Written by Pat Blais, reporter for the Daily Times Chronicle.

MIDDLESEX – For those residing and working in Stoneham and Woburn, the Mass. Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) proposed overhaul of bus routes across the state has generated predictable but disparate reactions.

In late June, during a virtual public forum on the Mass. Bay Transit Authority’s so-called “Better Bus” initiative, elected officials and residents from both communities took to Zoom to sound off about a series of planned modifications to regional bus routes.

Residents in Woburn, Stoneham and beyond now have just a few other opportunities on July 26 and July 28 to let their feelings be known about the proposed service area reforms, which also include important changes to 137 bus line with reductions in service along North Avenue in Wakefield and to the 134 bus line with a discontinuation of several stops along the northern edges of Winchester.

Given that Woburnites stand to lose access to a key express bus to Boston while Stoneham will see a long sought-after route between Woburn and Melrose added to its bare-bones menu of public transportation offerings, there were no surprises as to how representatives from each community felt about the changes.

For Woburn, according to MBTA service planner Melissa Dullea, the draft “Better Bus” package now being debated would eliminate the 354 express service that begins in Burlington by Chestnut Avenue and heads into Woburn via Cambridge Street. The bus presently also makes various stops on Lexington Street, Montvale Avenue, and Salem and Washington Streets in Woburn, before heading to the City of Medford and then directly to State Street in downtown Boston.

According to Dullea, though the express busses are some of the MBTA’s more popular services, because most users are still able to find their way into Boston and beyond via a combination of alternative MBTA bus and train services, many of the direct routes are being axed to expand services elsewhere in the state.

“We’re proposing to replace express busses with 7-day a week connections that feed directly into the Red Line or Orange Line or Green Line,” the MBTA senior director of service planning explained during last month’s public hearing.

According to State Rep. Richard Haggerty, who before heading to Beacon Hill served as president of Woburn’s City Council, though area residents may still be able to get to work by taking a combination of bus, commuter rail, and T service lines, the current plan would hurt hundreds of riders.

Haggerty, who in late May sounded the alarm across the city about the proposed changes, further contends that many current MBTA customers in the area will likely hop into their personal vehicles and drive to work each day rather than deal with the added expense and time of changing T services.

“I have heard from hundreds of constituents who are adamantly opposed to doing away with the 354. It is a direct link from my community into State Street in Boston. It’s exceptionally well-traveled and that’s what makes [this proposal so illogical],” said Haggerty during the virtual forum.

“I’ve heard from many, many constituents who rely on that 354 to get in and out of Boston on a daily basis. I just ask you to give this the due diligence it deserves and listen to the people. Please give it some more thought,” later commented Woburn City Councilor Jeffrey Dillon.

Standing to benefit bigly under the Better Bus initiative, leaders in Stoneham – after complaining for years about a lack of MBTA services – find themselves playing the unfamiliar role of transit agency cheerleaders.

Specifically, per the draft list of reforms being considered by the mass transit provider, a new 133 bus would be added to the community that brings a long sought east-west route between commuter rail and Orange Line connections in Woburn and Melrose.

Presently, Stonehamites have access to just one bus, the 132, which heads between Redstone Plaza by the Reading line and Orange Line destinations in Melrose and Malden. The line also makes one stop on Pond Street by Stone Zoo.

The 99 bus, which circles between the Malden highlands and Wellington Center in Medford, also makes a end-of-the-line stop at Stoneham’s former Boston Regional Medical Center (BRMC) by Spot Pond, but the old hospital site has been nearly vacant for close to two decades now. A life sciences campus is now in the works for the Woodland Road area property, where hundreds of apartments and condos have also recently been erected.

Town officials have been urging the MBTA to consider adding one extra stop on the 99 route by a new Fallon Road apartment complex in Stoneham by I-93 and the Winchester line, but that request is currently not being contemplated under the current reform package.

While advising the public transportation experts last month that he will continue to push for that extra stop, Stoneham State Rep. Michael Day during the latest MBTA hearing heralded the proposed 133 bus route.

