYNN — Some residents are taking a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposal that would allow buses to idle at a busy corridor on the Lynn/Swampscott line as a threat to their personal safety.
Nearly 100 residents and elected officials packed the City Council chambers at City Hall on Tuesday night for a public hearing on the layover proposal, with many speaking in opposition following a presentation from Kat Benesh, chief of operations strategy, policy & oversight for the MBTA.
The MBTA said additional service created for Lynn riders through bus route changes has made the creation of a bus layover space necessary because buses now need to turn around at the New Ocean Street/Ocean Street/Eastern Avenue area. Putting layover space elsewhere would decrease the frequency of service, according to MBTA representatives.
“I don’t think you can do better time at the expense of everyone’s health and safety,” said Marie Mazzeo, a Medford resident and owner of a residential building at 43 Ocean St., who was speaking on behalf of her tenants.
Overwhelming opposition from residents and city officials killed the agency’s favored proposal, which would have created bus 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.
But residents and City Council President Darren Cyr remain opposed to the MBTA’s two other options under consideration, which would be in the same general area, either the intersection of Ocean Street and Ocean Terrace, or at New Ocean and Ocean streets.
In addition to safety concerns with buses parking and turning around in tight, congested areas, residents also cited problems with smelling bus fumes and privacy concerns, since buses already idle in front of their homes in the neighborhood.
For instance, Bridget Brewer, an Ocean Street resident, said people stand outside her window at all times since a bus stop was placed in front of her home.
“You can see the neighborhood down there is so opposed to it,” said Cyr, who represents Ward 3 where the layover space would be. “It’s such a pristine part of the city … The concern is the amount of parking that would be lost in the area and it’s a heavily, densely neighborhood population that lives there. Nobody wants a bus sitting in front of their house idling.”
Cyr said he would be in favor of layover space at Central Square, where buses have always parked in Lynn before the bus route changes. He also echoed residents who proposed using the Swampscott commuter rail station instead. But he said if the MBTA could figure out a way to add five to 10 minutes onto each route, buses wouldn’t need to idle at all.
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.
“That’s the tradeoff — with the addition of frequency, we need room for them to turn around,” Benesh said. “We’re providing more frequent and more reliable bus service to people around the area. It means we’ve added ridership in Lynn in one of the most traveled corridors.”
The routes together carry more than 3,800 riders a day, 25 percent, or 950, 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.
If layover space can’t be created in the area, Benesh said the MBTA would have to reconsider how it provides service on the 441 and 442. Buses would need to be turned around at Central Square, which would eliminate the 50 percent increase in trips created for those Lynn riders.
But Amy Parker, a Lynn resident who relies on the bus every day, said going back to Central Square would be a step backward. She understands the layover concerns, but said the route changes have improved bus service.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee said he lives in the neighborhood where the two options are being considered for a bus layover.
“I understand the concerns of the neighbors, but there’s also the riders in that area that are going to be substantially impacted if that route gets canceled,” McGee said. “It’s no easy solution when you talk about providing the service and making it work for everyone.”
Benesh said the MBTA was still considering options for layover space, and would take a look at the Swampscott commuter rail station, but explained that option would make its service less frequent. That same reason deterred the agency from using space at Monument Avenue in Swampscott, she said.
The 441 and 442 changes are part of the agency’s Better Bus Project, which included 53 route changes on the North Shore, 29 of which went into effect on Sept. 1.
Layover space in Lynn has to be approved by the Lynn Traffic Commission, which next meets on Oct. 15. But the commission could only set down a public hearing for the matter because members are only scheduled to discuss MBTA bus stop consolidation.