Some changes to traffic patterns on Mt. Auburn Street will be tested during a Bus Priority Pilot in effort to speed up buses on the roadway through Watertown and Cambridge.
A community meeting will be May 1, 2018, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Tufts Health Plan (705 Mount Auburn St., Watertown) to discuss the Bus Priority Pilot, but Watertown Department of Public Works officials gave some details prior to the meeting.
The pilot will test ways to get buses down Mt. Auburn Street faster, Shuman said, because so many people use public transit to commute. About two-thirds of people traveling down the roadway during rush hour do so on buses, according to DPW surveys.
Even with the priority given to buses, Shuman said that drivers will be able to navigate Mt. Auburn Street slightly faster.
The biggest changes in Watertown will be on Mt. Auburn Street at School Street, as well as, at Walnut Street, said Town Engineer Matt Shuman.
The plan calls for starting a bus-queue-jump lane at these intersections, Shuman said.
At Walnut Street that will mean allowing buses to go into the right turn lane, and cars will now be allowed to make right turns on red, Shuman said.
“Now at Walnut if you are turning right you have to stop on red,” Shuman said. “(With the changes,) if the bus queues up, the cars in front of it will turn right and the bus will be in front once it gets the light.”
At School Street, the plan calls for having a no-parking area on Mt. Auburn Street near the intersection. This would allow buses to use that space to move over during a light and then can go straight across the intersection to the bus stop on the other side, without blocking traffic. Shuman said the no-parking area would be about 5 spaces long and would only be during rush hours.
Farther east on Mt. Auburn, there will be bus and bike only lanes, Shuman said. It would start near Cottage Street, where the right lane would be for buses only, and would continue through the Cambridge section of the roadway to Fresh Pond Parkway. Shuman said there are some brief sections where cars will be able to get into the right lane in the Cambridge section, such as at the left turn for Star Market.
Those intersections will also have transit priority signals, Shuman said.
“It extends the green lights when a bus is approaching so it doesn’t have to stop,” Shuman said.
Read more about the Mount Auburn Street Bus Priority Pilot.