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MBTA community meeting addresses potential Rt. 57 changes, upgrades

Ralph DeNisco talks about improvements to the MBTA bus routes and Green Line's Kenmore Station Monday night at Boston Arts Academy. ALYSSA TRUE/ Daily Free Press Staff.

Boston University students anxiously waiting for the late Route 57 bus to take them across campus and away from the frosty weather may find their frustrations resolved in 2011.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority recently received $10 million in grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve public transportation. The MBTA plans on improving the infrastructure of 15 bus routes including Route 57, which runs along Commonwealth Avenue through the BU campus and into Brighton, through the Key Bus Route Improvement Program.

The community feedback process of the program began with a public meeting on Monday, attended by project leaders and local community members to discuss better ways of improving Route 57.

“We’re really dependent on the community and interested riders to help us target where we can best spend the money and make improvements on the route,” said project director Erik Scheier.

Ralph DeNisco, a transportation planning expert working on the project, agreed.

“This is the first time in many years that the MBTA is taking a comprehensive look at their busiest routes from end to end to find out ways to make them work better,” DeNisco said.

The project leaders said that there is still much to do. Stretching 5.7 miles, Route 57 is the MBTA’s fifth busiest route and was on schedule 71 percent of the time on weekdays last year.

The MBTA is trying to improve bus reliability, accessibility and passenger amenities, DeNisco said. The program aims to improve new shelters, benches, curb extensions and traffic signal upgrades.

Community members offered suggestions for improving the system at the meeting, from putting trash cans at every bus stop to reminding specific stores to shovel their driveways.

In order to get BU students involved in the process, the BU Student Union invited students through a Facebook group to attend the community meeting and urged them to voice their concerns.

“A lot of students depend on the 57 to get up and down campus,” said School of Management sophomore Prutha Patel, the assistant director of city affairs for Union. “Anything that they’re going to change is going to impact us.”

Students should take advantage of this program to alert the MBTA of improvements that would directly benefit BU students, such as adding charge stations to campus hotspots so that students could more easily charge their Charlie cards, Patel said.

“If you want to see changes in terms of transportation on campus, then definitely feel free to give us input,” she said. “Any feedback is good. We need as much as we can get to push those ideas to the MBTA.”

However, some students said they believe the BU Shuttle is a more convenient means of transportation.

“To the average student, it’s an alternative to the BU BUS if they’re in a hurry,” said Patrick Hermann, a freshman in the Metropolitan College. “I just find it more convenient and cost-effective tracking the BU Bus than taking the 57, but if the BU bus isn’t running, the 57 and the T are the only options I have.”

In the meantime, the project leaders recommend students to email the Key Bus Route Improvement Program with any comments and check up on updates on their website.

“We’ll be back in six weeks to two months with a more refined plan based on your recommendations,” DeNisco said.

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