T says it can speed up 39 service through fewer stops, better traffic signals
The MBTA is outlining a series of changes to the 39 route from Forest Hills to just before Back Bay it says will mean shorter commutes for riders on the system's second-busiest bus route.
Among them: Eliminating one out of every five stops and looking at new locations for some of the remaining ones. Also proposed are changes to the traffic signals at Monument Square in Jamaica Plain.
The T says it also wants to boldly mark the outlines of bus stops on the street, to reduce the odds of Bostonians parking at them, which currently slows buses that have to stop mid-street. Also proposed: several "curb extensions," which would bring sidewalks further out into the street at some stops.
The T is also looking at several shelters, benches and trash receptacles at stops.
And the T says it wants to remove seven old trolley poles from along the route in JP, where they currently serve mainly as eyesore reminders of the days when trolleys ran down Centre.
Work could begin this fall on the improvements, funded from a $10-million federal stimulus package. Improvements to the Back Bay section of the route are being handled separately. The 39 is one of the T's 15 key bus routes designated for overhauls.
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This is exactly the type of self-improvement that I'd love to see at the T.
I do wish we had a traffic law like Seattle, where not yielding to a bus pulling out from a bus stop is a moving violation. I repeatedly see bus-car warfare in Teele Square.
Sadly, I doubt it would ever be enforced. Better off with changes to the built environment like curb extensions.
So, when a bus stops to pick up
passnegers, all other traffic has to wait behind it.
Brilliant idea Holmes.
Given how often people park
Given how often people park in or otherwise block bus stops, buses have to stop and block traffic anyway. Might as well let them get on as quickly as possible.
That's precisely the idea
The handful of Single Occupancy Vehicles behind the bus can wait a moment while a vehicle that could be carrying over fifty people stops briefly and picks up passengers.
Dwell times would be much reduced if the bus didn't have to meekly submit while a couple of massholes block it in and prevent it from merging into the lane.
But of course, the road warriors think only in terms of car counts. Each and every car that passes is sacred, even though it probably only contains a single person in it. Meanwhile, the bus that is carrying many more people is forced to wait.
And then you wonder why buses get a bad rap. They get treated like shit!
If you want buses to be improved, then they have to get rights to the road which are in proportion to their importance and capacity.
Why do you assume it's only
Why do you assume it's only SOVs behind the bus?
What if it's food delivery trucks, or car pools, or families with kids? Or another bus?
This very morning I rode a bus that was behind another bus. It was very helpful that we were able to pass it as it made several stops we didn't have to make.
Because generally that's the case
And while there could be carpools, though quite rare, and I do appreciate the effort they make, this is no different than dealing with any other traffic stoppage which could be caused by all sorts of things. Is food delivery truck supposed to encompass time-sensitive deliveries? Because most deliveries, including food, are not that time-critical. They have refrigeration. And the roads can be blocked up for all kinds of unexpected reasons, so counting on a mixed-use general-purpose lane to be predictable is foolish. Just ask anyone who tries to plan bus schedules ;)
I would worry more about emergency vehicles, but you have to find a way to help them without causing more private vehicles to clog up the features that were supposed to be for the emergency vehicles to use.
Now as for buses passing other buses, I think I mentioned this in another sub-thread, but I don't think it's a very good thing in general. It seems nice when you're on the bus, but it represents a failure of the system.
The fact that buses are catching up to other buses which, breaking headway adherence, is often due to the excessively long dwell times forced on the leading bus. For example, forced on them by cars that won't let the bus merge back into traffic, or passengers who have difficulty boarding because the bus cannot reach the curb.
There's other issues the T could fix. For example, they could adopt POP and all-door boarding to speed things up. They could move ticketing off-board in the busiest locations. They could have longer inter-stop spacing so the bus doesn't get bogged down every single block. They could add signal priority so that buses aren't so vulnerable to the vagaries of traffic timing. More dedicated bus/emergency lanes where appropriate. All kinds of things can be done. But one of the simplest fixes is to put curb extensions so that buses don't have to get stuck in awkward positions trying to reach the curb, and then fight to get out.
Regarding bus bunching
This is not always the case. There are a few corridors where several distinct bus lines converge. Bunching happens there because the section covered by multiple lines is generally going to have lots of buses. The two most prominent run between Rozzie Square and Forest Hills (9 lines) and between Dudley Square and Roxbury Crossing (8 lines). Bunching is going to happen no matter what, given the frequency levels in those corridors.
