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MBTA paints the street red as long-awaited bus lanes arrive near Brookline Village

An MBTA Route 66 bus uses the new bus-only lane on Washington Street near Brookline Village on Monday, July 8, 2024. Photo by Sam Mintz
July 8, 2024
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The MBTA has painted a red bus-only lane in both directions on Washington Street between Station Street in Brookline Village and the Brookline-Boston border, the start of a year-long pilot to try to speed up buses coming through the frequently-logjammed intersection.

The so-called “Gateway East” project, first proposed in 2020, is a partnership between the transit agency and the town of Brookline and is funded by a grant from the state transportation agency MassDOT. The bus lanes will serve the MBTA’s Routes 60, 65 and 66.

The 66, which runs from Nubian Square in Roxbury to Harvard University in Cambridge, is one of the MBTA’s most-used routes. Combined, the three carry nearly 15,000 riders a day.

“This pilot will reduce travel times for our existing riders, and we anticipate that it will attract new riders as we make travel times more reliable,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng in a statement.

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Click here to read previous Brookline.News coverage about how the project came together.

In addition to the painted lanes, the town and MBTA are planning “transit signal priority” improvements which will update traffic signals to give preference to buses in the intersection.

Town officials have acknowledged “significant traffic impacts,” adding as much as four or five minutes of time to drivers’ trips through the intersection, depending on the direction and time of day. Some residents previously told Brookline.News they worried that the changes would divert traffic into smaller neighborhoods nearby.

During the year-long pilot, the town will actively seek input from the community, bus riders, car drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and micro mobility users, according to a press release. Comments can be emailed to gatewaybus@brooklinema.gov.

Town transportation officials will be collect data every three months to “monitor and assess” the pilot’s progress and help decide whether to make the changes permanent.

Brookline police will be responsible for enforcing the lanes, but will start with education, said Paul Campbell, a deputy superintendent with the Brookline Police Department.

“Right now I don’t anticipate a concerted enforcement effort to start. We want to give people a chance to get used to them,” Campbell said.

On Monday morning, a Brookline.News reporter observed the lanes used by buses and mostly empty otherwise, with a few cars still traveling in them.

Cars in the bus lane heading west into Brookline Village on Monday, July 8, 2024. Photo by Sam Mintz

 

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