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MBTA Wins National Award from TransitCenter for Excellence in Transit Priority Design

Posted on December 23, 2021

In partnership with municipalities, Agency adds nine miles of bus lanes across Greater Boston region, including New England’s first center-running facility, and activates transit signal priority at 37 intersections in 2021.

The MBTA, in partnership with Boston, Malden, Revere, Lynn, Somerville, Brookline, and MassDOT, earns prestigious honor from TransitCenter for “Best Transit Street Upgrades.”


Columbus Avenue’s bus lanes are the first center-running bus lane facility in the MBTA service area and in New England.
In partnership with the City of Boston, MBTA launched service on Columbus Avenue, the first center-running bus lane project in New England, in 2021.

The MBTA along with its employees, municipal partners, and advocates celebrated special recognition for transit-priority design from TransitCenter, a national foundation that supports improving American public transit. TransitCenter presented the MBTA with the Award for Best Transit Street Upgrades at its annual Frequencies awards ceremony hosted on social media. 

“This award comes at the end of what has been a banner year for the MBTA when it comes to transforming our bus system,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “In addition to partnering with the City of Boston to launch the center-running bus lanes on Columbus Ave., we have added nine miles of bus lanes across the region, nearly doubling the region’s bus priority network in 2021. This work would not have been possible without the commitment of the MBTA’s world-class staff of transit professionals and the leadership of our municipal partners. We thank TransitCenter for this prestigious honor.”

The MBTA, City of Boston, neighbors, and advocates celebrated the launch of Columbus Avenue’s transformative, center-running bus priority corridor last month. The nearly mile-long center-running bus priority facility between Franklin Park and Jackson Square Station includes enhanced bus stop amenities, accessible boarding islands, traffic calming measures, and improved pedestrian safety treatments. In order to realize service benefits for bus riders during COVID-19, the project’s construction was accelerated through the MBTA’s Rapid Response Bus Lane program, which also included over 10 miles of bus lanes in communities hard-hit by the pandemic throughout the metropolitan area.

“Boston and the MBTA are increasingly seen as national leaders when it comes to putting transit first on city streets,” said TransitCenter Executive Director David Bragdon. “From the Columbus Ave. center-running corridor to the dozens of bus lane projects that have launched in the last couple of years, we applaud MBTA’s and Metro Boston’s municipalities’ commitment to equitable mobility in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Other bus lane projects that the MBTA completed, in partnership with local municipalities, in 2021 included parts of Broadway in Revere, North Washington Street in Boston, and North Common Street in Lynn. Other projects that will be completed imminently or in early 2022 include segments along Western Avenue in Lynn, Washington Street in Somerville, Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Washington Street in Brookline, and Centre Street in Malden. 

A Route 455 bus travels along the new shared bus-bike lane on North Common St in Lynn, which was completed in partnership with the City of Lynn in 2021.
A Route 455 bus travels along the new shared bus-bike lane on North Common St in Lynn, which was completed in partnership with the City of Lynn in 2021.

“We are proud to have partnered with the MBTA on Columbus Ave., North Washington Street, and Washington Street in Roslindale throughout 2021,” said Boston Transportation Department (BTD) Interim Commissioner Brad Gerratt. “We look forward to working closely with the MBTA, our regional transit provider, to deliver more improvements on local city streets. This recognition is a testimony to the collaboration we have built together.”

Before: Conditions on Columbus Avenue in Boston prior to construction of center-running bus lane project.
Before: Conditions on Columbus Avenue in Boston prior to construction of center-running bus lane project.
a route 29 bus uses the Columbus Avenue bus lane
After: Conditions on Columbus Avenue in Boston after construction was completed in fall 2021.

“We are thrilled to see the MBTA and its municipal partners acknowledged for this work given how far we’ve come in a few short years,” said LivableStreets Executive Director Stacy Thompson. LivableStreets is a transportation advocacy organization based in Boston. “Back in 2018, there were just over two miles of bus lanes in Boston, and now, there are more than 17 miles stretching from Roslindale Square to North Common Street in Lynn. Prioritizing buses is one of the best ways for us to close the equity gap in our transit system as the region recovers, and we look forward to working with the MBTA, Boston, and communities across the region to continue to support bus riders in 2022 and beyond.”

MBTA and City of Boston officials hope to keep the momentum going in the years to come. Earlier this year, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded the MBTA $14 million in funding to construct a northern extension of the Columbus Avenue facility, and last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the City of Boston $15 million to design and construct similar improvements on Blue Hill Avenue. 

The MBTA Transit Priority Group was created in 2019 with support from the Barr Foundation to further bus priority projects around the region. The group has worked closely with municipal partners and MassDOT to deliver over 17 miles of bus lanes and activate transit signal priority at 85 locations in six cities, more than doubling the MBTA service area’s bus priority network in the last two years. These reliability benefits have had a far-reaching impact. While approximately 8% of passenger miles travelled are in bus lanes, reliability benefits extend to 42% of passenger miles travelled system-wide.

TransitCenter gives out Frequencies annually to recognize outstanding achievements in the transit industry. 

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