According to Day, the new service will not only provide hundreds of residents with quick access to commuter rail and Orange line stops on Franklin Street and at Oak Grove in Melrose, it should also provide area citizens with new connections to work sites in neighboring Woburn by Montvale Avenue and Anderson Regional Transportation Center off of Commerce Way.

“I’m very happy to see we’ve received a cross town route. Instead of one bus going into Stoneham, they’ll now be a new cross route for mass transit users. It’s very much welcomed,” said Day.

“We have been years trying to upgrade service for Stoneham with an east-west connection. We need to move our people to the T and commuter rail, so we’re all very happy about the new 133 bus,” later remarked Stoneham Select Board member Raymie Parker.

Town officials in Stoneham have long contended that its business community would benefit massively from expanded MBTA services, which are especially useful for local workers commuting into the downtown area.

In arguing for an east-west connection from Stoneham into parts of Woburn and Melrose, town leaders have also argued that residents would be able for the first time to access public transit services that stop at retail centers and office parks in neighboring Woburn.

Notably, while Stonehamites will now get that access, city officials and commuters who work in Woburn’s various office parks last month lamented they will now be cut off from their workplaces with the loss of the 354 bus.

“I live in Boston and work in Woburn. I don’t have a car. So the 354 bus is really the only way for me to get to work,” vented one Washington Street worker, who identified herself only by her first name of Catherine. “I work at 400 West Cummings park and my understanding is that the stop will be eliminated.. I’ll have to figure out a different way to work.”

“Have you considered advertising directly on the lines [to let riders] know their bus is about to be cut? I suspect that many people don’t know this is happening,” later remarked another regular 354 bus user who identified himself as Tom.

Better Bus initiative
First launched in 2018, the MBTA’s “Better Bus” program is an attempt to overhaul the state agency’s transportation services to reflect regional population changes, new business growth, and more recent changes in employment trends and traffic patterns. MBTA officials say the draft version of the reform package will bring high-frequency service – or buses that make stops every 15 minutes – to an additional 275,000 residents across the state, while weekend services would also be expanded. Program proponents also say the overhaul will bring better service to low-income and underserved communities.

“Greater Boston has changed significantly in recent years, with shifting demographics, emerging employment districts, increasing traffic congestion, and changing travel patterns. 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,” the MBTA says of the proposal.

Residents interested in learning more about the MBTA initiative or who want to view the bus map changes should type https://www.mbta.com/projects/bus-network-redesign/update/bus-network-redesign-proposal#neighborhood into a web browser.

The last set of public hearings are scheduled for July 26 and July 28 at 6 p.m. and residents can register to participate in the discussion by visiting the “Upcoming Events” section of the “Better Bus Project” homepage at mbta.com/projects/better-bus-project.

Last month, during the initial public hearing for the proposed changes to the “Minuteman and Metro North” region that includes Reading, Stoneham, Winchester, Woburn, Burlington, and Wakefield, MBTA representative Justin Antos urged regional riders to take advantage of the remaining public forums, as the feedback will be used to update and make final amendments to the bus route overhaul over the next few

In fact, as the MBTA team made clear at the tail-end of June’s public hearing, they were already willing to revisit the proposed elimination of the 354 bus.

“Perhaps we didn’t get everything right, so stay tuned,” said Dullea in an acknowledgement to those who stepped forward to lament the loss of the Woburn bus line.

According to Antos, following this month’s second and third rounds of discussions, MBTA planners will revise and submit a final version of the Better Bus program overhauls to the agency’s board of directors for approval.

“We are in outreach phase two and we hope to be back in the fall having incorporated and digested all of this feedback from the summer [public forums],” the MBTA director of bus transformation explained during June’s hearing. “The plan is if all goes well, we’d begin implementation in a phased approach over an approximate five-year period beginning in 2023.”

Join WCC Members and Guests on September 12th at the Merrimack Valley Golf Club for our annual golf tournament.


