Bus Priority

Cities can make buses travel better using dedicated lanes and signal priority for buses. By focusing on places with high delay or high unreliability, the City identifies locations that will benefit from various bus priority strategies. Recent bus priority projects, reports, and studies are listed below.

City bus priority projects

Mount Auburn Street - Made permanent

In 2019, the City of Cambridge and project partners, made permanent the signal changes and bus-and-bike-only lanes on the following streets.

  • Mount Auburn Street eastbound between Brattle St and Fresh Pond Parkway
  • Mount Auburn Street eastbound between Ralph Piteri Terrace (Watertown) and Homer Ave (Cambridge)
  • Belmont Street eastbound between Brimmer St and Mount Auburn Street

This project started as a pilot with easily-removable changes to street markings, signage, and signals. After the changes, the City and project partners conducted surveys, analyzed travel times and counts of vehicles, and observed the streets for people walking, biking, taking the bus, and driving. With few negative impacts to people driving, bus riders reported significant improvements to bus reliability and travel time. At the same time, people biking and walking both reported improved comfort on Mount Auburn Street. To learn more about this project, go to the archived project website.

South Massachusetts Avenue - Implemented

In 2018, the City installed bus-only lanes on Massachusetts Avenue between Sidney and Albany Streets and Vassar Street and Memorial Drive with the South Massachusetts Avenue Corridor Safety Improvements project.

MBTA Route 1 is the busiest bus route in the MBTA and a vital lifeline connecting people between Cambridge and Boston. Other MBTA vehicles (like the RIDE vehicles), EZRide, MASCO, other employee shuttles, and school buses also benefit by using this lane. To learn more about this project, go to the project website.

Reports on bus priority in Cambridge

Transportation Research Board-Transit Cooperative Research Program

In 2019, the Transportation Research Board's Transit Cooperative Research Progam published Report #207: Fast-Tracked: A Tactical Transit Study. This study is a snapshot of the quick-build strategies that cities have used to improve travel for people on buses and streetcars. This report included both bus priority projects in Cambridge. To read this report, visit the report's webpage.

StreetFilms

The Barr Foundation funded part of the City's Mount Auburn Bus Priority pilot project. The Barr Foundation and partners at StreetFilms reported on the successes of various projects in the Boston area. Click below to watch the StreetFilm

Study on delay and unreliability

In 2014 and 2018, the City studied bus delay and unreliability on most bus routes in Cambridge. In the 2018 study, City staff identified locations of concern where bus delay and unreliability are high. In locations of concern, we may desire to install dedicated bus lanes and priority at signals for buses. These locations of concern mapped onto Cambridge streets. Click here to see this map of the locations of concern.

More information

For more information about the City of Cambridge transit program, click here.

For more information about bus priority in Cambridge, please contact Andrew Reker at areker@cambridgema.gov or 617/349-6959.