That's true too
But it does happen even in places where there's only one bus line, e.g., all along the 1, the 57, the 77 and the 66.
Sounds good but
Sounds good but maybe a first step would be to actually enforce the traffic laws we already have and make the penalties for them even remotely commensurate with what it costs to enforce them and what it costs us all in increased traffic and lost time, money, and lives when they're violated.
I believe you see the warfare because so many bus drivers
refuse to pull into the bus lane -- instead they angle their vehicles and block traffic. I am all for fining people who park in bus stops, but let's be fair and also fine bus drivers who block traffic instead of pulling into the bus stop to pick up and drop off (and I don't mean Tom and Ray's Russian driver...). As an added note, I do not see many cars parked in bus stops -- it's a $100 fine.
As someone who actually rides the bus
I see cars parked in or otherwise blocking the bus stop ALL the time. And I see bus drivers striving to make do anyway. It's not a problem for me, but sometimes a person needs help boarding and the bus can't reach the curb because someone in a car is making the angles impossible.
You can't see what's going on from behind the bus, your view is blocked. Be a bit more patient.
A lot of talking, little action
They've been talking about this it seems like forever. Just do it.
Taking the 39 is a great way to get between JP and downtown, but the constant stops make no sense. Just between Mass Ave and the MFA, there's like 7 stops, where three would suffice.
Oh, and let's be serious: the stop at St James and Clarendon streets can be eliminated, right now. You lazy people who take it from Back Bay station get walk a block.
I suspect the Back Bay stop
I suspect the Back Bay stop only exists because there isn't room anywhere else in the area to stage tandem buses.
39 bus to Back Bay
It used to end at Copley, then was extended to Back Bay because Copley wasn't ADA-compliant. Now that it is, perhaps the 39 should go back to ending at Copley. You would need to convert one lane of one block of Dartmouth to a contra-flow bus lane, which should be pretty straightforward -- bus turns right from Boylston (in front of BPL) to Dartmouth to Huntington.
But when it ended at Copley,
But when it ended at Copley, it used to turn right from Boylston onto Dartmouth and layover in front of the library. Dartmouth is now one-way in that block and the sidewalk has been widened.
Right, but I'm suggesting a contraflow bus lane
Turn one of the northbound Dartmouth Street lanes into a southbound bus-only lane for that single block, and make that the 39 terminal.
There is also a stop that is literally right across the street from Forest Hill station, the other terminus of the route. I think eliminating 20-25% of the stops on this route is the best idea I've heard in a long while.
Also, not sending out one bus 90 seconds after you sent the last bus out...that might be a good call too.
Starting on p.19, the presentation attached above illustrates the specifics of proposed stop consolidations and all the rest. Very informative -- good job, T planners.
Buried in there: catenary
Buried in there: catenary pole removal ...
The presentation limits the number of poles to be removed to 7.
Just enough to forever
Just enough to forever prevent their reinstallation and restoration of the E Line.
Why would they prevent
Why would they prevent something that's not happening anyway? They may as well prevent horsecars from running on the line.
...twenty five years, no visible tracks beyond Heath Street, a Forest Hills station that's about to go bye bye no matter which Casey plan happens and a bigger, faster line just a couple blocks away haven't convinced you the E isn't coming back. Man, that's just sad.
I'm pretty sure NotWhitey knows Arborway restoration is dead
But your points are certainly well crafted for the angry conspiracy theorists who still think the line is a good idea.
If they ever restore the
If they ever restore the Arborway line, they would put in new poles anyway.
Why not restore the E Line to
Why not restore the E Line to Forest Hills (possibly to points beyond along Blue Hill Avenue) and get rid of the bus entirely?
okay, i'll play
Why not get rid of the E line entirely, which just acts as a bus that can't change lanes past Brigham Circle, and move the bus to the former E-line right of way?
Because a bus is still a bus
Because a bus is still a bus and not a one seat connection to downtown. A bus will never have the ridership a streetcar line does. *cough A line*
According to the 1968 BRA
According to the 1968 BRA publication "Transportation Facts for the Boston Region", the 1967 ridership on the A Line was 14,000.
