Town Offices, Library, Post Offices Closed Monday, Jan. 2; Trash Collection Delayed A Day

Photo: Trash and recycling has been pushed back a day

While nearly all retail and some firms are back to work on Monday, Jan. 2, town, state and federal government will be taking the New Years Day holiday on the second day of 2023.

In Belmont, town offices will be closed as will the Belmont Public Library. The two US postal service sites on Concord Avenue and Trapelo Road will be shut while the MBTA’s subway, bus, and The RIDE will run on a Sunday schedule and commuter rail will run on a weekend schedule.

Due to the holiday, trash and recycling pickup will be delayed by one day.

New MBTA Crosstown Bus Line Proposal Brings Out Critics, Supporters To Public Meeting

Photo: Waverley Street

Last week’s public meeting which unveiled the MBTA’s revamped bus system gave Belmont residents a first look to proposed changes to the bus routes as well as a new line traveling through town.

Andrew McFarland and Olivia Mobayed from the MBTA came before the town’s Transportation Advisory Committee – the host for the July 7 virtual public meeting – to present the Belmont portion of the T’s Better Bus Project, the authority’s system-wide overhaul of bus service including current routes such as the popular 73 from Waverley to Harvard Square and the 75 from Harvard to Belmont Center. It was also a first look at the proposed 54 line, a new crosstown bus in which riders can travel into Arlington or head south through Watertown and Newton.

This plan is to ”rethink routes,” ”renovate and overhaul bus service” so that the public will find it ”simpler and easier to use,” said McFarland. For the MBTA, the meeting was an opportunity to present the draft to the community and receive feedback, he said.

See an earlier report on the changes to the Belmont-related routes here.

The big news was the first public revealing of the draft of the new 54 route, in which Waverley Street would join Lexington, Common, Leonard and Pleasant streets to create the Belmont portion of the new line from Arlington Center to the MBTA Green Line Riverside terminal in Newton. The 54 would replace the 554 – a six-day a week route that has infrequent times – that terminates at Waverley Square on Trapelo Road across from the Belmont Car Wash.

McFarland said the new 54 would allow for a “crosstown connection” where riders can travel directly to a desired location such as Arlington Center rather than take a bus into a “hub” such as Harvard Square to take a second bus to the destination.

The existing routes running through Belmont would see seven-day-a-week timetables with more frequent bus service as well as earlier start times and late night buses. The new plan calls of a return of buses traveling under the commuter rail bridge after two years when the introduction of new buses required routes to stay on the southside of the commuter rail line. Mobayed said the reason the routes would transit into Belmont Center is due to public sentiment. “They’d like it back” in the business district for convenience and safety, she said.

Olivia Mobayed from the MBTA’s Better Bus Project

The new routes entering Belmont Center via the commuter rail tunnel has been identified as a potential trouble point due to the size of the tunnel. Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s director of the Office of Community Development, said one of his concerns was if the two lanes currently under the bridge is reduced to one to squeeze the bus through the tunnel could result in major backups during the 90-minute rush hour.

Yet a test run along the route in which Mobayed took with MBTA bus instructors and training staff ”got there just fine.” McFarland said, at this time, “all stakeholders are working together to get under the bridge.”

“So, there are some challenges – including the “tight” corner at Common and Waverley – “to make the trip safe but it is feasible,” said McFarland.

When the meeting was open to public comments, critics of the new 54 route were quick to point out a list of issues using Waverley Street, eager to point out a litany of limitations and problems from traffic bottlenecks, impassable sections, afternoon and weekend parking along Town Field, blind driveways, crowds of children close to the road, unshoveled sidewalks, as well as an onerous steep incline at Edward Street that one resident called ”dangerous.”

“I am a proponent of public transportation,” said Debbie Dobbins of Waverley Street, ”but I see a serious degrading of the quality of life.”

