Event Recap: Reclaiming the Street: The Impact of Better Bike & Bus Infrastructure

Written by: Scott Mullen, TDM Director | WATCH

On Monday, October 25th, A Better City hosted the latest in its ABC Conversation Series to discuss how the City of Boston has taken advantage of reduced traffic due to COVID to rethink how our streets – the largest portion of public space in the city – might work better for more road users. Since the summer of 2020, miles of dedicated bicycle and bus lanes were installed, improving the safety and overall efficiency of these modes. Similar improvements in communities throughout the metro-region and across the Commonwealth have accelerated roadway updates and a comprehensive network supporting non-SOV options is taking shape.

Our expert panel included Jackie DeWolfe, Director of Sustainable Mobility for MassDOT; Marah Holland, Transportation Planner II at Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC); and Dominic Tribone, GM East, Lyft Bikes & Scooters, Operator of BlueBikes (BB).

Dominic began our event with a detailed analysis of the growth of the BB system during its decade in service, and how the proximity of safe cycling infrastructure to BB stations directly relates to improved station performance. Dom included some eye-opening statistics to put BB ridership in context. Did you know the BB system is on pace to a record ridership year, and that the system moved roughly 80% of Silver Line ridership, and roughly half of Blue Line ridership in September?

Marah presented next, sharing the recent history of bus priority lanes in the region starting with the trailblazing lane on Broadway in the City of Everett. Marah outlined the different types of bus infrastructure, from bus priority treatments like signal timing and queue jumps, to painted bus/bike lanes, to dedicated center-running Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Presenting bus lane statistics through an equity lens, Marah shared maps detailing the most highly delayed bus routes in the region; the routes with the highest retained ridership through the pandemic; and a map of additional proposed, planned, or completed bus lanes. As more of these projects connect, a robust bus lane network is in the making and will collectively save riders tens of thousands of hours of travel time in the near term. You can read more about MAPC’s work on bus priority in their recent report entitled “Get It Rolling”.

Jackie from MassDOT brought it all together with a presentation on the innovative programs put in place during COVID, such as:

  • the Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program;
  • legacy municipal programs like Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School;
  • the existing capital programs that fund trail development, bus priority, and bike/ped improvements across the Commonwealth.

In addition to these programs, Jackie outlined robust measurement practices to help track their effectiveness, such as the 2021 update on the bicycle and pedestrian plan available here and the statewide Mobility Dashboard.

The key themes that emerged from the discussion were:

  • The low cost of bike/bus infrastructure has an outsized positive impact to the user experience and encourages more engagement with active modes and public transit. These types of infrastructure cost essentially pennies on the dollar when compared to expanding roads for motor vehicles only
  • New tools are helping paint a more granular and accurate picture of what is happening on our roadways. Through real-time ridership data from the General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS) and new tools like the Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress, planners can prioritize new infrastructure where it will be most impactful
  • COVID as a catalyst has accelerated the installation of these types of infrastructure and the swift dividend they pay for riders are proof that we are ready to wind down the ‘testing’ phase and move into the ‘scaling’ phase. By connecting these bike and bus facilities into a robust and comprehensive network, we will enable people in the Commonwealth to engage with active modes and leave the car at home for those short trips that make up the majority of the travel.

This was an insightful discussion on what can happen when we prioritize the movement of people on our roadways over the movement and storage of cars, and what the future might hold when we do. You can watch a recording of the event at this link, and you can find the slide decks from our panelists at the links below. Thanks to everyone who attending in real time, and to those who will watch the recording. Please be sure to share with your friends and colleagues!


Dominic Tribone’s Slides

Marah Holland’s Slides

Jackie DeWolfe’s Slides




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