Boston Dedicated Bus Lanes Facing Funding Questions

The bus lanes have improved travel times, but who should cover the costs isn't entirely clear.

January 11, 2019, 7:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink


Boston Bus

Pi.1415926535 / Wikimedia Commons

Adam Vaccaro reports that a bus-only lane started last year is significantly speeding up buses traveling on Washington Street. Both the city and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority agree that the lane is a success and an improvement that can be widely used in the region.

"But it has also raised a tough question: Who is responsible for managing these additions to the roads — the state-run transit agency that owns the buses or the city that owns the streets?" says Vaccaro.

The city is suggesting that the MBTA should help support the next phase of the project by covering expenses such as signage and paint for the lanes. While costs normally are the responsibility of a city or town, Boston pays more to the MBTA through assessments than any other municipality. 

"Activists see this as the kind of typical Boston-area jurisdictional dispute that threatens to slow adoption of a transportation improvement at a critical time," reports Vaccaro. Still, bus lanes are faring well, and both state and local officials are heralding them as a cost-effective solution for tackling regional traffic problems.

While the issue of financial contributions remains up in the air, more lanes are are on the horizon, reports Vaccaro:

The [Marty] Walsh administration plans to hire the city’s first-ever transit director to work directly with the T on planning and implementing bus lanes, as well as other staffers to monitor them on a daily basis. City officials said that they expect to discuss the issue with new MBTA general manager Steve Poftak — whose appointment was praised by Walsh — who started the job this week.

MBTA officials say they are working with the city to resolve the issue, and advocates say they would like to see a signed agreement between the agency and the city.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 in The Boston Globe

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