New ‘Transit Team’ Will Focus First on North Washington Street Bridge, Rutherford Avenue

The City codified a new six-person Transit Team within the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) last week when the City Budget was signed into law, and this week City officials said one of the first ‘hot spots’ for the new team will be in Charlestown.

Chief of Streets Chris Osgood said this week that two immediate corridors that they will look at, in conjunction with the MBTA and regional partners, will be the North Washington Street Bridge/Rutherford corridor and the corridor from Roslindale to Jamaica Plain. Both stretches either have bus-only lanes already or, in the case of Charlestown, have one planned.

“We will be looking at places in the City for dedicated bus lanes, particularly in the stretch from Roslindale to Forest Hill (Jamaica Plain) and on the North Washington Street Bridge in Charlestown, which will have a bus lane after construction,” he said. “That space from Charlestown to the North End and from Roslindale to JP show up as the first places they’ll be looking at…We looked at an overall analysis of traffic counts, speeds and ridership counts that helped us identify some corridors where there are particularly a lot of bus riders sitting in traffic. We are looking to partner with the MBTA and our new Transit Team to look at opportunities here first.”

The Transit Team is a group of six new hires, paid for in the budget by the increase in traffic and parking tickets that went into effect on Monday.

The team includes one Transit Coordinator who will oversee the operation and be the direct liaison to the MBTA, other municipalities and regional partners.

A second new hire will be for a Plannner/Engineer, who will identify short-term priorities and long-term plans – instituting things like signal priority for buses and other such solutions such as additional bus-only lanes.

The other four new hires will be part of the operations and enforcement arm of the Transit Team – patrolling the bus lanes and the areas where new things are being tried.

The idea behind the new Team is to improve the rider experience for those trying to us Public Transportation in Boston. In the South End, a bus lane has been in place for the Silver Line for many years, but it’s handicaps include the fact that the lane is often blocked by deliver trucks and double-parkers. A second bus-only lane was established as a pilot last year from Roslindale to Forest Hills, and it was made permanent this year.

That kind of set-up is in the plans for the Sullivan Square/Rutherford Avenue corridor, as well as on the North Washington Street Bridge.

Osgood said they are also looking at signal priority in Charlestown and citywide for buses.

“Transit signal priority is a system on the traffic lights where the approaching bus can inform the light that its coming so that the green light can be extended or the red light can be shortened,” said Osgood. “That allows the bus to move freely through the intersection and minimizes the numbers of stops.”

That priority system would also apply to surface subway cars on the Green Line, which also stop at lights.

In addition, the Transit Team has also identified the corridor beyond the North Washington Street Bridge in the North End – both coming to Charlestown and leaving Charlestown – as another area to extend the bus-priority lane.

Osgood said having a bus priority lane extended from the bridge to the Haymarket Station could dramatically reduce commute times on the entire corridor.

The new hires for the Transit Team have not been made yet, but will be assembled in the coming months.

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