What many opponents viewed as a compromise alternative route was for the bus to travel the length of Pleasant Street from Waverley Square to the Arlington line at Route 2, which would have the added benefit of skirting the commuter rail tunnel. But Mobayed said that proposal would severely limit the number of people and neighborhoods that would benefit from a new bus line including the town’s distressed business center and Belmont’s veteran’s public housing location.

For those who said they welcome a bus route close to residents and the business community, the challenges of a Waverley Street as well as getting three bus routes under the Belmont Commuter Rail tunnel shouldn’t be any more difficult than what the T has done for decades in urban communities such as Malden and Somerville where narrow streets and bridges are a norm.

Proponents of the new route were eager to have the route approved. Belmont High student Sophia Jensen told the meeting the route would be “extremely beneficial” for students who depend on parents to drive them and allows for much needed independence.

Brooklyn native Ade Baptista said he had ”heard a lot of concerns about safety” on Waverley Street, an issue that he believes doesn’t acknowledge that the MBTA employees are “professional drivers,” something he has seen using the system.

”This will be a boom for the town” as cars will be taken from street and a great number of people will use the bus to travel into Belmont Center. ”People will support that.”

While the pros and cons made their points, McFarland said before the proposal can move forward, it still will need to clear the T’s own safety committee which is somewhat down the road.

”This is a draft plan, just that,” said McFarland.

Learn More About New T Bus Line That Runs Through Belmont In Virtual Meeting Wednesday, June 22

Photo: MBTA meeting on new bus routes including one through Belmont. (credit: Wikipedia)

As part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Bus Network Redesign initiative – to re-imagine the MBTA’s bus routes to better serve current and future bus riders – the authority is holding a series of regional meeting to present and discuss the new bus lines that will be a central component of the redesign.

One of the featured new bus lines will run from the MBTA’s Green Line D Riverside Station in Newton to Arlington Center passing through Waverley Square, Belmont Center and down Pleasant Street to the Arlington line. Below is the link to the meeting:

June 22, 6 p.m.: Bus Network Redesign – Minuteman & Metro North (Virtual)

Between now and through the end of July Mass Department of Transportation and MBTA staff will be collecting feedback through multiple platforms.

Below are additional information about the Redesign Initiative:

  • A link to an interactive version of the draft map is available here.
  • There are a series of detailed, community-specific booklets that include comparisons between the draft map and today’s bus system, and a summary table of all route changes. You can find a link to all the booklets here.
  • Members of the public can see how this proposed bus system could affect their personal travel by entering origins and destinations in this digital Trip Planner, which compares their potential commute with today’s network. You can find a link available here.
  • The public can share their feedback on the draft map here through this feedback form.

T Proposing New Bus Route Running From Waverley Square To Arlington Via Belmont Center

Photo: A new proposed MBTA bus route could be up and running in Belmont one year from now

The MBTA is proposing a new bus route for Belmont – dubbed the 54 – that bisects the town from Waverley Square via Belmont Center as it heads to Arlington as part of its long-awaited Bus Network Redesign project.

With greater Boston undergoing shifts in demographics, changing employment districts, and increased traffic congestion, “the Bus Network Redesign completely reimagines the MBTA’s bus network to reflect these changes and create a better experience for current and future bus riders,” according to the website announcing the initiative on Monday, May 16.

The proposed Route 54 – which replaces parts of the existing 67, 505, 554 and 558 routes – will run from Arlington Center via Belmont and Waltham Center to the MBTA’s Green Line D Riverside Station in Newton. The bus will enter Belmont at Lexington Street, travel to Waverley Square then head up Trapelo Road onto Waverley Street. It will turn onto Common Street and travel under the commuter rail bridge into Belmont Center on Leonard Street. It will make a right on Pleasant Street and proceed to Arlington Center.

It will run on the half-hour “or better” from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. If the demand is there, service could begin as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m.

The changes will also include the elimination of the 74 line that runs from Belmont Center to Harvard Square via Fresh Pond. To compensate for the loss of the route, the 75 line – which also runs from Belmont Center to Harvard Square but on a more elongated path – will see more late-night and Sunday service.

