Letter: Casey bus plan harms public transit

October 12, 2012
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The Arborway Committee, a longtime JP organization, has set as its mission a commitment to improving public transportation for Jamaica Plain and its neighbors. To that end, it sponsors public events on topics relating to better streetscapes for pedestrians, cyclists and people with disabilities. It advocates for better options for all sorts of transportation, whether it be walking, driving, taking the T or biking, so that our streets will look better and work better for everyone. A large part of this mission is met by attending public citizen meetings regarding new building and road projects that would have an impact on transportation in, around, and through Jamaica Plain.

Nothing puts this more in focus than the Casey Arborway project now being planned by the Commonwealth’s Department of Transportation (DOT) for Forest Hills. The Arborway Committee has participated in this public process since the very beginning of the planning phase. Now, close to 18 months into this process, we are in the “design” phase, and we are very concerned that the direction of the project is veering from its promise of doing no harm to public transit and trying to improve it whenever possible. We want to call attention to this misdirection for the sake of Jamaica Plain.

The latest design submitted by DOT to the Design Advisory Group (DAG) shows that the Route 39 bus stop at Forest Hills Station will be moved to the upper busway and lumped together with all the other buses along Washington Street near Ukraine Way. From the end of South Street, the Route 39 will have to cross three traffic lights and make a left turn into the busway before arriving at the station. It is explained to DAG that T and City officials believe this change provides for more efficient bus operations while improving automobile traffic. The Arborway Committee asserts that this change will significantly harm the riding public.

Details of the new design show a 30 percent larger busway (by adding an entire third bay), thus narrowing the pedestrian walkway to the entrance and placing the Route 39 passengers much further from the station entrance. A new entrance to the Orange Line will not benefit nearly the amount of passengers as originally intended and makes the north end of the station much harder to cross to get to the Southwest Corridor Park. Six lanes of traffic will now travel through the area without interruption. The previous plan provided for a special U-turn for the Route 39 and a convenient safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists to the Forest Hills plaza from the Southwest Corridor Park.

Thus, rather than improving or keeping transit service the same, it appears that public transit will worsen. We cannot support this new configuration.

The Arborway Committee supports any design that improves bus and transit access, but not one that diminishes it purely for the sake of the automobile as this design seems to do. Please support the Arborway Committee’s opposition to this new plan.

George P. Zoulalian

Arborway Committee representative

Casey Arborway Design Advisory Group

Jamaica Plain