Barr funds 3 bus rapid transit pilots

Barr funds 3 bus rapid transit pilots

Dedicated bus lanes, synchronized signals part of effort

THE BARR FOUNDATION awarded three $100,000 grants for pilot bus rapid transit projects scheduled to run next year in Arlington, Everett, and Cambridge and Watertown.

In Arlington, the MBTA and the municipality plan to run a one-month pilot on the busy No. 77 bus route along Massachusetts Avenue that would test a dedicated lane for buses and traffic signals synchronized to give priority to buses. A similar pilot is planned for bus routes along Mount Auburn Street west of Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge and Watertown.

The third pilot will upgrade the existing dedicated bus lane along Broadway in Everett with traffic signal prioritization and platform-level boarding platforms at three stops so riders in wheelchairs and strollers can board more quickly and easily.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The pilot projects come as the MBTA is launching a concerted effort to upgrade the appeal of its bus system, which on average is currently reliable only 65 percent of the time. The T believes the best way to improve reliability is to move buses through traffic congestion more quickly, either by synchronizing traffic signals or providing dedicated lanes.

All of the T’s initiatives require cooperation from the municipal officials in the 50 communities in which the MBTA provides bus service. Communities have been slow to embrace the concept, but T officials think they may be starting to turn the corner with the Barr pilot projects and Boston’s plan to launch a dedicated bus lane between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills Station sometime next year. The T has hired an outreach coordinator to work with municipalities; he starts work later this month.

“These pilot projects will show bus rapid transit’s potential to transform how people in Greater Boston get to where they need to go, and how bus rapid transit can fit within the region’s transportation system,” said Barr’s Mary Skelton Roberts in a statement.

  • BenSahn

    Just having a dedicated lane and traffic signal prioritization is bus rapid transit-lite, not real bus rapid transit. This pilot is the ongoing dud on the Washington Street Silver Line bus, which is just a bus with all the problems of any other bus on a city street.

    I am a route 77 rider. What would make this a real experiment is running extra 77 buses to/from H. Square in a dedicated bus lane with signal prioritization with only one stop in Cambridge, in Porter Square, on the way to/from Arlington, and running in Arlington in a dedicated bus lane with signal prioritization. Considering the recent restriping of Mass Ave in Arlington, there is no possibility of a real dedicated bus lane because the lane will also be used for vehicles making right turns, vehicles pulling in and out of parking spots, and more.

    What matrices will the T use to determine the outcome of this pilot?

    • stargazera5

      Probably the same ones they used in claiming that removing half the stops would reduce the bunching on the 77. I’ll note that they never came back and showed how successful that effort was.

      The issues with the 77 during week days are that they are stuck sitting in traffic between Harvard and Porter and from Dover Street to Alewife Brook Parkway (and the equivalents on the inbound side).

      Why they end up bunched up on the weekend during almost no traffic periods, I’ve never figured a legitimate reason for.

      The idea of squeezing in dedicated bus lanes in these areas that were never designed for them will be the same level of epic fail that the new dedicated bike lanes have been. It’s made the traffic problems much worse, which makes crossing streets and just generally moving anywhere worse, and you only see a tiny fraction of the bikes and people moved that you do in the vehicle lanes, And before you accuse me of preferring cars, I live in Cambridge and use the T for 90% of my transportation needs, so I’m one of you key target groups that you are looking to enlarge. I look lout my window to Mass Ave and see the backups getting longer and longer.