Second Community Form on Bus Priority Pilot - Aug 15th, 2018

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Held at town hall. This was the second public form held on Arlington's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pilot. The first public forum was held on May 16th.

Adam Chapdelaine opens the forum. Since the last meeting, the town has been looking engineering options for the BRT pilot. Arlington has 45k residents, who take approximately 10k trips per day on MBTA buses. Improving bus reliability could make a big quality of life improvement for these riders.

Jenny Raitt speaks next. Why would the town look at BRT? There are several bus routes in town, and lots of people use them. The Department of Planning and Community Development believes that enhanced bus service is an untapped opportunity.

Today, we have reliability and congestion problems. There's a big variance in travel times, especially on Mass Ave, between Lake Street and the Alewife Brook Parkway.

The main goals for this pilot are: to improve traffic flow, and to reduce travel time for buses. There are design tradeoffs to be made, for example parking needs, and automobile traffic. Later in the evening, you'll be able to look at the different options we're considering, and you'll be able to indicate your preferences.

Part of tonight is about getting a survey of people's preferences, which will help guide the pilot implementation. The pilot will last a month, and take place in October.

The next speaker is a fellow named Albert, who works for VHB https://www.vhb.com/. The pilot will involve very little construction; most of the changes will be made with traffic cones and signs. It will take place in October, during morning rush hours, and only in the eastbound lane of Mass Ave. The scope of the project is Lake Street through the Alewife brook parkway.

VHB looked at the entire Mass Ave Corridor, even though the pilot only affects East Arlington. We've done traffic counts, parking counts, and other data collection. This information fed into our conceptual design, and led us to look at different alternatives for three areas: the intersection of Lake Street and Mass Ave, the intersection of Mass Ave and Alewife Brook Parkway, and the area between those two points.

Our evaluation criteria included: travel time, reliability (i.e., do the buses arrive on schedule, and is the trip time predictable), impacts to pedestrians and cyclists, and feasibility.

At this point, the attendees break into three groups. Each group goes to a station, to see the alternatives proposed for each area. After seeing the alternatives, we indicate our preference by placing blue dots on a poster board. Then, we rotate around to the next area.

My first stop is the intersection between Mass Ave and Alewife Brook parkway. Alternatives include: (1) eliminating left-hand turns onto Alewife Brook Parkway, (2) changing the phasing of traffic lights at the intersection, (3) making one of the westbound lanes an eastbound lane, and (4) a fourth option I can't remember. Traffic light phasing got the most support.

Next, I visited the station for the intersection of Lake Street and Mass Ave. Here, the plan is to move the bus stop from the west side of lake street to the east side. The alternatives centered around how long the right turn/bus lane should be. There was a short lane option (which removed fewer parking spaces), and a long lane option (which removed more parking spaces, but allowed the bus to change lanes earlier). The long lane option seemed to get the most support.

Finally, I visited the station for the area between Mass Ave and Lake Street. Here there were three options: the first would turn one of the travel lanes into a dedicated bus lane. The other two would turn parking spaces into a bus lane; these differed in how long the bus lane would be (the short lane option removed fewer parking spaces, and the long lane option removed more). I recall the dedicated bus lane getting the most support.

After visiting the stations, we returned to our seats for a wrap-up. The pilot will take place in October (exact dates TBD). The pilot evaluation will take place in November, and we'll have a final Forum on Nov 14th.