MBTA Bus & BRT

Teban54

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I skimmed through the meeting video. Tl:dr For SL3, Alternative 3: Chelsea to Sullivan via Everett Square received the highest “grades” from the MBTA and the most positive survey results. For SL6, both Alternative 4: Everett to Kendall via McGrath Hwy and Alternative 7: Chelsea to Kendall via Everett Square received highest MBTA grades and most positive survey results.

Since Alt 3 and Alt 7 are substantially similar from origin to Sullivan, and Alt 4 goes from Sullivan to Chelsea, seems likely they pick Alt 3 (SL3) and Alt 4 (SL6).
I'm really surprised the Kendall alternatives got more positive feedback than the downtown one (Alt 6).
 

HelloBostonHi

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I'm really surprised the Kendall alternatives got more positive feedback than the downtown one (Alt 6).
Having high frequency buses directly paralleling a high frequency rail transit route just doesn't make much sense, especially when no matter how much you try those buses into downtown would be slow and delayed by traffic and signals, causing cascading delays down the whole route. Avoiding downtown is avoiding a real traffic headache that could hurt reliability on the whole route, while adding very little benefit to the rider.
 

WestMedford

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Having high frequency buses directly paralleling a high frequency rail transit route just doesn't make much sense, especially when no matter how much you try those buses into downtown would be slow and delayed by traffic and signals, causing cascading delays down the whole route. Avoiding downtown is avoiding a real traffic headache that could hurt reliability on the whole route, while adding very little benefit to the rider.
I was surprised that the Everett to Haymarket routing didn’t have more appeal. Agree with what you said. I think the lack of bus lane enforcement and the way the Charlestown Bridge is now probably has impacted the “lived experience” of those who have traveled by bus to Haymarket via Rutherford Ave. Not everyone from Everett heading to downtown Boston. The appeal of Sullivan as a major bus / subway transfer point to all points Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, etc. has to be a huge factor in those alternatives winning out. We’ll see soon what the MBTA ends up selecting, but it seems the people of Everett and Chelsea have spoken.
 

as02143

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Having high frequency buses directly paralleling a high frequency rail transit route just doesn't make much sense, especially when no matter how much you try those buses into downtown would be slow and delayed by traffic and signals, causing cascading delays down the whole route. Avoiding downtown is avoiding a real traffic headache that could hurt reliability on the whole route, while adding very little benefit to the rider.
Not just a high-frequency subway line, it's very useful in that it goes /through/ downtown and not terminating at the edge of the financial district like the Silver Line Extension alternative.
 

FK4

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What’s the deal with the 38 bus route? Seems like a local route, but I don’t get how it’s supposed to work — it terminates in the dead center of a residential neighborhood in West Roxbury, but it’s weird that it therefore doesn’t go straight to Forest Hills, but rather meanders down Centre St, into JP, and then swings back around to Forest Hills — so if you’re a resident of Bellevue Hill, it doesn’t seem super convenient since I’d assume you’re probably wanting to use the bus to get to rapid transit without an unnecessarily long jaunt across JP?
 

HenryAlan

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What’s the deal with the 38 bus route? Seems like a local route, but I don’t get how it’s supposed to work — it terminates in the dead center of a residential neighborhood in West Roxbury, but it’s weird that it therefore doesn’t go straight to Forest Hills, but rather meanders down Centre St, into JP, and then swings back around to Forest Hills — so if you’re a resident of Bellevue Hill, it doesn’t seem super convenient since I’d assume you’re probably wanting to use the bus to get to rapid transit without an unnecessarily long jaunt across JP?
I don't think it's so much a route serving Belvue Hill (though it does), but one geared toward serving Centre St. between West Roxbury Parkway and the JP monument. Local service through that corridor is important, and the 38 is how you get that to happen. It's actually not so bad a route, even for areas served by other buses. I take it sometimes, if I'm at Forest Hills and nothing else is coming for 15-20 minutes. I'll take the 38, then walk down Fletcher St. from Centre to get to Rozzie Square. It's faster to do that, then wait for a bus that goes to the square under such circumstances.
 

