The existing transportation infrastructure in the neighborhood – whether by car, transit, bike, or foot – can’t handle the amount of expected growth in the South Boston Seaport District, city officials say.

By 2030, the South Boston Seaport District is on track to be the second-largest employment district in the city with 89,000 jobs, said Matt Moran, transit team director of the Boston Transportation Department (BTD). And by 2030, the number of residents in the Seaport could reach approximately 31,000, matching other high-population neighborhoods in Boston. 

“It’s one of the fastest-growing areas within the state and possibly all of New England,” said Jim Fitzgerald, transportation planner with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

The draft of the South Boston Seaport Strategic Transit Plan was outlined at a recent BPDA meeting. The plan is being undertaken by the City of Boston, jointly led by BPDA and BTD. 

Part of the meeting included breakout rooms for the working group to hear comments, questions, and concerns from attendees.

“Why focus on transit? Well, it certainly fits with all of our city goals as far as moving people better and more efficiently,” Fitzgerald said. “It is necessary for the continued growth that we’re seeing within the Seaport.”

There are already transit service issues with overcrowding, reliability/inconsistency, and non-connectivity, or lack of connections.

Fitzgerald said this plan kicked off in the spring of 2019. A committee meeting set goals for what they wanted to achieve with the planning process and how they wanted to improve transit in the neighborhood.

“We wanted to expand transit, make it better connected,” Fitzgerald said. “We wanted to make it more reliable, definitely more respectable as far as with other modes of travel and other options, and equalize it as far as connectivity and travel time.”

Moran expanded on the goals. “The first goal is to expand service,” he said. “We need more access to get more people into the neighborhood. We need transit to be reliable, so we need to be predictable. We need people to be able to reliably say it’ll take me about the same amount of time today as it does tomorrow … We think transit needs to be respected so transit access needs to be convenient and integrated into all aspects of the neighborhood. And we need it to be equal, so equalize it throughout the day in terms of having consistent headways, having good, accessible bus stops, and the like.”

No one project, agency, or department can fix all of the issues in the neighborhood. It’s going to be a collaborative effort, Moran said. “It’s important to note these plans are not a final design. As we get into specifics, we’re going to have to work with stakeholders, the community, different agencies to really hammer out what the specifics look like, because that’s going to take a number of years to get through some of these issues.”

The recommendations are broken down largely by geography:

  • Local connections within the neighborhood itself;
  • Crosstown connections to different points around downtown;
  • Water connections;
  • Regional connections;
  • Bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements

Focusing on the local connections, the strategies were defined by more transit services operating within a dedicated right-of-way in the Seaport and infrastructure improvements that could support these services with increased capacity. 

Multimodal improvements on the streets will be prioritized, Moran said. “We know that we need to create more intuitive rider-friendly, intra-Seaport transit services. And we think this will result in enhancements to a multimodal network and freight network.” 

Moran said the first thing the planning group is recommending are additional improvements to Broadway Station, which can help people get to the Seaport District by not having to go through downtown. 

The group is looking at the Summer Street Multimodal Corridor, hoping for better bike and transit connections between downtown Boston, the Seaport District, and the South Boston neighborhood, as well as having bus access on the Northern Avenue Bridge.

“We’re looking at a Seaport Circulator, which could potentially use Seaport Boulevard,” Moran said. “That’s one connection I think can be really critical to making trips around the Seaport work a lot better if you’re trying to get from, say, the Marine Industrial Park to Fan Pier, or from one of those locations in South Station that helps to bridge that first mile and last mile gap.”

The group is also looking at bi-directional transit service on A Street that would provide bus service to bring people from Broadway Station up the emerging A Street corridor and get folks into the Seaport or South Station. 

They are also looking at extending a bus rapid transit service into the South Boston neighborhood. “We think this could be helpful in enabling people to better commute and reach other destinations in the Seaport,” Moran said.

The implementation will be over three timelines: 

  • Near-term: 1-3 years
  • Mid-term: 3-10 years
  • Long-term: 10-plus years

In the near term, simple things will be done, including signage and road striping, more service on existing routes, and route adjustments.

From a mid-term perspective, projects would be more significant, Moran said, such as corridor capital projects, new service routes, and urban rail projects.

The long-term projects would be transformative major capital projects.