The new red bus priority lane on Mt. Auburn Street near the Cambridge Line. Photo provided by the Watertown Department of Public Works. The following announcement was provided by the Watertown Department of Public Works:
As of Nov. 15, after several weeks of calibration, City of Cambridge staff and the Mount Auburn Street Bus Priority project partners consider the implementation of the Mt Auburn Street Bus Priority Pilot to be complete.
After many meetings looking at the proposals to reconstruct Mt. Auburn Street, including the controversial road diet, the Town Council voted to approve the preliminary designs Tuesday. The project now moves to the state transportation officials for their input, but there are still many steps before it becomes a reality.
The Town Council’s Public Works subcommittee recently held two meetings to take a closer look at the plans for the major corridor through town, particularly focusing on Coolidge Square and the business district near the intersection with Common Street. Residents and business owners had a lot of concerns, ranging from reducing the lanes from two to one each way, loss of parking and loading areas for businesses, and bicycle and pedestrian safety. On Tuesday, Councilors weighed whether to approve the plans recommended by the Public Works Committee, and send them to the state’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for the 25 percent design review.
A Town Council subcommittee recommended some significant changes to Mt. Auburn Street, including a redesign of one of the main intersections in Coolidge Square.
Tuesday night, the Public Works Committee discussed the proposed changes to Mt. Auburn Street, east of School Street. The most significant change is the realignment of the intersection of Bigelow Avenue with Mt. Auburn Street, which also turns Kimball Road into a one-way street away from Mt.
It takes something special to get state and local officials to gather next to a bus stop at 8 a.m. a chilly morning, but celebrating the start of a program to speed up buses along Mt. Auburn Street rose to that occasion Friday morning. The group in front of Star Market showed up for the launch of the Cambridge-Watertown Mt. Auburn Street Bus Priority Pilot, also referred to as bus rapid transit or BRT. Users of the roadway may have noticed the red lanes, and new traffic patterns, which are designed to move buses, and — they hope — other vehicles, toward Harvard Square at a brisker pace.
A plan to redesign the Mt. Auburn Street/Common Street intersection would create 10 more parking spaces in that area, but some businesses in that area would lose the parking spots in front of their stores. The Town Council’s Public Works subcommittee heard a presentation from WorldTech Engineering, the firm designing the Mt. Auburn Street reconstruction project. Designers presented three options for the business area just east of Watertown Square based on where MBTA bus stops would be located.
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 following information was provided by the Department of Public Works:
Following days of initial testing, the Town of Watertown has debuted two “queue jump” lanes at School Street and Walnut Street. Queue jump lanes allow buses to move more quickly through intersections by “jumping” to the front of a line of traffic. Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems around the world use queue jump lanes to create a faster and more reliable bus ride and improve overall traffic flow. “Roughly 5,000 bus trips are made each day in Watertown in this corridor, and the Route 71 bus is an important asset to the community,” said Matthew Shuman, Town Engineer for the Town of Watertown. “We also know from research in other places that moving Watertown closer to BRT with queue jump lanes has the potential to speed up the commute for everyone by separating buses from cars at intersections.