bigeman312

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What’s the deal with the 38 bus route? Seems like a local route, but I don’t get how it’s supposed to work — it terminates in the dead center of a residential neighborhood in West Roxbury, but it’s weird that it therefore doesn’t go straight to Forest Hills, but rather meanders down Centre St, into JP, and then swings back around to Forest Hills — so if you’re a resident of Bellevue Hill, it doesn’t seem super convenient since I’d assume you’re probably wanting to use the bus to get to rapid transit without an unnecessarily long jaunt across JP?
I echo what @HenryAlan wrote, but want to add:

... it’s weird that it therefore doesn’t go straight to Forest Hills, but rather meanders down Centre St, into JP, and then swings back around to Forest Hills ...
This issue is being addressed in the Bus Network Redesign (BNRD). Upcoming changes:
  • Downgrading the frequency of the 38, with a shift in focus towards a frequent 35/36 trunk for those traveling to/from Forest Hills.
  • The 38 is rerouted to take over part of the current 41 route. Inbound from the Monument, instead of jogging south on South Street to Forest Hills, the 38 will continue north on Centre Street, terminating at Jackson Square. This change will establish a one-seat ride between West Roxbury and Hyde/Jackson Squares. It will also decrease travel time by six minutes for those transfering to/from the Orange Line, according to Google Maps for right now. It will take six minutes less to stay on the bus to Jackson Square, than the current setup of back-tracking to Forest Hills, followed by getting on the Orange Line inbound to Jackson Square.
 

The EGE

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The 38 is a bit of a curiosity. Unlike the 35 and 36, it was never a streetcar line. It began as a Monument - Belgrade+Centre bus route in 1924 - one of the earliest BERy bus route, and arguably the first that was a significant expansion rather than replacing an existing line or filling in a small gap. It was extended to Green Street station in 1937 with a one-way loop (South-McBride-Washington-Green-Centre). The extension to Wren Street took place in June 1945 (presumably as wartime rubber restrictions were lifted) as variant 38A. The one-way loop was shifted to go via Forest Hills rather than on McBride in 1961; around that time, all service went to Wren Street as route 38. The inner terminal was shifted to just Forest Hills in 1981.

I'd like to see the 38 extended along Lagrange to take over the 37 loop, rather than it becoming part of the 52 as is planned.
 

Teban54

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From Route 38's Better Bus Profile:

Pre-Covid, the 38 had 20-25 min average frequencies during peak hours, but hourly service or worse during off-peak.

"Route 38 has low ridership, serving 815 riders per weekday and about 260 riders on Saturdays."

"Route 38 provides public transit access to Faulkner Hospital, and connects residential neighborhoods in West Roxbury, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain to the Orange Line and other bus services at Forest Hills Station. Most parts of the route are within walking distance of very frequent bus services on Centre Street and South Street, which all also provide access to Forest Hills Station. Route 38 thus has a limited customer base, and, apart from special trips that serve schools far from the primary route, has very low ridership."

1672953628350.png


So the ridership on Centre St and especially at Faulkner Hospital, while being low, justifies having a bus route there instead of following the 35/36/37's route via Roslindale Square.

The redesign actually doesn't change the 38's frequency significantly, as it still has 25 min frequency during peak and 50 min during off-peak, but with added Sunday service:

1672953758039.png


In terms of routing, the redesigned 38 takes over the 41's current route up to Nubian, as others mentioned. This moves the Orange Line connection to Jackson Square (which may end up being faster despite a longer bus ride), and also provides OSR to Nubian. I think that's a good change and improves utility of both routes.

I'd like to see the 38 extended along Lagrange to take over the 37 loop, rather than it becoming part of the 52 as is planned.
Agreed. While having the 52 to Lagrange does provide connection to VA Hospital, the loss of direct Orange Line access can be problematic.
 

FK4

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Wow, thanks all four of you, that’s exactly why I love this site—like a total wraparound font of information and perspective.

@HenryAlan, I guess it never occurred to me that it could be faster to get to Rozzie Sq, but then again, I feel like if the 38 is there, there always is a Washington St bus around the bend so I always just wait.

