The pedestrian/transit connection—walking to transit

The pedestrian/transit connection—walking to transit

By Erik Scheier/Project Manager, MBTA 

More than 30 percent of MBTA customers rely on the MBTA bus system for all or part of their daily commute. Almost all bus customers traverse public roads and sidewalks to access their bus service, which serves over 7,600 bus stops. Providing pedestrians with a safe, accessible, and convenient path of travel to and from each bus stop is critical if the MBTA is going to adequately serve the public, including seniors and persons with disabilities.

The MBTA’s Systemwide Accessibility Department (SWA) recently completed an accessibility audit of all bus stops throughout the system. The audit revealed that a significant portion of the MBTA’s bus stops have varying degrees of accessibility and safety deficiencies. WalkBoston has been a very active participant in the advisory committee and with MBTA staff carrying out these audits under the Plan for Accessible Transit Infrastructure (PATI).

It’s not uncommon for a bus stop to be located along a busy roadway where there are no sidewalks present. For a pedestrian to get to the bus stop, they must travel along the edge of the road — often less than a foot from a busy vehicular travel lane. In other cases, bus customers are dropped off on an isolated sidewalk or traffic island without any ramps or sidewalk connections. For someone in a wheelchair, they are literally stranded. A significant portion of bus stops don’t meet ADA requirements; pedestrian ramps are too steep or non-existent and sidewalk paths of travel are blocked.

The MBTA is currently advancing a program that starts to address these deficiencies and dramatically improve walking connections to bus service. Starting this summer, the MBTA will be engaging in a yearlong project to construct improvements at over 140 bus stops located in 20 different communities. These bus stops were identified in the recently completed audit as being the worst bus stops in the system in terms of accessibility.

Improvements will include new sidewalks, curbing, pedestrian ramps, signage, and general path of travel improvements. New crosswalks will be installed at multiple locations and several of these will be provided with flashing beacons or warning signs with flashing LEDs. The project will also include limited construction of bulb-outs, bus shelters, and benches.

Along with removing serious safety hazards and barriers to access, these improvements will improve and enhance walkers’ experience along sidewalks and streetscapes. Reconstructed and fully accessible bus stops with customer amenities will improve the experience of our current customers, and encourage new bus riders.

In addition to the MBTA, 15 Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) provide bus service to cities and towns across the state. WalkBoston is expanding our work to help RTAs meet walkers’ needs. By improving customer conditions at RTA bus stops and stations, we can further expand transit use and reduce driving trips.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s March 2018 newsletter.
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