The best traffic improvement we’ll never make

The worst choke point on Mass. Ave in East Arlington has got to be at Lake Street inbound. (Route 16 might be worse, but is in Cambridge.)

All Hope Abandon

Lake Street and Mass. Ave. (proposed), detail from the Town's Mass. Ave. web page.

Morning drivers hoping to turn right onto Lake St. must crowd into the turning lane only to be trapped behind an MBTA bus, stopping to pick up commuters in front of the Capitol Theater.

Traffic can back up for blocks, waiting for and often missing a traffic cycle (or three) while buses board passengers. It is the Sargasso Sea of East Arlington.

Here’s how to fix that—and why we shouldn’t (and won’t).

The traffic-flow benefits of moving the bus stop to the other side of Lake Street, outside of Christo’s and Flora, are huge.

No longer would Lake Street–bound traffic be held hostage to the bus. Wait times, and the length of the queue of cars waiting, would shorten dramatically.

The problem? Say goodbye to Flora and, particularly, Christo’s. There would be no loading zone for these businesses, which have served the neighborhood for years.

I haven’t heard anyone say this would be a good idea. You will notice it is not in the proposed design. Instead, the welfare of these businesses trumps a significant improvement in traffic flow. As it should.

I mention this story here because (1) it’s a good example of the kind of trade-off that traffic planning entails, and (2) it demonstrates real commitment to these businesses from residents, traffic advocates, and town officials alike.

There are several design improvements proposed for the intersection that will ease the morning bottleneck, but none so dramatic as that represented by the bus stop we are not moving.

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