Commuting in Boston can be a nightmare. Disabled trains, crumbling stations, jammed-packed buses stuck in traffic. Well, the MBTA launched brand new center-running bus lanes on Saturday with the goal of moving riders faster and safer.
So what exactly are center-running bus lanes? They are two dedicated lanes in the center of the street painted red for exclusive bus use. According to the MBTA, they are also outfitted with new ramp-accessible boarding platforms, new and improved bus shelters complete with lights, and traffic-slowing crosswalks and curbs.
The new bus lanes in Boston opened on Columbus Ave.The once four-lane road is now divided into one lane in each direction for cars on the outside of the two red bus lanes. There are four bus stops along the reconfigured corridor from Walnut Avenue to Jackson Square with 9-inch-tall platforms on either side of the center lanes.
Currently, most bus lanes in Boston are curbside. The theory behind the center running bus lanes is that it will remove the buses from the car traffic equation thus eliminating slowdowns caused by buses pulling over to make stops.
In theory is sounds great but one of the biggest complaints of the new bus lanes is the fact the new bus lane setup has taken away parking spots (52 fewer spots) and implemented new traffic restrictions like no left turn, addition stop signs etc. In other words, the bus lanes has potential to make driving in the area less than pleasant.
According to the Boston Globe, workers and residents in this area have noticed a few affects of the new bus lanes during construction period. There is no where to park, and navigating this area is frustrating causing some drivers to ignore the new traffic restrictions.
Guy Harris, a librarian at the Egleston Square Library was interviewed by the Globe and stated that although he was happy to see traffic calming measures near the library, he noticed that drivers are breaking the rules, making it more dangerous for pedestrians. Also during construction, Harris noticed the car traffic is even more backed up and that library patrons complain they are having a harder time finding parking.
Next on the list for Boston is on Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square to Warren Street. One was proposed along Summer Street in South Boston but was put on hold due to push back from the Massport Authority, which owns much of the developed land in this part of the neighborhood. According to the Globe, MBTA planners say the #7 bus that runs along Summer Street has not regained as much ridership as other routes they are prioritizing.
One of the goals of the center-running bus lanes is the hope that residents will feel more confident in turning over their neighborhood streets to buses once they see them in action. In other words to prove they are worth the investment and that the bus lanes will move people faster and more efficiently.
But some skeptics of the new lanes believe they have potential to be a colossal mistake including causing greater traffic congestion, losing valuable parking spots and basically a futile effort that in the end won’t pay off.
But we shall see. It’s only just begun. If center-running bus lanes are a success, it could be life changing for the city of Boston. Fingers crossed.