Monday, February 23, 2015

Go to public meetings

A chart that looks conspicuously like one which has
appeared on this page.
I went to a public meeting tonight regarding the 70 bus. I go to a decent number of public meetings, and this one piqued my interest because of my interest (and use) of the 70. So I trudged out in the 5˚ temperatures to Watertown to talk bus schedules.

So did a couple dozen other people. But, of course, they didn't want to talk about the nitty gritty of bus schedules. They wanted to air their completely unrelated concerns. Melissa Dullea, who manages to not roll her eyes back when people yell at her about completely unrelated topics, was great, and the conversation was steered slightly in the direction that it needed to go. She also gave me a shout-out and used a modified version of my 70 bus post to illustrate the headway issue on the route.

But we also got to discuss such important items as:

  • Whether the T was going to eliminate stops at senior housing
  • How the straps on the buses aren't low enough and that's why there isn't enough capacity
  • That people don't move to the back of the bus and could drivers please make announcements more often (why people don't take initiative and ask themselves is beyond me)
  • It would be great if there was a device that would tell you when the next bus was coming that didn't require a smart phone. We have those. They're called smart phones. (The best exchange was when one guy said "it would be a big seller" and someone else said "no, it wouldn't.)
  • That those straps sometimes are missing completely and what can you do about it. (Why not tell the T the bus number.)
Just another day riding the 70. Or, as I like to call it, the 140.
What I'm trying to point out here is that if you don't go to a public meeting, these people will. It's not that their concerns aren't valid, but they're noisy, and completely uneducated. It's kind of like NIMBYism: they care only about what directly affects them, with no concern for the greater good. And then when there's actually an issue: a poorly-timed bus route, like the 70, they service planners will think that no one actually cares, because all they hear about are bus strap heights. I'm serious. Go to public meetings. 

There was a great presentation later about an app ( which will allow people to report bus issues to a central database. Right now it is Watertown-specific, but I think it would be portable to the whole system. I love user-generated feedback like this. Now if there was only a device which would let you find out when your bus was coming that wasn't a smart phone.

I left a few minutes early to catch the 70. And of course, two buses came at the same time.


  1. I feel like that conversation could've used a bit more steering, and a bit more "Thank you, we have heard your concerns and they are valid concerns, please let others speak". Because ultimately, I feel like all those people want is to be heard, and the quicker you can acknowledge that, the quicker you can get on to actually productive discussion. There were some good comments in there, like the idea to reroute the 57 around the Watertown Square jam during rush hours. Maybe next time I'll try a bit harder to get a word in between the complainers.

  2. What kind of input were they looking for? "Would you like us to improve the reliability and predictability of the 70 bus? Yes or no?" Do they want to know when the buses seem overcrowded to the riders? Why wouldn't they just ask the bus drivers?