Boston City Council president Michelle Wu has issued offered an order for hearing on transit signal priority.
“Whereas the existing traffic control system prioritizes automobiles over mass transit and residents across Boston face traffic congerstion and unneccesary commuting delays and wheras the City of Boston can work with the Commonwealth and [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] to correct this imbalance through transit signal priority . . . therefore be it ordered that the appropriate committee of the Boston City Council holds a hearing to examine transit signal prioritization policies . . .” the order reads.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this hearing.
Not only is transit signal priority crucially important from the standpoint of equity — why should a packed bus or Green Line train be held up by a car with a single occupant? — but it’s also important for the smooth operation of transit. The B branch of the Green Line is notorious for getting stuck in traffic and Ari Ofsevit estimates that signal priority on D Street in South Boston for the Silver Line could save the MBTA over $435,455 a year. Who knows how much could be saved on other routes.
Signal priority would be an important step forward in City-T cooperation, which is often lacking. In the winter of 2014-15, for example, snow was frequently ploughed into bus stops. With the MBTA not actually in control of those stops, cooperation with the City of Boston is crucial for moving and consolidating stops, putting shelters up and building bump-outs, as well as getting them cleared of snow..
It would also be a step-forward for regional cooperation. In December of last year, Cambridge residents had a participatory budgeting vote and opted to get signal priority for the One bus on Massachusetts Avenue. To be really effective, it would need to be paired with signal priority on Mass Ave in Boston, too.
Wu has taken on a leadership role on these issues in the City Council. This hearing was ordered on the same day she and Councilor Tim McCarthy are holding a hearing on why some commuter rail fares in the City of Boston are $2.50 and others are more expensive. She also published an op-ed in The Boston Globe with Newton mayor Setti Warren opposing MBTA fare hikes.