The Codcast: Bus renaissance underway?

Buses aren’t as sexy as new Orange Line cars or the extension of the Green Line into Somerville and Medford. But they are a lot cheaper to buy and much easier to operate. Which is why a bus renaissance of sorts is happening – a series of initiatives that hold the promise of changing the transportation landscape in a relatively short period of time.

On this week’s Codcast, Chris Osgood, the chief of streets for the city of Boston, and TransitMatters guys Jim Aloisi and Josh Fairchild sing the praises of buses and a series of initiatives to both expand and improve bus service across the metro area.

The expansion revolves around two initiatives that use buses to help make the MBTA a 24/7 operation. One, launched April 1, moved up the starting time of eight key bus routes to as early as 3:20 a.m. The new routes are designed to meet heavy demand from people starting work very early in the morning. Osgood said anecdotal evidence suggests the new service is doing well. “It’s been well received and they’re getting really good ridership,” he said.

The second initiative would launch a pilot project to extend limited bus service through the rest of the night to meet demand primarily for workers going home or heading to work between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. The T has included $2 million in its budget for fiscal 2019 for late night bus service, but details remain a bit sketchy. It’s likely the T will operate the service (no private contractors bid on the work) and the route will run from Mattapan through downtown to East Boston and Chelsea. Aloisi said the one-year pilot will probably launch in the fall.

As the T works through how to expand service, it is also working to improve existing service. The transit agency is working with municipalities to synchronize traffic lights to speed buses through intersections and to develop dedicated bus lanes.

The city of Boston is currently running a test of a dedicated bus (MBTA and school) and bicycle lane on Washington Street between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills. With funding from the Barr Foundation,  which has made improving bus service a top priority, planning is underway for dedicated bus  lanes running through Cambridge, Watertown, and Arlington.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is seeking to raise parking fines and plans to use $5 million of the proceeds to make a number of bus infrastructure capital improvements and to fund a dedicated transit team that would focus on bus service.

Aloisi said the city’s approach makes sense, particularly at a time when streets are choking on traffic. For too long, he said, the city streetscape has primarily benefited car drivers, even though the taxes of bicyclists, pedestrians, and bus users all support it.

“They’re all paying the same share of tax dollars. They all need to be treated equitably,” he said.



How come Massachusetts doesn’t have a cell phone ban for divers? Keller@Large thinks lawmakers see users as voters and are reluctant to tick off constituents.


Mayor Marty Walsh defended his proposal to ban year-round Airbnb rentals in owner-occupied buildings. (Boston Herald)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s top political strategist, Jim Conroy, who managed his 2014 campaign and is playing a key role in his reelection big, was a paid consultant to two companies that just won huge clean energy contracts in the state. (Boston Globe)


President Trump has brought embrace of crackpot conspiracy theories into the Oval Office. (New York Times)

A Tufts University expert on Korea warns that Trump could fall for “meaningless” gestures on the part of North Korea. (Boston Herald)

The Trump administration will move forward with tariffs against China to punish it for a trade imbalance. (New York Times)


Officials from California and New Jersey think tanks say taxing the wealthy to finance public investments — the idea behind the millionaire taxworked well in their states. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders are both seeking reelection this fall while also eyeing the 2020 presidential race, but Warren is keeping more of a focus for now on her home state than Sanders. (Boston Globe)

Though more than a quarter of Massachusetts Republican delegates to the party’s state convention voted to put Scott Lively on the primary ballot, GOP primary voters should thoroughly repudiate his bigotry at the polls in September, writes Jeff Robbins. (Boston Herald)

Some of the candidates vying for votes in the huge field in the Third Congressional District have not always been the most diligent voters themselves. (Boston Herald)

At least nine candidates are vying to replace the late Rep. James Miceli in the House. (Lowell Sun)


Some of the state’s biggest financial services firms are helping launch a accelerator program for financial technology startups. (Boston Globe)

Starbucks will close its 8,000 stores around the country Tuesday for antibias training in the wake of an incident in Philadelphia when two black men were arrested when they used a bathroom in one of the stores. (New York Times)

State and industry officials expect the summer tourism season to be a boost to the local economy this year despite challenges such as higher gas prices and immigration backlash. (Wicked Local)


Edward M. Murphy says Mount Ida College was identified by Forbes magazine as a high-risk institution well before it closed. The magazine’s 2017 report gave the lowest grade of D-minus to three Massachusetts schools — Mount Ida, Becker College, and Newbury College. (CommonWealth)

The federal Department of Education will forgive student loans of veterans with severe service-related disabilities. (U.S. News & World Report)


Ari Ofsevit of TransitMatters and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu say the T’s unfair commuter rail fares need to change. (CommonWealth)


Cape town officials are tightening refuse and recycling regulations as costs soar because of the new standards on contaminated materials by China, one of the world’s largest importers of recycled materials. (Cape Cod Times)


The trial of former gangster Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, which once would have dominated the news, seems to be playing out quietly in the background, perhaps the last big gasp of that bygone era. (Boston Globe)

The state Attorney General’s office has expanded its investigation into the finances of Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, whose management has been accused of mishandling funds and neglecting the dogs that are rescued. (MetroWest Daily News)


The Boston Globe sued former employee Hilary Sargent seeking more information about her allegation that Brian McGrory, the current editor, sent her a sexually inappropriate text. (CommonWealth)

A television anchor and a cameraman in North Carolina were killed while covering Tropical Storm Alberto when a tree fell and hit their car. (New York Times)