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Mt. Auburn Street Bus Priority Pilot

A bus in a bus priority lane.

The City of Cambridge and Town of Watertown consider the changes on Mount Auburn Street to be permanent.

View a summary of the project evaluation

In 2017, the Cities of Cambridge and Watertown won a grant from the Barr Foundation to implement bus priority on Mount Auburn Street. The project team tested bus lanes and improved bike lanes in 2018 and 2019. This project was the first step in realizing the long-term vision for a redesigned Mount Auburn Street.

This project was on Mount Auburn Street between Fresh Pond Parkway and the municipal boundary with Watertown and Belmont. The City of Watertown also focused on the intersections of Walnut and School Streets. We focused on these areas because both cities have goals to improve travel time by bus. Bus operators experienced delay and unreliability at these locations. We also measured the number of people passing Mount Auburn Street at Brattle Street. Over half of people travelling here were on MBTA buses in the morning peak hour.

The project included shared bus-bike lanes:

  • Eastbound on Mount Auburn Street from Belmont Street to Aberdeen Avenue
  • Eastbound on Belmont Street from Sullivan Road to Mount Auburn Street
  • East- and westbound on Mount Auburn Street from Cottage to Belmont Street

Cambridge, Watertown, and the DCR also upgraded signal equipment to give buses priority on Mount Auburn Street.

Project area

View the Mt. Auburn Bus Priority Fact Sheet

April 2023

Our “pilot” process is complete. The City of Cambridge and Town of Watertown will continue to monitor how Mount Auburn Street is working for everybody on the street and may return to adjust lane markings or signal timings as issues are identified.

If you have further questions for Cambridge, contact Andrew Reker, areker@cambridgema.gov, (617) 349-6959. Questions for Watertown should be directed to Laura Wiener, lwiener@watertown-ma.gov, (617) 972-6417.

The City of Cambridge is doing street construction on Belmont Street. Click here to visit the Belmont Street reconstruction project page.

Design Features

Bus priority features in this pilot included:
  • Dedicated lanes took bus riders out of car congestion for significant segments of Mount Auburn Street between Belmont Street and Fresh Pond Parkway.
  • Inbound “queue jump” lanes gave buses and shuttles priority in intersections on Mount Auburn Street and Belmont Street near where they meet.
  • Re-timed traffic signals and transit signal priority installed to give buses get more green light time and improve general traffic flow on Mount Auburn Street.

Informational "User's Guide" for New Traffic Patterns

The City of Cambridge created informational graphics on how to use the new design of Mount Auburn Street.

Graphic showing how people driving, parking, walking, bicycling should use a street with a bus and bicycle-only lane. Shows a lane for through traffic, a shared bus and bike only lane, a parking lane, and a sidewalk. Reminders include the following: "After yielding to buses and bikes, drivers may enter the bus/bike lane to make a right turn."; "The bus/bike lane cannot be used as a driving lane."; "Cyclists should 'take the lane' and ride at a comfortable speed."; "No pickup/dropoff in the bus/bike lane."; "After yielding to buses and bikes, drivers may enter the bus/bike lane to parallel park."

Design Plans

You can view final design plans for signage and street striping this project clicking the bulleted items below. These design plans are in PDF format.

November 2019

Cambridge and Watertown finished refreshing red bus lane markings on Mount Auburn Street. Cambridge will refresh red bus lane markings on Belmont Street during the reconstruction project.

August 2019

Cambridge & Watertown consider "pilot" project to be complete and changes to Mount Auburn Street to be permanent.

June 2019

June 12 Cambridge & Watertown hosted an open house with information about the evaluation of this project at the BB&N Administration building.
Click here to see the display boards.
Click here for summary factsheet. 

Staff for other projects related to the bus priority pilot also attended to share information, including: 

April 2019

Project team closed the post-implementation survey. Thank you for your feedback!

December 2018

Early December, post-pilot evaluation begins with post-implementation survey.

Ongoing evaluation and monitoring of the traffic operations on the corridor.

StreetFilms created a video highlighting the Cambridge-Watertown bus priority pilot and other the #BostonBRT projects in the region. Click here to watch this video.

November 2018

November 15, signal timing and coordination on Mt. Auburn at Coolidge Ave and Fresh Pond Parkway has been corrected and is functioning as intended.

November 5 to 14, City of Cambridge and DCR staff together made extensive observations and fixed the signal timing and coordination issues.

October 2018

October 26, Cambridge, Watertown, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, MBTA, MassDOT, and the Barr Foundation participated in the launch event.

October 25, Cambridge staff finished implementing bus priority lane markings, signage, and transit priority signals. DCR finished first calibrations.

Mid-October, Check out this new document with questions and answers on the design of the new bus and bike-only lanes, transit signal priority, and queue jump features.

October 15, project staff began implementing features of the Mt. Auburn Bus Priority Pilot project. DCR also worked signal installation and timing changes at Coolidge Avenue. Additional monitoring and calibration continued through the week.

Early October, The City created a two-page flyer with the latest information on the upcoming installation of the dedicated bus lane and how-to information for people driving, walking, and biking along the corridor.

In addition, the city created these brief videos, providing more information about the pilot and its impacts:

August 2018

Week of August 27, Cambridge staff restriped Mount Auburn St. to reconfigure traffic lanes, add clearer lane markings, add bicycle lanes, and reconfigure where Brattle Street merges with Mt. Auburn Street westbound.

Early August, Watertown implemented shared bus queue jump/right-turn-on-red lanes at School and Walnut Streets. View updated plans here.

July 2018

Cambridge high school students working with the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program did outreach on the corridor.

June 2018

Project staff adjusted implementation timeline to the fall to stay coordinated with needed DCR intersection work.

May 2018

May 1, Staff from Cambridge and Watertown hosted a joint community meeting. See Meeting Presentation (PDF)

Draft Plans of the Mount Auburn St Bus Priority Pilot Project (PDF) in 3 files:

Factsheet about the Bus Priority Pilot Project

March 2018

March 27, Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Meeting  View the meeting presentation (PDF).
The City has also released a Mt. Auburn Street Bus Priority Pilot Q&A for Strawberry Hill residents (PDF).

December 2017

Cambridge, in partnership with Watertown, received a community grant from the Barr Foundation to work with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) to pilot bus priority improvements for routes 71 and 73 along Mt. Auburn St., between Belmont St. and Fresh Pond Parkway. 

For more information, please contact Andrew Reker by calling 617-349-6959 or sending an e-mail to areker@cambridgema.gov.