Bus Priority Lanes Going Into Effect Soon, See What to Expect, Take Survey


The locations of the new Bus Rapid Transit lanes.

Changes to sections of Mt. Auburn Street will go into effect early next week which will change the traffic patters for drivers, bus riders and bicyclists.

The Town of Watertown and City of Cambridge have teamed up to create a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pilot with the goal to create faster and more reliable bus service for more than 12,000 daily MBTA bus riders and shuttle passengers and improve traffic flow for all users of Mt. Auburn Street.

The pilot is being funded with a grant from the Barr Foundation and is being done in conjunction with the MBTA and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The dedicated bus lanes are the second phase of the BRT Pilot. The lanes, recently painted red, will be for buses and bikes only, and they will have signal priority on Belmont and Mount Auburn Streets.

“This is a pilot project using paint and signage instead of more permanent construction materials. This pilot project has no end date and will remain in place while we evaluate and adjust the design, if needed, to inform our long-term planning,” according to a flier about the BRT pilot.

The new lanes includes a dedicated bus and bike lane in both directions from Cottage Street to Belmont Street in Watertown with more work in Cambridge.

There is a pre-implementation survey available online — https://goo.gl/forms/vAveT7Z77MytlfHl2Please fill this out by Friday, October 12. There will also be a post implementation survey, which we will share in late October or November. This survey is one of several evaluation tools – we will also be looking at traffic counts, bus data, and other sources to evaluate the project.

The first phase of the project includes the queue jump/right turn lanes at Walnut Street and School Street in Watertown.

“Preliminary evaluation data shows that travel time through the intersection for buses has improved by up to 20 to 25 seconds during the morning peak periods while also allowing vehicles to make right turns on red when pedestrians are not present,” said Watertown Town Engineer Matthew Shuman.

More Information on the Bust Priority Pilot

What is a bus/bike only lane?

These lanes, painted red with “Bus Only” and bicycle shared markings in them, are intended to only be used by buses, shuttles, cyclists, and emergency vehicles.

The bus/bike only lanes will primarily be on Mount Auburn Street between Cottage Street and Coolidge Avenue in the inbound direction (toward Harvard Square).

Why create bus/bike only lanes?

During the morning rush hour, on Mount Au- burn Street from Brattle Street to Coolidge Ave, just 3% of vehicles are MBTA buses — but buses carry 56% of people on the street.

The goal is to create faster, more reliable service for 12,000+ daily bus riders while improving traffic flow for everyone.

What are the benefits of bus/bike only lanes?

Buses can bypass the most congested areas, improving route reliability.

Buses are not stopping in traffic to pick up passengers or pulling in and out of traffic.

How do bus/bike only lanes work?

The red lane is off limits to cars but available to emergency vehicles. Cars may only enter to make a right turn and to briefly enter to parallel park where parking is allowed at the curb. The boundary line and red paint becomes dashed to show drivers where to enter for a right turn.

Drivers must to yield to buses and bikes when entering the red lane.

See the graphic to the below for more detail.

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