New Bus Lanes Scheduled for Columbus Ave.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) announced that bus lanes and pedestrian improvements are coming to Columbus Avenue after hearing complaints from riders that congestion has caused buses to travel more slowly.

This project is part of the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury Transportation Action Plan, in which several communities and locations were identified as needing improvements that were “high priorities for residents,” according to the city’s website.

BTD held two open houses regarding the project, one on January 27 and one on January 30 where residents could look at the plans and speak with the team to discuss any questions or concerns about the proposal.

The proposal is to create bus lanes down the center of Columbus Avenue that would expedite bus reliability as well as save between four and seven minutes on bus trips on the corridor. The three bus routes that currently utilize that corridor are the 22, the 29, and the 44.

Additionally, there will be enhanced station stops with countdown clocks, shelters, lighting, better signs, and emergency call boxes. Bus stops would be accessed via crosswalks to the center of the street, similar to the above ground trolleys on the Green Line.

Pedestrian safety will also be improved through better ADA access, more pedestrian signals, and shorter crossing distances. Bike enhancements will also be evaluated by the BTD as it is  further discussed with the community.

“The goal is to implement something this year and so we’re trying to move quickly,” said BTD Transportation Planner William Moose. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from the community. A lot of people are excited and in favor as-is,” he said, but ”some people have reservations.”

He said that some residents are concerned about Columbus Ave. going down to one lane of traffic on each side to accommodate the bus lanes, but Moose said that there will still be room for turn lanes at a lot of the intersections “that will be able to alleviate some of that.” Additionally, they are looking to add in another left turn lane that doesn’t exist today.

Moose said that traffic “probably will be impacted to some extent” from this project, but “we had our consultants build a traffic model which indicates that you can process basically the same amount of traffic with adjustments to the traffic signals.”

“The ultimate goal is not to make traffic worse but to make the bus faster and more reliable,” Moose said, and “to give bus passengers a more comfortable, reliable trip every time down the corridor.”

Many residents have several complaints about the current status quo on Columbus Ave. Aside from the bus delays, the BTD said that residents feel that Columbus Ave. is “unfriendly” to pedestrians, cyclists, and people who use public transportation. Additionally, residents feel that on-street parking is an important part of the district and that curb space could be better managed, as well as the timing on some signals that could be improved for both vehicles and pedestrians.

Also, during peak hours a bus trip can take two to three times longer than off hours for bus passengers who travel down this corridor, Moose said. He said they want to “give people a sense that they can actually rely on the bus.”

Moose said construction on the new lanes, stops, and pedestrian improvements will begin this spring. More information about the project can be found at bit.do/columbusbuslanes.

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