Friday, December 18, 2009

MBTA Tries to Improve Bus Route 23

The No. 23 bus became notorious in March, 2007, when an 18 year-old passenger was fatally shot. But the route between Ashmont Station and Ruggles Station has long been a source of complaints from riders. The complaints are mostly about service being slow or erratic—long gaps between buses alternating with buses in rapid succession.

The route’s one of 15 the MBTA plans for improvements to be funded by federal stimulus money. But changes aimed at speeding up the service--such as consolidating or relocating stops-- can either help or hurt, depending on the location. And, if slowing down can contribute to tensions or provide more opportunities for violence, having one more stop—for example, near Jeremiah Burke High School—can help students avoid walking through hostile gang territory.

In contrast with service on rapid transit, buses involve more improvisations. At one stop, a driver might save time by not pulling all the way over to the curb. There might also be an extra stop for that stooped elderly woman with a cane.

It’s also not unusual for a No. 23 bus to have some of its passengers standing all the way from Ashmont at least as far as Dudley Square. That can be a problem even for riders capable of standing up and keeping their balance: just watch the scramble along the crowded aisle when someone tries to get off. Or watch the slow influx of riders trying to sidestep a stroller parked near the front door.

For more on the process for planning improvements, see the Dorchester Reporter.