METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – Imagine coming home after a long day of work in Boston. Your train leaves South Station a few minutes late, and as it pulls into downtown Framingham close to an hour later, the bus that was waiting to pick you up drives away, leaving you stranded on the platform.
Delays are common for passengers on the MBTA’s Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line. And while they’re a minor annoyance for some, an extra two minutes can be disastrous for others who rely on a bus connection to get home.
Hoping to reduce those missed connections, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) will test a new way for riders to communicate directly with bus dispatchers. A mobile phone application will allow riders of the MWRTA’s commuter shuttles to give the authority feedback on bus performance and alert drivers when trains are running late.
The program aims to improve “last mile” of service, the term for regional bus routes that allows passengers to complete their trip using public transportation rather than driving to and from the train station.
The phone application will be rolled out first to riders on commuter shuttles, which link with the MBTA’s Green Line and commuter rail trains, then to riders on all other MWRTA fixed-service bus routes.
“As the application is used and feedback is accumulated, MWRTA will be able to accurately track ridership increases and adjust commuter schedules,” the agency said in an announcement. “Additional service will be considered, if necessary.”
The initiative is one of two pilot programs being launched this year by the MWRTA, which received $700,000 of grant funding from the Mass. Department of Transportation to test methods to make regional bus service more innovative, sustainable and competitive.
It will also test a new shuttle bus along the Rte. 20 corridor, which will allow commuters to reach the MBTA’s Riverside station in Newton, providing an easy connection to the Green Line.
The shuttle will run from the Wayside Country Store in Marlborough, where the MWRTA’s existing Route 7C service ends, to Riverside, picking up passengers in Sudbury along the way.
The service will benefit not only riders in Marlborough, Sudbury and Wayland, but also reverse commuters who need to travel from Boston to job sites along Rte. 20, or to travel farther into Marlborough.
“The pilot shuttle will begin as one bus, running during peak commute times in the morning and evening,” reads an announcement. “MWRTA will aggressively market the shuttle, provide outreach as necessary, and use the phone application to track all feedback and ridership received. As the shuttle gains momentum and ridership increases, MWRTA will consider adding additional buses and make any changes necessary in order to make the shuttle more efficient for commuters.”
In a prepared statement, state Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, said the new shuttle will provide a welcome alternative for commuters who drive to work, and reduce carbon pollution and traffic.
“This project supports a reliable and responsive public transportation network,” Gentile said. “I thank MassDOT for their role in this timely innovation, and the MWRTA for once again increasing transportation services for residents of the MetroWest.”
The state offered a combined $5.1 million to regional transit authorities last year to launch innovative pilot projects. MWRTA Administrator Ed Carr said the authority received the most money of any RTA in the highly competitive grant process.
“This speaks to the extreme need for growth in the MetroWest region, and I applaud MassDOT’s vision for seeing that,” Carr said.
This article by Jim Haddadin originally appeared here.