After a four-week test, Boston officials have decided to make permanent a bus lane in Roslindale, freeing MBTA and school bus riders from the morning gridlock along a stretch of Washington Street leading to Forest Hills.
City officials Thursday said the reserved lane, which bans parking along the inbound side of Washington Street every weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., will return June 18. Only MBTA buses, school buses, and cyclists will be allowed to use it. The street still has a single lane for car traffic.
“It is sound transportation policy to implement along Washington Street a designated bus lane that also allows for people riding bikes,” said Gina Fiandaca, Boston’s transportation commissioner.
The bus lane will at first be marked by cones, but eventually the road will be painted to designate the bus lane.
During the test from May 7 to June 1, MBTA buses shaved 20 to 25 percent off their travel times during the worst period of congestion. While it is often bumper-to-bumper traffic in the mornings, about 60 percent of all people on the road are in a bus.
Supporters of the bus lane have argued residents will have sufficient parking even with the lane reserved, and they say motorists will also benefit because the buses are not swinging in and out of traffic to pick up riders.
Meanwhile, businesses on the stretch had few complaints during the test because many of them aren’t open during the lane’s operating hours, said Alia Hamada Forrest, executive director of Roslindale Village Main Streets, a neighborhood business group.
Activists are “thrilled” the lane will return, said Andrew McFarland, a spokesman for the Livable Streets Alliance, which organized support. He said the city should now consider an outbound bus lane during the afternoon.
The T has been pressing cities and towns to dedicate more road space to bus lanes on stretches with high ridership, as part of a broader effort to improve service. The Roslindale lane is the first new bus lane in Boston in a decade, and the only one besides a stretch of the Silver Line through the South End.
Boston expects to open other bus lanes in the future, and recently announced plans to hire a transit director to work closely with the MBTA and manage the streets.