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The Loop Transit System by SomClimateAction

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The Loop transit system is a fleet of fare-based passenger vehicles that travel planned routes within city limits on a continuous schedule.



The Loop transit system is a fleet of passenger vans/buses that will travel planned routes throughout Somerville city limits on reliable and continuous schedules. The goal of The Loop will be to reduce 85% of individual car trips within the city. Routes will be determined based on efficiency for convenience, wait times, traffic, and transfers to other shuttles. Routes will also take into consideration passenger access within a three minute walk and a wait of less than five minutes for a vehicle to arrive. Once on the shuttle, it will operate like other public transit vehicles where passengers pay a fare and alert the driver to make a stop. Current MBTA bus stops will double as Loop stops. The vehicles will be zero-emissions, either bio-diesel or electric powered. To reduce the cost to the city for providing this service, The Loop will look to the Uber ride sharing model, where drivers own and maintain the vehicles, or a taxi cab business model or a Co-op system.

What actions do you propose?

When people don't have to walk very far or wait very long and know that their ride operates on a reliable schedule, they will be more likely to take that ride, rather than sit in traffic, look for parking and pay meters. When the loop is up and running it will have a positive impact on the city in many ways:

•Reduction in traffic with the goal of 85% less cars traveling within city limits

•Decreased emissions

•Job creation for dozens of full time permanent jobs

•Decrease in the need for parking spaces and can be replaced with permeable surfaces

•Decreased road wear and tear

•Increased pedestrian activity for better health

•Community building.

There will be new policies about driving in the city, enacted by the municipality. Examples would be a time-for-use toll for driving, higher parking meter fees, less parking lots, higher costs for residential parking stickers. We can make Davis and Union Sq pedestrian and public transport access only during certain hours. 

Who will take these actions?

The city of Somerville will create a position for a Director of Transit who will oversee day-to-day operations and a second person for routine inspections of the drivers and fleet.

A task force will be formed initially to perform a variety of duties:

  1. Look at options for co-op and ride-sharing models to find the most cost effective and safest way to provide an accurate amount of no-emission vehicles and achieve the three main goals of 1) 85% reduction in car trips within city limits, 2) passengers can walk to a Loop stop in less than three minutes and 3) a Loop shuttle will arrive in under five minutes.
  2. Once a model is chosen, determine actual cost of the transit system. Research ways to cover costs through grants, government incentives and advertising.
  3. Investigate investment information for individuals who want to join as a Loop owner and driver.  Examples would be offering low-interest loans, insurance reductions, tax incentives.


The city of Somerville will contract a data analyst to determine the most efficient routes based on the three goals listed above and providing access to all corners of the city.

The city of Somerville will contract a Web Designer to create a website and mobile app where passengers can see shuttle maps, schedules and real-time arrivals at all stops.

Somerville Arts Council and resident artists will work with the shuttle operators to make creative additions to the shuttles in both the physical look and opportunities for passengers to be engaged with one another while traveling.



What are the key challenges?

Somerville has approximately 52,500 registered cars. If we could take 85% of those cars off the road, that would be 44,200 cars not emitting CO2 emissions. The Loop vehicles are zero emission so they would not be contributing any CO2.

What are the key benefits?

The Loop will make it easier and faster for people to get around the city and engage in activities they may not have done if they had to walk or find parking. This includes shopping, dining, going to work, visiting friends, attending church, entertainment destinations and transfer to MBTA stations.  When other cars are no longer on the road the shuttles will operate at very efficient speeds.  

It will create cooperative jobs.

It will increase exercise as more people walk to catch a ride rather than just walk to their car.

It will build community. Community notices can be posted in the vehicles. Fun activities could take place, trivia, music performances, readings, yoga, storytelling, news and event notices. People will meet and make new friends.

Somerville will be a pilot city for this to expand to other cities which can then be located at a regional organization like the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The city would incur the cost of two new full time staff people. There would be upfront start-up costs for consultants and short-term hires. Shuttle stop signage would need to be created and installed. Routine website maintenance. The costs of the vehicle will be the owners' responsibility.

The fee for the ride would be comparable to taking a MBTA bus.

Time line

Short term- the formation of a task force to work on a fully devised plan, data collection, mapping and design phase could start within a year. The team should be given a full year to determine all of the logistics and best practices and also a carrot and stick approach to encourage use of the Loop and discourage use of cars (make the Loop fare affordable and comparable to MBTA, increase parking and permitting fees)

The loop could start operating on a pilot basis within 2-3 years from now.

Medium to long term- we can ramp up the system to reach the goal of 85% less trips within the city and transform Somerville into a place where the personal vehicle is a novelty.

We would like to add that this proposal is about starting the discussion about alternative public transportation and how to make it a reality with different options available. Somerville should look to this proposal for ideas to start the research and move into pilot programs to find out what will work best, then grow the system from there.

Related proposals

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