Better Buses - LivableStreets Alliance

Getting Boston on Board

A crowd of people walk down the sidewalk to the left of the photograph and away from the camera; a sign identifies it as the Longwood area. A 47 bus to Central Square drives to the right of the photograph.

Boston’s transit system is in crisis, and nowhere is that more evident than on the bus. Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a rising trend of Boston riders ditching the bus in favor of other modes. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, there was an 8% decrease in overall bus ridership – the highest rate of decline across MBTA services.

If Boston is serious about expanding access to affordable housing, economic opportunity, and services for those who need them most, decision-makers need to be investing in the bus. Our report, Getting Boston on Board outlines the first steps the City of Boston should take to make fast, meaningful improvements to our transit system in the next one to four years.

Read some of our key findings below. You can download the full report here

The front cover of the \POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

LivableStreets worked with a committee of community partners representing public health, higher education, economic development, and fellow advocates to shape policy recommendations for the City of Boston. If implemented, these cost-effective measures would shorten travel times for commuters experiencing some of the longest delays and encourage more riders to get on board the bus.

  • Prioritize bus upgrades at the city level with a focus on accountability
    and equity.
  • Improve streets to prioritize bus transit on high ridership corridors.
  • Expand bus service and improve the rider experience system-wide.

Read the details of our policy recommendations -- download the full report.



  • Decline in ridership. Systemwide there has been an 8% drop in MBTA bus ridership between 2015 and 2016, but this decline is even worse when looking at the top ten busiest routes, which all primarily operate in Boston. 
  • Under-performance. Many crosstown routes are experiencing below average speeds and some of the worst on-time performance rates for MBTA buses. Nearly all of the ten worst performing buses are local routes operating within Boston. 
  • Systemic inequity. According to MAPC’s State of Equity Report, Black riders spend 64 hours more per year on MBTA buses relative to White riders.



Throughout 2017, LivableStreets led and worked on several public engagement campaigns to reach out to bus riders in the Longwood Area, Downtown, the South End, Roxbury, and Roslindale. With the help of volunteer Street Ambassadors, LivableStreets spent hundred of hours at bus stops listening to riders’ experiences, challenges and concerns. The following comments illustrate the stress and frustration riders continue to face throughout Boston: 

A screenshot of the report, featuring comments from bus riders about the difficulties they have with bus service being unreliable.

A Street Ambassador, a young white man with curly brown hair, a beard, and glasses, talks to a white man with grey hair wearing a backpack. Around them are other pedestrians on the sidewalk, cars in the street, and a cyclist biking through the intersection behind them.WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Spread the word -- Take part in the conversation on social media using these hashtags: #BetterBuses #GetBostononBoard #BusOnlyLanes
  • Amplify the report -- share it with Mayor Walsh's office and the Boston City Council to say it's time for #BetterBuses in Boston!
  • Volunteer with LivableStreets Alliance as a Street Ambassador to engage bus riders and build public support for a bus priority pilot. Sign up here or contact [email protected] to learn more about this unique opportunity to influence how people move around Metro Boston.