City Officials Weighing Northbound Afternoon Bus Lane on Broadway

The City is strongly considering the implementation within the next year of a dedicated bus lane that would run northbound on Broadway in the afternoon hours – similar to the morning bus lane southbound that already exists.

The idea would be to roll out a dedicated bus lane from Sweetser Circle to Everett Square (Chelsea Street) if studies pan out to support the need for it. Right now, Mayor Carlo DeMaria has had Transportation Planner Jay Monty looking into the very real possibility of Everett creating dedicated bus lanes for the morning and the evening.

“Part of relieving traffic is finding alternative transportation,” Monty said. “Part of trying to get automobiles off of Broadway is to look at the possibility of another bus lane. We are doing a study now about the need to have more bus lanes and where they would go and how they would affect traffic and parking…Sweetser Circle to the Square is the first area we’re looking at because the majority of the delays are there. That can be a 10 minute delay in that corridor alone. It’s where you’re going to get more bang for the buck.”

The morning bus lane runs from Ferry Street to Sweetser Circle, a gigantic stretch, and was rolled out two years ago. While there was some hesitation at first, the lane proved to be a great help for those taking public transportation – reducing commute times to Sullivan Square by many minutes.

Now, to further enhance that program, the City believes they can capture even more new riders on the Broadway stretch by having an easy commute both to Boston and home from Boston via the dedicated lane.

What is at issue is the parking, as parking is wiped out on one side of the street during the times of the dedicated bus lane. In the northbound Broadway stretch, the time for the lane would be roughly from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Monty said they are looking at parking issues, and one thing they’ve found is that parking in Everett Square and the vicinity is ample. In fact, he said, off street parking in most of the corridor is underutilized.

In the Everett Square parking study, there were about 400 spaces available, with half of them on-street and half of them off-street. There are also large private lots at the Whittier School, the Rite Aid and the banks. That all totals up to about 800 total spaces, and at any given time Monty said that studies show only about 60 percent are used.

“That’s really what we’re looking at now, how to address the parking issue,” he said. “What we’re finding now is we’re a little over what we would need for the bus lane on street, but in the central area there are 800 parking spaces. With good management, we don’t think it’s a long shot to be able to accommodate parking needs and the bus lane…Seldom are we using above 50 or 60 percent of the spaces in the entire Square.”

In looking preliminarily at the spaces and the usage, Monty said they believe they can handle the bus lane by about five public spaces – at least according to the study numbers.

“If we take all the spaces and put in a lane here at 4:30 p.m., we could have just enough parking and that is just in the public spaces,” he said.

In some places, however, there are surges in parking use.

One of them is the Capoeira studio just off Sweetser Circle that uses a lot of the parking in that area from around 4 to 7 p.m. There are a couple of other examples as well, he said.

That may not sink the idea, though, he said. One of the ideas is to manage existing spaces that go unused, such as the Whittier School lot in the area near the Capoeira studio. By 4 p.m. on most days, the Whittier lot is empty just as the Capoeira studio has it’s spike.

Monty said this is the case for many uses in the city and probably a reason to call on private lot owners to help the situation by managing parking and using lots that are empty in off hours.

“We have to manage the existing spaces better for the businesses and residents that need to park,” he said.

Any introduction of a new northbound bus lane in the afternoon would come much slower than the previous lane, which was rolled out the whole length of Broadway very quickly. Monty said this one would be slower, step by step and more incremental.

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