According to the 2010 MBTA Blue Book, the ridership for bus routes 57, 501, 502, 503, and 504 (the A-line replacements) is 16,532.
Ooh, can you quote some more?
Google won't let me view the pages of that book.
What's the proportion of riders on the other Green Lines?
Also, is there any population information measured in the catchment area? Like, for example, mode share information?
The original 1967 Green Line
The original 1967 Green Line surface line numbers are one-direction inbound counts. So here is the inbound only comparison from 1967:
A Line: 7,000
B Line: 10,700
C Line: 11,000
D Line: 15,400
E Line: 15,000
I doubled the A-Line figure before to make the comparison to the bus routes, which are two-way ridership figures from the present MBTA Bluebook.
The present MBTA Bluebook numbers have combined inbound/outbound boardings for surface Green Line stops, so to do a direct comparison to the 1967 numbers, you would have to subtract out the outbound surface boardings from the present numbers.
Systemwide, at stops where direct comparisons can be made quickly with present data, there are some interesting numbers.
At Kendall, the boardings in 1967 where 5,500, today they are 13,975. At Ashmont on the otherhand, the 1967 numbers were 19,500 while the present day numbers are only a third at 6,019.
I don't have time to retype all the numbers, but while overall numbers are higher today, there are great flucuations at individual stations. As you imply with your question, you need to look at other data to make true one to one comparisions, but the assumption that there was a large absolute drop-off in ridership on the A-line corridor after conversion to bus is incorrect.
Thank you for the info (and taking the time to bring it to this forum). Can I ask, as a regular reader (ie no hand in the running of uHub) - if you'd consider registering as a regular member? There are so many anon comments that the ones worth reading fall into the great maw of trolls and cynical snarks.
Currently, we can all individually +1 posts we find worthwhile, but that really only helps once a lot of eyes have read through a particular comment stream. Until/unless the forum adds mass-moderation, a registered-name is still one of the faster/more reliable ways to flag the attention of those browsing through the forums.
The "B" line runs through some of the most densely populated parts of town.
But what's curious here is that the "B" only gets middling ridership in 1967, and it is dominated by the "D" and the "E". Now the "E" lost a lot of its catchment in 1986, but the "D" hasn't changed. A much higher proportion of riders use the "B" presently than before.
A bus can't go into the
A bus can't go into the subway. Except for that $2 BN bus tunnel they built for the Silver Line.
Because that would entail
Because that would entail eliminating hundreds (thousands?) of on-street parking spaces, and would make cycling on that stretch of road even more dangerous than it is now. Besides, you have what is arguably the fastest subway line in the city travelling down the Southwest Corridor.
How would restoring the E
How would restoring the E line through JP eliminate parking? Do you mean double parking? I thought JP was supposed to be full of high minded people which would never stand in the way of their fellow man and environmentally friendly transit?
The original plan to restore E
line service to Forest Hills actually increased the number of on-street parking spaces.
And if having in-street light rail running is so bad, then why have numerous other cities been building new light rail lines (or expanding existing ones) for the past forty years?
But, OMG, don't even think about changing the traffic pattern on Centre Street - even though it would make travel more efficient for everyone, not just E line users. And we certainly can't have those unsightly poles and wires cluttering up our urban landscape. Yep, it must be better to have slowly moving and lower capacity buses that inefficently burn fuel that could be better used to produce electricity to power higher-capacity streetcars.
To be fair, you have to acknowledge that most examples of modern street running rail are found on wider streets with some lanes for cars that do not overlap the rail corridor. There are streets in Boston where a street car might work, but Center St. through JP isn't one of them.
Right. Because a bus takes up less width
than a streetcar does - NOT! Especially if the bus stop has an extended curb.
Streetcars and Centre Street co-existed for almost 100 years, and the service was generally better than it is with the current 39 buses.
And, it is truly infortunate that, at the same time we are presumably trying to promote means of transportation other than the automobile, we continue to reject logical and efficent ideas because of the inconvenience (real or perceived) to automobile users.
The difference is not found in the width
but in the ability to go around one another. When buses bunch, one bus stops, while the other passes it. This isn't possible with trolleys. What this means is that the buses are more reliable.
