T Announces New Bus Lane Projects, Targeting 6 Regional Bottlenecks

A rendering of a proposed center-running bus transitway for Columbus Avenue. The project would extend from the Jackson Square Orange Line station, through Egleston Square (pictured) to Franklin Park, and is scheduled to go under construction this fall for completion in 2021.  Courtesy of the Boston Transportation Department.
A rendering of a proposed center-running bus transitway for Columbus Avenue. The project would extend from the Jackson Square Orange Line station, through Egleston Square (pictured) to Franklin Park, and is scheduled to go under construction this fall for completion in 2021. Courtesy of the Boston Transportation Department.

The MBTA will partner with the cities of Boston, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea to set aside roughly 14 miles of new dedicated bus lanes in the coming months in an effort to improve bus service reliability and reduce crowding as the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new bus lanes include several projects that have been in the works since before the pandemic – like an outbound Forest Hills-to-Roslindale bus lane on Washington Street in Boston – plus some newer bus lane projects that specifically aim to address crowding on high-ridership routes.

While transit ridership overall is down dramatically, ridership on MBTA bus routes has been more resilient – in part because essential workers are generally more likely to live near a bus route than near a subway station.

The T estimates that, even under current, reduced levels of ridership, these bus lane projects would benefit over 50,000 riders every weekday. When ridership recovers to pre-pandemic levels, these lanes will improve speeds and reliability for over 110,000 weekday riders.

The MBTA has budgeted $20 million to implement these projects, with some additional support from the cities themselves.

New bus lane projects that the MBTA and municipalities will implement in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, overlaid on a map of bus delays on the MBTA's high-ridership bus routes.
New bus lane projects that the MBTA and municipalities will implement in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, overlaid on a map of bus delays on the MBTA’s high-ridership bus routes.

The six new bus lane projects (mapped above, alongside the MTBA’s estimates of typical passenger delays on key bus routes) include:

  • Center-running bus lanes and stations on Columbus Avenue in Boston between Walnut Avenue (at the northern edge of  Franklin Park) and the Jackson Square Orange Line station, benefiting the MBTA’s 22 and 44 bus routes.
  • North Washington Street in Boston, outbound from Haymarket station, between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Causeway Street at the North Washnington Street bridge. This lane would match an inbound bus lane that was painted in 2019 and benefit riders of the 92, 93, and 111.
  • Broadway in downtown Chelsea, from City Hall Plaza to 3rd Street, which would benefit downtown-bound riders of the 111.
  • Washington Street in East Somerville between McGrath Highway, just east of Union Square, and Sullivan Square, benefiting riders of the 86 and 91.
  • Sweetser Circle in Everett, plus adjacent sections of Main Street toward Malden, and Broadway between Sweetser Circle and Chelsea Street. Almost every bus lane in Everett runs through Sweetser Circle, a major traffic bottleneck.
  • Washington Street in Boston to Roslindale from Forest Hills Station to Roslindale Village, matching the inbound lane that was implemented in 2018.

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