WHEN: Monday, September 12, 2022, 8:00AM shotgun start 

WHERE: Merrimack Valley Golf Club, 210 Howe St, Methuen, MA

WHAT: 18 Holes of golf with breakfast and lunch included

Registration is open now as well as a wide range of sponsorship opportunities. Please visit our golf tournament page for details & registration.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce is proud to support our community. Every year our golf tournaments help raise funds for our scholarships and for donations to local organizations.

Applications are being accepted until June 30, 2022 for our annual scholarship. If you are an employee of a member business or the child of a WCC member, you are eligible and encouraged to apply. Apply online, click here for application.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce is proud to support our community. Every year our golf tournaments help raise funds for our scholarships and for donations such as this one to the James L McKeown Boys & Girls Club of Woburn.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce is proud to award Mike Rose and Chick-Fil-A as business of the month. Mike consistently gives back to the community in many ways and has been a great addition to the Woburn gastronomical landscape.

Shown here is Mike Rose with WCC Executive Director, Chris Kisiel. Thanks for all you do in the community. Congratulations!

We recently held our Annual Celebration at the Crowne Plaza Boston/Woburn. This is our biggest event of the year and a time to celebrate many in our community.

Our Business of the Year Award went to Clear View Eye Associates. Our Humanitarian Award was presented to Dean Solomon for his work with the Council of Social Concern.

It was also a time of succession as Tyler Gates’ term as Board President ended and Electra Govoni stepped into the position. We are grateful to Tyler for all of his time and dedication to the Chamber and look forward to Electra’s leadership.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce announces its August Business of the Month. Belmont Printing is a family owned business that takes pride in “making you look good on paper.” They have been in the industry for over 55 years, and they know great printing!

Shown here is Brian Grace with WCC Executive Director, Chris Kisiel. Thanks for all you do in the community. Belmont Printing. Congratulations!

The WCC gave away two $500 scholarships from proceeds from their spring golf tournament. Shown here is Jenna Casey who received one of the awards (missing from photo Shaina Zaslow, the other recipient). Golf committee members Paul Moriarty, Moriarty Finances, Nick Giokas, from ACP cleaning services, Lejla Rovcanin, from Peoples Bank and Chris Kisiel, ED of the Woburn Chamber. Shown behind Jenna is her dad, John Casey, owner of Locks and Keys/Accurate Glass. Members, employees and children of employees of chamber members are eligible. Congrats Jenna and Shaina. Our next golf tournament is September 27th. Proceeds to go to local charities. Sign up now.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce congratulates Larry Rideout & GIbson Sotheby’s for being named the WCC’s Business of the Month.

Larry Rideout, owner of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty has been very generous to the Woburn Chamber of Commerce and is very involved with local groups including the Lions Club and the Woburn Public Library. 

“Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty is Eastern Massachusetts’ premier real estate brokerage firm—and an affiliate in the Sotheby’s International Realty network, the leading real estate brand spanning key markets all over the world. As one of the most influential Sotheby’s International Realty affiliates, we offer a world of advantages to buyers and sellers—including a heritage of hyperlocal expertise, a reputation for delivering white-glove service, exclusive media partnerships, global marketing reach, and access to a worldwide referral network consisting of approximately 1,000 offices in 75 countries and territories. We offer 24 offices and more than 400 sales associates throughout Boston, Greater Boston, the North Shore, the South Shore, and Cape Cod.” (Read more)

In photo: (from left to right) Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin, Gibson Sotheby’s owner Larry Rideout, and WCC Executive Director Chris Kisiel.

The Woburn Chamber of Commerce has a reputation for hosting highly valuable networking events. In recent months, our multi-chamber mixers have been hugely popular. Our July mixer with the Wilmington-Tewksbury and the Reading-North Reading Chambers was held on 7/27 at Biltmore & Main. Everyone was happy to be together and network in person!

Our next event will be held on August 17th at the 110 Grill on Washington Street in Woburn. You can register here.