The popular 73 line – which the MBTA calls one of 30 “high-frequency” bus routes in the new system – from Waverley to Harvard Square will remain unchanged. The 78 line, which travels on Blanchard Road and Brighton Street, will see trips reduced from one every 30 minutes to once an hour. And the 78 and 62 lines will no longer travel on Hinkley Way and Frontage Road while the 76 line will continue on its familiar route to Alewife.

At Monday’s announcement, Kat Benesh, the T’s Chief of Operations Strategy, Policy & Oversight, said the initial route changes from the new bus network would begin “no sooner than spring or summer 2023.”

Goodbye Trolleys: MBTA Prepares For Rechargeable Buses On 73 Line By 2024 With 2 Yrs Of Diesel Vehicles Starting In March

Photo: Goodbye, old friend: The trackless trolley will run for the final time in March.

One of Belmont’s most notable features, the MBTA’s trackless trolley with the accompanying electric wires running nearly the entire length of the town along Belmont Street and Trapelo Road, will be coming to an end in March after more than 60 years in service.

As part of the MBTA’s modernization plan for bus travel, the heavily-used 73 bus line from Harvard to Waverley squares will be serviced by a fleet of new electric-powered buses that will be recharged at the T’s bus service facility in North Cambridge thus making the overhead cables obsolete, said Patrice Garvin, town administrator in a report to the Select Board on Monday, Jan. 24.

The town was notified last week the final trackless trolley trip will travel through Belmont sometime in March, said Garvin.

But until the MBTA completes a two-year refitting of its facility to allow for recharging to take place, Belmont commuters and travelers will be hopping on the authority’s diesel buses, similar to those running on the 75 line from Harvard Square to Belmont Center. At that time, the cables will be removed.

”So [the MBTA is] saying they’re gonna take down the electric wires that run the electric buses to run diesel buses to convert to electric buses which makes zero sense. Welcome to the MBTA,” said Board Chair Adam Dash.

While Dash noted any work to remove the cables will be “massively disruptive” for residents, Community Development Director Glenn Clancy said with his experience with the MBTA on the Trapelo Road Reconstruction project, it’s likely that work will be done at night when volumes are down.

The trackless trolley – a bus retrofitted to use the overhead cables – replaced the historic streetcars in the 1940s that ran on rail tracks along the same route for nearly 75 years. The rails were never removed and lie under the blacktop along the route.

A history of the trackless trolley era in and around Boston – with several mentions of Belmont – can be found on the Boston Streetcars website.

Streetcar #396, built for Boston’s West End Street Railway in 1900. Converted to an electrical test car in 1922, it was sold to the Seashore Trolley Museum in 1954. In 1962, the MTA restored it to its 1915 appearance (BERy livery) for the film The Cardinal, with scenes filmed in Belmont. (Credit: Elizabeth K. Joseph from San Francisco, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Commuter Rail Late Night, Weekend Service Ending As T Reduce Service

Photo: Commuter rail service will see cuts in 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic essentially keeping workers at home and away from crowded public transportation, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority announced it will be making significant reductions to the level of service in the next year.

For Belmont residents, the reduction will be felt by those who travel on the commuter rail out of Waverley and Belmont stations, while those who take buses are being spared at this time.

There will be a virtual meeting on service cuts for the region Belmont is in on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

“In order to protect essential service for those who depend upon it, we need to reduce service where there are fewer riders,” said the MBTA in a press release on Monday, Nov. 9.

Commuter rail

The cut in service will impact the Fitchburg line of the MBTA’s commuter rail service. Currently, the commuter rail trains are running at 10 percent of pre-COVID-19 ridership levels, according to the T.

Starting sometime near May 1, 2021, the commuter rail will:

  • Suspend weekend service.
  • Halt service after 9 p.m.
  • Reduce the number of trains during the weekday peak by more than 10 percent.

