The troubled Route 48 bus service—known as the JP Loop—is marked for death in the MBTA’s latest Service Plan.
“The elimination of this route is recommended due to very low ridership and high costs per passenger,” says the Service Plan, a biennial guide to the MBTA’s proposed transit service for the next two years.
Killing the route would strand residents of 125 Amory Street—a public housing development for the elderly and people with disabilities—without front-door MBTA service. The MBTA proposes re-routing the Route 29 bus to include a 125 Amory stop.
The JP Loop links Monument Square in central Jamaica Plain with local Orange Line subway stations via residential streets. It is known for running off-schedule with very low ridership. The route serves an estimated total of 135 riders, according to the report.
Transit advocates on the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) have said for years that the JP Loop would gain ridership if service improved—especially if the route used small vans or mini-buses instead of full-sized buses, as it did when the Loop was created in the 1970s.
But the MBTA tried a different tactic in 2005, controversially making drastic changes to the JP Loop’s route. In fact, it stopped being a single loop. Egleston Square and Washington Street were lopped off and a direct link from Green Street T Station to the Monument disappeared.
The JPNC protested loudly about those changes—which were announced only after they were made—but the route has stayed the same. Within months, the MBTA reported the change was “unsuccessful” in improving service.
The JP Loop began as a popular mini-bus service connecting central JP with the Orange Line, which at the time ran on elevated tracks on Washington Street. Ridership declined after the Orange Line started running on the Southwest Corridor, closer to Centre Street.
Today, the JP Loop route actually makes two loops. Buses start by heading north on Centre Street from the Monument. Then they loop around Paul Gore, Lamartine and Amory streets to link the Jackson Square and Stony Brook T stations.
From Stony Brook, buses head down Amory to the Green Street T Station. The route loops again around Green, Lamartine and New Minton streets. Finally, it follows Amory and Boylston streets back to Centre Street and returns to the Monument.
If the Route 29 bus is re-routed to include 125 Amory Street, it would only provide residents there with a connection to the Jackson Square T Station. And the Route 29 runs only on weekdays, so 125 Amory Street would have no direct T service on weekends. The JP Loop currently runs on weekdays and Saturdays.
The Route 29 currently runs between Jackson Square and Mattapan Station on Columbus Avenue, Seaver Street and Blue Hill Avenue. Adding an Amory Street detour would add five minutes to the trip, resulting in a violation of the MBTA’s own trip-frequency standard, according to the Service Plan. But, the report adds, the delay is worth it to continue serving the apartment building.
The re-routing might also “require the elimination of one or two on-street parking spaces,” the report says.
The Service Plan proposes no other changes to JP routes. It does note that several Forest Hills-based bus routes, as well as the Orange and Green rail lines, run in violation of schedule or passenger load standards. But, the report says, the MBTA lacks resources to fix most of those problems. The Orange Line is undergoing upgrades to its signal system that are expected to boost on-time runs.
The Service Plan notes that the state Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) is running a separate process for improving the Route 39 bus, a major JP transit option and one of the city’s busiest bus lines. “A Citizens’ Working Group is advising EOT, the City of Boston, and the MBTA” about Route 39 improvements, the report says, though the advisory group actually has yet to be formed.
The Service Plan is still a draft proposal that is open to public comments through Sept. 30. The MBTA is holding a series of public meetings about the Service Plan, including one in JP on Sept. 16 at the State Lab. [See JP Agenda.] To view the entire Service Plan, see www.mbta.com. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or MBTA Service Planning Unit, 45 High St., Boston, MA 02110.