July 26, 2021
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The highway division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are collaborating on a yearlong dedicated bus lane pilot that will begin on December 14.

[Above photo by the MBTA.]

The project will dedicate a 1.1-mile stretch of southbound roadway – MBTA’s Route 111 – across the Tobin Bridge toward City Square Tunnel in Boston for transit buses.

MBTA GM Steve Poftak (at right) with MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack. Photo by Joshua Qualls/Massachusetts Governor’s Office.

“We are piloting the idea of a preferential lane for the MBTA’s 111 route and the lane’s success will be evaluated after collecting data on bus travel times, crowding, and ridership, along with how safe the dedicated lane is for all travelers,” explained Stephanie Pollack, secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts DOT, in a statement.

“The partnership with the MBTA is not only with the design, implementation, or service of the bus lane but, equally as important, is on collecting and evaluating information in real time,” added Jonathan Gulliver, the highway division director for the Massachusetts DOT. “We look forward to working with the MBTA to better understand how this pilot will impact North Shore commuters and transit users.”

Dedicated bus lanes are also viewed as a way reduce crowding on buses while also limiting the amount of time riders spend in close proximity to others – reducing the potential for exposure to pathogens such as the COVID-19 virus.

Pilot project graphic via MassDOT

This pilot project is part of the MBTA’s Rapid Response Bus Lane program, which has identified corridors similar to Route 111 operates that not only account for some of the highest rates of bus ridership since March 2020 but also experience above-average chronic delays.

As of November 2020, Route 111’s current ridership is about 73 percent of the level experienced during the same period in 2019 and now represents the third highest amount ridership within the MBTA bus system.

“We continue to see high ridership on Route 111 and one of our most valuable tools to address crowding is through transit priority infrastructure improvements like the Tobin bus lane,” noted MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.

editor@aashto.org

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