While Belmont two stations have some of the smallest ridership numbers, they were not on the list of six stations that will be closed due to passenger reductions.


While bus ridership has seen a reduction of 40 percent since March, the MBTA will continue all bus lines running in Belmont with only the 554 (from Newton Center to Waverley) will be “shortened.”

All other routes that travel throught Belmont – 67, 73, 74, 75, 78, – could see possible reduction of service levels if ridership continues “below baseline.”

Starting in summer 2021, the T is planning systemwide changes to buses:

  • Stop all service after midnight althought early service will continue on “essential” bus routes.
  • Reduce frequency on essential routes by system-wide average of 5 percent – will vary by route, high ridership will not be changed.
  • Reduce frequency on non-essential routes system-wide by 20 percent; will vary by route based on ridership.


For Belmontians who use the Alewife and Harvard Square subway stations, the subway system will see all service ending at midnight and a reduction of overall service by 20 percent.

New MBTA Hybrid Buses Arrive In Belmont Center With New Stops

Photo: A new hybrid Xcelsior MBTA bus in Belmont Center

In the past two weeks, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has introduced its new fleet of hybrid buses on routes coming into Belmont. And as a result, long-standing stops in Belmont Center has been replaced due to the size of the new vehicles.

The new Xcelsior manufactured by New Flyer of America brings a better ride for commuters with greater fuel efficiency, according to the MBTA. But due to its higher profile, the buses could not pass through the tunnel over the Belmont Center commuter rail station.

The result has been a new stop impacting routes 75 and 74. are now on Concord Avenue adjacent to the First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist.

The new route from Cambridge requires the buses to continue on Concord Avenue rather than make a right-hand turn through the tunnel, loop around the WWI Memorial, and take a left onto Common Street and back towards Cambridge.

With New Buses Too Tall For Tunnel, Belmont Center T Stop Moving To UU Church

Photo: A current MBTA bus that fits under the commuter rail tunnel at Belmont Center.

The fleet of new buses purchased by the MBTA since 2017 will “help fulfill its environmental needs while increasing transit service,” according to the mass transit public agency.

The 350 hybrid Xcelsior vehicles manufactured by New Flyer of America are cleaner and far more fuel-efficient than the all-diesel buses being replaced, can hold more commuters, and best of all, will “provide a more comfortable ride for passengers.”

And they’re too tall to clear the Commuter Rail tunnel in and out of Belmont Center.

When the T took an XDE40 model for a spin to Belmont in the fall of 2019, it was discovered that the height of the new vehicles could not travel in the right-hand lane as it passed on Concord Avenue without taking off the top of the bus on the underside of the tunnel’s ceiling.

“The negative for Belmont and a handful of other communities that have this type of a bridge feature on their routes is the bus is too tall to get under the bridge,” said Glenn Clancy, director of the Office of Community Development and the town’s engineer before the Select Board this week.

The issue facing the T is the design of the commuter rail tunnel is a barrel vault which is a self-supporting arched form. Because the tunnel’s height diminishes as it curves to meet the supporting walls, a large vehicle that can successfully pass under using the middle of the road does not have the same clearance remaining on one side of a typical two-way road.

“I was at the MBTA in December and the new buses came up in conversation,” said Clancy. As a result, “the [MBTA bus lines are] not going to enter Belmont Center anymore.” The bus lines impacted are numbers 75 and 74.

The news couldn’t come at a more disadvantaged time for commuters as the new buses will come into service “at a June-ish timeframe,” said Clancy.

The current Belmont Center layover for MBTA buses at Alexander and Leonard.

For the faithful commuters who board the bus at the layover site adjacent to the Belmont Fire Station at the corner of Leonard and Alexander Avenue, the new buses will require riders to hike about a quarter-mile to a pair of proposed replacements stops and layover locations.

