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MBTA Proposes Interim Plans in Lieu of Green Line Extension

Ideas include brining the Commuter Rail to Union Square, increasing the frequency of buses, free Charlie Cards, lowering the speed limit on highways and letting solo drivers in electric or hybrid cars use the HOV lane.

Facing a court order to mitigate vehicle emissions by 2014, the MBTA is offering interim solutions as it works toward its long-term goal of extending the Green Line through Somerville into Medford.

The transit department released a lengthy list of possible interim solutions Monday.

They ranged from more frequent bus services to creating bike lanes on Route 28 to free or cheap Charlie Cards for riders living within the mitigation area.

"These ideas have not been endorsed or accepted by MassDOT," a MassDOT statement said. "These assessments will next need to be formally analyzed, using the air quality modeling methodologies of the Central Transportation Planning Staff."

The Green Line Extension was originally expected to be completed by 2011, then delayed to 2014, . Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Somerville, .

The extension, which would bring the Green Line trolley line into Somerville and Medford, is part of a settlement agreed upon by the state to address the environmental impact of Boston's Big Dig. As part of a court agreement, it was supposed to be complete by the end of 2014 in order to offset air pollution caused by the Big Dig highway project.

In the document released Monday, planning staff assessed about 122 different mitigation ideas in a spreadsheet, called a "matrix."

"The matrix includes a variety of types of potential mitigation measures, including operational improvements to the existing MBTA bus and rapid transit system, the introduction of new bus and rapid transit services, the construction of new MBTA stations and other transportation facilities (including multiuse paths), and policy and programmatic initiatives aimed at reducing vehicular travel and improving regional air quality," according to Monday's announcement.

The proposals are intended to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Here are some of the ideas:

  • Increase frequency of Green Line trains to Lechmere
  • Put Commuter Rail stations in Union, Gilman or Ball squares
  • Increase bus frequency on a number of bus lines
  • Provide financial subsidies to the public to purchase electric vehicles
  • Lower the speed limits on highways
  • Provide free air at gas stations for better tire inflation
  • Use low emissions MBTA buses in Somerville, Medford and Cambridge
  • Use "open-road" tolling on MassDOT tolled highways
  • Retrofit Duck boats with hybrid engines
  • Construct the Somerville Community Path
  • Give out free or discounted Charlie Card MBTA passes in the area

You can read the entire document here or in the PDF attachment to this article.

MassDOT asks for public input on these "interim offset mitigation measures" by July 16. You can do so by emailing planning@state.ma.us.

O June 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Building a commuter rail stop in union square would be the easiest stop gap measure. The tracks are there and there are already stairs leading down to the tracks for workers and emergencies, just build a platform and give us a stop.
mplo June 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Somerville is one of the most, if not the most densely populated cities here in the New England area, and, because of the way Union Square is designed, traffic, especially during the morning and late-afternoon/evening rush-hours, can be really really horrible. Buses aren't any more efficient than cars when it comes to getting around this city, or the Boston area generally. The MBTA should really rethink its overall attitudes and behavior before proposing increased bus service. Increased bus service isn't the answer, because buses not only slow up traffic considerably, but they cause just as much pollution as cars do.
kevin thomas crowley June 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
O. GOD DO YOU HAVE COMMON SENSE. WHY WE LET THESE SUBURBANITE TRAINS PASS THROUGH SOMERVILLE WITHOUT STOPPING, IS BEYOND ME. THESE TRAINS ONCE STOPPED IN A NUMBER OF PLACES IN SOMERVILLE. MY UNSUPORTED IMPREESION IS THET WHEN THE 'ETHNICS' MOVED IN THE SUBURBANS DECIDED TO JUST PASS US BY.
dj June 30, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Really, no compromises! Why can't the extension to Union Square be built first and then the longer path to Medford. The money wasted on studies could have gone to wha tis essentially a straight forward simple proposal for Union Square. I cannot believe that all of the suggestions by the MBTA will not add up to the cost of doing this. The alternatives that require legislative change will take years to pass and those that don't are laughable - "retrofit duck boats" - how does that help Somerville - will they be picking us up to drive us to work? Disgusted with this whole foolish process....
Marjorie July 01, 2012 at 10:25 AM
I agree build the extension to Union Square as a compromise. Renegotiate the longer extension to Medford later. Marj.

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