Bus-priority trials OKed

Lake St., Bus Lane, and Route 16

Orange safety sign that reads "New Traffic Pattern Ahead"

The sun will not rise until 6:51 AM in Arlington on October 9.

But by that time Town workers will already have set up the temporary bus lane authorized earlier this evening by the Town’s Select Board.

At 6 AM on October 9, DPW workers will place orange traffic cones at 20-foot intervals along the car-side edge of the Cambridge-bound bicycle lane in East Arlington, from Varnum Street nearly to the Cambridge line.

There will be no parking along this stretch. For three hours, the lane defined by the cones will be reserved for the exclusive use of buses and bicycles.

Police officers, volunteers, and signs will direct motor vehicles into the two unchanged travel lanes.

All traffic will be allowed to cross the lane to access or exit from side streets.

At 9 AM Town employees will remove the cones and the parking restriction will be lifted.

Month-Long Experiment

This routine, to implement one of three measures planned during the month of October, will be repeated every work-day morning through November 2.

Other measures will seek to speed buses through the intersections at Lake Street and at the Alewife Brook Parkway (route 16).

MBTA notice that a bus stop has been movedAt Lake Street, the bus stop near the Capitol Theater will be relocated to the other side of Lake (near Christo’s Market) for each day. The move will displace 3 parking spaces.

Signal changes that Cambridge has agreed to make at the Alewife Brook Parkway will allocate additional time to Cambridge-bound traffic during the morning commute.

Most of the measures will only last 3 hours, but the Route 16 signal adjustments will last all month, and the temporary bus stop relocation at Lake St. will last all of each day.

Nineteen parking spaces will be affected by the pop-up bus lane, and the curb extension at Lafayette Street will be removed for the entire month of the trial.

All of the expenses of the pilot program, from the refreshments at the public meetings to the salaries of the police details, will be paid from a grant from the Barr Foundation.

Barr is funding similar projects across the Greater Boston area. Some of those pilot projects have become permanent.

Also at Lake Street, the signal, which is relatively new, will be equipped to detect the presence of an approaching bus and extend the green.

This technology, called Transit Signal Priority, is currently not an option for the Route 16 intersection because the equipment there is old.

Changes at Route 16

Road sign showing turning and through lanes

New lane configuration approaching Route 16.

The new signal phasing will permit new lane configurations at Route 16. Left and through traffic will proceed at the same time. Consequently,

  • The left lane, currently left-turn only, will be open to both left-turning and through traffic.
  • This will allow the right lane to be right-turn only, while still preserving 2 through lanes.
  • Through buses will use the right lane to bypass some of the traffic queue.

Planners expect moving the Lake St. stop change to reduce bus wait time by at least one signal cycle.

The bus lane could shorten each bus trip, leading to more buses per hour, and the signal changes at Route 16 could speed all motor-vehicle traffic.

Pilots Not Taken

In selecting these measures, the Selectmen did not consider an alternative plan, described at an August 15 community meeting, that would have displaced several parking spaces on the Capitol Theater block.

Another alternative would have spared the 19 parking spaces between Varnum St. and Boulevard Rd. by taking the right lane for bus-only use during the 3-hour test period.

Several complex options for Route 16 were also not presented at the meeting.

The most detailed account of the measures approved, and of some that were not, is a memo prepared by Jennifer Rait, the Town’s Director of Planning and Community Development.

This memo fills in some of the gaps in this report.

Further details, including maps, are also available in slides presented to the Selectmen.

Business Endorsements

Speakers, including business owners, endorsed the plan. Richard Fraiman, the owner of the Capitol Theater, said that local business owners “were very pleased in the way we were able to collaborate with the town.”

Claire Rabin, of Quebrada bakery, told Select board Member Dan Dunn that her business can live with the displacement of parking spots for the purpose of this pilot program. She reserved judgment on any permanent changes.

In his remarks Board, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine recapped the process used to develop the proposal, including two community meetings in May and August.

Quoting one of the slides in his presentation, he said the Town’s goals are to “improve traffic flow, reduce travel time, and increase reliability.”

A public meeting is planned for November 14 to help assess the results of the pilot.

The vote to proceed was unanimous.

Correction: I got the start date wrong. It is Tuesday, October 9. I have corrected both the date and the time of sunrise.

1 comment so far

  1. Susan Stamps on

    Thank you for the update, Adam. We’ll see how it works out!

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