North Reading Public Transit Shuttle Study
Photo by Paul Morris, Flickr
The North Reading Satellite Shuttle Study evaluated several options for creating a shuttle linking North Reading to commuter rail stations in adjacent municipalities including Wilmington, Woburn, and Reading. The study evaluated routing and operational options and costs, as well as costs to lease or construct a park-and-ride facility for North Reading residents to catch the shuttle. The study included a town-wide survey to gauge resident interest in using a shuttle to connect with rail.
The Town initiated this study to explore ways to connect to MBTA services to improve connectivity and mobility for its residents, particularly for commuters accessing jobs. North Reading is an abutter to communities with MBTA service but does not have any of its own MBTA transit stops or MBTA paratransit services. The lack of access to public transit limits the mobility of the town’s residents, particularly those without access to an automobile and/or who cannot drive. North Reading’s senior population is projected to grow, which will increase the number of residents who will need improved mobility services. In 2017, the Town entered an agreement with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) to provide on-demand service to seniors and veterans to out-of-town medical appointments. North Reading’s Council on Aging (CoA) also has a van and a full-time driver to provide in-town transportation to seniors. While very important, neither service addresses the needs of residents who are neither seniors nor disabled veterans, and who need better ways of accessing MBTA commuter services in North Reading’s neighboring communities.
Previous studies that recognized North Reading’s need for better transit include the Town 2004 Master Plan, a recent survey conducted by the Boston North Regional Coordinating Council, the 2017 North Reading senior and paratransit study, and the 2018-2109 North Reading Master Plan Update.
Study Findings and Recommendations
The study found a considerable level of interest for a shuttle connecting North Reading to the Reading commuter rail station. The suitability analysis shows that a potential shuttle service in North Reading should be concentrated in the more densely populated areas along Park Street/Route 62 and Main Street/Route 28. These were also the corridors that had the greatest concentration of requested stops noted in the Town-wide survey. The study found potential locations for a park and ride lot, with options for either leasing sites or constructing a new lot on Town-controlled property. Three shuttle options—to Reading station, to Anderson/Woburn station and direct between North Reading and downtown Boston—were recommended. Shuttle operating costs could cost the Town between $142,000 and $162,000 annually, depending on the number of trips offered and destinations served. The study finally suggested the Town look at technical and implementation assistance programs available from MassDOT and others.