By Seth Daniel
A new effort by the MBTA to improve bus routes – unveiled last week within the Better Bus program – features one major new service suggestion for Jamaica Plain riders looking to get a direct route to the bustling Legacy Place in Dedham.
The JP suggestion comes amidst a system-wide proposal that seeks to make 47 changes to 63 of the existing routes systemwide.
Wes Edwards, MBTA assistant general manager of service development, said they have 47 changes that were unveiled for discussion on Jan. 28. He said they will be soliciting input at several public meetings and online through March 13.
“We did a lot of outreach over the summer with the Better Bus initiative and fare and wide we heard frequency and reliability as the biggest issue,” he said. “The package is to bring more reliability and frequent service to our customers…There are trade-offs to a lot of these because we have made all of them cost-neutral so we are just re-positioning service and not creating anything new.”
He said the same number of buses, operators and investment would be used, but just in a different configuration.
Melissa Dullea, MBTA senior director of service planning, said they are looking to combine the #34 and #34E into one new route that goes directly into Legacy Place from Forest Hills Station.
That would be an improvement over the existing configuration, which has two very complicated and elongated routes that drop off across the highway from Legacy Place.
“Legacy Place is a great ridership destination not only for shoppers, but also for employees at the grocery store or shops there,” she said. “It’s a growing area and one that’s not well serviced right now…We felt that despite with the 34E’s schedule only once an hour, we still had hundreds of people a day that travelled there. If hundreds are making the trip and crossing the highway, we thought it would have even more riders if it came more frequently and didn’t drop off across Providence Highway. By being able to navigate directly into Legacy Place, it could be a very important route from JP.”
Right now, the 34 also travels that same route but ends at the Dedham Mall, and both routes have many different variations that confuse riders and add time to the trip.
By simplifying the route, the MBTA believes it can attract more riders going to Legacy, and also going to points south on Providence Highway.
“Right now it is difficult to keep track of all the variants,” she said. “This is part of the overall simplification, providing buses more frequently and more legibly.”
The Better Bus Program is having rolling meetings on a real bus to outline the changes they want to make in every locale. This week, they took the show to Sullivan Station in Charlestown. However, next week, on Feb. 27, they will be at Forest Hills Station from 3-5 p.m.