Now, I'll defer to your experience regarding 100 years ago, but in my more recent experience, the amount of traffic on Centre St. wouldn't work well with fixed vehicles hogging the center of the road. Buses can pull over, they can move around obstructions, and are generally more flexible. What they are not is cute, quaint, or nostalgia inducing. I'll take what's more effective transit over the Disney approach any day of the week.
When buses bunch, one bus
Very funny. What drugs are you taking where this happens?
They do pass each other
It's not generally any kind of efficiency move, though, but rather the product of some impatient drivers.
For example, I lost count of how many times I spotted two 57 buses coming along, one empty, one full. The full bus stops to discharge a passenger, the empty one skips the ten people waiting for it. So now ten people try to fit into the space left by one person on the full bus.
I try to anticipate this situation and go try to wave the empty bus down but it doesn't always work.
So you're right, the capability of buses passing each other is not necessarily a good thing, and is not really used to gain any advantage over trolleys.
I should also add that trolleys have a means for regaining separation which is widely employed here in Boston, "going express." It does sacrifice some headway adherence in the intermediate stops. Buses do it too, I noticed. I was sitting on a full 77 bus the other day from Arlington when I realized that an empty 77 bus caught up to us. The full bus driver then proceeded to skip many bus stops that had people waiting.
The 66 does this all the time--I see 2 or 3 of them backed up in Brookline Village at least once a week. Drivers with no passengers to discharge will definitely drive around a stopped bus, but since the stops on that part of Harvard Street/Huntington Ave are heavily trafficked, it doesn't happen much. In practice, you end up with two buses queuing up for the stop, blocking one lane of traffic entirely.
The problem with an express trolley at street level
What happens if you are on a trolley and the driver announces it is expressing past your stop? If you pay cash does this mean you have to pay a second fare when you board the second trolley?
I don't like the 'solution'
But generally the following trolley driver lets everyone onboard without questioning.
Ideally, it should be possible to operate the route without any expressing needed. A large number of issues need to be fixed to help that. Dwell times are too long on the surface Green line. Part of that is because everyone is forced through the small front door. Especially when they have the new rear door restrictions. Ticketing could be improved, having some folks pay cash really holds things up. They need to eliminate stops to help move things along. And there needs to be signal priority at the lights. Every decent light rail system in the world has this. Without it, we're just going to end up with the large headway variance that results in missed windows and the need for dynamic 'express' trains.
street-level express trolleys
I've experienced this before. Usually the people who paid cash on the first trolley tell the second trolley driver that they already paid, and the second trolley driver just lets them on.
Um...JP, Allston, Roxbury...
Shall I go on? And sadly no drugs are involved. But I'd confirm other posters--have seen this countless times on the 57, the 66, and the 39. The 57 was always the worst though for half-hour waits followed by clusters of three buses.
Having rode the "E" when the PCC trolleys were around...
I completely agree with your sentiment. Moving from Hyde Park to West Roxbury offers me direct access to the route 39 bus from Route 38.
When I rode the "E" trolleys (walking from Boston Latin Academy at Ipswich St to what was then Ruggles/Museum), there were occasional problems with the trolleys stopping dead in the middle of street, but those incidences were few and far between. Riding the Route 39 bus in the mornings between 7 and 8 am is a crapshoot; if it isn't passengers (LMA and Latin School kids) choking the aisles of the bus, it's the ungodly mess of traffic at Brigham Circle. I sometimes board at Heath Street, but then the train inspector at Brigham Circle holds the train for five minutes. That's why I've been walking from Mass Ave Station to Symphony and picking up the train there.
Bringing the "E" back to Forest Hills (or better yet, extending the "E" into West Roxbury and Needham) would be excellent for the reasons you have just described. Even though going to Forest Hills and the Orange Line is quicker, the "E" would take me directly to Park Street.
They should. But I think it
They should. But I think it would work better if, to make up for the lack of a proper reservation (see the B and C lines, and the E as far out as Brigham Cir.), they eliminated street parking along the route and put the trolleys on the outside lanes, using the sidewalks as platforms. (for safety and ADA reasons). Stripes, different pavement types, grass, curbs, etc could be used to keep cars off the tracks. The two traffic lands would remain as is, in the middle. The T and the city might need to encourage the building and use of parking on side streets and underground garages. But the improved transit will likely reduce the need for parking quite a bit anyway.
Instead they're looking to cut the E back to Brigham circle, the idiots.
They're not just looking to
They're not just looking to cut back the E. They're doing it in less than 3 weeks.
