City Plans To Clone Roslindale’s Washington Street Bus Lane

An outbound bus-only lane to match the existing inbound lane is being planned for mid-2020.

A Forest Hills-bound bus bypasses morning traffic on Washington Street in Roslindale. Photo courtesy of the City of Boston.
A Forest Hills-bound bus bypasses morning traffic on Washington Street in Roslindale. Photo courtesy of the City of Boston.

The City of Boston is tweaking the details on plans to roll out a new southbound peak-hour bus lane on Washington Street in Roslindale this spring, roughly two years after a similar northbound bus lane debuted on the opposite side of the same street.

A map of the proposed Washington Street rapid bus corridor from the GoBoston 2030 action plan. Courtesy of the City of Boston.
A map of the proposed Washington Street rapid bus corridor from the GoBoston 2030 action plan. Courtesy of the City of Boston.

In a presentation to WalkUP Roslindale, a neighborhood advocacy group, on the evening of January 14th, City of Boston transit planner Matt Moran outlined the city’s plans to designate Washington Street’s southbound curb lane as a peak-hour bus and bike lane for several hours each afternoon, possibly as soon as this spring.

Washington Street between Roslindale Village and the Forest Hills station carries 10 MBTA bus routes and several additional school bus routes, and about 19,000 riders each day. During rush hours, roughly 3 in 5 of the street’s users are riding buses.

The street’s northbound curb lane was designated as a part-time bus and bike lane in the spring of 2018, and attracted this coverage from Streetfilms:

A Street is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Boston's Newest Bus Lane from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

That bus lane, in effect from 5 to 9 a.m. each morning, has been an overwhelming success. MBTA data indicate that the typical bus rider has been saving over an hour every week since the new street design took effect.

But many of those same riders have remained stuck in traffic on the way back home every evening. Planners estimate that a typical evening peak-hour bus gets delayed for 10 to 15 minutes during the 1.2 mile trip from Forest Hills to Roslindale Village.

Illustration of a transit queue jump
An illustration of a “queue jump” lane, which gives buses a space to jump to the front of the line at traffic lights. NACTO illustration courtesy of the City of Boston.

The city’s plans for a new southbound lane will come with some additional improvements as well. Among other things, the city is considering the installation of what could be Boston’s first “transit queue jump” lane, which would set aside a 24-hour no-parking zone approaching the traffic light at Washington and South Streets in order to give buses a place to bypass lines of stopped cars (see illustration at left).

The queue jump lane would work in conjunction with upgraded traffic signals that will be able to detect buses as they approach, and minimize the time they spend waiting at red lights.

Those traffic signal upgrades should benefit bus riders in both directions, and lead to further travel time improvements on the existing northbound bus lane as well.

Moran told WalkUP Roslindale that the city was still refining elements of the plan. Unresolved issues include whether the city should establish residential parking permit programs to manage what appears to be a significant amount of on-street commuter parking, especially near Forest Hills station, and what the hours of the evening peak-hour lane should be.

Moran stressed that because the potential benefit to thousands of bus riders is so large, the city is eager to make improvements soon.

The city plans to host an open house for the project in February and continue to do outreach for the project in the coming weeks, with project implementation scheduled for the springtime.

 

 

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