Cambridge and Watertown to improve commute of over 12,000 bus users

Posted: 1 November 2018 | | No comments yet

Two cities in Massachusetts, U.S. are pioneering a municipal partnership to improve reliability and efficiency of their bus services.


The City of Cambridge, Town of Watertown and the MBTA have celebrated the official launch of the Mount Auburn Street Corridor Bus Priority Project.

This project incorporates elements of bus rapid transit (BRT) to achieve a more efficient and reliable service to over 12,000 daily bus riders on the MBTA 71 and 73 routes.

“Encouraging and improving public transit options improves mobility for everyone. The Mount Auburn Bus Priority Pilot aligns with Cambridge’s Vision Zero efforts to make our streets safer for people of all ages and abilities, whether they choose to walk, bicycle, drive or take transit,” said Cambridge City Manager, Louis A. DePasquale. “We are grateful for our partners in Watertown and at the MBTA for collaborating with us, and to the Barr Foundation for their support in helping this important project come to life.”

The pilot features three key elements of BRT that will benefit bus and shuttle riders, drivers and bicyclists, firstly, dedicated bus/bike lanes that will remove buses out of car congestion for significant segments of Mount Auburn Street. Other cities that have tested dedicated bus priority lanes have found that they result in overall improved traffic flow for people in cars.

Secondly, the project includes inbound ‘queue jump’ lanes, which give buses and shuttles priority at intersections along Mount Auburn Street where buses sit the longest at red lights.

Thirdly, re-timed traffic signals and transit signal priority (TSP) are featured at Homer Avenue and Aberdeen Avenue, giving buses more green light time when needed while improving traffic flow overall.

“We appreciate the collaboration of city officials, the Barr Foundation and community members to make this pilot a reality,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO, Stephanie Pollack. “Dedicated bus lanes are a ‘game changer’ for our MBTA customers and we’re hoping that the dedicated lane in Watertown and Cambridge will work well in balancing the needs of the T, the business community, the driving public and local residents.”

This is the third pilot in a series funded by the Barr Foundation. In July 2018, the City of Everett built on its rush hour bus-only lane on Broadway by adding TSP and platform-level boarding at two bus stops in Everett Square. Earlier in October 2018, the Town of Arlington began testing a dedicated bus lane along Massachusetts Avenue and TSP at key intersections for MBTA 77 bus route.

“Improving MBTA bus service is a major goal in our overall strategy to enhance mobility,” said MBTA General Manager, Luis Manual Ramírez. “While we continue to make core system investments into our rail infrastructure, improving bus service is going to require partnerships with municipalities. Thanks to leadership of the Barr Foundation and the communities of Watertown and Cambridge, we continue to work toward identifying and testing new ways to make bus service more efficient, sustainable and attractive.”

The Cambridge-Watertown BRT pilot will remain in place while staff work with community members and local businesses to evaluate the pilot over the fall and winter and determine whether further adjustments are appropriate. Lessons learned from the experience will inform continued long-term planning.

“Cambridge and Watertown are an inspiring example of how local communities can step up with the support of the MBTA to bring our bus systems closer to BRT, which is being adopted all over the world and is long overdue in Massachusetts,” said Mary Skelton Roberts, co-Director for Climate at the Barr Foundation. “This high-visibility, high-impact project offers a proof point to other mayors, planners and residents that a world-class bus network is within our reach. It’s our move to push for transformation and a transportation system that not only meets our needs but also matches our ambition.”