Calling all T riders

January 9, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

JP a test site for transit-user data collection

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) wants to know where JP bus riders stand, but it isn’t sure how to ask.

The agency gave citywide nonprofit WalkBoston $94,000 to conduct an 18-month study testing different methods of data collection. The JP end of the Route 39 bus line—already the subject of a state improvement planning process—is the Petri dish.

As of November, when the funding was awarded, the group has 18 months to test out different information-gathering methods. This month marks the first time shoes will hit the pavement, as WalkBoston staffers and in-terns head out to bus stops on South and Centre streets and S. Huntington Avenue to survey bus riders.

They will conduct some traditional face-to-face interviews, but also offer some riders Palmpilots to fill out electronic surveys. The surveys will attempt to supplement ridership counts regularly conducted by the MBTA. They will attempt to find out things like how often people use the bus and how far they walk to get to the bus stop, WalkBoston Senior Planner Robert Sloane said.

Later on, as the state-run process moves forward, the group plans to host community meetings and attend meet-ings with community groups to present and gather feedback on transit improvement proposals. It will also develop and advertise a web site to expedite public feedback.

The state’s improvement planning process—run by the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) and the MBTA—is developing a proposal to consolidate and redesign bus stops along the entire Route 39 corridor between the For-est Hills T Station and the Back Bay T Station downtown.

That process—originally announced in 2007—was the result of a lawsuit settlement between the EOT and the non-profit Conservation Law Foundation. An EOT-appointed working group made up mostly of JP residents began meeting late in 2008.

The meetings have so far not been publicly announced, but MBTA planner Eric Sheier, who is running the proc-ess, said he would start forwarding meeting notices to the Gazette.

While the state improvement planning process will consider the entire span of the bus route, WalkBoston’s study will focus solely on the JP end, Sloane said.

“We are not doing Longwood or downtown. Past JP would be too much to cover,” he said.

The Longwood Medical and Academic Area and downtown Boston are also complicated because they host major in-stitutional and commercial districts, he said.

“It’s better to bite off something we can actually chew,” Sloane said. “The FTA is looking for models that are replicable around the country.”

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