Find Out When a Shuttle Will Come to Town for Businesses, Residents

Town officials have been working on creating a shuttle system to serve the new developments in town, both business and residential, and Thursday night the consultant working on getting it off the ground said the small buses should be rolling in late 2016 or early 2017.

Patrick Sullivan, of the 128 Business Council, gave an update on the creation of a Transportation Management Association (TMA) to the newly formed Town Council Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation.

The goal of the TMA is to reduce the number of cars on the road in Watertown, as well as improve public transportation. Right now the it is focused on the main “spokes and hubs” in town and the town relies on the MBTA for service. Several new residential project have been built along Pleasant Street, and projects to build new apartment buildings and office developments have been approved for Arsenal Street.

The TMA shuttles are intended to link these complexes to major T stations, such as the Harvard Square Red Line Station, the Waltham Commuter Rail Station and eventually the Allston Landing Commuter Rail station being built next to New Balance.

Progress, So Far

Sullivan has been meeting with employers and owners of large office complexes including Boylston Properties (owner of the Arsenal Project, the Marriott hotel and the office complex at 480 Arsenal Street), Athenahealth, Tufts Health Plan, and Riverworks.

Part of what he plans to do is conducting commuter surveys to find out where employees are coming from and what time they arrive at work and leave.

“We get their home zip codes to get a sense of where people are coming from,” Sullivan said. “And find out how many live close to the Red Line.”

He also met with some of the larger residential properties, including Watertown Mews and Gables Residential, which is developing 202-204 Arsenal Street. Sullivan said the shuttle will be a draw for the apartment buildings.

“If they can put a picture of a shiny shuttle on their website, they can attract residents who don’t need to have two cars,” Sullivan said.

What’s Included

The TMA is more than just the shuttle, Sullivan said. It also includes incentives to try transportation, discount passes, organizes car pools, plus provide emergency rides home for people who took public transit to work.

“One of the reasons why people like to have a car at work is if they have an emergency,” Sullivan said. “We will arrange so if they have a sick child at school they can get a ride home.”

There will also be special events to encourage employees to bicycle to work. One idea is teaming with Landry’s Bicycles to lead bicycle outings from work, and show people routes to work and even tips for bicycling on streets, Sullivan said.

Before the shuttle starts running, Sullivan said he plans to talk to residents to find out what they would like to see from the TMA.

Resident Jonathan Bokian said he wondered if the shuttles would run in different areas than the MBTA runs.

“I am interested in cross-town travel,” Bokian said. “Buses go hub and spoke but not much cross town.”

Resident Maria Saiz said she is excited about having a shuttle so she won’t have to drive her car and pay $5 to park at the MBTA lot on days she does not bicycle to work. She also said the area of town that borders Belmont could use more transit options.

“There are so few options. You have to walk to the 73 bus, which is jam packed by the time it gets to Common Street and it takes 45 minutes to get to Harvard Square,” Saiz said.

State Rep. Jonathan Hecht offered his help to secure any state money that could help fund the shuttle and TMA.

Next Steps

There are many items that still need to be worked out, Sullivan said. The TMA needs to get a formal name, and a website will be launched.

A fare system needs to be worked out. Sullivan said he hopes to have a system that could be flexible and be used for other things, such as the T, unlock a Hubway Bike along with getting on the Watertown shuttle, for instance.

Of course, the TMA needs to secure dues paying members to help pay for the service. Most recent developments have been required to join as part of the approval to build the project. Sullivan is working on signing others up. He said the website and marketing material will help sell the TMA to organizations.

The current timeline, calls for launching the shuttle in late 2016 or early 2017, Sullivan said.

Article can be found here: http://www.watertownmanews.com/2016/02/12/find-out-when-a-shuttle-will-come-to-town-for-businesses-residents/