The saying goes: Less is more.
And for the MBTA, less should also mean faster and far more efficient.
This past Thursday, the MBTA came to the Beech Street Center to give residents of Belmont and Watertown a preview of its plan to make one of the transportation authority's busiest bus lines – the number 73 route from Harvard to Waverley squares via Cambridge, Watertown and Cambridge – better by means of subtraction.
A nice-sized audience of more than 70 residents – about a quarter from Watertown and the rest from Belmont – came to hear from MBTA consultant Kurt Steiner, transportation planner for Boston-based McMahon Associates, on the changes coming to the 13th busiest line in its system, serving approximately 2,400 users a day.
The MBTA is also reviewing the route due to the pending Belmont Street/Trapelo Road Reconstruction Project, the state-funded renovation and resurfacing of the major transportation corridor running through Belmont from Cambridge to Waltham.
Working with the town and state, the MBTA is using this opportunity to integrate improvements to the bus route with the construction beginning next year, said Steiner.
And for Steiner, the best method to make the ride along the 73 a quicker ride to Harvard or to Belmont is to make the line more efficient by means of closing down stops.
Currently there are 19 stops inbound (Waverley to Harvard) and 17 outbound (Harvard to Waverley) with buses "on-time" – meeting the schedule interval between buses of about five to ten minutes during peak times – about 83 percent of the time, which Steiner called "pretty good."
But there are a number of stops close to each other, some only 400 feet apart, which slows down the buses. Other stops just don't handle enough passengers to really justify having a stop in those locations.
"There will be fewer bus stops but greater efficiency," said Steiner.
See a map of the proposed new bus stops and propose amenities in the attached pdf file.
Some stops that are likely to be closed are:
• Trapelo at Hawthorne Street outbound.
• Trapelo at Poplar Street.
• Belmont at Oakley Street inbound.
• Belmont at Carver Road.
• Belmont at Templeton Parkway.
• Belmont at Oxford Avenue.
Other stops will be relocated to add length to the stops. The inbound stop at Bartlett Avenue would be relocated to the nearside of Harding while the Cushing Square stop inbound and outbound will be moved nearer to Williston Road, requiring the outbound stop to move from the corner of Common and Trapelo. The Oak Avenue stop will also be moved to the mid-block before Willow while the outbound stop at Oakley will be relocated to the far side of the street.
If there was one unifying comment from the audience, it was said by a woman (who would not give her name) who said, "If you take away our stops, will it mean better service?"
And while he did point to successes in Portland, Ore. and Seattle, Wash. in trading stops for efficiency, Steiner did admit that there isn't precise data that shows this to happen.
"But I am confident that you will see your ride improve," he said.
The other concern from residents was the long frustrating tradition of bus "bunching," in which buses come in groups of two or three at the same time, increasing time spent at stops by customers.
Questions also arose concerning moving stops further away from the business centers especially in Cushing Square where the buses will be moved further from the intersection of Common and Trapelo.