Study finds bus/bike lane a success

Over the summer, a City Council subcommittee will meet to discuss whether to make the Chelsea Broadway bus pilot program permanent.

At Monday night’s council meeting, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino presented a study on the pilot program to the council.

The city implemented a bus pilot on Washington Avenue between Chestnut Street and 5th Street and on Broadway between 5th Street and 3rd Street in November of 2020. With this pilot, one of the existing travel lanes on Washington Avenue and Broadway was converted into a dedicated bus/bike lane.

In addition, curb extensions were added on Broadway at the intersections at 3rd Street and 4th Street. The goal of the pilot was to demonstrate the feasibility of integrating bus priority on the critical corridor that serves high volumes of transit riders.

“The City commissioned the traffic engineering firm of HNTB to conduct (a) study,” stated Ambrosino. “Unfortunately, because of Covid, traffic was significantly reduced in the downtown for a long period, delaying any accurate measurement of impact. However, with the traffic returning close to normal, HNTB completed the analysis this spring.”

When proposing the pilot, Ambrosino noted that “if the pilot truly results in substantial negative public feedback, adverse impacts on downtown businesses and intolerable inconvenience to vehicular travel, then the city will abandon this Option 2 and redesign for a different alternative.”

However, Ambrosino said none of that has happened.

According to the study, Ambrosino said the bus/bike lane has not had a detrimental impact on traffic in the downtown corridor, has somewhat improved vehicular and pedestrian safety and has not generated significant public opposition.

“In fact, since its inception, I have received very few complaints,” stated Ambrosino. “For these reasons, I remain a staunch supporter of the Bus/Bike Lane option for Downtown Chelsea.”

The conclusion of the HNTB study states that the success of the bus pilot can be measured by a combination of a reduction in crashes, a reduction in travel times for MBTA buses, minimal increase to delays on Washington and Broadway, an increase in MBTA ridership, and an increase in the number of cyclists.

“While there has been an increase in bicycle-related crashes, the number of crashes involving pedestrians decreased significantly as well as the total number of crashes along the corridor,” the report stated. “Vehicle speed and travel times remained consistent, MBTA travel times remained similar, and MBTA ridership decreased slightly. Overall, it can be concluded that the Bus Pilot had no detrimental impacts on Washington and Broadway corridors.”

The report further states that it is anticipated that the formalization of the dedicated bus/bike lane will further improve safety along the corridor and increase comfort and safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

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