Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Boston

Boston Tests Faster Bus Service Simply By Laying Out Orange Cones

2:44 PM EST on December 12, 2017

On a typical weekday, bus riders make 19,000 trips on a one-mile section of Washington Street in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston. At rush hour, they put up with bus speeds that are slower than walking.

The intense traffic congestion can drag out the approximately 1.2 mile-long trip between Roslindale Square and the Forest Hills Orange Line station as long as 45 minutes, according to Andrew McFarland of Boston’s LivableStreets Alliance. Even though buses carry 60 percent of the total number of people moving through the corridor at rush hour, transit has no dedicated street space.

Until this morning.

Bus riders got a dramatically faster ride thanks to a one-day pilot in which Boston DOT and the MBTA converted a parking lane and a bike lane into a bus lane using just orange cones. The "pop-up'' bus lane was in effect from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. People on bikes were allowed to use the transit lane, while car drivers were not.

Transit riders noticed the difference and have been singing the praises of the bus lane on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/mmm_jackiez/status/940593916084150273?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The experiment shows that the same low-cost approach that cities have used to quickly reallocate street space to walking and biking can also be used to try out transit improvements.

In addition to the cones, MBTA workers were stationed to keep cars out of the bus lane.

"This is an incredibly cost-effective way to move more people more efficiently along our streets without the time and resources required for capital projects," said McFarland. "We've seen a similar pilot roll-out nearby in Everett that needed only four city staff members to operate daily (two public works officials to put down cones and two parking enforcement agents to thwart cars from parking in the lane)."

Today's experiment will be followed by another on Tuesday, then a longer three- to four-week pilot planned for the spring. The spring project will include a bus lane for the p.m. peak (though not as the same time as the morning bus lane), as well as other bus priority treatments like off-board fare collection and stop consolidation, says McFarland.

McFarland says he'd like to see the bus lane made permanent.

"Today is about trying to get riders engaged," he said. "This is what we can have every day if we go to the city and ask for it."

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

POWER PLAY: City Moves to Put Thousands More E-Car Chargers on the Sidewalk

We should stop and think before giving over curbside space to car drivers, a mistake the city made in the 1950s.

February 22, 2024

Bill to Cut Vehicle Miles in New York Would Also Reduce Traffic Deaths, Costs and Pollution

"As this data makes clear, a new approach will not only protect our climate, but also make New York a safer, more affordable place to live," said state Sen. Andrew Gounardes.

February 22, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines: Celebrate What’s Good About Our City Edition

It's now less than one week til the annual "Public Space Awards" on Thursday. Get your tickets now. Plus other news.

February 22, 2024

Underhill Ave. Still In Limbo Two Weeks After Mayor Promised Decision in ‘A Day Or So’

The mayor's perception of time differs from that of mere mortals, but he did say on Feb. 5 that he would decide "in a day or so." It's been two weeks.

February 21, 2024

Data Dive: More Delivery Workers are Registering Their Mopeds 

“If you have plates, [the police] won’t summons you,” Junior Pichardo told Streetsblog the other day on Flatbush Avenue. “They won’t bother you.” 

February 21, 2024
See all posts