Wu announces permanent street changes in Boston following Orange Line shutdown

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Tuesday announces that several street changes made to mitigate impacts from the MBTA’s Orange Line shutdown will be made permanent following the reopening of the subway line.

When the Orange Line closed to the public in August for repairs and upgrades, the Boston Transportation Department scrambled to install priority bus lanes, pop-up bike lanes, and change parking restrictions along the subway route.

Certain infrastructure and street changes that improved the flow of traffic and public safety in the city will remain in place.

In a statement, Wu said, “Over the last 30 days, our city teams have been focused on measuring what’s working so we could ensure continual improvement during a stressful time of the Orange Line shutdown. We’re keeping in place some of the changes that have helped with traffic flow and transit access, so that commuters will see lasting benefit above ground even as the subway comes back online.”

Some are happy to hear these new bike lanes and bus lanes in areas like Copley Square are here to stay even after the Orange Line shutdown.

“What’s exciting is we had this four-week period where the city made a lot of changes on the ground and they were able to test proof of concept,” said Becca Wolfson, executive director for the Boston Cyclists Union. “What I’m most excited to see is what new behaviors stick, so for all those people who tried out bike share when it was free, will they continue?”

Wolfson says she’s excited about the changes to make cycling safer throughout the city, especially since she says the number of bike share rides doubled during the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic there were about 12,000 daily trips on the bike share system, by the end there were 24-25,000 trips per day, so making that free clearly changed behavior, clearly there’s a demand,” said Wolfson.

While many cyclists are excited about the new bike lanes, some drivers aren’t so happy about it.

“It makes it worse – already the street is too small and if they close for bikes here, it’s going to be worse,” said Faisa Kaahin, driving along Boylston Street in Copley Square.

Some worry about parking along Boylston Street, where a pop-up bike lane remains in place.

“It’s very tough to come here – you see the ticket guy is over here, you park here, you leave, you come back, you get a ticket,” said Kaahin.

But cyclists live Wolfson say these new lanes will be better for traffic overall.

“I want those people to think every person on a bike is one less person in a car competing with them for that parking space or that travel lane,” said Wolfson.

The following street infrastructure changes will remain in place:

  • Chinatown MBTA SL4 bus stop: This newly added bus stop creates a vital link for Chinatown residents to the SL4.
  • Copley Square area bus lanes: These bus lanes include Boylston Street (Ring Road to Clarendon Street); Clarendon Street (Boylston Street to Columbus Ave.); St. James Street (west of Berkeley Street to Dartmouth Street). These bus lanes support the 39, 9, and 10 bus routes, which together serve more than 10,000 riders per weekday.
  • South End loading zones and drop-off zones: Changes to parking restrictions in this area will remain in place for improved curbside management and reduced double parking in the unprotected bike lane.
  • Jamaica Plain pavement marking and signage: This includes traffic safety elements such as “Don’t Block the Box” and parking restrictions at corners to improve visibility. These changes have shown to improve traffic safety and management.
  • Boylston Street one-way for vehicles: Closing part of Boylston Street (between Amory & Lamartine) to traffic throughout the shutdown has improved safety (collisions and near-misses) along the Southwest Corridor. Reopening this stretch as a one-way street from Amory to Lamartine for vehicles will support long-term bike connectivity plans, improve safety for all modes, and reduce conflict at the high crash intersection of Boylston and Lamartine Streets.
  • Huntington Avenue bus and bike priority lane: The priority bus and bike lane that was added to Huntington Avenue from Brigham Circle to Gainsborough Street has improved speed for the Route 39 bus. As a permanent lane, it will continue to support the thousands of people who ride the Route 39 bus and will improve safety for those on bikes.
  • Columbus Avenue pop-up bike lane: This will remain until early December and then be removed for the season. BTD Active Transportation will continue to monitor and move barrels daily to enable street sweeping. Long-term planning is underway for a potential permanent facility. This is one of the busiest corridors for biking. Improving conditions, even on just a few blocks, can make the overall trip safer and more enjoyable.
  • Bluebikes parking: The City will retain Bluebikes docks added during the shutdown, with minor modifications as needed, to keep up with record-breaking ridership numbers. The City is also exploring options to provide free or low-cost bike share service.

The Boylston Street pop-up bike lane will be removed on Sept. 26. A permanent Boylston Street bike lane will be prioritized for installation in the spring.

The Orange Line reopened to the public on Monday morning.

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