MBTA: Study Needs to Show Demand for Bus Route
Town officials and several other interested parties in restoring a bus route to the Hathorne neighborhood of town are taking MBTA officials on a tour of potential stops Thursday morning.
Danvers wants a public bus route back in the Hathorne Heights area of town due to an “explosion” of growth over the past decade, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) says that any reinstatement of service is going to be an issue of both cost and demonstrated need.
On the latter front, state lawmakers Rep. Ted Speliotis and Sen. Fred Berry are hoping a bus tour today (Thursday) with MBTA officials will be a first step in demonstrating that need. The bus leaves the Danvers Senior Center at 8:30 a.m. and is scheduled to return at 10:30 a.m. after making 18 stops in the Hathorne neighborhood.
“The plan is to present to the MBTA staff a vision of what the area contains and where each stop would be,” said School Committee member William Bates in an e-mail. Bates is also the district coordinator in Speliotis’ office.
Speliotis and Berry have spearheaded the formation of a group of town officials and other interested parties looking at ways to restore a bus route, which was discontinued in 2002 by the MBTA due to low ridership levels.
“We have two schools here that are built by the state and we have a responsibility to the clientele we are trying to service,” said Speliotis at a recent meeting of the advocacy group last month at the Beverly Hospital at Danvers complex.
Heather Hume, a transportation planner and analyst with the MBTA, told the group that in order for the MBTA to revive the Hathorne route, another route likely has to be killed – cost is a factor as well as need. Currently, the MBTA has two stops in town: in Danvers Square and at the Liberty Tree Mall.
Part of Hume’s job is to service reviews, study new stops, complaints and analyze ridership. She reiterated that the old route out to the former Danvers State Hospital averaged only three riders in a week at times before it was discontinued.
But in the decade since, a number of residential, commercial and medical developments have been added to that northwesterly part of town, and more housing developments are underway.
Enrollment has significantly increased at North Shore Community College and there is the potential for 800 more students once the new regional vocational high school opens on the Essex Aggie campus. The Middleton Housing Authority, which maintains housing just behind NSCC is also interested in utilizing the service.
Selectman Gardner Trask said there has been some “explosive growth in the area.” Trask also noted a bus route would complement affordable housing in town.
NSCC President Wayne Burton said student numbers have gone from 500-3,000 over the past 10 years; in fact, the college pays for busing now.
Mark Whitmore, director of the North Shore Career Center, said it’s a challenge now to get people to the career center. The center is in the process of developing a bus loop between Peabody, Salem and Danvers as part of a grant from MassDOT that was designed to help lower income workers get to work. Whitmore said there is a $2 charge to ride and it’s on a demand/subscription service.
A spokesperson for St. John’s Prep who also attended the April meeting said the high school would like to see renewed bus service as well. There are 1,400 vehicles on campus each day and it would be much greener to make public transportation available.
The lobbying group is considering contracting with another independent service, however, if the MBTA is unable to reinstate its bus line. One option is the Cape Ann Transportation Authority, which does run buses now to the Beverly area and the Liberty Tree Mall from Gloucester.
Selectman Dan Bennett suggested looking to develop a regional program without the MBTA.
The next step for the MBTA will likely be to conduct a study to prove the need now for ridership. Hume also pointed out that every stop on the route would need to be handicap accessible, complying with the Americans with Disability Act.
The 18 proposed stops are as follows:
- St. John's Prep, 72 Spring St., Danvers
- North Shore Community College, 1 Ferncroft Rd., Danvers
- Crowne Plaza Hotel, 50 Ferncroft Rd., Danvers
- Middleton Affordable Housing, Middleton
- Hathorne Green Condominiums, 320 Newbury St., Danvers
- Essex County Corrections, 20 Manning Rd., Middleton
- Essex North Shore Agriculture & Technical School, 580 Maple St., Danvers
- Danvers 2 Group Home Department of Mental Health, 3 Access Rd., Danvers
- Beverly Hospital at Danvers, 480 Maple St., Danvers
- Avalon Bay Apartments, 1100 Kirkbride Dr., Danvers
- CAB Health Services, 111 Middleton Rd., Danvers
- Hogan Regional Center, Hathorne Circle, Danvers
- Hawthorne Hill Nursing Home (to be built), Danvers
- Danvers Plaza, 301 Newbury St., Danvers
- Conifer Hill Drive Office Park, 100 Conifer Hill Dr., Danvers
- Conifer Hill Commons Affordable Housing, 121 Conifer Hill Dr., Danvers
- Rand Circle Affordable Housing, Conifer Hill Drive, Danvers
- Berry Office Building, Conifer Hill Drive, Danvers