Arlington Implements Pilot Testing Elements of Bus Rapid Transit Oct. 9

Official ArlBRT community partner launch event scheduled for October 16

(Arlington, MA) – Beginning October 9 and continuing through November 9, the Town of Arlington, the MBTA, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and the Barr Foundation will roll out a bus priority pilot funded by a grant from the Barr Foundation to bring elements of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to the easternmost segment of Massachusetts Avenue serving MBTA routes 77, 79, and 350

The pilot will operate Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. beginning on October 9, 2018 and will take bus riders out of car congestion through the creation of a dedicated bus lane on Massachusetts Avenue from the intersection with Varnum Street to Alewife Brook Parkway. It will also include timed traffic signals where feasible so that buses get more time at green lights. The #77 MBTA bus route has the highest ridership in Arlington and is one of the top 15 MBTA bus routes in terms of ridership.

The partners will host an official launch event with speaking program on the morning of October 16 (details forthcoming).

“After nearly a year of hard work and community engagement we are excited to launch the Mass. Ave. Bus Priority pilot,” said Arlington Town Manager, Adam Chapdelaine. “We hope this pilot provides the data necessary for the Town to consider permanent implementation of bus rapid transit.”

Over the course of the pilot, the project will impact people utilizing different transportation modes:

MBTA 77, 79, and 350 Buses

During peak hours, eastbound bus riders on Massachusetts Avenue will experience a dedicated bus lane between Varnum Street and Alewife Brook Parkway. A shorter section of bus lane, or “queue jump” at Lake Street and Massachusetts Avenue, will allow buses to move more quickly through the intersection by jumping to the front of the line of cars stopped at a light. Bus riders who boarded at the Lake Street stop will now board the bus at the far-side of the intersection to accommodate the queue jump lane.

Re-timed traffic signals and transit signal priority will give buses more green light time when needed. The bus priority lanes and signal improvements will shorten bus travel time during peak periods of congestion, and more importantly, will make travel times more predictable.

Bicycling

The dedicated bus priority lane will be shared with cyclists along Massachusetts Avenue between Varnum Street and Alewife Brook Parkway. Bus drivers will be instructed to not pass bicyclists in the bus priority lane to ensure that there are no conflicts or issues.

Driving

The dedicated bus lane will utilize the parking lane on Massachusetts Avenue between Varnum Street and Alewife Brook Parkway, leaving the two eastbound travel lanes intact. Other cities that have tested dedicated bus priority lanes have found that they result in overall improved traffic flow for people in cars because buses no longer pull in and out of traffic. At the Alewife Brook Parkway intersection, cars will share the right-turn lane with buses that will either turn right or proceed straight through the intersection into Cambridge. Drivers are recommended to use caution at the Alewife Brook Parkway intersection as the traffic pattern will change. The left turn lane will become a left turn/through lane, which will be accommodated by a signal timing change.

The BRT features and improvements described above were approved by the Arlington Board of Selectmen on September 12. Images of the final design and a narrative description of the pilot can be found at arlingtonma.gov/projects.

Town staff will work with community members and local businesses to evaluate the pilot and determine whether further adjustments are appropriate. Lessons learned from the experience will inform continued long-term planning.

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