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Cambridge, Watertown Declare Success for Mount Auburn Bus Lanes

11:54 AM EDT on August 12, 2019

An MBTA Route 73 bus travels along Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge during the “pilot” phase of bus priority measures in fall 2018. Photo courtesy of Ad Hoc Industries via BostonBRT.

The "pilot" phase for the new Mount Auburn bus lanes in Cambridge and Watertown is over, and the two municipalities are making the new bus lanes and transit-priority traffic signals a permanent amenity for riders of the 71 and 73 MBTA's "trackless trolley" bus routes.

"Based on the results of the evaluation and the extensive feedback we have received, the City of Cambridge and the Town of Watertown will make the changes to Mount Auburn Street more permanent in the next few months," wrote Cambridge transportation planner Tegin Teich in an email to stakeholders.

The pilot project brought several upgrades of Mount Auburn Street near the Mount Auburn Cemetery, where the MBTA's 71 and 73 bus routes converge on their way to and from Harvard Square. During morning rush hours, buses move more people along this segment than private automobiles, even though buses constitute about 2 percent of the vehicles on the roadway.

A diagram of bus route improvements along Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge and Watertown. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.
A diagram of bus route improvements along Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge and Watertown implemented in the fall of 2018. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

A spring 2019 evaluation of the new bus lanes found that bus riders were saving 4 to 5 minutes on an average trip during the morning rush hour, contributing to an estimated 36,000 hours in cumulative time savings for bus riders over the course of a year. The project has also improved the reliability and on-time performance for the 71 and 73 bus routes.

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