I wonder if shifting to Jackson will really end up reducing total travel times for folks headed downtown via 38-Orange. Hopefully. I must say as a former Hyde Sq resident I always wished I took classes at UMass since it seemed so cool that you could hop on a bus deep in JP and get a OSR all the way to Andrew. @The EGE, I bet the 41 is an old streetcar line, I always have been fascinated by the crosstown bus routes.

I have to say I am way more into taking the bus now that I live in Roslindale. For the simple reason that I can walk to the Square and catch any number of buses headed to Forest Hills, and vice versa going home. Knowing that there are hyper-frequent buses (that also have preserved lanes during rush hour) makes a huge difference. Just goes to show how frequent service attracts more riders.
 

Teban54

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I skimmed through the meeting video. Tl:dr For SL3, Alternative 3: Chelsea to Sullivan via Everett Square received the highest “grades” from the MBTA and the most positive survey results. For SL6, both Alternative 4: Everett to Kendall via McGrath Hwy and Alternative 7: Chelsea to Kendall via Everett Square received highest MBTA grades and most positive survey results.

Since Alt 3 and Alt 7 are substantially similar from origin to Sullivan, and Alt 4 goes from Sullivan to Chelsea, seems likely they pick Alt 3 (SL3) and Alt 4 (SL6).
I watched the video in more detail.

SL3 extension alternatives:
  • 90-150% ridership increase
  • Existing fleet is sufficient
  • Alt 1 (Malden Center) and Alt 3 (Sullivan) have higher ridership, but Alt 3 is more reliable (full bus lanes)
  • Center-running bus lanes on Lower Broadway, also be used by 104, 105, 109
  • Community preferred Alt 3
SL6 alternatives:
  • Assume implementation of SL3 Extension to Everett (i.e. one of the three SL3X alts) for transfers
  • Indeed, ridership to Kendall is higher than downtown. Models show that Alt 6 (downtown) has 1/3 lower ridership than other alts, and some passengers still transfer to OL instead of the OSR due to shorter travel time.
  • The other alternatives have similar ridership (whether from Glendale or Chelsea)
  • Some delays in Cambridge and Kendall due to lack of bus lanes
  • Fleet needs to be expanded
  • Alt 7 has the most favorable community feedback (~70% "extremely likely"), followed by Alt 4. Alt 6 to downtown has the least favorable feedback, with 40% "extremely unlikely".
 

The EGE

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@The EGE, I bet the 41 is an old streetcar line, I always have been fascinated by the crosstown bus routes.
The 41 mostly originated as horsecar lines, albeit radial rather than crosstown.

The West Roxbury Railroad opened a horsecar line from Roxbury Crossing to Hyde Square in 1857, and extended it to JP Carhouse (South at Jamaica) in 1858. It was immediately leased by the Metropolitan Railroad, and used its Tremont Street line to reach downtown. A short extension to John Eliot Square also opened in 1858. There, it linked up with a loop on Roxbury and Dudley Streets, built by the Metropolitan in 1856, allowing West Roxbury cars to also use the Washington Street line. A parallel route between Jackson Square and John Eliot Square via Centre opened as a branch as far as Cedar in 1879, and was extended to Jackson Square in 1891. It was abandoned in 1925, though reused for bus service beginning in 1938 when what is now route 14 was added. Just about all those segments were electrified in 1891. The 41 was converted from streetcar to bus in 1949; it was rerouted over the Centre branch and cut back to Monument.

A horsecar branch on Dudley and Eustis from Washington to about Rockford opened in 1865, and was extended to Uphams Corner in 1865. (The short segment on Dudley between Washington and Eustis was filled in by the 1870s). That line was electrified in 1892. Routes 15 (Kane Square-Dudley) and 45 (Grove Hall-Dudley via Blue Hill Ave) were converted to trackless in 1948 and bus in 1962. The portion of Columbia Road between Uphams Corner and Edward Everett Square was opened as a horsecar line in 1860, closed in the 1880s, and reopened as a streetcar line around 1900. It was mostly used by what are now routes 16 and 17, which were converted to trackless in 1949 and bus in 1962.

