Federal stimulus funding of $2.5 million is pushing ahead the South Station Direct Connect. The project will connect the two pieces of the Silver Line from Downtown Crossing to South Station via a dedicated bus lane. At the June 19th Move Mass meeting, MBTA officials indicated that they have not given up on Phase 3, the $1.5 billion underground tunnel, but realistically this is the quickest way to satisfy the connection for the foreseeable future. While less interesting to the North End/Waterfront, the larger $114 million transportation initiative is going toward Route 28x improvements with dedicated bus lanes from Ruggles Station to Mattapan Square forecasted to be available by 2012.
Buses have a bad rap and are considered by the public to be less desirable than rapid rail transit on the T. Bus complaints include slowness, poor reliability, cumbersome connections, crowded buses and bunching. The two initiates are an effort to show how bus service can improve.
The SS Direct Connect will include dedicated bus lanes along Essex St and a new high-tech bus kiosk at the corner of Essex and Atlantic Avenue. The Charlie Card knows if a rider has been active in the past hour so transfers at South Station would be allowed. Stimulus money requires the project to be ‘shovel-ready’ so construction will likely start this Fall.
Attendees at the meeting highlighted some potential problems with the SS Direct Connect:
- The planned turnaround at Dewey Square & Summer Street will be cumbersome
- Essex Street is already too crowded and this may exacerbate that situation
- Some attendees expressed a desire to go straight to rail versus bus line
- Bike lane potential may decrease with the dedicated bus lane
It was acknowledged that current bus shelters are inadequate and the new mini-stations will have enhanced services such as heater lights and bus arrival boards. The need to have Charlie Card refill stations was also highlighted. Questions and comments on the project can be directed to Kate Fichter, 617 973 7342, Katherine.Fichter@eot.state.ma.us.
My thoughts: This seems like a hodgepodge approach. No one that has taken the surface road part of the Silver Line confuses it with rapid transit. Adding a third connecting section that will still require riders to transfer at South Station will likely just add to the confusion.