Building on its Better Bus Project, the MBTA has issued a call for public input on how to redesign its bus network to better serve the region’s changing transportation needs.

New ideas for bus service will be tested as “Demonstration Projects” in 2020 to assist the agency evaluate new service concepts that will inform the design of different bus network alternatives. Proposals can range from smaller scale changes on existing service to more significant, infrastructural changes.

All ideas submitted will be evaluated on a set of metrics that are still in development, supported by an origin-destination data set that will help the MBTA identify travel demand. Selected proposals will be presented to the Fiscal Management and Control Board by the end of 2019 for consideration and would begin operating as early as 2020.

Ideas for Demonstration Projects can be submitted via this link until October 4, 2019.

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30 Comments

    1. There are service metrics in place for existing lines.
      This project is about new lines and the metrics are external to the system, for example, cell phone data about where the flows of traffic are, including traffic that is not currently on the MBTA.

  1. Bus lanes and signal priority (and even full BRT) can make buses more attractive than sitting in your car in traffic. The improvement on the 73 bus has been dramatic since the bus lane was put in. But it requires municipalities to cooperate with MBTA to create the bus lanes and to enforce them; current trend is to remove vehicle travel lanes rather than save them for use by transit and bikes. Can the state incentivize this cooperation, perhaps provide small grants? Number of buses is constrained by capacity of bus depots and repair facilities, can State help MBTA find sites for new bus depots that would allow increases in the number of buses?

  2. The MBTA moves too slowly (and I’m not talking the actual speed of the buses and trains). After several months of planning and public input, they worked out the schedule changes in early May but the changes don’t go into effect until September. They could have at least tested out some of these changes during the lighter summer season beginning June 23, but nope, we’ve got to wait until September. Seriously, how much preparation is needed, for example, to not have the 504 bus stop at Newton Corner in the evening? I work 12 months a year. I don’t need my public transit agency to take the summer off.

  3. John, Bill & Greg all make Excellent points.
    I think it’s worth also considering our increasing “car pooling” behavior: Lyft for me. As we strongly responded to the proposals to curtail or not encourage private car services at Logan, I hope we can be forward thinking about future transportation modes.
    We prioritize public transportation as if it’s some holy Grail. Let’s just consider that the future might offer different but also ecologically responsible solutions.
    Finally I worry how we increase availability for the elderly and disabled.
    By the way it snows here.

  4. I put my comments there but I don’t how effective my suggestions can be. The better bus project don’t give me any chance to put in my contact information.

    I would like to see a dedicated bus lane from route 2 to Alewife Garage and from alewife garage to route 2. This is better constructed as an elevated ramp without traffic lights. At the same time, if an optimized exit plan for parked vehicle to get out of the garage onto route 2 can be implemented.
    (average drivers spent 10 to 30 minutes to get out of the garage due to extreme grid locks around alewife)

      1. The residences might opt for an elevated lane unless they really enjoying breathing the smogs from cars idling in the whole area. ( Cars in traffic emits several times higher pollution than cars moving at normal speed)

        In general, residences in Boston area reject any kind of traffic congestion reduction plan but they are the ones that suffer the most.

      2. A direct exit onto route 2 westbound – beyond the rotary – from the Alewife garage for all vehicles, not just buses would greatly alleviate the current gridlock.

  5. Electrify all the busses and subways. They’re doing it in California so the vehicles are being made. We need to get C out of our mass transit.

  6. One important element of designing a better bus route system is to not focus the schedule exclusively on the needs of commuters. If you look at the trips that would actually take cars off the road, a lot of them are (a) parents picking up and dropping off kids from school and daycare; (b) connections from where people live to where people shop; and (c) connecting seniors from where they live to essential services. What could this look like?

    Well, for example, why is the Arsenal Mall not a node for public transit? You can get there east to west, on a single bus line (70/70A), but you can’t get there north to south. It’s completely constructed for car access.

    Focusing on Belmont (because I live there), there is no bus link from Belmont to Watertown, or Belmont to Arlington, or Belmont to Waltham, or Belmont to Boston. Everything is Belmont to Cambridge. Try to get from Belmont to Arlington at rush hour by car – as I have to do 3 times a week – and it can take 45 minutes to go three or four miles.

