Bus lane: Everett just did it
The city is moving more cautiously with afternoon initiative
Everett wanted to launch a dedicated bus lane, so Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. just did it in December 2016. No community meetings or endless analysis. DeMaria gave residents four days notice that the parking lane on a 1.5-mile stretch of Broadway was going to be eliminated during the early morning hours and then put up orange cones.
Jay Monty, the city’s transportation planner, said everyone expected complaints. But bus riders and drivers alike said the dedicated bus lane improved their commute, so the one-week experiment turned into two weeks and then three weeks and it eventually became permanent in 2017.
“It was a lot easier than we thought,” Monty told Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters on the Codcast.
Monty said it would have taken a lot longer in a community like Cambridge or Somerville. “I think Everett was coming from a different place,” he said. “Folks were a little more open to change, a little more willing to take a risk.”
The loss of parking turned out to be a non-event. Monty said Everett has about 600 to 700 public and private parking spots downtown, and the dedicated bus lane cost only only a small fraction of those spots. Monty said the challenge is to alert drivers that there is plenty of parking off the main drag. “On-street parking from a capacity standpoint is insignificant,” he said.
Monty said the level boarding experiment has been hindered by the fact that MBTA buses vary in height. “It’s been a little challenging, but [the test] demonstrated the point very well,” he said.
All of the experimentation so far has been on the morning inbound commute to Boston, and now Everett is starting to think about doing the same for the evening northbound return. But this time the city is moving more cautiously.
“The mayor is very interested in doing this wherever we can do it,” Monty said. “I don’t think we’ll roll it out quite as quickly as we did with the first one, and that’s more out of respect to our residents and businesses. We know the first time around we took a risk. We did it hard and fast. But we did it right, I think, and we got folks at least on board with the concept. We proved the concept. Folks are more open to expansion and with that [word unclear] trust we want to be respectful and do a little more work on the parking. In the afternoon, parking utilization is a little higher.”
Don’t expect a long wait, Monty says. “We’re not going to do it in some drawn-out, multi-year fashion, but I think we are going to make sure we study the issues brought up by our residents and make some effort to resolve them before we move forward.”BRUCE MOHL