Boston-area BRT pilots bring faster commutes, public enthusiasm

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Due to the successful results, the testing is translating to long-term changes.

BostonBRT

Due to the successful results, the testing is translating to long-term changes. BostonBRT

Bus riders in Arlington, Cambridge, Watertown, and Everett experienced shorter and more dependable commutes during three pilot projects testing various elements of bus rapid transit (BRT), according to real-time bus performance data. The pilot projects were conducted in 2018 as partnerships between local municipalities and the MBTA.

Public survey responses indicate the pilots sparked new ideas about local street use, with many respondents supporting making the pilot elements permanent or even expanding their reach. The projects were coordinated through the BostonBRT initiative, funded by the Barr Foundation and managed by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), with additional technical support from Stantec.

The Arlington BRT pilot featured a morning peak curbside bus-only lane marked by cones and shared with the bike lane.

BostonBRT

The Arlington BRT pilot featured a morning peak curbside bus-only lane marked by cones and shared with the bike lane. BostonBRT

Due to the successful results, the testing is translating to long-term changes. Arlington has since voted to make its BRT elements permanent. Everett, which piloted subway-like “level boarding” platforms along its existing, highly-successful dedicated bus lane, is studying additional capital improvements to further improve riders’ commutes and the local streetscape. Watertown will retain the dedicated bus lanes and queue jump lanes indefinitely. Cambridge and Watertown have presented the pilot’s evaluation results, which show significant benefits to the majority of people using the corridor, and will refresh the bus-only lane markings while continuing further community engagement.

The pilots built upon an initial demonstration effort in 2017 along the Silver Line in Boston that tested “all door boarding,” another element of BRT. During the two-week demonstration, riders were able to board and exit buses through all doors. Surveys of 900 riders throughout the demonstration show that all-door boarding improved the rider experience and encouraged bus use, with 65% of rider respondents reporting that their demonstration trip was faster, and 70% saying the all-door boarding demonstration made them more likely to ride the Silver Line again.