Keeping Pace: How Greater Boston’s Bus System Can Support a Growing and Changing Region

A woman wearing a hijab, with a coat, backpack, and holding a bouquet of flowers, steps onto an MBTA bus. Slightly in the background is a short line of others waiting to get on the bus.
Photo by AdHoc Industries

LivableStreets partnered with Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) to write this report, which is the final installment in our Better Buses report series. We have outlined an actionable agenda for decision-makers at the state, agency, and local level to enact within the next few years. While the problem may be daunting, the bus system is one of the most flexible and adaptable pieces of the transit system. Dramatic improvement is possible by 2030 if actors at all levels of government work together to make it a reality. Read the report now.

A young woman with light skin and curly ombre hair, wearing a down jacket and holding a hot beverage, stands in a bus stop labeled \
Photo by AdHoc Industries

Key Findings:

  • Greater Boston’s population has increased 53% in the last 50 years while the MBTA bus fleet has decreased. The MBTA’s current operating fleet of 1,121 buses is smaller than it was in 1972, when the agency operated 1,200 buses.
  • While the MBTA has invested significant resources to hire new bus operators, even if they double the current rate of hiring, it could take up to two years to hire and train enough operators to bring bus service up to the pre-pandemic level.
  • The MBTA relies on a network of nine garages to service its bus fleet. The newest of these facilities — aside from a temporary facility at Arborway — is approximately 40 years old, with the oldest dating back nearly a century.
  • The three fastest-growing cities in the MBTA bus service area — Revere, Chelsea, and Everett — are all cities whose residents depend mostly on buses to access the rest of the transit system.
  • While systemwide MBTA ridership has yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic fully, bus-dependent areas like Chelsea, Lynn, Everett, and Allston now have greater bus ridership than before the virus, underscoring the need for reliable bus service.

To read the full set of recommendations and findings click here.

Street ambassadors holding clipboards engage with people waiting at a bus stop. It is a mixed group of ages, gender presentations, and skin colors; they are at a bus stop for the 22, 29, and 44 buses at Weld Avenue.

What You Can Do:

  • Volunteer with LivableStreets as a Street Ambassador to engage bus riders. Street Ambassadors have been critical to collect stories from riders and residents that influence our reports and policy recommendations. Sign up here or contact [email protected] to learn more about this unique opportunity to influence how people move around Metro Boston.
  • Become a member: Join our growing community of people invested in creating safe streets and livable communities. Become a member of LivableStreets today!
  • Contact: [email protected]