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First MBTA Bus Lane on Broadway in Chelsea will Improve Commutes for Thousands of Riders and Essential Workers

Posted on November 12, 2020

New transit priority facility, a first for the City of Chelsea, includes an all-day bus-only lane on Washington Avenue and Broadway in Chelsea from City Hall Plaza to 3rd Street, benefitting nearly 13,400 riders relying on MBTA Bus Routes 111, 112, 116, and 117. 


The MBTA and City of Chelsea today announced the completion of a new all-day bus-only lane, bike lane, and pedestrian improvements on Broadway from City Hall Plaza to 3rd Street. The bus lane is effective immediately. 

The Broadway bus lane is a key component of the MBTA’s Rapid Response Bus Lane Program. The Rapid Response Bus Lane Program is a transformative MBTA-municipal collaboration aimed at improving service reliability in order to better social distancing measures for MBTA riders and operators on the system’s busiest routes in the wake of the pandemic. Bus lanes can reduce crowding on buses and also limit the amount of time riders spend in close proximity to others while on the bus. In some cases, bus lanes can improve service frequency to further mitigate crowded conditions. 

“This important step to make public bus transportation more efficient represents not only a victory for MBTA customers in Chelsea but also the power of quick-build Shared Streets and Spaces projects,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “MassDOT is pleased to be partnering with the MBTA, the City of Chelsea, and the advocate community on this project, and looks forward to funding more bus lanes elsewhere through the ongoing Shared Streets and Spaces program.”

“Improving bus service reliability for Chelsea has been a top priority for the MBTA in the wake of the pandemic,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “In addition to these enhancements, we have been working closely with the City of Boston to construct an all-day, outbound bus lane on North Washington Street to ensure that routes like the 111 can get to and from Haymarket Station as quickly as possible.”

“Chelsea residents depend on MBTA buses every day of the week for transit to work, for travel to the grocery store, and for accessing critical services,” said City of Chelsea City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino. “Enhancing this bus service directly and positively impacts the health and well-being of all Chelsea residents, including many essential workers, by reducing delays and overcrowding along these important routes.”

“We are seeing bus/bike lanes successfully implemented across the region as a tool to prioritize bus riders, reduce delays, improve bus reliability, and protect bike riders,” said Associate Executive Director of GreenRoots Maria Belen Power. “The vast majority of Chelsea residents rely on buses on a daily basis and today we are excited to prioritize Chelsea riders with our first bus lane on Broadway. We know bike safety is also an important part of the strategy and we want to make sure bike riders feel safe and prioritized!”

The bus lane directly benefits several critical MBTA routes that have had above-average ridership since Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in March. On average, approximately 8 percent of current MBTA bus riders are transported each weekday by the 4 routes impacted by this bus lane. Based on pre-pandemic ridership data, this third-of-a-mile-long bus lane could one day benefit as many as 24,000 riders. 

Construction crews installing bus lane markings on Broadway in Chelsea in October 2020.
Construction crews installing bus lane markings on Broadway in Chelsea in October 2020.

Project components include: 

  • An all-day bus-bike lane along Broadway (and a segment of Washington Avenue) from Chelsea City Hall Plaza to 3rd Street;
  • A bike lane along Broadway from Everett Avenue to Williams Street with design funded by the MBTA and construction funded by MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces grant program; and
  • Pedestrian safety and bus stop accessibility improvements at Bellingham Square, Broadway and 4th Street, and Broadway and 3rd Street.

The MBTA’s Rapid Response Bus Lane Program is based on close partnerships with state and municipal roadway owners, and other projects that have been completed already or are slated for completion this fall include Sweetser Circle, Broadway (outbound), and Main Street in Everett; Broadway (inbound) in Revere; North Washington Street in Boston from Cross Street to Causeway Street; and along Washington Street in Somerville. Design for these projects is supported by the MBTA’s on-call design contracts with implementation predominantly funded by the MBTA with assistance from each municipality. 

The MBTA’s Transit Priority Group was created in 2019 with support from the Barr Foundation to further bus priority projects around the region. Since its creation last year, the group has partnered with municipalities to implement nearly four miles of dedicated bus lanes, alongside transit signal priority and other speed and reliability improvements.

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