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Cambridge and Watertown testing shared bus-bike lane along Mount Auburn corridor

Painted path could serve as model for congested bus routes

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Cambridge and Watertown, along with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, have rolled out a painted lane for buses and bikes only along the busy Mount Auburn Street corridor that runs through the two neighboring municipalities.

The lane is an attempt to get one of the region’s most congested bus routes moving a little bit more.

Only 3 percent of vehicles on Mount Auburn Street from Brattle Street to Coolidge Avenue are MBTA buses during morning rush hours, even though such buses carry 56 people of people on Mount Auburn, according to a release from Cambridge and Watertown. More than 12,000 riders a day use the 71 and 73 buses that service the corridor, which runs by places such as Watertown High School and Mount Auburn Hospital.

Crucially, there is no end date for the lane, which Cambridge and Watertown are pitching as a pilot program. The municipalities, with funding from the nonprofit Barr Foundation, will work with state officials to study how well the lane does in meeting its traffic goals.

They might adjust the lane depending on the results. But the paint is a less permanent and invasive way to tell cars and trucks to go elsewhere than other methods, some of which have caused controversy in Cambridge.