Starts & Stops

After a month, the Roslindale bus lane ends. Now what?

MBTA buses sat in traffic on Washington Street in Roslindale in November of 2017.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
MBTA buses sat in traffic on Washington Street in Roslindale in November of 2017.

After a month of car-free commuting, a one-mile section of busy Washington Street in Roslindale that had been reserved for buses returned to regular traffic Monday, while city officials ponder whether to make the exclusive lane permanent.

Boston transportation officials said they will review data and feedback of the four-week test, which had banned street parking along the inbound side of Washington between Roslindale Square and the Forest Hills Orange Line station during morning commutes.

That stretch of Washington is often bumper-to-bumper traffic, but the exclusive lane allowed MBTA and public school buses to bypass that congestion.


The T has not yet released any data showing how the bus lane affected commutes. But in December, after a one-day test, officials said it shortened the average bus trip down Washington St. from 13 minutes to nine. And on social media, some riders said they made some trips as quickly as six minutes.

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Boston Transportation Department spokeswoman Tracey Ganiatsos said the city would review feedback in the “coming weeks,” but declined to say how, or when, the final decision will be made. She directed residents and riders to email with their comments.

Earlier, in May, Ganiatsos told the Globe that the city was “getting positive reviews from local residents as well as riders.” According to the MBTA, 94 percent of riders and cyclists said they want the lane to remain.

The Livable Streets Alliance, a Boston advocacy group that supports the bus lane, is asking for the city to keep the lane running until a final decision is made, said spokesman Andrew McFarland. “Why is BTD intentionally making the street congested for people driving, biking, and taking transit?” he said.

While the MBTA owns the buses, and is responsible for scheduling, staffing, and dispatching them, cities own the rights of way they run along. So the T has pressed cities and towns to dedicate more road space to bus lanes on stretches with high ridership, as part of a broader effort to improve the bus network for passengers.


In recent months, Somerville installed a bus-only lane on a short stretch of road near Union Square, while Arlington, Cambridge, and Watertown laid plans to run their own. Everett in 2016 abruptly cut off a parking lane for a bus on a stretch of broadway, first cordoning it off with cones during a pilot stretch and later marking the bus lane with paint.

The Roslindale test was the first new bus lane in Boston in a decade, and the only besides a stretch of the Silver Line through Roxbury and the South End. Meanwhile, a recent proposal to establish a bus-only lane for about one block on East Broadway in South Boston was loudly denounced by neighbors at a public meeting in May.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.