Time to talk about buses
Stifled by congestion, we need to get them moving
We spend a lot of time talking about gondolas and autonomous vehicles, but not enough time talking about buses. Yeah, buses.
A report issued this month by the Livable Streets Alliance said the MBTA bus system is being stifled by congestion on Boston streets. It noted congestion along just seven miles of the city’s roadways is causing delays for more than one-fifth of all MBTA bus riders, delays that contributed to an 8 percent drop in bus ridership in 2016.
The report put much of the blame on the city of Boston. “The MBTA may own and operate its bus fleet, but, increasingly, riders are being underserved by streets, traffic signals, and bus stops managed by the city of Boston,” the report said.
On this week’s Codcast, Josh Fairchild of TransitMatters chats with Andrew McFarland, community engagement manager at the Livable Streets Alliance, and Kathryn Carlson, director of transportation for the business-backed group A Better City.
McFarland called the situation a “transit crisis” and said too many riders view buses as unreliable and inconvenient. There is also a social equity angle to the issue, as statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council indicate black bus riders spend 64 more hours per year on buses than their white counterparts.
McFarland said there’s no mystery about the steps that need to be taken to improve bus service, including more dedicated bus lanes. But it’s not getting done. “There is a lot more the city can be doing to prioritize these projects,” McFarland said.
Carlson said she went on a trip to Seattle last year and discovered that bus ridership is going up there because the city has made a commitment to moving buses through traffic faster.Fairchild remarked on the “aggressive language” the report uses about lack of effort by Boston, which prompted Carlson to say no one is blaming the city. She said the business community and the city are partners in the effort to improve bus service.
“We think this is an amazing leadership opportunity for the mayor,” she said.