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Image depicts a street - on the sidewalk is a sign that says "Right Lane Buses Only." Next to the sidewalk, a bike lane is next to the curb, separated from the rest of the street by flex posts. Nex tot the bike lane, there is a red travel lane with markings that say "Only Bus." Next to the bus lane is a travel lane with several vehicles, separated from the other side of the street with a median.

Bus trips on north Mass Ave faster, more consistent with bus lanes

Bus riders on north Massachusetts Avenue experience faster, more consistent travel times after the City of Cambridge installed bus lanes in 2021, according to a new analysis.

The analysis shows that average travel time for Route 77 buses between Dudley Street and Alewife Brook Parkway significantly decreased after bus lanes were added. Bus travel times also became more consistent and predictable throughout the day.  

Read the Analysis

Two maps show where North Mass Ave is located on the Cambridge City map; a smaller detail map shows the stretch between Route 16 and Norris street discussed in the analysis.View larger map.

The City of Cambridge installed dedicated bus lanes and separated bike lanes between Dudley Street and Alewife Brook Parkway on North Mass Ave in late 2021. 

Between May 2019 and May 2022, bus travel times along this route decreased significantly, according to MBTA data. 

  • Inbound buses (headed toward Harvard while the dedicated bus lane was in effect) traveled 31 percent faster on average
  • Outbound buses (headed toward Arlington in the dedicated bus lane) traveled 40 percent faster on average. 

Travel times also became less variable–meaning that the time spent sitting on the bus was more consistent and predictable for riders.

  • In May 2019, a bus traveling the quarter mile between Cameron Avenue and Churchill Avenue could take anywhere from 44 seconds to over five minutes on a typical day, depending on traffic levels.
  • In May 2022, about six months after the City installed bus lanes, the same trip ranged from 23 seconds to 45 seconds on an average day. 

Improved Service

The MBTA calls Route 77 a “key route” and the current Bus Network Redesign proposal includes more frequent service in the future. But data from 2017 showed trips frequently running behind schedule. 

Before lanes went in, buses carrying dozens of people were stuck behind cars typically carrying one or two people. Bus riders had to plan for delay and leave early to get to their destinations on time. Taking away some of that uncertainty with a bus lane gives riders back extra time at home and reduces the stress of missing transfers or being late to important appointments.  

And the bus lanes aren’t only used by MBTA buses– school buses, emergency vehicles, and commuter shuttles are also reaping the time-savings benefits. School bus pick up and drop off times are more consistent and it’s easier for emergency vehicles to respond without delay. 

Reimagining the Street

Shows a "Before" and "After" comparison of North Mass Ave between Dudley Street and Alewife Brook Parkway. Before, each side of the street had a sidewalk, parking, bike lane, and two parking lanes. After changes were installed in Fall 2021, each side had a sidewalk, separated bike lane, bus lane, and general-purpose travel lane. The inbound bus lane is bus-only before 9 a.m. and allows parking and loading between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. The outbound bus lane is bus-only 24/7.Cambridge redesigned North Mass Ave as part of the Cycling Safety Ordinance, which requires the installation of about 25 miles of separated bike lanes, including along all of Mass Ave. When the City started planning to put quick-build separated bike lanes on the part of the street leading to the Alewife Brooke Parkway, there was also an opportunity to improve reliability and reduce delay for Route 77 buses. 

Before the North Mass Ave project, each side of the street had two travel lines, a conventional bike lane, and a curbside parking/loading lane.

After changes, each side of the street includes a separated bike lane, a single general-purpose travel lane, and a dedicated bus lane.

  • The inbound bus lane (headed toward Harvard) is bus-only in the mornings before 9 a.m.  and can be used for parking and loading from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.  
  • The outbound bus lane (headed toward Arlington) is bus-only 24/7.  

Making Transit a Reliable, Easy Choice in Cambridge

Cambridge has a policy of improving transit so that it is a reliable, easy choice. Bus priority projects like this one improve the experience for people who rely on transit to get around. Essential workers, people with low incomes, people of color, older adults, students, and people with disabilities disproportionately rely on bus service.  

Cambridge works to improve the transit experience not only to serve existing riders, but also to add new ones. Making it more attractive to ride the bus encourages people to take transit instead of drive – and fewer people driving means lower greenhouse emissions, improved air quality, and less traffic congestion.  

Learn More

Interested in digging in more? Read the full analysis for more data and visit the links below to learn more about: 

Page was posted on 1/31/2023 4:07 PM
Page was last modified on 7/25/2023 1:55 AM
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