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INDUSTRY OPINION >>

A shoulder to drive on

With congestion on the major highways and urban streets of North America worsening every day governments are trying to find new ways to keep transit reliable. Most North American cities lack sophisticated underground public transit systems and are instead fed by complex surface transit in the form of buses. Combine vehicular congestion with the buses and you get an unreliable bus schedule resulting in commuters reverting back to their cars.

To combat congestion cities have been using bus priority lanes, bus signal priorities, and improved fare collection, which all have contributed to improved speed and reliability.

Suburban conundrum

For the buses commuting to and from the central business district to suburban communities, however, this is still not enough for buses to maintain their schedules.

New policies are now being implemented that allow buses to use arterial or freeway shoulders to bypass congestion, keeping the bus on-schedule. The concept is known in North America as Bus-Bypass Shoulders (BBS).

Bus-Bypass Shoulders are defined as the area adjacent to the general purpose lane where one usually finds enforcement efforts, emergency services and disabled vehicles. For buses to be able to use the shoulders as a bypass area the shoulder must be a hard shoulder, ideally designed for the full structural requirement for general traffic.

Bypassing construction
With an aging highway network, widening the highway and creating a lane for bus transit is usually not viable due to narrow bridges and land-use restrictions. In any case, buses typically only need these lanes during rush-hour and not in off-peak hours, therefore the construction of a Reserved Bus Lane (RBL) cannot be easily justified.

The history of BBS began in 1992 when a flood washed out a bridge that crossed into the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, creating heavy congestion on other bridges. To get more commuters into the city, the Governor of Minnesota decided to allow transit to use the shoulders of the parallel bridges. Given the success of this emergency trial project, the Governor decided it would be worth trying it on other highways. The Twin Cities now have the most extensive system of BBS in North America with over 432km (271 miles) of shoulders in use and growing.

To date, if you total the amount of BBS across the US, Minneapolis-St. Paul actually has more lane-kilometres of BBS than all other cities combined. But other cities do see the advantages of BBS. The cities listed below also employ BBS in an attempt to restore bus schedule reliability.

Other Cities with BBS

  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Atlanta, Georgia, US
  • Maryland, Washington, US
  • Miami, Florida, US
  • San Diego, California, US
  • Seattle, Washington, US


Links
http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/teamtransit/  


 

 

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