UMass to Northampton Buses Will Soon Beat Cars

Traffic congestion on the main route between UMass Amherst and downtown Northampton is often so bad that it’s faster to ride a bicycle than to drive the nine-mile trip. Soon, public transportation will also be faster than driving.

“Later this year, technology will be in place so that buses on Route 9 will be more likely to get green lights than cars -- similar to the technology that allows ambulances to always get green lights,” David Elvin told the Valley Post. He’s senior transit planner at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

The M-40 bus route from Smith College to UMass Amherst makes no stops and takes 30 minutes. It runs eight times a day. The non-express bus on that route runs many more times a day and takes 45 minutes. Driving during rush hour can take an hour.

Some buses in Boston (the “Silver Line”), Cleveland, and Los Angeles run on bus-only lanes, some of which are separated from non-bus traffic by a physical barrier. In L.A., buses can be seen cruising at 55 miles an hour next to freeway traffic that’s barely moving.

Elvin said Route 9 would need to be widened by 24 feet to fit bus-only lanes. “The money just isn’t there to purchase the homes and other property that the state would need to buy to make that happen,” he said.

Installing a train between Amherst and Northampton would be more expensive and is even less likely, he said.

But other improvements are in the works. Bus stops along the UMass Amherst-Northampton route will in the next year or two be equipped with signs that will tell passengers how many minutes they will need to wait for the next bus. People with cell phones will be able to get the same information by text message.

Indoor, heated bus stops may also be installed along Route 9, Elvin said. Cleveland has those.

All this should be music to the ears of people who have been bemoaning the recent announcement that the Amtrak station in Amherst will soon close, to be replaced by stations in Northampton and Greenfield.

Northampton-Amherst bus schedules are at

Information on the world-class, car-free bicycle route between UMass Amherst and downtown Northampton is at

The Northampton-based National Priorities Project works to encourage the government to spend less on war and more on mass transit and other social needs. The group’s web site is


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