A group of people stand in a line at the Bus Rapid Transit Shelter in Lynn, MA. It is a crisp, sunny day. People wear coats and sunglasses.

Phase III: Changing Lanes

Collaborating with public and nonprofit partners

In designing the third and final phase of the effort, we sought to do better in ensuring that we were being led by community needs and desires and not the other way around. We looked for ways we could plug into existing bus improvement efforts instead of promoting our proposed solutions.

Our modified approach aligned with a new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) initiative that, in many ways, served as the culmination of a decade of bus research, advocacy, and capacity-building within the transit agency: Bus Network Redesign. Bus Network Redesign was a multi-year effort to reimagine the MBTA’s bus network to create a better experience for bus riders, serving as a blueprint to speed up the bus ride.

MBTA Bus Network Redesign Project

Educating and Engaging Around Bus Network Redesign

As the MBTA was planning its new bus network, we knew that its limited staff capacity could use some additional support to plan for bus and street changes.

The BostonBRT team used its networks to supplement the MBTA’s engagement by meeting with municipal leaders and elected officials, producing and disseminating graphics and other creative visuals to show the impacts of possible changes, and more deeply collaborating with partners in environmental justice communities.

BostonBRT used its expertise and creativity to illustrate how bus priority infrastructure improvements (bus lanes, transit/station improvements, and boarding platforms) are tools to effectively deliver on the promises of a redesign and ensure high frequency, reliable bus service, which helped people to visualize how future changes would look and feel.

BostonBRT’s animation explaining the benefits of center-running lanes, created in English and Spanish.

Promoting safety and care during COVID

During the 2020 COVID pandemic, we supported Everett city officials and local community organizations in promoting not just faster bus trips, but also public health and local businesses.

We designed new signage in multiple languages to delineate six feet of space to keep people safe. We supported pop-up farm stands to provide residents with fresh produce and distributed care packages for bus riders. We covered local bus stops with fresh flowers – twice – to bring beauty and joy to people waiting for the bus, and we led a social media campaign thanking bus drivers and other essential workers who kept our communities running while others sheltered in place. This shift demonstrated our orientation to think about the bus as a holistic part of a community, beyond a commute.

Everett bus stop distance of care

Ad Hoc Industries via BostonBRT

2021 Backdrop

The center-running bus lanes on Columbus Avenue are expected to save bus riders between four and seven minutes.DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

The MBTA and the City of Boston debuted New England’s first center-running bus lane along Columbus Avenue.

Read more in WBUR

2022 Backdrop

Commuters exit a shuttle that arrived from the Forest Hills MBTA station on the first Monday after the MBTA shut down the Orange Line for service repairs. CARLIN STIEHL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

The MBTA opted to shut down the Orange Line – end to end – for an entire month for track work. Buses were chartered from across the East Coast to move thousands of people a day, with local municipalities creating pop-up bus lanes throughout the region. The shutdown demonstrated the capacity for buses, given ample street space, to move high volumes of people.

Read more in the Boston Globe

Community-led bus beautification projects

Bus stops as a canvas for local artists

In Lynn, we worked with the City, the Lynn Public Art Commission, and TransitMatters for "Art on the Move," a project that transformed seven bus shelters with art, bike racks, wayfinding signage, and local maps. By incorporating the visions of local artists into bus riders’ and other residents’ daily lives, the project aimed to inspire, create a sense of place, and foster a strong community spirit among Lynn’s residents and visitors. This work was one of the many steps to engage residents in the potential for bus improvements, as the City anticipates major roadway changes and bus service improvements in the coming years.

Bringing youth into bus projects

Young people rely on the bus – to go to school, meet friends, or work. But young people are rarely engaged in projects to improve transit. In Chelsea, community group La Colaborativa brought young people into a partnership with Chelsea’s Department of Public Works, the Human Architecture and Planning Institute, several local artists, Studioful Design, and BostonBRT. A group of youth were hands-on in transforming a bus stop into a beautiful place to wait by creating a “Flower Walk” of eight native trees, 175 plantings, hand-stenciled flowers along the street and sidewalk, and a locally fabricated bench. The partners also installed an 80-foot platform at the bus stop for easier bus boarding for people in wheelchairs or with strollers, walkers, or carts.


These projects – rooted in partnership, creativity, and a desire to make the bus rider experience better – were fitting final efforts for the BostonBRT initiative.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

In the original planning documents for BostonBRT, our goal was to have BRT funded and under construction within a handful of years. Realizing that change takes time, we extended the initiative to ten years, and although we do not have true BRT, we are proud of how far our region has come.

We have seeded ideas for better buses in communities around the region, and we see this work now embedded within local and state agency planning.

We have offered an alternative model for engagement on transportation, embedding art, creativity, and inspiration alongside technical analysis.

And most of all, we have been honored to work side by side with communities who are doing all that they can to make bus service better for people who rely on it. Barr will continue to be a part of bus improvement efforts through our larger mobility strategy, acting as stewards and catalysts for new and ongoing projects led by community organizations in support of their needs and priorities.