A new survey unveiled this week by the Reimagine Broadway effort shows that a majority of those surveyed – those that use the bus and those that don’t – approve of the idea of having a one-seat ride from Glendale Square to downtown Boston.
In that survey, 442 people in Everett were surveyed online and on the street, and 277 used the bus primarily and 165 did not. However, 341 of them wanted to see the bus continue from Everett Square to downtown Boston in a dedicated lane. Another 312 wanted to see the dedicated bus lane continue from Everett Square to Glendale Square. New dedicated bus lanes on Sweetser Circle and during the afternoon hours northbound on Broadway were key provisions in the Reimagine Broadway initiative launched early last fall.
The survey paves the way for the potential of a new extension of the Silver Line using dedicated bus lanes in Everett to take residents on a quick trip into jobs and amenities and unlocking the potential for more housing development along the Broadway corridor.
“Getting people from Everett to downtown Boston on a one-seat ride would be a game-changer,” said Julia Wallerce, a program manager for the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP). “There is a value for sacrifice and not having parking on the curb. The more you recognize what you get back for that, the more you are willing to make that sacrifice. Everett will most likely be included in that (Silver Line) corridor. Everett is a great partner and is willing to build out infrastructure. Everett is on track to continue to be a leader in access and mobility…Everett is doing everything the right way.”
Reimagine Broadway is a partnership between a number of organizations like ITDP, Ad Hoc Industries, the City and the state – among others. It has become a precursor for the Silver Line Extension study that is underway right now, and that has a public meeting scheduled on April 27. For Everett, enhancing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) facets has been a major priority for Mayor Carlo DeMaria since his Administration introduced the region’s first dedicated bus lane southbound on Broadway many years ago.
The Reimagine effort has included adding the northbound afternoon lane to Everett Square, adding a spur on Main Street off Sweetser Circle, and adding the permanent lane on Sweetser Circle. Other measures have been branding pieces that include new color schemes for bus facilities and COVID-19 safety kits/markings (called the ‘Distance of Care’).
There’s also a part of it that includes a little fun and enjoyment for riders – all courtesy of Adrian Gill of Ad Hoc Industries, who has been intimately involved in the planning of Reimagine and previously coordinated BRT oddities such as the Flower Bomb on Everett Square bus stops two years ago.
“When you’re looking at transit, we’re also looking at overall experience to maximize the engagement we have with people,” he said. “We want to make sure BRT is accessible not just in transit circles, but also for the broader community…A lot of times people focus on getting on and getting to where they want to go quickly. The place they experience the pain is during the wait. So we focus on the wait and acknowledge it is a pain point.”
Another pain point is crowded buses, a major issue during COVID-19. However, the survey showed that after Reimagine Broadway, respondants that use the bus reported the buses were less crowded.
“They said that before they were hesitant to get on because the buses were too crowded,” said Wallerce. “They felt that after the bus lanes were in, the buses were less crowded. That’s probably because without the buses being stuck in traffic, they could run more buses up and down the corridor and reduce crowding.”
In the survey, some 42 percent reported having refused to get on a bus in Everett because it was too crowded. However, they also said they felt the buses were now less crowded with the new bus lanes. Some 231 out of those surveyed agreed buses were less crowded, and only 26 said a definant ‘no.’ Many (139) were not sure.
As for safer bus stops in COVID due to the ‘Distance of Care’ campaign and markings at the stops, 178 said they felt safer and that it had produced less crowding and more direction for people waiting for the bus and those walking past the stop.
The overall survey of the Reimagine Broadway measures showed 259 were satisfied, 66 were somewhat satisfied, 61 were neutral, 13 were somewhat dissatisfied, 24 were dissatisfied and 19 did not respond.
One part that gave mixed results was the Shared Street initiative.
Gill said part of the overall effort was to also make feeder routes for pedestrians getting to bus stops more safe. That included slowing down vehicles and using temporary measures like parklets to change driver behaviors.
“The Shared Streets effort was mixed and some of that might have been how it was rolled out,” said Wallerce.
While people surveyed agreed with the concept of slowing down traffic on major bus stop feeder roads, they didn’t like how it was simply plopped down one day last year without a lot of notice.
Of those surveyed, in cooperation with local community groups like the Everett Haitian Community Center, the majority of those asked responded in Haitian Creole (193), with the second largest language being English (180). There were 50 that responded in Spanish and 19 in Portuguese. Some 256 responses were collected online, and 186 on the street.
The key takeaway for Wallerce and Gill was the fact that so many wanted to see an extension of the dedicated bus lanes and the potential of making the Broadway corridor a major transit corridor for quick mobility to Boston and Cambridge without a car. Some 70 percent wanted to see it extended to Glendale Square, and 77 percent wanted to see it extended to Sullivan Station or downtown Boston.
“No matter how people use the corridor, even if they don’t use the bus, the survey shows us they see the importance of the bus lane and know transit is key to this corridor in Everett,” said Wallerce. “It sets up Everett as a priority community to transit…The more that is publicly recognized and there is buy-in of what might seem like a sacrifice…it supports the vision of a sustainable and equitable future for Everett.”
To learn more about the Boston BRT initiative in Everett or the Reimagine Broadway, go to http://www.bostonbrt.org/everett-brt-reimagine-broadway1