The MBTA's 28X Debacle, aka, Missed Opportunity

What’s the 28X? It was the MBTA’s attempt to put a version of bus rapid transit on the existing 28 bus line.

Route 28X would have converted portions of the bus route, particularly on Blue Hill Avenue, into a dedicated bus lane. It would have implemented many of the principles of bus rapid transit, like the dedicated lane and more widely spaced station stops, to allow faster service and greater throughput for one of the system’s most heavily used bus lines.

And it would have done it with the help of federal funds and at an incremental cost to the existing system (as opposed to a large greenfield capital expense). As this space has noted before, there’s no money out there for major expansion projects and the only feasible system improvements take an incremental approach.

Bus rapid transit should be part of this toolkit. I’m sure that several readers will bring the flaws of the Silver Line to my attention, that’s an important source of lessons for future bus rapid transit (which I’ll address in a separate post).

So, what happened to the 28X? In short, the community rejected it. The roll-out was clunky — in their apparent haste to introduce a seemingly can’t-miss project with an identified federal funding source — the Administration announced it at a news conference with community leaders, without informing the community leaders in advance.

That misstep, combined with previous mistrust of the MBTA in the community, doomed the project, which was eventually withdrawn. And that’s a pity, because the type of system improvement most likely (and most feasible) to achieve in the coming years is going to look like a variant of bus rapid transit, if it happens at all.


Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.