It was a very chilly morning in late 2016 – with a few snowflakes falling – as City crews began placing orange cones down the inbound side of Broadway, the first day of the first real dedicated bus lane in Everett or the region.
The innovative mobility effort in Everett has come a long way since the orange cone days, and on Monday the City took the next step by kicking off Re-Imagine Broadway in Everett Square as Mayor Carlo DeMaria welcomed state transportation leaders to celebrate the next step on Broadway.
Mayor DeMaria said he began, and is continuing, a vision that prioritizes buses and people over cars and commuters in Everett. He said that before the pandemic, the City’s bus routes handled 10,000 riders per day, and those routes didn’t really slow down during the pandemic. It’s with that the mayor officially introduced the new northbound dedicated (afternoon) bus lane on Broadway and Main Street – and noted the new Silver Line 3 Expansion Study beginning this fall.
“Our buses are essential services for essential people,” he said. “Re-Imagine Broadway is an opportunity to encompass all we have around Broadway and the neighborhoods. Business have to have foot traffic. If people can travel easier by bus, it allows them access to jobs, health care and services…I am committed to building full-scale Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Broadway. BRT is a tool to unlock economic opportunity for Everett…I’ve always said if we can get people from Everett into Boston with a one-seat ride, we can transform our city and the communities north of us too.”
Since those beginning days, Mary Skelton Roberts of the Barr Foundation noted that Mayor DeMaria has been a champion of BRT and making the bus lines central to the planning of Everett downtown – which now includes several street calming measures along Broadway side-streets and a pop-up parklet at on Ferry Street as part of Re-Imagine Broadway.
“To do this you needed committed leaders on the state and local level and who weren’t afraid to push back on misconceptions,” she said. “We needed leaders to stand up and say they support the bus and the people that ride it. Mayor DeMaria has been fearless since the beginning. Since that day when they dropped orange cones down Broadway, it started a bus revolution. What started as a line of cones in 2016 has become a multi-faceted Re-Imagining of these key parts of Broadway.”
MassDOT Director Stephanie Pollack has been a frequent visitor to Everett over the years for the Transit Action Plan in 2015 and 2016 and many other initiatives since then. She said this program landed Everett a $170,000 state grant to help implement the new northbound bus lane and to put in slow streets and a pop-up parklet (which will host a Farmer’s Market over the next few weeks) on Ferry Street.
“It would have been unheard of in the past to think a business district like Everett Square could thrive without parking in front of the stores or every lane of travel in use at all times by cars,” she said. “This is exactly what Mayor DeMaria has been trying to bring about and Everett has been a consistent and early partner in this effort with us.”
She said the current program came in with $5 million statewide, but was so popular that Gov. Charlie Baker added another $5.2 million for a second round. That funded 103 communities for 124 projects, and the next budget cycle will another $10 million available for similar proposals statewide.
One piece of the Everett Re-Imagining Broadway project, said state official, is the feasibility study for expanding the Silver Line 3 (SL3) from Chelsea through Everett and down to Sullivan Square. The SL3 now runs from South Station in downtown Boston and through the Seaport neighborhood, stopping at Logan Airport before snaking through Chelsea and ending at Market Basket Mall on the Chelsea/Everett line. Were the study to show an expanded Silver Line to be useful, Mayor DeMaria said it would make the full-scale BRT dream come alive. That, he said, is the ultimate hope for prioritizing bus service in Everett – essentially given another fast mode in either direction with one seat transport.
Rev. Myrlande Desrosiers, of the Everett Haitian Community Center, said Re-Imagine Broadway opens access to all residents of the city to opportunities and transportation – even those who might be new and don’t know their way around.
“Many of the people we work with are new to the country and do not know their way around and are not proficient in English,” she said. “Many of them do not have access to a car. That should not be a barrier. The Re-Imagine Broadway breaks down some of those barriers, creating better mobility choices and making those choices accessible to people that need them…It is about the person riding the bus being as important as the person driving the car.”
The Re-Imagine Broadway initiative rolled out last week and this week, and will continue in the coming weeks. The new, northbound afternoon bus lane on Broadway and Main Street (not the full length though) took effect on Monday, Oct. 26.