Transit Advisory Committee Meeting Takeaways

Transit Advisory Committee Meeting Takeaways

The Transit Advisory Committee met on April 3rd to discuss a variety of projects and plans which effect the Cambridge Community.

The Cambridge City Council’s Transit Advisory Committee met on Wednesday, April 3rd. Below are the four biggest takeaways from the meeting.

The committee began the meeting with a presentation by MBTA staff providing an update on the transit signal priority pilot project. The project’s aim is to provide a more reliable bus system by using signal technology to reduce dwell times for vehicles that operate in mixed traffic. Transit signal priority provides longer green light times or shorter red light times, allowing buses and trains be delivered to their respective scheduled stops in a timely manner. MBTA staff provided updates on the testing and implementation of transit signal priority with options for the city to pursue moving forward. During the presentation by MBTA staff, committee members John Attanucci and Arthur Strang raised questions over the cost of continuing with testing. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” said Attanucci, who is a research associate at the MIT Transit Lab, referring to a concept involving a costly technology from Siemens proposed by the MBTA staff. The transit signal priority pilot project is a part of a wider project intended to provide buses with priority on the street to increase bus reliability.

Andrew Reker, the Assistant Transportation Planner for the City of Cambridge, then presented an update on a project to improve real-time signage for buses in the City of Cambridge. The presentation discussed a survey in which it was found that the public generally found the signs to be useful, easy to read, and in proper areas for ease of finding bus information. The few who did not find these signs helpful, Reker explained, did not provide adequate details as to what precisely was not useful about the signs.

The committee went on to discuss the Better Bus Project as well as recent changes to Route 47. One complaint which many of the committee members expressed was the MBTA’s readiness to make significant changes to the Cambridge bus system without particular input from the citizens of Cambridge. Remarks were made by many of the members challenging MBTA staff about these changes, often revolving around the fact that the people who these changes impact the most have the least say. MBTA staff countered by suggesting these changes would provide faster bus times and more frequent trips despite potentially longer walks for some riders. Members of the committee seemed disappointed with some of these changes, suggesting that the bus may lose riders.

The meeting ended with a workshop on the Transit Strategic Plan, wherein members were asked to bring up any comments or questions about the goals of the plan. The purpose of the Transit Strategic Plan is to develop an action plan for how Cambridge will take a stronger leadership role to improve quality and expand capacity of its transit system. The goals outlined in the Transit Strategic plan revolve around: Mobility, Funding, Efficiency and Reliability, Expansion, Usability, Accessibility and Safety, Public Participation, Support and Outreach, and Resiliency. Members of the committee were invited to read through the plan and express any concerns. Specific concerns were raised over the goal of mobility and Cambridge’s seemingly inability to have any pull in this area.

The next Transit Advisory Committee meeting will be held on May 1st, 2019.