Bus stop cut draws protest flyers

November 20, 2009
By

John Ruch


Gazette Photo by John Ruch
Flyers protesting the upcoming elimination of the MBTA bus stop at South Street and Carolina Avenue hand on a chain link fence that blocks public access to the bus stop shelter.

SOUTH ST.—The upcoming elimination of an MBTA bus stop on South Street, at the intersections with Carolina Avenue and Custer Street, is the target of anonymous protest flyers posted at the stop, which call the cut an “unnecessary hardship” on riders.

Meanwhile, the bus shelter at the inbound stop has been fenced off from public use, and its glass walls removed, as part of the City of Boston’s renovation of the adjacent South Street Mall park.

The bus stop elimination is part of a bigger plan that will improve local bus service, MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette. He said the bus shelter had to be removed as part of the park renovation and is not slated for replacement with the stop’s elimination on the way.

The plan “will enable us to provide more reliable and faster service for everyone,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail. “We will also be able to provide more [bus] stations that have better customer amenities, including shelters.”

As the Gazette previously reported, the MBTA plans to eliminate two of nine bus stops between Forest Hills and Canary Square at S. Huntington Avenue and Boylston Street, while moving others and adding extended sidewalks at some stops. The plan is intended to speed up service on the key Route 39 bus line, though it will affect other routes as well. The changes are slated to begin in the first half of next year.

The protest flyers, which were posted about a week ago and covered with plastic to withstand rain, come in two versions.

One is a print-out of a recent Gazette article about the bus stop elimination plan. The part about the South/Carolina/Custer stop is circled in red. The flyer also includes contact information for MBTA project manager Eric Scheier and City Councilor John Tobin for readers who want to keep the stop.

The other flyer is a copy of an anonymous e-mail reportedly sent to Scheier. “I understand that the goal is to make the 39 Bus more efficient. However, my neighbors in JP were astonished that this heavily used bus stop would not be retained in the new plan,” it reads in part.

The e-mail notes that the stop is next to the Harvest Co-Op Market and an apartment building, and that other area bus stops do not have nice shelters. Cutting the stop would “cause unnecessary hardship to customers of the Co[-]op Market, the elderly, and those who don’t want to get wet,” the e-mail says.

Cambridge-based Harvest could not immediately be reached for comment.

Harvest customers laden with shopping bags are often seen using the 39 bus there. The possible impact on Harvest customers came up several times in meetings of a citizens working group that advised the MBTA for its roughly year-long planning process on Route 39 improvements. But the issue was never addressed in a definite way, and it is unclear whether Harvest was ever contacted directly.

Pesaturo noted that the bus stop is very close to stops at Monument Square and Child Street, and has a “comparably lower ridership” than those stops. Removing it will speed up overall service, he said.

The MBTA plan also calls for moving the inbound Monument Square stop down South Street to Curtis Hall. That brings it close to the current South/Carolina/Custer stop—about 330 feet away. That relocated stop will include a bus shelter, he said.

But in the meantime, users of the existing bus stop will have to go without a shelter. “If the consolidation doesn’t go forward, then the shelter will be reinstalled,” Pesaturo said.

Cutting the South/Carolina/Custer stop will add five on-street parking spaces, while maintaining a bus stop at Child Street to serve the Farnsworth House elderly housing facility, Pesaturo noted.

Jeffrey Ferris, owner of the nearby Ferris Wheels Bike Shop and Fresh Copy store, was a member of the Route 39 citizens working group. He told the Gazette that he does not know who put up the flyers, but that he sympathizes with their concerns.

Ferris added that the relocated Curtis Hall stop could solve the anonymous protester’s concerns. “I guess that would be all right,” he said.

But Ferris had unkind words for the overall bus stop planning.

“The citizens advisory process was a sham, in my opinion,” he said. “It was us talking to Eric Scheier and the T, and Eric Scheier and the T doing what they want to do.”

The Route 39 improvement process had a long and controversial history, and the plan does not appear to contain any significant element that came from the public rather than from the MBTA.

The process was forced to happen by a lawsuit, and was supposed to cover any modes of transit the community wanted to bring up. But state transportation planners quickly made it clear the process would only cover the Route 39 bus, while also running into controversy over invitation-only meetings about it.

The process then became focused on bus stops. The citizens working group was formed, meeting irregularly in lightly attended sessions. The process wrapped up after covering only about one-quarter of the 39 route, which runs between the Forest Hills and Back Bay T Stations. That includes only part of the route through JP on South and Centre streets. It is unclear what will happen to the rest of the route.

Despite the controversies and lingering concerns, the working group approved the general plans to alter the bus stops at an April meeting.

The other bus stop slated for elimination is on South Street very close to the Forest Hills T Station.

The final bus stop locations after the changes will include, by names of the cross streets: Spalding/St. Rose; Child/Jamaica; Centre/South (Monument Square; possibly farther down to Curtis Hall); Seaverns/Burroughs; St. John/Pond; Robinwood/Beaufort; and Roseway/Moraine.

Sidewalk extensions, which essentially turn the sidewalk into something like a train platform, are planned for: Centre/Seaverns (inbound) stop in front of the Purple Cactus restaurant; a new St. John stop (inbound) in front of Gentle Dental; the Roseway stop (inbound); and Perkins (outbound).

No changes are planned at this point for the rest of the stops from Bynner Street in JP all the way to Back Bay Station.

David Taber contributed to this article.