Getting off the E line
Getting off the E line where it runs in the road is one of the scariest things I've done in my time living in Boston. It's nice, but if you ride it out there, a lot of people opt to take the bus so they don't have to board or exit the vehicle in the middle of the street. Ending it at Brigham Circle makes sense.
Because it's nice to
Because it's nice to drive/bike/run/walk through the commercial section of Centre Street in less than three hours.
That is a horrendous idea. Say goodbye to the ability to drive down the street, the ability to park in downtown JP, the ability to have any sort of bike lane.
The people in JP who are advocating the rebuilding of the E-line are the same type of people advocating tearing down Casey: Dolts who have no idea, or just don't care about the repercussions of such actions.
As a side note, the Gazette this week had a lovely story about how the traffic at Casey is actually going to be WORSE than originally stated with the overpass tear down, which was already worse than it is.
Good call guys.
was it such a bad call? as a
was it such a bad call? as a JP resident i don't give a flip if it takes longer to drive from one side of Washington Street to the other, the only time I ever drive that way is on weekend days when I'm going to Ikea or Nantasket Beach or something. If anything I think the more that becomes a headache the more it is a deterrent from the Emerald Necklace parkways being the quick route to Fenway, Cambridge and Storrow Drive. The Jamaicaway and its siblings may actually begin to resemble parkways instead of highways-- for those trying to cross to get to the park that can only be a good thing.
Now if I lived in Dorchester I'd be pissed, but it's not difficult to see why people in JP wouldn't be. Now if we can just do something about all the West Rox traffic pouring in at Centre Street......
people park in bus stops because they're assholes
...not because they can't "see" them.
Every evening, people use the 39 bus stop in front of Bukhara as 5-min parking because they're too damn lazy to drive around in back for their run into CVS, or find a spot on centre like everyone else.
BTD doesn't patrol JP at all because there are no metered spaces. BPD officers think writing tickets is beneath them. Transit cops want to sit at Forest Hills and occasionally drive their cruiser fast.
It's real simple: have a cop or BTD ticket-writer hang out in the antique shop. Every time someone pulls in, write down the plate number and vehicle, then walk out to slap the ticket on the windshield or hand it to the driver. Rinse, wash, repeat. I think the city could make a couple of grand in one night at $100 a pop - and once a week at random would be all it would take to get word out that no, in fact, you can't park in bus stops.
Why doesn't BPD patrol Centre street almost constantly during rush-hour, either by cruiser or bike?
As always, there's more to it than that. BTD doesn't actually write the tickets on T property, T police do. But the city gets all the revenue. So: no incentive whatever for the T police to actually, you know, police the bus stop issue.
The T should get all the revenue. Buses should furthermore be equipped with license plate cameras and just automatically snap pictures of cars blocking the bus stops whether parked or just standing. Enforcement and high ticket prices will end the practice and add a few bucks to the T's ailing bottom line.
Police have always been able to write tickets for bus stops, but it required an MBTA ticketbook. That was phased out with the fine bump to $100. Any officer can use their citation booklet for a T bus stop violation now.
Somewhat lost in all this
The loss of the instant-gratification light at Monument Square. It and the light in front of Thomas Aquinas are the most pedestrian-friendly in the city.
Is it being removed? What's
Is it being removed? What's the proposal to replace it?
You're right, it's one of the most pedestrian-friendly lights in the city, but it's almost of necessity--that intersection is bad juju for every car, bus, and bike that goes through it, and would otherwise be really dangerous to pedestrians. If they're taking out that light, I'd love to see the traffic flow around the monument redesigned, so that the line of cars waiting to take an unprotected left onto Centre Street could be diverted somewhere that doesn't end up with them cutting off incoming cars or backing up traffic down by creeping into the oncoming lane.
Should be set up like Adams Park
Go to Rozzie Square and look at the street configuration around Adams Park. The same model would work well at the Monument, which is to say make every street one way, forcing vehicles to go around two sides of the monument regardless of what direction they are headed.
Traffic light improvements to
Traffic light improvements to speed bus service are a *great* idea!
Has the T ever successfully done this? For example, what happened with the Silver Line Washington Street traffic light priority project? The last I heard, they were trying a ridiculously complicated scheme, where a bus would request priority only if its GPS thought it was running late. The request would wend its way through several computer systems (TransitMaster, the T, the BTD, maybe another one or two).
