Commonwealth Magazine by Bruce Mohl

City officials and FMCB’s Lang say it isn’t working

THE MBTA UNVEILED the “Chelsea Plan” in May to address lengthening commute times into Boston, but now the plan is coming under fire from a member of the Fiscal and Management Control Board who says it isn’t working.

At last Monday’s meeting of the control board, Brian Lang said the Route 111 bus, which carries about 12,000 passengers a day, is facing an “immediate crisis.” He demanded an accounting from T officials at this Monday’s meeting.

In a memo to Chelsea’s city manager in early May, T General Manager Luis Ramirez outlined what he called the Chelsea Plan to address ongoing issues with the commute between Chelsea and Boston and the prospect for more severe delays during a series of construction projects on the Tobin and North Washington Street Bridges.

Ramirez said the run time of the 111 bus could be up to 45 minutes longer during the peak construction period in July 2019.  “Outside of July 2019, the route could be up to 20 minutes longer than the current run times,” he said.

The 111 bus runs from Everett through Revere and Chelsea, over the Tobin Bridge, and to Haymarket in Boston via the North Washington Street Bridge. The buses are often crowded and regularly run late because of traffic congestion. The 111’s performance has also suffered in the past because the T frequently diverted its buses and drivers to plug holes in the schedule of other, less frequent routes.

The Chelsea Plan called for adding five drivers to the 111 route to eliminate cancellations and easing congestion on the bus by diverting passengers to the Silver Line, the 116 and 117 buses that connect to the Blue Line at Maverick Station, and to commuter rail at Chelsea Station.

Ramirez said T research indicates 59 percent of the Route 111 riders are within a five-minute walk of the 116 or 117 bus. The research also shows 40 percent of Route 111 trips start or end within a quarter mile of Chelsea Station or North Station.

To encourage more Chelsea residents to take commuter rail, the T said it wouldn’t charge them if they had a Charlie Card. Damali Vidot, president of the Chelsea City Council, told CommonWealth last week that many of the conductors were never informed of the arrangement and nothing came of it. “It’s been a mess,” she said.

On Friday, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the transit agency had alerted conductors again to the Chelsea Plan’s terms.

“It has been brought to the T’s attention that some commuter rail conductors were not aware of the directive issued in the spring, so we spoke with Keolis and the attached directive was re-issued this week,” Pesaturo said in an email. “The MBTA apologizes to any customers who were told their Charlie Cards were not valid for a trip to North Station.”