    Look at what people who don’t work a conventional 9-5 actually do with their lives, and cater to them, with frequent, reliable service, and watch congestion plunge.

    1. Brilliant. Now everyone let’s think like this!
      What do we want, how have others achieved this given similar non-grid colonial era planning? Focus on hubs etc.

    2. Very good points- esp why is there no 65 bus service on weekends which connects Brighton with Fenway which is up and coming with more and more stores and restaurants…. and I agree about getting to the Arsenal Mall as I often walk the north/south direction (? extend the 64 to go there). Has the MBTA ever run a research study to count the number of riders on buses at different times of day?

  7. I wish the 86 bus would be more frequent than every half hour. Sometimes I take that route to get across the. River from Brighton rather than go all the way down to Park Street which would be crazy. If I complain, they say it’s the traffic. I’ve seen two buses arrive across. the street back to back. Also I’ve been trying to get a park bench at the Strathmore Road stop off and on for some time. The City has handicapped requirements because shelters are outsourced but I’m not sure what the state level requirements are. Also, if someone takes the 86 and then gets off to get the 70. bus to Watertown and other points west, one has to cross Western Avenue on foot and hope not run over by the traffic. It would be better if the original stop at the corner of Western Avenue and Birmingham Parkway were restored, then people could cross the street at a traffic light. The Radius residential complex appears completed now i.e. unless the Commonwealth is going to do something with the old horse stables building. Thank you for your attention.

  8. The Better Bus Project should be renamed the Pathetic Bus Project. These are tweaks that should have been done last century. Not sure if they can even re-imagine the system since they have no imagination to begin with. More of the same, tweaks to a radial system that only gets you to Boston. The dominant mode of transportation today is from suburb to suburb.

    1. Can’t agree with you more. The hub and spoke backbone of transportation is outdated and out capacity to a severe limit. To get from Belmont to Newton, you usually have to travel to downtown first and then take the green line, rail or bus. It is not sensible at all!

  9. There are a lot of good ideas here. I also wish the 86 ran more frequently (on weekends too). Personally, I would like to see the 503 Express bus run later in the morning. I believe the last run is at 9:00 AM, and that bus is always packed.
    And I hate to be so cynical, but didn’t we go through this whole “Brainstorming” exercise a couple of years ago with the “Go Boston 2030” project? Has that just been thrown out and forgotten in two years?

    1. Hey Sean,
      The T is doing a whole lot of additional detailed analysis of traffic flows related to buses. So, the project is not redundant. But, I do think your point that the 2030 process included bus suggestions is a good one. I’ll raise this with the team to make sure they are going over that.

    2. A further reply directly from the Better Bus Team regarding Boston 2030:

      We did review Boston 2030 as part of the Better Bus Project’s ‘near-term changes’ process. Many of the ideas in Boston 2030 relate better to Bus Network Redesign and Bus Priority Improvements—both elements of the Better Bus Project moving forward. The have been in close conversations with the City of Boston to advance both these efforts and how they fulfil the cities long-range plan. As you know, we are in a phase with the Network Redesign team where we are asking for ideas for ‘demonstration projects’ from the public and from cities/towns directly. Additionally, we’ve provided direct outreach to municipalities to make sure they tell us what projects they have in mind as priorities for the demonstration phase, and potential final recommendations.

  10. Could there be more dynamic reassignment of buses based on actual usage? I’ve waited 20 minutes to crowd onto an 86 bus at Dawes’ Landing when during that time three 66 buses come and go with almost no one aboard. I understand we can’t have human dispatchers everywhere for reassignment, but if two 66’s leave Harvard Square with a total of 10 passengers, could a computer not pick up on that fact and reassign the next 66 to be an 86 route? BTW the 86 route is just too long and that’s why it is always slow and/or bunched up…split it into two routes at Harvard Square. Almost no one rides it straight through…I have done it many times and seen it’s so.

    1. Good question.

      I’ve had this conversation with T management about a similar situation. The response I have gotten is that it is hard than it looks to move buses around dynamically: The control mechanisms are not that flexible and it is hard to adjust rider expectations.

      Definitely, the 86 is too long. Long routes do get bunched up and off schedule much more frequently.

      1. A few comments here on the 86 bus. With the ongoing development of Boston Landing, seems like common sense to look at the frequency of the 86.

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