The introduction of a Northampton - Savin Hill bus route in 1930 added service on Columbia as far east as Dorchester Avenue for the first time. Except for a brief period in 1962-63, that route used that segment until 1979. The remaining segment on Columbia between Dorchester Avenue and the station was briefly served by the 8 in 1962-63, again by the 8D variant in 1974, again by route 8 in 1977-78, and finally by route 8 beginning in 1984. Neither of those segments ever had streetcar lines.

Not until March 2002 was route 41 extended to JFK/UMass. That was the first time that Dudley-JFK/UMass service ran via Uphams Corner, though route 8 had connected the two by a different routing since 1973.
 

HenryAlan

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Wow, thanks all four of you, that’s exactly why I love this site—like a total wraparound font of information and perspective.
Definitely one of the main reasons I spend time here. I'm interested in these topics, but some of the other folks who post are true experts with an amazing depth of knowledge. So much to learn!
I always have been fascinated by the crosstown bus routes.
Same, and I wish we had more of them. They are often extremely useful.
I have to say I am way more into taking the bus now that I live in Roslindale. For the simple reason that I can walk to the Square and catch any number of buses headed to Forest Hills, and vice versa going home. Knowing that there are hyper-frequent buses (that also have preserved lanes during rush hour) makes a huge difference. Just goes to show how frequent service attracts more riders.
Yes, moving to Roslindale really changed my outlook on buses. Well, perhaps that, combined with the real efforts to improve functionality of the bus system. I see a lot of potential, but also enjoy living in one of the more bus rich neighborhoods. Not only are they great as feeders to Forest Hills, but I am also a fan of the 14, 30, and 51, all of which I use for cross town connections.
 

FK4

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The 41 mostly originated as horsecar lines, albeit radial rather than crosstown.

The West Roxbury Railroad opened a horsecar line from Roxbury Crossing to Hyde Square in 1857, and extended it to JP Carhouse (South at Jamaica) in 1858. It was immediately leased by the Metropolitan Railroad, and used its Tremont Street line to reach downtown. A short extension to John Eliot Square also opened in 1858. There, it linked up with a loop on Roxbury and Dudley Streets, built by the Metropolitan in 1856, allowing West Roxbury cars to also use the Washington Street line. A parallel route between Jackson Square and John Eliot Square via Centre opened as a branch as far as Cedar in 1879, and was extended to Jackson Square in 1891. It was abandoned in 1925, though reused for bus service beginning in 1938 when what is now route 14 was added. Just about all those segments were electrified in 1891. The 41 was converted from streetcar to bus in 1949; it was rerouted over the Centre branch and cut back to Monument.

A horsecar branch on Dudley and Eustis from Washington to about Rockford opened in 1865, and was extended to Uphams Corner in 1865. (The short segment on Dudley between Washington and Eustis was filled in by the 1870s). That line was electrified in 1892. Routes 15 (Kane Square-Dudley) and 45 (Grove Hall-Dudley via Blue Hill Ave) were converted to trackless in 1948 and bus in 1962. The portion of Columbia Road between Uphams Corner and Edward Everett Square was opened as a horsecar line in 1860, closed in the 1880s, and reopened as a streetcar line around 1900. It was mostly used by what are now routes 16 and 17, which were converted to trackless in 1949 and bus in 1962.

The introduction of a Northampton - Savin Hill bus route in 1930 added service on Columbia as far east as Dorchester Avenue for the first time. Except for a brief period in 1962-63, that route used that segment until 1979. The remaining segment on Columbia between Dorchester Avenue and the station was briefly served by the 8 in 1962-63, again by the 8D variant in 1974, again by route 8 in 1977-78, and finally by route 8 beginning in 1984. Neither of those segments ever had streetcar lines.

Not until March 2002 was route 41 extended to JFK/UMass. That was the first time that Dudley-JFK/UMass service ran via Uphams Corner, though route 8 had connected the two by a different routing since 1973.
Wow. Amazing history. Where do you learn this information? It would be really cool if someone made a site that had high quality map graphics of the type you often see on wikipedia, and you could pick a bus route and see the evolution, on maps, of its history.

