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Here’s how the proposed new MBTA bus map has changed

The proposed new route plan has change significantly in the wake of 20,000 public comments.

The MBTA released its new plan for redesigning its bus routes Wednesday. MBTA

The MBTA released its new proposal for changing the transit authority’s bus routes Wednesday, having made changes, both big and small, to about two-thirds of the bus routes.

The MBTA first unveiled its proposal for a new bus map in May, and spent the summer collecting over 20,000 public comments. Based on those comments, it said, it has made changes to 85 of its 133 bus routes.

Despite the changes, the plan should still accomplish the MBTA’s goals of increasing service across the bus system by 25 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, and doubling the number of high-frequency routes.

“Our region has changed significantly over the past few years and decades, and our bus network needs to rise to the challenge and change with it,” Bus Transformation Director Justin Antos said during a presentation Wednesday evening.

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“It’s essential that the T’s bus networks adapt to how, where, and when people travel today.”

What changes were made

The changes to the bus routes fall into six categories, the MBTA said.

Route changing categories:

  • An existing route was revived after being removed during the May proposal
  • A route was given a new travel path
  • A route’s frequency was increased or decreased
  • A route’s period of service each day was increased or decreased
  • A route not in the May proposal was added
  • A route in the May proposal was removed

The MBTA said there were four major reasons changes were made to routes.

Routes were changed to:

  • Improve access to hospitals, senior centers, malls, and other frequented destinations
  • Reduce walking distances for people with impaired mobility in locations with uneven ground or sidewalks
  • Preserve routes that provided access to a frequented destination without having to change bus routes or get on a train
  • Stay within the MBTA’s limits given staffing and bus shortages

One important organizational change that was made was relabeling high-frequency routes as T routes, meaning they will have the letter T before the number in their name.

The MBTA considers a route to be “high frequency” if it plans to have buses on that route coming to stops at least every 15 minutes all day, every day.

Many municipalities north or west of Boston, including Brookline, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington, Medford, Somerville, Malden, Everett, Chelsea, Revere, and Lynn, will now be connected to high frequency lines going into and out of Boston.

Routes that are not high frequency or part of the Silver Line will fall into four other frequency categories.

Frequency categories:

  • Buses that run every 30 minutes or more from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Buses that run every 60 minutes or more from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Buses that run less frequently than every hour
  • Buses that run only during peak hours

Some bus lines in these categories will run earlier or later than the times listed above, the MBTA said, and the vast majority of bus lines are either high frequency or fall into the every 30 minutes or every 60 minutes frequency categories.

What the changes should accomplish

Bus Network Redesign Project Manager Doug Johnson said Wednesday during the presentation that the redesigning of the bus route should lead to some significant improvements in the MBTA’s bus service.

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These improvements include having more lines that run all day, every day; more lines that are reliable and unchanging; and creating new bus connections to more places, Johnson said.

Overall, he said, this should make the bus system simpler and easier to use.

“We want the network to be consistent and reliable enough that folks can show up to a bus stop without having to check the schedule to confirm that that bus is going to come on time or get them to where they need to go,” he said.

Johnson said that in their redesign plan, the MBTA prioritized frequency of service by consolidating routes. The cost of this, he said, was getting rid of some routes that take people from one dense area to another without having to switch buses or get on a train, and having some residents walk a little further to bus stops.

“If those two routes are very frequent and very reliable, then it won’t impact your travel time very much to have to make that transfer,” he said.

Still, Johnson said, they took into account feedback over the summer from people who said the consolidation changes would cause hardship for them or greatly increase their travel time, and made changes accordingly.

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Antos said the MBTA wasn’t able to make all the changes requested during public comment, largely due to a limited number of buses and drivers, but the MBTA has a plan to fix those problems, he said.

“Our goals for the overall project remain the same. It is still to create a better bus system that provides more equitable service for our riders, and to transform the entire bus system by creating routes that are more frequent and connect more closely,” he said.

What’s next for redesigning the bus system

The next steps for the MBTA in redesigning its bus routes is to conduct an equity analysis that will be completed by December. A public meeting about the analysis will be held soon after.

Johnson said the current plan is to implement changes to the bus routes over a few years beginning next year. Each summer during normal summer service changes, some of the permanent changes will be introduced, he said.

You can view a full list of changes made to the redesigned bus route map here. A static version of the new map can be viewed here. Comments on the bus map redesign can be made here.

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