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Starts & Stops

More bus lanes are coming to Boston

A bus uses the dedicated bus lane on Washington Street in Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Bus lane fever is spreading in Boston.

City officials say they will be testing at least two new bus-only lanes this year after riders on Washington Street in Roslindale saw major improvements from a bus lane that opened there in 2018.

Up next are Brighton Avenue in Allston and North Washington Street between the bridge from Charlestown and the subway station at Haymarket. Like the Roslindale bus lane, the one slated for Brighton Avenue will only operate inbound on weekdays during the morning commute, while the North Washington Street bus lane will be full-time.

Boston will also soon begin planning a proposed bus lane along Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, where a new commuter rail stop recently opened, officials said.


MBTA officials and Governor Charlie Baker have embraced bus lanes as a simple low-cost way to improve transit for thousands of people by allowing crowded vehicles to speed through traffic. While communities including Cambridge, Everett, Somerville, and Arlington have created bus lanes, state transportation officials have urged cities, including Boston, to move faster.

But Boston officials say they are taking steps to dedicate lanes far more quickly by hiring a new transit team that will work with the MBTA to set up and manage the infrastructure.

“We have significantly improved our capacity to go quickly,” said Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of streets.

The upcoming bus lanes were one of several new transportation projects announced by Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Thursday.

The city and the MBTA have debated who will pay to set up and maintain bus lanes. Vineet Gupta, the city’s transportation planning director, said the city and state will soon finalize an agreement about how to split the costs.


Gupta said the city may eventually explore adding outbound bus lanes during the afternoon commute but has focused so far on inbound lanes because traffic tends to be worse in the morning.

The North Washington lane could be a boon to riders of the popular 111 bus from Chelsea, which has historically struggled with canceled trips and overcrowding, although the MBTA says conditions have improved since new drivers were assigned to the route last year. In a few years, a rebuilt North Washington Street Bridge will also have a bus-only lane letting riders bypass car traffic from Charlestown to downtown.

Cyclists and school buses are also allowed to use the dedicated lanes.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.