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Residents’ Association Hears Updates on N. Washington St. Bus Lane Proposal

Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Transit Team Director Matt Moran and Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Transportation Planner Jack Halverson joined the North End/ Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) during their monthly meeting to provide updates on the proposed N. Washington Street bus lane. See the full video at the bottom of this page or find it summarized below.

The proposed project, which is a collaboration between the BTD and the MBTA, was originally envisioned under the Go Boston 2030 and Vision Zero initiatives. The work has been accelerated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with the City’s Healthy Streets program.

In an attempt to guide recovery and a safe reopening, the proposed project would create a new bus lane on N. Washington Street to decrease passenger crowding, improve service times, and make buses a more reliable form of transportation. Aside from allowing for better social distancing among bus passengers, the proposed bus lane would also improve Boston Public School buses travel times and emergency response times.

This specific corridor was selected because of its high ridership and heightened traffic delays, as well as its potential to service areas with high COVID-19 rates; in this case, Chelsea.

The bus lane project extent would include N. Washington Street and Cross Street going northbound, and Sudbury Street to Causeway Street going southbound. The proposal does not expect to impact the existing bike lane or parking.

The proposal plans to use quick-build materials such as paint and signage so that modifications can be made in response to public feedback. If implemented, N. Washington Street, Endicott Street, Commercial Street, and Causeway Street would be monitored to determine impacts such as transit ridership, vehicle queue lengths, and speeding.

The project aims at implementation in the Fall 2020.

Questions

  • A resident asked how the vehicles will be counted and if an intersection camera would be implemented, citing a hit-and-run incident that occurred with no video record. Moran responded that traffic cameras would be utilized for monitoring purposes. However, due to privacy concerns, the cameras are on a 24-hour loop.
  • What is the current schedule for the project? There will be another presentation during the North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) monthly meeting on September 14th. If community feedback is positive, designs are anticipated to be completed at the end of September with a possible implementation as early as October.
  • Will riders be expected to cross over the bike lane in order to access the bus? Is the proposal to allow the bus lane to overtake a travel lane and will that have an adverse effect on traffic congestion? In order to preserve the bike lane and parking, the proposed bus lane would utilize the right travel lane on the outbound side toward Charlestown. This would inevitably slow down traffic, but the monitoring plan aims to target future needed modifications to assist with any potential impacts. Riders would not have to cross the bike lane to access the bus. Instead, the bus will pull to the curb at the bus stop.
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