Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took a ride on Mexico City’s Metrobús BRT to gain a first-hand sense of what true, high-functioning BRT can be like. In the city on a regional trade mission, Governor Patrick, along with Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary Richard Davey, several other state-level Secretaries, ITDP Mexico staff, and ITDP US Director, Annie Weinstock, toured Metrobús Line 3. Over the last year, ITDP has been working closely with the MassDOT, MBTA, and a study group convened by the Barr Foundation to explore where gold-standard BRT could have the most success in the Boston area. At the conclusion of the BRT ride, the Governor and Secretary of Transportation expressed support for the idea, opening the door for planning to begin as soon as the Study Group makes its recommendation.
Guillermo Calderón, the General Director for Metrobús, and Rufino León Tovar, Mexican National Minister for Transport and Roads accompanied the Governor on the tour, offering insight on the system’s benefits. Calderón shared the Metrobús’s high ridership and design innovations with Governor Patrick, while Secretary Davey looked closely at the silver-standard features of Metrobús, such as fully enclosed stations, platform-level boarding, off-board fare collection, and a centrally-aligned busway. Line 3 of Metrobús stretches from the city’s outskirts through downtown Mexico City, offering the Massachusetts delegation a look at how BRT could translate to streets as narrow as those in downtown Boston, as well as to the wider streets of Roxbury and Mattapan.
ITDP began working in Boston in December 2013 through a grant from the Barr Foundation to identify possible corridors for gold-standard BRT in the Boston area. Using analyses of existing bus demand, bus speeds, and existing street design, ITDP is helping to determine which bus corridors could benefit most from gold-standard BRT, including all of the features of Metrobús and more. In the coming months, potential corridors will be brought to local communities for discussion. Any of the corridors that can get enough support has the potential of being added into the Boston area’s Long Range Transportation Plan as the Boston area’s future BRT network, and the one that emerges with the most support will be prioritized for planning in the coming months. Governor Patrick was hopeful that swift progress was possible, and looked forward to the recommendations of the Study Group.
Though many parts of Boston are well served by public transit, many of the city’s main arterial roads become heavily congested during peak traffic hours. Bus routes through low income neighborhoods are often insufficient, and fail to meet the growing needs of the communities. A gold-standard BRT corridor would address many of these concerns, reducing traffic on the road and increasing access to transit with frequent high-capacity buses through key neighborhoods.
Governor Patrick’s visit to Metrobús demonstrates the State’s commitment to exploring the applicability of high-quality BRT in the Boston area and indeed, statewide. The visit’s success helps build momentum for a true Boston BRT, and ITDP US looks forward to the coming months as planning for Boston’s first true BRT is likely to begin in earnest.