“[Town Administrator Patrice Garvin and I] were tasked with trying to find a new location for a layover. So working with the MBTA … we looked at some of the concepts and … there are two places where it would make sense: either in front of the Lions Club or in front of the First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist on Concord Avenue across the street from the post office,” said Clancy.

But both locations have their own challenges. While the Lions Club site would be more convenient for commuters as they would not have to cross either busy Common Street or Concord Avenue, there’s this little thing called the Christmas tree sale, a more than 70-year holiday tradition that starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving and lasting until Christmas day week.

“I see that as one of the real civic functions that it’s a high profile thing that happens in the town. I don’t want to be known as the guy who resulted in the Lions Club not having this function every year,” said Clancy.

As a result, Garvin and Clancy had a conversation with a couple of members of the club stating their concern that the buses could make it by the club’s operation for the five weeks of the sale. Their response was positive.

“They’ve assured us that they can do that,” said Clancy.

But what determined the new location was an MBTA requirement a potential layover location would be long enough to accommodate two buses. The Unitarian Church has the space between their driveway curb-cuts while it would be a stretch at the Lions Club and along Royal Road.

Clancy said the First Church site has pedestrian access with the crosswalk in front of the post office, and while it would have been more desirable in front of Lions Club because there is a pedestrian underpass at the Lions Club, “we’ve settled on the [First Church] location to do this.”

“The T has already sent the bus out they’ve already made the route (which will require the bus to make a right-hand turn, loop around the WWI Memorial, and take a left onto Common towards Cambridge). They know they can make the turns so everything is great in that regard,” said Clancy.

As State, MBTA Ease Community Path Obstacles, Final Decision On Route Set For Feb. 25

Photo: Jody Ray, the MBTA’s assistant general manager, pointing to the Brighton Street crossing.

In a significant concession to help push a final decision on a preferred route for the Belmont segment of a 102-mile bike trail, representatives from the MBTA and the state’s Department of Transportation said they could support a community path along either the north or south side of the commuter rail tracks from the Cambridge town line to Belmont Center.

At a standing room only Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday night, Jan 28, the two officials whose statements this past summer highlighting safety concerns at the commuter rail crossing on Brighton Street pushed Selectmen to revisit a north route to the consternation of Channing Road residents, noted their agencies consider the path a “high priority” and want to keep the project moving forward. 

When asked by Selectman Tom Caputo if both potential routes “were both fundable,” Jody Ray, the MBTA’s assistant general manager for Commuter Rail, said while the authority’s focus is on safety, “there’s no fatal flaw” for either a north or south path if a fix could be developed for the Brighton Street crossing.

But while the declarations would appear to allow the path to proceed along a southern route as the board decided more than a year ago, the reemergence of problems with several “pinch” points along the first several hundred feet of the southerly path could eventually keep the route on the north side. 

At meeting’s end, the Selectmen circled Monday, Feb. 25 as the date when it will declare which of the two routes – north or south – will be selected, a decision more than three decades in the making. 

At the Monday meeting, Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said Belmont would be seeking the maximum $300,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s MassTrails Grants program, to be used for project development and design. Those monies will either supplement or defray the $1 million in Community Preservation Committee funds approved by Town Meeting in May. With a Feb. 1 deadline looming, the town would need to submit a plan that selected either one of the two routes. 

Ray and Michael Trepanier from the state’s Department of Transportation were asked by the board to attend the meeting to provide their view on which path option would receive a more favorable reading. 

The Board of Selectmen voted in Dec. 2017 to adopt the recommendation of PARE Consultants to build a pedestrian tunnel at Alexander Avenue and proceed along the south or High School side of the commuter rail tracks.

But that decision is now in “flux” according to Selectman Mark Paolillo, due to “serious safety concerns” the MBTA presented to the town’s attention in July that bicyclists would cut diagonally from the south side across the rail/road intersection at Brighton Street to engage the existing bike trail to Alewife Station. At the time, town and Belmont’s elected officials were told the state would be “reluctant” to fund a southern route.