The most interesting piece I learned from this was that the site of what I assume is public housing on South & Jamaica clearly was built there due to the fact that it was a former car house. Looking at mapjunction.com, I see it went from BERy to "Metropolitan Horse" (super cool), to West End Street Railway. The housing, interestingly, is already present in an aerial from the early 50s, so it's pretty old as far as public housing goes. And a good example of what I bet was use of urban renewal funds, to build in density on a small and selective piece of land. If only this had been done in this way, with a light touch, across the city, instead of just bulldozing Roxbury...

Definitely one of the main reasons I spend time here. I'm interested in these topics, but some of the other folks who post are true experts with an amazing depth of knowledge. So much to learn!

Yes, and it's a nice mix between historical, deep contemporary analytical knowledge, and also experiential knowledge, too, like when you talk about which route you take, and why.

Yes, moving to Roslindale really changed my outlook on buses. Well, perhaps that, combined with the real efforts to improve functionality of the bus system. I see a lot of potential, but also enjoy living in one of the more bus rich neighborhoods. Not only are they great as feeders to Forest Hills, but I am also a fan of the 14, 30, and 51, all of which I use for cross town connections.
Growing up in (north) Brookline, and also spending a lot of time in Cleveland Circle, and, having friends in South Brookline, we had occasion to take the 51 back then. It's funny that I live next to the same route now, but totally different leg. I wish it ran more often, though. The 14 is an interesting line, another one of those curiosities to me. I've never taken the 14 but my friend did once, just to get to the high speed line and make me jealous. Fun times.
 

The EGE

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Wow. Amazing history. Where do you learn this information? It would be really cool if someone made a site that had high quality map graphics of the type you often see on wikipedia, and you could pick a bus route and see the evolution, on maps, of its history.
Jonathan Belcher's Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district and Thomas J. Humphrey's Origin and Development of the Fixed-Route Local Bus Transportation Network are the main sources. They're both amazingly comprehensive, which does mean they take some practice to navigate. I also use BSRA books - the 1940s and MTA Era streetcar books, plus a 1970 copy of The Trackless Trolleys of Boston that I recently got my grubby paws on. Additionally, historical maps and Globe archives to fill in some gaps.

I have managed to do some pretty complete histories on Wikipedia for route 86 and the Ipswich Street line and its descendants (55, 60, 65), and I intend to do others. It's not terribly quick to do that, however - the basic outline like I wrote for the 41 is pretty quick, but filling in the details is difficult. In particular, there is very little information available about services prior to the 1936 map edition. It's easy to know that a segment had streetcar service, but much harder to know the actual endpoints of that service, and whether more than one service used the segment.

That said, I'm currently bored for the afternoon. If anyone has requests for an outline history of any routes, please ask so I can entertain myself by answering.
 

FK4

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Jonathan Belcher's Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district and Thomas J. Humphrey's Origin and Development of the Fixed-Route Local Bus Transportation Network are the main sources. They're both amazingly comprehensive, which does mean they take some practice to navigate. I also use BSRA books - the 1940s and MTA Era streetcar books, plus a 1970 copy of The Trackless Trolleys of Boston that I recently got my grubby paws on. Additionally, historical maps and Globe archives to fill in some gaps.

I have managed to do some pretty complete histories on Wikipedia for route 86 and the Ipswich Street line and its descendants (55, 60, 65), and I intend to do others. It's not terribly quick to do that, however - the basic outline like I wrote for the 41 is pretty quick, but filling in the details is difficult. In particular, there is very little information available about services prior to the 1936 map edition. It's easy to know that a segment had streetcar service, but much harder to know the actual endpoints of that service, and whether more than one service used the segment.

That said, I'm currently bored for the afternoon. If anyone has requests for an outline history of any routes, please ask so I can entertain myself by answering.
Awesome -- thanks!
 

Teban54

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There's a meeting on Blue Hill Avenue Transportation Action Plan next Tuesday:
The MBTA is working closely with the City of Boston to redesign Blue Hill Avenue to include high-quality bus priority facilities to improve service reliability for tens of thousands of daily bus riders. We want to hear from the people who live, work, play, and travel along Blue Hill Avenue about how the corridor can better serve you.
 

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