Commuting to work is hard work itself these days, regardless of your mode of transportation.
But for people who rely on MBTA buses, it can even be a little tougher - those buses only run on schedule about two-thirds of the time.
Now, there is a push to create “Bus Only” lanes to improve their travel times.
Transportation officials believe these dedicated lanes help not only bus riders - but drivers as well, because buses aren't causing backups as they try to get in and out of lanes.
For the past year, the city of Everett has been trying out a bus-only lane on Broadway during the morning commute.
“It’s definitely lightened traffic,” said one resident. “It’s a lot easier in the morning getting through, especially in this area of Everett.”
In fact, with this program, bus rides now take about 20 percent less time than they once did.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria couldn't be happier with the results. “We are looking to expand it on Main Street, Broadway, Ferry Street, Chelsea Street,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper than tunneling and building new T stations. You give them a dedicated lane and you only need to do it for certain hours in the morning and certain hours at night.”
Mayor DeMaria believes bus lanes need to be done regionally, not town by town.
The MBTA’s new General Manager, Luis Manuel Ramirez, agrees. “One of the biggest opportunities we have to improve bus service is start dedicating bus lanes throughout our ridership program,” Ramirez said.
A busy stretch of Washington Street in Roslindale is up next. The city recently tested bus only lanes during two morning commutes and now plans to launch a full pilot program later this spring.
Arlington, Cambridge, and Watertown received grants from a private foundation to develop bus lanes as well.
DeMaria is excited to see a regional effort start to take shape, “to get people out of their cars, walking a little, which would be better for their health, and also better for the environment,” he said.
There can be some tradeoffs, like the loss of parking spaces.
Still, Ramirez wants to allay concerns that drivers will get stuck in even worse traffic. “I have never found it be a nuisance. In fact, if anything, when you improve congestion on all the roadways by having this, because the buses aren't using the other roadways, I think it can actually help.”
Another hope is that more people will be willing to give up their cars if buses become more reliable.
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