Bus-on-Shoulder Travel Pilot Beginning: I-93 between I-95 in Woburn and the HOV lane entrance on Somerville

Regional Transit Authority, Logan Express, and MBTA buses allowed to use shoulder from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on I-93 southbound and 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. on I-93 northbound when motor vehicle travel in lanes is below 35 m.p.h.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is announcing a two-year Bus-on-Shoulder service pilot. This pilot is a collaborative effort between MassDOT, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA), Massport, Massachusetts State Police (MSP) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). During the pilot, authorized bus drivers using I-93, between I-95 in Woburn and the HOV lane entrance in Somerville, may drive on highway shoulders in specific conditions. The buses may use the shoulder from 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on I-93 southbound and 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. on I-93 northbound when motor vehicle traffic speeds in regular lanes are below 35 m.p.h. It’s believed this pilot will make Massachusetts the first state in New England to implement Bus-on-Shoulder service.

This two-year pilot will evaluate effectiveness of how the Bus-on-Shoulder service can reduce travel times for bus passengers, increase reliability of service and schedule adherence and increase transit ridership. The bus on shoulder travel area is 7 miles long in each direction and the MBTA estimates the MBTA Route 354 bus currently gets in traffic congestion for 15 to 20 minutes on I-93. The bus-on-shoulder route allows buses to bypass this congestion. No motor vehicle travel is permitted in breakdown lanes with the exception of buses involved in the pilot.

MassDOT and the MBTA have been increasingly taking steps to improve the efficiency of traveling on buses. For example, this past June, MassDOT and the Cities of Medford and Somerville announced the implementation of a municipal dedicated bus lane pilot between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Mystic Avenue. In summer 2020, the Cities of Medford and Somerville were awarded a grant from the Baker-Polito Administration’s Shared Streets and Spaces Program to implement a “quick-build” morning peak hour inbound dedicated bus lane, as a trial, on Mystic Avenue.

Other steps taken by MassDOT and the MBTA include the installation of a dedicated bus lane on the Tobin Bridge for southbound buses and a partnership with the City of Boston and the MBTA to open a center-running bus lane on Columbus Avenue from Jackson Square to Walnut Avenue, and dedicated bus lanes on major routes including a section of Washington Street in Roslindale.

Dedicated bus lanes are effective in increasing the efficiency and reliability of public transportation, decreasing delays, and improving access to regional jobs and other essential services.