Everett signal project could be model for quicker bus transit
By State House News Service | April 4, 2016, 6:52 EDT
EVERETT — The City of Everett is in talks with state transit officials about giving traffic signal priority to MBTA buses to improve service into the city, according to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
A city of roughly 44,000 people as of 2014, Everett has 112 bus stops and 7,400 bus boardings a day, according to state figures.
Traffic signals that could keep lights green for buses would be installed along a stretch of Broadway as part of the Wynn Boston Harbor casino project, said Jay Monty, transportation planner for the city. He said the project is in the design phase and signals capable of giving buses priority could be installed in the next two or three years.
“When you get to a traffic light, you need the light to prioritize the 30 or 40 people in the bus over the three or four people in the cars that are sitting in the traffic light. That’s best practices for delivering great bus service,” Pollack said at a business breakfast at BNY Mellon in Everett on Thursday. “The T can’t do it by itself.”
Pollack told an audience of the Everett Chamber of Commerce she hoped to partner with cities, offering bus service improvements from the T in advance of a potential larger reconfiguration of bus routes in exchange for the signal prioritization in the municipalities.
“That’s fantastic. We’ve been asking for that for a long time,” said Rafael Mares, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, when told of Pollack’s comments. Mares said bus prioritization makes transit a “faster” and “more desirable option.”
The T has not yet used signal prioritization in any widespread way. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said signal prioritization is in place at seven Silver Line intersections and four Route 57 intersections, and the T is working with Boston to add signal prioritization for Green Line trolleys on the B and E branches.
Boston has experimented with offering signal prioritization to MBTA Silver Line buses along the Washington Street corridor, according to City Hall spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin. She said in January and February city and T officials ran a trial along Washington Street providing signal priority to Silver Line buses every other day, and officials are now reviewing the results to see if the technology worked and understand its impact.
“The City of Boston looks forward to working on this more in the future to move people safely, reliably and efficiently through Boston,” McGilpin said in an email.
Pollack said technology can allow traffic signals to continue showing the green go-sign when a bus is headed for an intersection.
“There are mechanisms where if a bus is approaching and it’s about to flip from green to red it just stays green longer,” Pollack told the News Service.
Mares said he doesn’t see a reason not to move forward on bus prioritization that would allow a bus to switch a red light to green in a reasonable time period.
“What you want to prevent is the bus standing around at a light,” Mares said.
Pollack, whose husband is from Everett and was married there, noted the city has a large amount of bus ridership, and city officials are willing to work with the state.
“It’s one of our best partners in trying to implement this idea of: We would be delighted to give you better bus service if you’re willing to work with us on the parts you own, and so I really think we could make this a model,” Pollack told the News Service.
— Written by Andy Metzger
Copyright State House News Service