By David Taber
Major changes are in the works for the Tremont Street and Huntington Avenue sections of the MBTA’s Route 66 bus line as part of a $10 million federally funded plan to improve 15 of the transit system’s most-used bus lines.
Route 66 runs through Mission Hill on Tremont Street and Huntington Avenue between Dudley Square in Roxbury and Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Tremont Street between Columbus Avenue and Huntington Avenue will see the highest concentration of changes of anywhere along the route, MBTA Senior Transportation Planner Greg Strangeways said at a lightly attended community meeting at the Tobin Community Center June 22.
Following the meeting, MBTA officials told the Gazette that work on another major Mission Hill bus route, Route 39, is being delayed until next spring, when the Route 66 redesign work is also scheduled to start. The Route 39 work, which includes a controversial bus stop move in Brigham Circle, was not discussed at the meeting.
The proposed improvements for Route 66 include removal and consolidation of some stops to improve travel times, and the addition of amenities like bus shelters and benches at others. The MBTA also recommends roadway infrastructure changes that would improve traffic flow along the route.
The Mission Hill changes include:
• Shortening the stops to 100 feet on the inbound and outbound sides and improving pavement marking at the Roxbury Crossing T Station. The T is also investigating signal improvements at the intersection of Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue.
• Eliminating stops at Parker, Burney, Carmel and Whitney heading inbound toward Dudley Square. Those stops will be replaced with two new stops, one at the far side of Sewall Street near the Tobin Community Center, and one at St. Alphonsus Street.
• Eliminating stops at Parker Street, the Tobin Community Center, Mission Church and Worthington Street heading outbound away from Dudley. Those stops will be replaced with one at Faxon Street and one at St. Alphonsus Street.
• Moving the outbound stop at the corner of Tremont and Huntington down Tremont away from the intersection, so buses have more time to make the left turn onto Huntington. The T is also exploring making the Tremont Street lanes at that intersection dedicated left and right turn lanes.
• Eliminating one inbound stop on Huntington Avenue at the corner of Mission Street. The Huntington Avenue changes were already approved as part of planning for improvements to the Route 39 bus, which also runs on that section of Huntington.
• Moving the current inbound and outbound stops at Huntington Avenue and the Riverway to the corner of Huntington and S. Huntington.
Alison Pultinas, the only Mission Hill resident present at the meeting, voiced objections to the elimination of stops along Tremont Street.
She said those changes would make institutions along that stretch, including the Mission Church, the Parker Hill Branch Library and the Tobin Community Center less accessible.
She also noted that the Faxon Street stop would be located in front of “a vacant lot that is used as a parking lot.”
Consultant Ralph DeNisco said the Faxon Street lot is one of the only places on the stretch large enough to accommodate a bus shelter.
Strangeways said that a key goal of the plan is to ensure that bus stops are an average of 1,000 feet away from each other. Tremont Street is seeing the more changes than any other section of the route because of the density of the stops, he said. Currently, half the stops along that stretch are less than 500 feet away from each other, and all are less than 1,000 feet away from each other.
Lengthening the distance between bus stops is a key strategy for improving travel times, he said.
Pultinas also objected to moving the Jamaicaway and Huntington Avenue stops to the S. Huntington/Huntington corner.
While that would shorten the distance passengers would have to walk to transfer to the Route 39 bus, it would eliminate a natural shelter offered by the Jamaicaway overpass at the original location, she said.
She also noted that the sidewalks and intersection at Huintington and S. Huntington are already congested. The wait at a stop on the outbound side of the street—heading toward Brookline—would be particularly uncomfortable, she said, because of the narrow sidewalk there and an apartment building that comes right out to the sidewalk.
Strangeways said the MBTA would consider not moving those stops.
More information about the proposed changes can be found at www.mbta.com by selecting “T projects” from the dropdown menu item “About the MBTA,” and clicking on “Key Bus Routes Improvement Program.”