Reserving Bus-Only Lanes for Buses Only

April 20th, 2016

Metro kicks off an evaluation of bus-only lane enforcement strategies.


Montgomery County uses bus cameras to enforce safe driving rules around school buses.

As the state and local departments of transportation begin to consider bus priority treatments (PDF) in earnest, their success will be dependent on the development and implementation of a comprehensive driver education and lane enforcement strategy prior to the bus lane installation.

New bus-only lanes are currently being implemented or are planned in many of our compact jurisdictions: Corridors currently under study include Georgia Avenue NW in DC, Rockville Pike in Montgomery County and Leesburg Pike in Northern Virginia.  As BRT becomes a more popular and effective mode for cities seeking high-quality, higher-speed transit at a relatively low cost, there is an increasing interest in identifying strategies to successfully enforce vehicle restrictions in bus-only lanes.

This summer, Metro will be initiating a new study aimed at identifying and designing best practices in bus lane enforcement.  The study will look at approaches which have been used by other transit properties, and determine if and how they can be best applied in our region.  This will include evaluation of the legality and viability of various types of camera enforcement strategies in each member jurisdiction, and the development of comprehensive educational strategies for drivers, pedestrians, and law enforcement agencies.  The study should take about 6 months.  The final product will include specific recommendations and time frames for actions to be taken in each jurisdiction and region wide to ensure the success of new bus only lane initiatives.

What effective bus-lane enforcement strategies have you seen used in other cities?  What works and what doesn’t?

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  1. asafr
    April 20th, 2016 at 16:26 | #1

    I’m glad to see more thinking about this! I’m also worried that some of the bus-lane exception policies make it harder to do effective enforcement – e.g. DDOT says they may not use painted lanes for the 16th st buses, because the planned bus lane restrictions are only during rush hours.
    For enforcement strategies, as great as bus-mounted cameras + automatic ticketing are, how strongly are these agencies considering physical barriers (anything from posts to curbs to fencing)? Renderings for the Rockville Pike BRT seem to show actual curbs/planting, but I haven’t heard such plans from DC and the VA Route 7 study doesn’t seem to show any.

  2. Zack Rules
    April 21st, 2016 at 10:09 | #2

    Automated enforcement cameras mounted on buses is what New York City does for its Select Bus Service lines. Try escalating fines too, especially for commercial vehicles, and ban emergency vehicles unless they are using flashing lights.

  3. ex804
    April 21st, 2016 at 12:38 | #3

    A quick look at Clark St in Crystal City suggests that lanes which are bus-only at times and mixed-traffic at times quickly become mixed-traffic all the time.

    I know it’s early yet, but without Arlington Police enforcing things, the Arlington portion of Metroway is going to be a bust.

  4. April 22nd, 2016 at 18:00 | #4

    I’d like to see the Metro transit police issue tickets for bus lane violations. They have jurisdiction in all Metro facilities, which are defined by the compact to include the sidewalks around bus stops. If the sidewalk at a bus stop is a Metro facility, a bus lane certainly is.

  5. Low Headways
    May 19th, 2016 at 13:49 | #5

    Late to this, but one of the problems is really poor lane design. Take 9th St. NW, for instance – that lane shift between New York Ave, I Street, G Street, and E Street is maddening for cyclists, buses, and cars alike, particularly the stretch between G and E (why on earth would you try and shoehorn unprotected cyclists in between buses and cars?).

    Rationalizing this street layout would go a long ways towards making enforcement possible.

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