Mass Transit

MBTA red line

2015 Transit Strategic Plan

The 2015 Transit Strategic Plan has been released. This document defines goals and objectives related to transit and highlights key projects and initiatives already underway by the City. It will also help the City select and prioritize projects that will improve the public transportation system in and around Cambridge.

City Manager Statement about Public Transit

Click here for a November 29, 2012 letter by former City Manager Robert W. Healy commenting on MassDOT’s “Your Vision, Our Future: A Transportation Conversation” series of public information sessions. The following is an excerpt:

Better public transportation is critical for our city to meet our economic development, livability, social equity, and environmental objectives. Yet with $9 billion of debt and $3 billion in unfunded but necessary maintenance, the MBTA is struggling to operate the current system, let alone expand.

The City of Cambridge has limited influence over the MBTA, which is a state agency governed by MassDOT and their Board of Directors. Because Cambridge contributes about $8 million per year in usage assessments (MBTA’s overall operating budget is $1.4 billion plus $450,000 in debt service), we are a voting member of the MBTA Advisory Board. Under the 2009 Transportation Reform legislation, though, this board lost authority to approve the MBTA budget.

In January 2013, we launched a 2- year public transit strategic planning process focusing on the City of Cambridge. The purpose is to develop an action plan for how Cambridge will take a stronger leadership role to improve quality and expand capacity of our transit system. 

The process is led jointly by the Community Development Department and the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department. The city has formed an internal interdepartmental working group and an external stakeholder advisory committee.

Through monthly meetings with these groups over the past year, a significant amount of input was gathered and synthesized into a set of seven overarching goals, outlined later in this report.

For each goal, this report highlights key projects and initiatives already underway by the city. The purpose of this interim report is to summarize the work of the strategic planning process to date. Over the next year, the city will specify more detailed objectives for each goal. We will then create an implementation plan that will contain a prioritized set of projects and initiatives. This should be completed by the end of 2014.

Cambridge Context

25% of people who live or work in Cambridge rely on transit. Many more use transit as a secondary means to get to work and use it regularly for non-commuting purposes. By comparison, only 6% of those who live or work in the greater Boston area rely on transit. Cambridge has a high live-work population—about half of all employed residents of Cambridge also work in Cambridge. 32% of Cambridge households do not own a car.

The MBTA Red Line carries 250,000 riders per typical weekday, with 140,000 of them starting or ending their trip at one of Cambridge’s five stops. October 2013 saw record ridership, an increase of about 15% over the past 5 years. The continued growth in ridership is certainly welcome, but is increasing strain on the system.

On a typical weekday, about 13,000 passengers get on or off the Green Line at Lechmere Station. Trains run every 6 minutes during rush hour. The Green Line Extension project will allow trains to continue to Union Square and Medford, resulting in an additional 5,000 people getting on or off at Lechmere Station.

33 bus routes pick up or drop off 85,000 riders in Cambridge per typical weekday. Of the 10 bus routes with highest ridership in the entire MBTA system, four of them are in Cambridge (routes 66, 1, 77, and 70). Four of the bus routes operating in Cambridge fail the MBTA’s “vehicle load standard,” meaning there is excessive crowding during peak times (routes 1, 47, 66, and 71).

Cambridge also has another public bus service, run by the Charles River Transportation Management Association, which operates the EZRide Shuttle, helping to connect transit and worksites for commuters to Kendall Square, East Cambridge, MIT, and Cambridgeport. Launched in 2002, the EZRide now carries about 2,500 passengers per day .

For more information

For more information contact Tegin Teich Bennett at or 617/349-4615.