By Seth Daniel
Orange cones dotted Broadway Monday morning as the new dedicated bus lane pilot program rolled out from Glendale Square to Sweetser Circle, with positive reviews from bus riders and seemingly only a few hitches with the new configuration.
The lane is the first tangible piece of the Everett Transit Action Plan to be put in place. The Plan came about in a partnership with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the City of Everett – one of only a handful of unique planning efforts statewide embarked upon by the DOT in partnership with municipalities that are underserved by the MBTA.
This, according to City officials, was a recommendation from the overall plan that was “low hanging fruit,” meaning that it could be tested in a pilot program with little to no cost. Other recommendations in the expansive plan – released on Nov. 17 – are more far-reaching and expensive.
The new configuration started at 4 a.m. on Monday and ended at 9 a.m. That will continue all week long until Friday. The orange cones designate a dedicated lane for buses only, and that meant that parking had to be eliminated on western side of Broadway through the whole stretch. That has caused some controversy with early-morning businesses, such as breakfast places, convenience stores and service businesses that rely upon the parking for quick transactions for commuters.
Some were confused at the outset by the new configuration.
Others were towed, unfortunately, despite very visible warnings.
City officials did not have figures for the numbers towed on Monday, but said that on Tuesday they towed two cars.
Some just didn’t like the idea of such a change on Broadway.
The buses, however, had a free and clear path for the first time in years. That seemed, upon observation, to help traffic move more freely outside of the lane due to buses not stopping to pick up passengers in the travel lanes.
And that was well received by those who rely on the bus to get to and from work in the mornings.
Jo Oltman said she moved to Everett a few years ago, buying a house because she wanted to be able to live in a place where she didn’t need a car to get to and from work in Cambridge.
That has worked out well, she said, but the commute from Everett Square to Sullivan Square can often take way too long – about 20 to 30 minutes of her morning commute.
“I’m pretty invested in this because now I own a house in Everett,” she said on Monday while waiting for the bus. “I’ve been to all the Everett Transit Action Plan meetings and I am looking forward to seeing how this goes. I’d actually like to see them clear it out on the other side, too, for the afternoon commute. I think it’s a great idea we need to try.”
She said putting resources and innovative ideas into the MBTA in Everett is long overdue, and applauded those who took action.
“I look at other countries and look at what choices they make when the prioritize funding of their public transportation,” she said. “It ends up being well funded, clean, and on schedule. So, when that happens, people use it. Too many times I’ve arrived at Sullivan (Square) and heard that at rush hour it’s going to be another 40 minute wait.”
MBTA officials said it was too early to comment after Monday’s and Tuesday’s first runs with the new lane. They said they would analyze the results and the data only after the full week pilot program is over.
“The MBTA is excited to partner with the City on this one-week pilot to help analyze the feasibility of a bus-only lane,” said T Spokesman Joe Pesaturo. “But it would be premature to draw any conclusions about this service improvement initiative after just one day of the pilot program. We look forward to working closely with the City to monitor this pilot over the coming days.”
At the City Council, Councilors Richard Dell Isola and Michael McLaughlin are planning to put in an order at the Dec. 12 meeting that would call for a discussion of the bus lane. That discussion will likely happen at the Dec. 19 meeting.