In addition to the safety concerns, the MassDOT declared it would no longer require funding for the Alexander pedestrian tunnel to be linked with a south path. With the changes, town officials and elected officials determined the town should pursuit a north route, to the frustration of several Channing Road homeowners who have long complained of a lack of privacy and personal safety with a well-traveled trail.

Ray and Trepanier were asked to speak at the meeting as many residents sought a direct answer from the state and MBTA.

The DOT’s Trepanier put his cards on the table early: the state wants the Belmont section built as it will connect other sections and Belmont has committed sizable funds for design and feasibility studies to the project.

“A high priority corridor”

“The state recognizes this is the Belmont portion of the Mass Central Rail Trail, a high priority corridor for us working at the state level,” said Trepanier which will impact if the project is selected for a grant. But he said that if the MBTA’s issues with bicyclists safely cross the rail tracks at Brighton Street – cyclists would likely travel diagonally across the tracks rather than at crosswalks or sidewalks and would not encounter the safety gates when they close as a train approaches – were not resolved than possible future funding would be “negatively impact the favorability” of the project.

“Bicyclists don’t tend to make right corner turns, they’ll take the shortest distance” which is hazardous when a train is approaching, Ray said. 

Since the MBTA wanted gates to prevent residents from going into the crossing, Selectman Paolillo suggested a system in which additional gates onto the path to cutting all access to the intersection which incidentally is being discussed for an intersection in West Concord.

When asked by Selectmen Chair Adam Dash if such a design addition – which Trepanier called “a really innovated thing to do” – would change the MBTA’s concerns on the southern route, Ray said while the authority always wants a crossing away from the tracks, “we will consider it.” And Trepanier said, “the caveat would be that we’d want … to engage in national best practices on how we deal with these hazardous locations.”

But Trepanier added there needs to be some “amount of practicality and pragmatism inject here” and while the MBTA had “raised the red flag” on their safety concerns, “we recognize people can [cross at an angle] today. The path is there and we don’t want to exacerbate a safety issue because one fatality is a fatality too many.”

“There are details like this that need to be worked out in order to ensure that working with a partner that we could assuage their concerns or make the situation safer,” said Trepanier.

While the state and MBTA may have softened their objection to a southern path, it also brought to the forefront an issue of “pinch points” along the start of the route from Brighton Street towards Belmont Center. While both trails need to contend with buildings and right of ways to have the required width that will allow access for emergency vehicles, a southerly route would require the town to take a portion of two sites, the Purecoat structure and the building housing the Crate Escape, a dog daycare business, through a sale or by an eminent domain taking.

In fact, the analysis of possible routes by the Pare Corp. which conducted a near year-long feasibility study of the community path did not take into consideration the price of acquiring portions of the two businesses. Amy Archer of Pare said she would begin a new study to reevaluate how much the town will undertake in the additional costs.

And the price tag for a southern route could be significant upwards to several millions of dollars, according to resident and path supporter Paul Roberts. Resolving the pinches will be “at least as daunting” as solve the safety problems at Brighton Street. He said there is no such impediment on the north side of the tracks; the only reason the board will not declare its preference for the route has less to do with safety or cost but as a political decision to placate the Channing Road homeowners.

But defenders of the southernly laid out path challenged the price differential by proposing using town streets including Hittinger Road to avoid the buildings altogether.


MBTA Commuter Rail Train Struck Man at Brighton Street Crossing


The MBTA Transit Police reported a man was hit by a Fitchburg-bound commuter rail train at the Brighton Street crossing at approximately 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, March 8.

The Transit Police, which has jurisdiction on MBTA property, said the man, believed to be in his 60s, suffered life-threatening injuries. Belmont Fire and Emergency Medical Service treated and transported the victim to an “area hospital.” 

While the incident is under investigation, foul play is not suspected. 

The Brighton Street crossing has seen its share of incidents including a man killed by a train in February 2009 and a woman seriously injured after her vehicle was caught between the gates in December 2016.