Urban Ring: A transit injustice in the making?

June 20, 2008

Monday night in Roxbury, the state Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) held the last in a series of meetings about the Urban Ring. This proposed network of bus rapid transit (BRT) lines would run in a loop around Downtown Boston, offering connectivity for communities that are underserved by the MBTA's rapid transit routes.

A slide in the consultant's presentation on the Urban Ring

Employees of Earth Tech, the state's consultant for the project, shared how the Urban Ring would pass through the Melnea Cass corridor, using renderings and design guidelines from the Roxbury Master Plan. After passing through a tunnel under the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA), the Ring would come above ground at Ruggles Station, then travel in a dedicated busway on Melnea Cass Boulevard. Some service buses along the Urban Ring would also include a stop at Dudley Station, running in mixed traffic down Washington Street. These presenters insisted that the Urban Ring would provide accessibility benefits to Roxbury residents and learn from the mistakes of the Silver Line Bus.

Despite problems with facilitation and misleading information about the format of the meeting, TRU members and Roxbury residents were able to raise some critical concerns about the project. A vast majority of the project's funds ($1.5 billion out of $2.2 billion) will go towards the tunnel under the LMA. Other neighborhoods will have to deal with the noise pollution and traffic congestion of running buses above ground. This hugely disproportionate investment is another instance of transportation racism and classism that we fight against.

Without investing in a high quality rail system, the Urban Ring seems destined for the same corner-cutting and problems as the Silver Line. The planners insisted that running the bus down the center of Melnea Cass would vastly improve delays that the Silver Line Bus faces. Even though the Urban Ring buses would not have to wait for cars parking curbside, it would still face delays from snowplowing, cross-traffic, left-turning vehicles, and emergency vehicles. We have no reason to believe that enforcement of bus only lanes would be any less abysmal than it is with the Silver Line Bus. Furthermore, 46 percent of the proposed Urban Ring's right of way is nonexclusive; a large portion of the project is simply running limited stop buses on congested roadways.

ACE urges the EOT to seriously consider the service problems Roxbury residents face on the Silver Line Bus. There is no excuse to repeat those mistakes, and there is no excuse to continue this transportation injustice.

If you are interested in the future of transportation in Roxbury, consider attending the next T Riders Union meeting or the Washington Street Corridor Coalition meeting this Monday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Central Boston Elder Services in Dudley Square.