Wellesley could have intra-town bus service, based on a recent recommendation to join the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) by a town committee. And while Wellesley currently makes use of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) paratransit service called The Ride as well as commuter rail service, town officials say the proposed move will simply create new options.
Wellesley’s Public Transportation Working Group (PTWG) recommends that the town join the MWRTA to establish a fixed-route bus system, which will run throughout Wellesley. The system would ideally serve to reduce traffic and increase economic vitality while adhering to the town’s emissions goals, according to the recommendation.
Wellesley’s Assistant Planning Director Michael D. Zehner, who is a member of PTWG, told Wellesley Patch in an interview that joining MWRTA is the best way to implement a sustainable bus service throughout town. The MBTA serviced Wellesley with a bus route in the past, but due to lack of use, funding was cut. Therefore, Zehner said, it’s not likely the MBTA would establish bus service in Wellesley again.
“Joining the MWRTA does not limit any options, it only opens up options we currently don’t have,” he said. “It may not be guaranteed that we’ll have a fixed-route bus service, but it’s currently guaranteed that as a member of the MBTA we won’t have a fixed route bus service.”
Currently, MBTA’s The Ride offers a $2.00 one-way van ride anywhere within The Ride’s service area to people who are unable to use public transportation due to a mental, physical or cognitive disability. Though the MWRTA is obligated to provide comparable paratransit service due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Ellen Gibbs, selectman and member of PTWG, told Wellesley Patch in an interview MBTA's The Ride will continue for now.
“It’s not at all imminently at risk,” Gibbs said.
Preliminary plans for intra-town bus service call for a route which runs the length of Wellesley, east to west, and even provides stops at the Green Line in Newton. The hope is people will be encouraged to stay off the roads in Wellesley and out of the already congested commuter rail lots, Zehner said.
“If we get a bus system running, that’s a lot more people that don’t have to be constrained by parking or their ability to walk [to commuter rail stations],” he said.
Zehner pointed to Weston as having a similar situation to what Wellesley could encounter. Weston belongs to the MWRTA and still has The Ride service, he said.
For now, various town boards and committes are looking over the PTWG recommendation, which will soon be put before the Board of Selectmen for consideration. Zehner said the recommendation will likely only undergo minor changes, if any, before the selectmen see it.
“We’re not in any worse position, we’re still in a better position...as a member of the RTA,” he said.