I don't think they ever got it working, which is no surprise for something that complicated.
And why should buses only get priority when they're late? They should be speeding up service all the time, so the definition of on-time gets quicker.
If I were in charge, the driver would have two buttons: one that says, "Turn green (or stay green) right now please", and another that says "I'm picking up passengers -- please give a green in 30 seconds".
This has been in the planning
This has been in the planning stages for *years*. I'll believe them when I actually see the curb extensions built. I was really surprised I didn't get a notification for last night's meeting... I've received one for every other meeting they've had for this project. Anyway, I'm glad they actually listened to the residents and put the bus stop back in across from the Harvest Coop and that the city didn't delay its bike improvements waiting for the T to do this project.
The reason the Green Line was eliminated is because Boston has chosen to prioritize private cars over every other form of transit. If there were a real commitment to public transportation from Menino's office, the E line down Centre Street would have been restored over a decade ago.
This is an interesting concept. These so called "curb extensions", would bring sidewalks further out into the street at some stops. It will give the impression that the MBTA buss driver is actually pulling the bus into the bus stop and closer to the curb without actually having to do so. Since this is actually no change from what the MBTA bus drivers I do not see how this helps overall efficiency of the buses on the route.
It's rare to see a route 39 MBTA bus driver that actually pulls the bus into the bus stop even when there is room to do so. It's also rare that they signal in any way to indicate to other drivers in traffic that they are leaving the bus stop to find other ways to annoy us while traveling between bus stops.
Curb extensions make it
Curb extensions make it easier for folks who have trouble stepping up to the bus, such as the elderly or disabled.
You may think there is room for the bus to pull into a stop, but many of the stops I've seen there is not sufficient room even if nobody is directly parked in them. It is difficult to maneuver a long, awkward vehicle to twist in between the car waiting at the light in front and the car in the legal parking spot behind. It's a design flaw, probably caused by folks desperate to hold onto as many street parking spaces as possible.
You might want to open up your mind and think about the 100 people who could be aboard that bus. You can't see them from behind, but they're there. Do you feel that your own interest in arriving at your destination 2 seconds faster outweighs 100 people being pushed to the side of the road by aggressive drivers?
Heck, I just observed this coming back on Cambridge Street in the route 66 bus. The bus pulled to the side of the road to discharge passengers. It took a full minute and a half for the driver to get back out onto the road because individual cars kept coming at just the right rate, forcing him to yield continually.
Nobody seems bothered by other car drivers
We all know how to anticipate Massholes, and most of us are able to adjust our driving accordingly. I say this not to imply that bus drivers are themselves Massholes, far from it. But the point is that it is easy to appreciate the needs of other vehicles and anticipate how they will behave. As Mathew continues to point out, that bus carries far more passengers than any car. When I'm in a car, it is a selfish choice if I feel the need to claim advantage against the bus. I prefer to cut both it and the driver some slack, and do what I can to make life easier for the 60 or so bus riders.
I'm also a frequent bike rider on many of these heavy bus routes, and I used to see the buses the way you do, as something that gets in my way. But really, they don't. A few seconds of patience, and a steady eye on the bus ahead of me, makes for a far safer and more satisfying ride.
Say there are about 410,000
Say there are about 410,000 cars registered in Boston. So over an average day isn't it likely there are more people going somewhere by car than by bus. And if you add the number of cars that are not registered in Boston but are on city streets then cars account for even more commuters. Plus, a small percentage of cars (10% maybe) have more than one occupant.
You assume all the cars are in use, and that usage is in Boston.
my car remains parked on weekdays, and when I use it on the weekends, it's mostly to leave the city.
Number of bus trips per day
MBTA reports they have reached approximately 400,000 unlinked bus passenger trips per day (out of 1.3 million overall).
So ... it's not clear.
And it's not even a relevant point, since we're talking about a bus carrying dozens of passengers vs a handful of cars which are being slightly delayed. Suppose all those passengers were driving cars instead... the result would be a much bigger mess on the road, and a much longer wait.
Signal improvements at Canary Square, not Monument
The MBTA proposes a new exclusive left hand turn signal on Centre St. northbound where South Huntington splits off. The change will allow more and extra and efficient movement along the 39 bus route.