Virtually every bus line running in and out of Everett will be improved as a new, northbound bus lane at pinch-point portions of Broadway and Main Street roll out this month as part of a process to streamline Sweetser Circle.
Last week, the MBTA announced broadly that the project was getting ready to begin, and this week Transportation Director Jay Monty detailed the work that will take place and will hopefully be operational by October.
“It’s pretty much every bus route that will be affected,” he said. “A ballpark guess is each bus will save five minutes on each corridor. It depends on the day and time, but that’s reasonable. When we did the southbound lane, it saved about four minutes for each bus. We believe this will be comparable. It really is a big deal. There are three dozen trips in these three hours and it will allow them to run fewer buses and make fewer trips. If you add up all that time, it is several hours. That time can be reinvested in making more trips and quicker trips.”
The project has the full support of Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who initiated the first dedicated bus lane several years ago on Broadway going into Boston.
“Expanding Everett’s bus lane network is a critical part of expanding our residents’ mobility options as well as increasing the safety of transportation as we recover from the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said. “Shorter travel times and less crowded buses will benefit the health and well-being of thousands of our residents and essential workers who continue to rely on public transit.”
The project will begin with Sweetser Circle, which will have a dedicated bus lane 24 hours a day and will allow buses to travel without obstruction.
The key pinch-points that will now have bus lanes will be northbound at Main Street and at Broadway. These are two of the most congested areas of the city, especially for buses. The new lanes will be painted red like other bus lanes, and will operate from 4-7 p.m. For Main Street, the lane will go from Sweetser Circle to Tileston Street, and then the bus will join regular traffic. For Broadway, the lane will go from Sweetser Circle to Chelsea Street, and then join regular traffic.
“These two areas have the worst congestion,” said Monty. “Main Street is terrible in that area and Broadway at that point is where many bus lines come to a complete stop in congestion…We’re in a situation where bus ridership is rebounding. We’re at 60 percent of pre-pandemic ridership now in Everett.”
Monty said this effort will be different than the first dedicated bus lane on Broadway several years ago, which was one of the first in Greater Boston at the time. In that effort, the City went all in and took the far lane of southbound Broadway from Glendale to Sweetser. This time, however, Monty said they have learned you don’t need the entire stretch, but only key points.
Naturally, parking is an issue – as the bus lane would take away parking on northbound Broadway and Main Street in the afternoons. Monty said parking would definitely be a concern, and they have already begun speaking with business owners and looking at alternative parking plans if the bus lane becomes an issue.
The process isn’t being handled as a normal state project, but rather like the previous bus lane where the City designs everything and picks the contractor. Then, the MBTA will reimburse the City for a good majority of the costs.
“We took the lead on this,” said Monty. “Sweetser Circle is not our roadway. It’s a state roadway, but went ahead and procured the design. We’re treating it like a private development where the state requires a developer to do road improvements, and the developer completes them and the state approves it.”
That has been the pattern, started in Everett some years ago with the Transit Action Plan, for many communities. Instead of waiting on state processes, many communities take the costs upon themselves, or wait for reimbursements to speed up improvements and have more local control.
“You have to do that,” said Monty. “It’s the only way to get things done on a quick timeline. It also gives us more ownership of the project and makes sure we’re doing something that works for us.”
The project is expected to begin in two weeks, and it is hoped to be done by the second week of October.
Mayor DeMaria and Monty said they would be doing extensive outreach to residents, T riders and businesses over the coming weeks about the bus lanes.