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MBTA Endorses A New Bus Rapid Transit Route Through Everett

A rider boards an MBTA bus on Broadway in Everett.

New level-boarding bus stops on Broadway in Everett, pictured in October 2020. Photo courtesy of Ad Hoc Industries.

On Friday, the MBTA and MassDOT published their final recommendations from a multi-year analysis of possible new Silver Line routes through the City of Everett.

The study has been in the works since 2020, and hadn't had a public hearing since 2022, when the study team shortlisted six potential routes.

The final recommendation calls for the MBTA to expand the existing SL3 route – which runs on an existing dedicated busway across the City of Chelsea – across the City of Everett to connect to the Sullivan Square Orange Line station.

A map of Everett with the Mystic River bending around the lower and left-side of the map and Everett Square in the center. A multicolored line denotes the proposed route of the new Silver Line extension, which would begin near the existing Silver Line terminus at the Chelsea commuter rail stop (at the right edge of the map), then head west in a dedicated busway along the commuter rail line (denoted in teal) to 2nd Street in Everett, where the route would continue in side-running bus lanes to Spring Street. From there, a bent orange line segment to Everett Square denotes a mixed-traffic segment where buses would share a lane with drivers. From Everett Square, the route would proceed straight down Broadway to Sullivan Square, in the lower left corner of the map, in side-running bus lanes near Everett Square followed by another dedicated busway south of Beacham Street.
A map of the "locally preferred alternative" for the proposed Silver Line Extension project through Everett. Courtesy of MassDOT and the MBTA.

The report also calls for extensive new bus-only infrastructure to ensure that the new route would be faster than driving in a private vehicle.

The plan calls for extending the existing SL3 busway in Chelsea, which opened in 2018, further west across the city line into Everett.

The T would also build new dedicated busways on lower Broadway in Everett and on the Alford Street Bridge across the Mystic River into Boston (see map above).

Other segments of the route would run on more traditional curbside bus lanes, which already exist on Broadway in Everett. Two shorter segments would run in mixed traffic on narrow streets around Everett Square, with "transit priority" traffic signals that would be programmed to turn green when buses approach.

Traffic models from CTPS, Boston's regional transportation planning agency, predict that the extension could nearly double ridership on the SL3, and attract 11,000 new daily boardings to the MBTA system.

Implementation hurdles

The report estimates that the capital costs of the new busways, traffic signals, and other necessary infrastructure would be about $95 million.

The report also predicts that serving the extended SL3 route with buses that arrive every 10 minutes would require buying 4 more Silver Line buses for the MBTA's fleet.

The expanded route would also put additional demands on the T's persistently short-staffed workforce of bus drivers.

The agency's proposed bus network redesign calls for considerable increases in bus service on dozens of other bus routes across the metropolitan region, but the ongoing shortage of bus drivers has delayed that initiative indefinitely.

According to a spokesperson, the MBTA has submitted a federal RAISE grant application to fund a $28 million street reconstruction that would create a dedicated transitway on lower Broadway in Everett.

"This will serve existing service and future high-frequency service in Bus Network Redesign, which is also a significant portion of the SL3 extension route," wrote the MBTA spokesperson in an email to StreetsblogMASS on Friday afternoon. "An announcement on this funding won’t be until mid- to late summer."

What about Rutherford Ave.?

Notably absent from the study's recommendations was Rutherford Avenue, where the City of Boston recently committed to building a center-running dedicated busway between Sullivan Square and the North End.

The Silver Line Extension study considered two alternative routes that would have extended the Silver Line beyond Sullivan Square into downtown Boston or to Kendall Square via Rutherford Avenue.

But the longer route allegedly didn't perform as well in the study's models of predicted ridership; the study's authors note that there are "many competing services between Sullivan Station and Downtown Boston," namely the Orange Line.

Furthermore, a longer route would require even more new Silver Line buses, which would allegedly exceed the capacity of the T's strained bus garage facilities.

Read the final report of the Silver Line Extension Alternatives Analysis here.

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