Columbus Avenue bus routes have first center-running lane in New England

Riders of the 22, 29 and 44 buses, some of the most well-traveled bus routes on the MBTA, will shave up to 7 minutes off their daily commutes due to the first center-running bus lanes in New England.

“I am super excited to launch the center lane bus for Columbus Avenue. … It is a big exciting day here in Boston,” Acting Mayor Kim Janey said at the Walnut Avenue stop. “These routes consistently have high ridership, and they’ve had high ridership throughout the pandemic.”

The route, which became operational on Saturday and stretches almost a mile from Walnut Avenue to Jackson Square, will impact almost 10,000 weekday commuters in Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. The move seeks to improve the three “chronically delayed” routes, which connect these neighborhoods to the Red and Orange T lines.

Center-running bus lanes are more efficient and reliable, according to a press release, because they prevent buses from being slowed down by traffic, turning cars or double-parked cars, and also avoid slowdowns caused by driveways, side streets and parallel parkers.

Improvements to the lines include new canopied bus stop shelters, near-level boarding, safer crosswalks and, in a first for the MBTA’s buses, bus platforms with “large digital panels dedicated to real-time information that also include an audio component” for both visually impaired and hard of hearing riders.

LivableStreets Alliance Executive Director Stacy Thompson said 90% of Route 22 riders are people of color, a group that has had disproportionately longer commutes for decades. “Every minute” the MBTA saves riders closes that gap, she added.

Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler said that “spending on important projects like this one continues to be an aggressive and important priority of the Baker-Polito administration.”

The MBTA paid $13 million and the city paid $1 million for this project.