Eyes On the Street: Huntington Avenue’s Bus and Bike Lane Gets Some Color

red paint and white arrows along the new bus and bike lane
Freshly painted bus and bike lane along Huntington Avenue near Northeastern University where two bicyclists ride in the distance and bits of ruby lake glass can still be seen at the edge of the road around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Just over a mile long stretch along Huntington Avenue now features a ruby dedicated bus lane in the southbound direction; about a quarter of the T’s 39 bus route. 

The 39 bus route closely parallels the Orange Line service area, extending from Forest Hills to Back Bay and connecting Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill and the Longwood Medical Area in between. Many people traveling between these neighborhoods used this key bus route as a travel alternative during the Orange Line’s 30-day shutdown which ended earlier this month.

The busy route is now at 75 percent of its pre-pandemic ridership, and is one of the T’s busiest routes with approximately 8,200 weekday trips this August, according to details shared by a City of Boston spokesperson in an email to StreetsblogMASS last week. 

Late last month, people began tweeting about white markings spotted along Huntington Avenue signaling placement of the bus lane and turning arrows near the Museum of Fine Arts: 

Although the bus/bike lane is listed as one of the projects the City of Boston undertook in response to the Orange Line shutdown, it is still ongoing and not yet fully complete. The project’s schedule has been affected by “some weather-related delays with the striping over the last week,” (week of September 12th), explained a City of Boston spokesperson.  

So far, only the southbound direction features sections of red paint along the project length from Brigham Circle in Mission Hill to Gainsborough Street near Northeastern University. In the northbound direction, only stripes of white paint delineate the bus/bike lane and its continuation at intersections.    

two bicyclists ride on the street next to a bus stop and tree lined sidewalk
Two bicyclists ride on the northbound side of Huntington Avenue Tuesday evening where white letters signal places along the dedicated bus/bike lane where red paint still needs to be added.

Although during most of the Orange Line shutdown the 39’s weekday peak reliability was above the overall bus average (see chart below), reliability mostly remained below the T’s target:

Chart showing average weekday reliability percentages during peak hours from August 19, the start of the Orange Line shutdown to September 16, the last weekday before the subway line reopened. No data was available for August 26 and September 5 weekdays. Courtesy of the MBTA.
Chart showing average weekday reliability percentages during peak hours from August 19, the start of the Orange Line shutdown to September 16, the last weekday before the subway line reopened. No data was available for August 26 and September 5 weekdays. Courtesy of the MBTA.

The bus and bike lane, dotted with “Right Lane, Bus Bike Only” white metal signs, will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We are working with Boston Transportation Department Enforcement, Boston Police Department, and Transit Police to help enforce these bus lanes,” said the City’s spokesperson. They explained bus and bike lane enforcement remains a challenge in the Boston region and that on corridors like Huntington Avenue, “automated enforcement would significantly improve bus/bike lane usability.”

car traffic fills Huntington Avenue as pedestrians walk on the sidewalk and a bicyclists shares the bus and bike lane with a car
A car driver uses the new Huntington Avenue bus/bike lane while a bicyclist rides their bike behind them Wednesday morning.

The Huntington Avenue bus/bike lane will eventually connect to the planned bike lane along South Huntington Avenue, part of the Boston Transportation Department’s bike network expansion announced earlier this month. 

This east-west connection will facilitate a smoother ride for bicyclists traveling to and from Brookline and Jamaica Plain, neighborhoods with no direct train or bus between them.

An earlier version of this article referred to the material used for the bus and bike lane as thermoplastic, but it has now been updated to “ruby lake glass.” Thanks for reading!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG