Bus Priorities

This measure was fully updated by THE ASSOCIATION FOR URBAN TRANSITION - ATU in 2014 under the CH4LLENGE project, financed by the European Commission.


In urban areas, bus travel times can typically be double individual vehicle travel times. To make bus travel times competitive with individual vehicle travel times, a range of priority interventions needs to be selectively applied to bus services. One of the basic challenges in urban transport is to ensure a sustainable balance between public and private modes of travel. To achieve this, there is a strong argument that public transport should be favoured over private transport as much as possible, particularly in major urban corridors.

Bus priority measures aim to reduce journey times and improve the reliability of bus services. They include: segregation; traffic management; traffic signal control; and bus stop improvements. Effective bus priority measures can achieve mode shift from the car, and in so doing, reduce delays for both bus users and car-drivers.

Effective bus priority measures reduce operating costs for bus operators and increase patronage, both of which impact positively on the financial cost of bus operations. These impacts can be beneficial across a range of objectives including the environment, the economy and social inclusion. Some measures such as bus lanes are often faced with great opposition from traders and residents because of concerns over loss of access and parking. A further difficulty arises in a deregulated environment because the local authority will have difficulty ensuring that a high quality and regular service is maintained on the newly constructed measures. This causes political difficulties if the bus priority measures appear unjustifiable.

It is possible to provide bus services with a significant level of priority without imposing serious delays on other traffic. The capacity of the road network for general traffic is, to a large extent, maintained by ensuring that bus priority measures do not affect capacity at key intersections. In many situations, the introduction of bus priority measures occurs with the qualifying factor that delays for general traffic should not be increased to a point where an intersection approaches capacity saturation. Bus priority measures are particularly effective wherever bus journey times and reliability are affected by traffic congestion.

Introduction

Bus priority measures aim to reduce journey times and improve the reliability of bus services. Measures tend to fall into more categories:

  • Segregation measures – which give the greatest level of priority and include bus-ways, bus-only streets and bus lanes that take capacity away from general traffic;
  • Traffic management – such as bus gates and other physical measures to assist bus movements such as peak-hour parking restrictions (clearways) and intersection upgrades;
  • Traffic signal control;
  • Bus stop improvements;
  • Real-time traveller information;
  • Enforcement measures to support the above.

Each of these categories of measures is likely to deliver benefits to bus users, but comprehensive improvements that involve all possible techniques are likely to produce the greatest impacts.

As these measures take road capacity away from general traffic, they can increase traffic congestion unless they are designed as part of an overall transport strategy. In some cases, there is sufficient modal shift from car to bus to reduce traffic demand and off-set the potential delays to private vehicles. If there is significant transfer from car then bus priority measures can lead to improved journey times and reliability for both bus users and car drivers.

Bus priority measures are designed to complement bus service levels, fare levels and fare structures in attracting new riders.

Terminology

Bus priority can be summarised as the amendment of infrastructure and/or traffic control and management systems in order to improve the performance, efficiency, cost and image of bus travel. The key aims are to reduce bus journey times and unreliability, generate greater use of passenger transport and encourage modal shift from private car to bus and to the wider passenger transport network.

Bus lanes: Allocation of dedicated bus lanes, either in the road median lane(s) or in the kerb-side lane(s) to provide priority passage to the movement of buses. In some cases these operate as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

Bus gates: Use of Selective Vehicle Detection (SVD) to permit access by buses only.

Selective Vehicle Detection (SVD): On detecting a bus, green signal time can be extended, or red time reduced, to eliminate, or reduce, the waiting time of the bus.

Traffic Signal Priority: A controlled change to the normal duration for phases for a set of traffic signals at an intersection. The change is designed to allow a vehicle requiring priority to pass through the intersection unimpeded. Also known as signal pre-emption.

Description

Segregation Measures

Bus-only streets and bus-ways provide a dedicated track for buses that enables them to avoid congestion caused by general traffic. Bus-only streets are typically found in town centres and often have 15-30km/h speed limits to ensure that buses travel at speeds compatible with pedestrians.

Bus-ways are either separate roadways or segregated sections of roadway. One-way bus-ways are typically 6.0m wide to allow for overtaking of broken-down vehicles, and two-way bus-ways are typically 7.3m wide. Bus-ways can offer buses an unimpeded, relatively high-speed environment where delays are minimised and frequency is enhanced. Guided busways are covered under Bus Rapid Transit.

Bus lanes - Allocation of dedicated bus lanes – either in the road median lane(s) or in the kerb-side lane(s) to provide priority passage to the movement of buses. Bus lanes separate buses from other traffic, enabling them to avoid traffic congestion.
By using the lanes, buses have shorter journey times and are better able to keep to their timetables.
Some lanes have coloured pavements for easy identification. Parking or stopping on the lanes is prohibited during the times they operate.

Bus lanes may be differentiated with respect to several major characteristics:

  • Location within the roadway (kerb-side, median or centre-lane);
  • With-flow or contra-flow operation;
  • Mode of separation from general traffic (barrier-separated, line-separated);
  • Period of operation (24-hour, 12-hour, peak-period only);
  • Vehicle eligibility (buses and emergency vehicles only, or buses and other High Occupancy Vehicles, including taxis and private cars, bicycles).

With-flow bus lanes are the most common form of bus lane. Generally they consist of a reserved kerbside lane on the approaches to junctions which allows buses to ‘by-pass’ queues of general traffic. Sometimes offside or centre of the carriageway with flow-bus lanes are used to assist right turning movements or to avoid obstructions. Cyclists, taxis and commuter coaches are usually permitted to use bus lanes. In some areas motor cycles and heavy goods vehicles are also permitted.

Bus lane width should be at least 3.0m. If cyclists are allowed to share the bus lane, the width should be extended to 4.3m or above to allow buses to overtake a slow-moving cyclist. This limits the implementation of bus lanes to areas where the road is sufficiently wide – typically 10.0m so that a goods vehicle or bus travelling in the opposite direction can safely overtake.

Buses should be able to enter the bus lane without obstruction from queuing traffic. If queues extend through successive junctions the start of the bus lane might need to be set further upstream. Bus lanes can be extended right up to junctions but this can significantly reduce capacity, hence lanes tend to be set back, but not so far that buses miss the first available ‘green’ period. For a roundabout, the set back can be shorter, perhaps three vehicles in length, without significantly affecting entry capacity.

Contra-flow bus lanes enable buses to avoid circuitous routes (e.g. one-way systems) but they restrict kerbside access. Sometimes contra-flow bus lanes are made self enforcing by means of a continuous kerbed island, but this can lead to in-lane congestion if a bus breaks down.

Fig 1
Figure 1: Layout of Bus Lanes: Median Bus Lane / Two-way Median Bus Lane / Contra-flow kerb-lane Bus Lane and Contra-flow Median Bus Lane (source: Design and Planning Guidelines for PT Infrastructure, Bus Priority Measures, PT Authority, Government of western Australia)

Bus advance areas - Pre-signals to allow buses to be the first in the queue at a signalised junction, without loss of intersection capacity.

Queue-jump Lanes - provide the opportunity to re-allocate road space to provide genuine priority to buses at major congestion points. Queue-jump lanes are generally much shorter in length than bus lanes and may be realised by constructing a new short section of lane for the exclusive use of buses, while removing kerb-side parking to permit buses to use this section of the carriageway and to force cars to merge prior to the congestion point so buses can bypass them.

Traffic and Parking Management Measures

A bus gate is a generic term describing all forms of control which allow buses free movement, but restrict other traffic (e.g. Selective Vehicle Detection (SVD). Bus Gates are short sections of bus-only, or bus and other permitted vehicle-only, sections of road. Bus access to pedestrian streets gives buses considerable advantages over the car by being able to deliver passengers directly into, for example, shopping areas. Such schemes are widespread in town centres in the United Kingdom and are used successfully as part of area-wide access strategies. The bus gate allows buses to access a section of the street network, but presents a physical barrier to other vehicles. They can literally be gates or rising bollards or short lengths of bus-only street. Similar exclusions can be created by traffic management measures such as no-entry and banned turn controls which allow buses to make a movement that is prohibited for general traffic.

Bus Stop Improvements

The importance of the bus stop in the bus (and passenger) journey should not be underestimated. In terms of journey times the boarding and alighting of passengers at bus stops comprises a significant part of the overall journey time. Also the effectiveness of bus priority measures can be compromised by delays to the bus in moving into and out of bus stops along a route.  

Kerbside parking is a major cause of delays to buses making it difficult to approach and leave stops and requiring bus drivers to change lanes between stops. It can prevent vehicles from getting close to the kerb to assist passengers boarding and alighting, and it can also impact on passing traffic. As it is often impractical to ban parking, some highway authorities have enabled rear servicing to commercial properties and dropped kerbs that allow residents to gain access over the footway to parking within the curtilage of their properties.

Bus stop clearway markings can help to deter obstructions, but they take up a length of carriageway that may also be needed for residents’ parking or commercial deliveries.

Bus boarders (or built out bus stops) are local extensions of the footway into the carriageway that perform a similar function to clearways, but typically take up an area 2.0m wide and 9.0m long. Boarders allow buses to stop outside the line of parked vehicles, passengers to board and alight directly onto a pavement, and buses to re-enter the stream of traffic.

Bus stop locations must not unduly block general traffic and for this reason may need to be provided with half-width (1.5m) bus bays which give more space to general traffic whilst still allowing easy access and egress for buses to and from the main carriageway.

Enforcement of Bus Lanes

Priority lanes can only work if respected by other road users. A parked vehicle in the lane forces priority vehicles to enter a non-priority lane and queue with other traffic. This can offset any benefits obtained from the priority measure.
Non-priority vehicles travelling in a priority lane will increase queues at junctions, delaying priority vehicles and reducing benefits. Manual enforcement is costly, though some innovations, including traffic wardens travelling on buses to deal with offenders, have improved bus lane efficiency in the UK.
Automated enforcement systems are now in use in a number of cities. These initiatives increase the level of offence detection and, therefore, offer stronger deterrence. The initiatives include:

  • Bus mounted cameras;
  • Roadside CCTV;
  • Roadside fixed cameras.

As part of the London Bus Initiative (LBI) all 700 bus lanes in London are being enforced by on-bus, Bus Lane Enforcement Cameras (BLEC).

Why introduce bus priorities?

For buses to fulfil their potential in providing an alternative in a sustainable transport system, they must be made more attractive. To do that, it is important for buses to be able to operate efficiently. Bus services are, however, particularly susceptible to traffic congestion. Buses are less manoeuvrable than private cars and their routes and schedules cannot be changed at very short notice because they are registered to run on fixed routes - frequent re-routing would make it difficult for passengers to know when and where buses could be found. They must stop at regular intervals to pick-up and set down passengers. Delays to buses increase operating costs which may in turn lead to fare increases. Passengers are thus deterred because of the slower and less reliable services and higher fares; some take to their cars and so cause even more congestion.

For these reasons, it is frequently worthwhile to introduce traffic management measures to assist the movement of buses. These can take the form of measures designed to facilitate the movement of traffic generally along bus routes, and to protect access to bus stops. They may go further and permit buses to use lanes or dedicated tracks, or make movements which are denied to other traffic. Such measures can provide substantial benefits to bus passengers by allowing faster journey times and a more regular and reliable service; they can also help to attract additional passengers by eliminating unnecessary capital and operating costs by reducing the number of buses required to run the service.

Demand impacts

Effective and systematic measures that protect buses from the effects of traffic congestion have been proved to have a beneficial impact on bus journey times, service reliability and punctuality, passenger demand, revenue and the level of subsidy required to deliver a high quality public transport network.

It is important to provide priority access to key generators and attractors of travel demand. These benefits ensure that full-scale priority services enjoy significant ridership increases, which improve passenger transport demand and mode shares as well as the financial network performance.

The bus priority should also lead to increased demand, either through additional use by existing users or mode switching from “competing modes”, principally the private car.

The table below sets out the expected demand impacts in response to the implementation of effective bus priority measures.

Responses and situations
Response Reduction in road traffic Expected in situations
Improved bus reliability and speed may allow later departure time for PT users. If there is mode switch to bus this will also affect departure time. Possible increases in car journey times may necessitate earlier departure for those that continue to drive, an impact that is likely to diminish with time as travel behaviour adapts.
Car-drivers may reroute in response to reduced capacity on treated road. In the longer term bus operators may reroute services along treated roads.
Possibility that bus priority may make bus users more likely to travel to certain destinations.
Number of trips by bus may increase and possibly fewer car trips due to reduced road capacity for private cars. Net effect on number of trips is not certain.
Likely mode shift from car to bus. If cyclists are able to use bus lanes etc then possible switch to cycles also. Some cyclists and walkers may switch to the improved bus service.
Unlikely to discourage car ownership in the short term.
A factor that may influence this decision if measures are sufficiently comprehensive.
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Short and long run demand responses

Demand responses
Response - 1st year 2-4 years 5 years 10+ years
-
  -
  Change job location and shop elsewhere
  Reduced car trips
  From car to PT
  -
  -
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Supply impacts

Bus priority measures should increase the speed and reliability of bus services. For a given cost this will allow operators to increase frequency on existing routes or expand network coverage. Furthermore, the improved quality of service is likely to attract more passengers and the increased revenue can potentially be used to fund further service improvements. Whether or not the bus operator chooses to use the extra revenue to increase service levels may well depend upon the legislative and market structure in which it operates.

If ‘stronger’ bus priority measures were implemented (those measures that intentionally restrict the road space available to private cars in order to create maximum benefit for buses) then the combined carrot and stick effect would become much more pronounced in favour of public transport and greater levels of modal change could then be achieved.

Financing requirements

The costs of bus priority systems are dependent on the configuration of the system, with somewhat higher costs associated with signal upgrades, equipment/software for the intersection, vehicles, or the central management system. Many systems have been implemented without costly upgrades.  Where demand is increased, additional fare box revenues may be able to offset some of these costs.

Expected impact on key policy objectives

Transport affects the economic and social well being of everyone. Better bus services in our towns and cities contribute towards the regeneration and revitalisation of both the business community and our living areas. An efficient, reliable bus service can be an attractive alternative to those who have access to a car. Furthermore, an efficient bus service ensures social inclusion by providing access to jobs, education, health, social and leisure services to those without access to a car. A wide variety of people use buses but many people, especially older people, children, people with disabilities, women and the less well off, are often dependent upon having a reliable bus service.

Contribution to objectives

Objective

Scale of contribution

Comment

 

In congested conditions bus priority measures are likely to significantly improve the efficiency of public transport and so benefit all existing PT users.

If the bus priority measures significantly increase congestion, the picture is slightly more complex. Car users that continue to drive may well be disadvantaged. Some car users that transfer to the newly improved bus service will be beneficiaries whilst others will be worse off than before bus priority was implemented.
 
By encouraging mode switch from car to public transport and possibly suppressing some car trips amenity will be improved. Some bus priority measures such as bus lanes tend to reduce the speed of private vehicles and also move them further away from pedestrians on the pavement and cyclists in the bus lane (if allowed). However, diversion of traffic to residential streets can cause problems.
  Reduced road traffic will reduce emissions of local pollutants, greenhouse gases and noise.
  Appropriately designed bus priority measures will improve bus reliability and journey times which will improve accessibility for the less well off and socially excluded.
  Bus priority measures may reduce traffic levels and speeds which is likely to reduce accidents.
  Impact on economic growth will depend on individual circumstances if there are overall efficiency benefits than bus priority measures may contribute to economic growth.
  Implementation of bus priority measures is usually relatively inexpensive. There are likely to be operating cost reductions and increased revenues for bus operators which may reduce subsidy requirements.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected impact on problems

Expected impact on problems

Problem

Scale of contribution

Comment

Congestion

As these measures take road capacity away from general traffic, they can increase traffic congestion unless they are designed as part of an overall transport strategy. In some cases, there is sufficient modal shift from car to bus to reduce traffic demand and off-set the potential delays to private vehicles.

Community impacts


By reducing traffic volumes within the area, - revitalisation of the community. However, diversion of traffic to residential streets can cause problems.

Environmental damage

By reducing traffic-related CO2 emissions, NOx, particulates and other local pollutants around the local area.

Poor accessibility

Bus priority measures would provide users with a reliable service.

Social and geographical disadvantage

More likely to travel by bus.

Accidents

By reducing traffic volumes, lower number of accidents.

Economic growth

Creates an attractive environment to encourage further retail and commercial development.

= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected winners and losers

We would not necessarily expect everyone to directly benefit from the introduction of a light rail system. The table below highlights the main groups of people who could be expected to be direct beneficiaries, as well as those who could be expected, in the first instance at least, to lose out. It should be remembered, however, that this only relates to the direct, immediate impacts; mitigating measures could be put in place to help those who lose out. It should also be noted that impacts are focused on the routes served by the light rail system, and that long term impacts as a result of potential changes in surrounding land use and consequently that further a field could be different.

Winners and losers

Group

Winners/Losers

Comment

Large scale freight and commercial traffic

Possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased.

Small businesses

Possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased although journey to work may be improved for PT users. Also some problems of frontage access.

But reduction in traffic congestion and removal of car traffic from the kerb side could improve frontage access to shops.

High income car-users

Possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased.

Low income car-users with poor access to public transport

Low income users are more likely to travel by bus.

All existing public transport users

Existing public transport users will benefit from improved reliability and journey times

People living adjacent to the area targeted

Possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased and traffic diverted.

Cyclists including children

If bus-lanes are used for cycling. Car traffic removal from the kerb side lane.
People at higher risk of health problems exacerbated by poor air quality By reducing emissions of NOx, particulates and other local pollutants.
People making high value, important journeys
If using a car could then possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased. If using bus this group would benefit.
The average car user Possible short-term disbenefits if congestion increased.
= Weakest possible benefit = Strongest possible positive benefit
= Weakest possible negative benefit = Strongest possible negative benefit
= Neither wins nor loses

Barriers to implementation

As these measures take road capacity away from general traffic, they can increase traffic congestion unless they are designed as part of an overall transport strategy. In some cases, there is sufficient modal shift from car to bus to reduce traffic demand and off-set the potential delays to private vehicles. If there is significant transfer from car then bus priority measures can lead to improved journey times and reliability for both bus users and car drivers.

Scale of barriers
Barrier Scale Comment
Legal Highway authorities usually have the powers to implement such measures.
Finance Cost will very much depend on the type and scale of scheme implemented, in some instances it may be little more than changed road markings whereas a dedicated busway for example is a major piece of infrastructure that can cost several million pounds.
Governance There are rarely governance issues in the introduction of bus priorities.  However, where bus services are run by another agency or the private sector it can be difficult to ensure that they are effectively used.
Political acceptability Political risks are  affected by the legislative framework because if the authority cannot guarantee an appropriate level and quality of service after the implementation of the measures then the political risks are greatly exacerbated because motorists will not see any benefit to justify the disruption that the measures have caused.
Public and stakeholder acceptability It is essential to consider how public support may impact the implementation of certain schemes as negative representations are likely from motoring groups and local residents if for example on street parking or carriageway capacity is removed. However such schemes are likely to be popular with bus patrons, pedestrians and cyclists, who may not be as vocal in support of the scheme.
Technical feasibility Technically there are unlikely to be major barriers.
= Minimal barrier = Most significant barrier

Introduction

In this section some case studies to demonstrate the empirical evidence of the use of light rail schemes as policy instruments will be described. Schemes to be examined include Manchester Metrolink and Sheffield Supertram, both in Britain.

Case Study 1: Edinburgh’s Greenways

Edinburgh's Greenways provide segregated lanes for buses throughout the working day. They are constantly patrolled by a dedicated enforcement team and an illegal parker is 15 times more likely to encounter a warden on a Greenway than on a conventional bus lane. The buses typically arrive at 12-minute headways and there are high quality bus shelters with comprehensive bus information.

A comparative study (Scottish Executive, Report number 83) of two Greenways corridors - the 6.7km long A8 and the 2.2km long A900 – and the conventional bus only lanes along a 3km length of the A7/A701 corridor showed:

  • Journey times – both Greenways and conventional lanes protected buses from the congestion that affected other traffic.
  • Reliability – there was a notable improvement on the A8, but the conventional corridor did not show any obvious changes over the same period.
  • Bus use - approximately 11% of passengers on Greenways said they used the bus more, but 7% claimed to use it less.
  • Traffic volumes - decreased slightly on both Greenways corridors (between 4-10% outbound) after 1-2 years of implementation.
Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comments
  Insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.
 

Reduction in traffic volumes and its relocation further away from pedestrians (in the middle lanes) will have improved amenity.

 

No information on traffic speeds so it is not possible to conclude with any certainty whether reduced traffic levels represent a significant reduction in local pollutants and greenhouse gases. Longer-term effect is likely to be positive in terms of the environment.

 

There appears to be increased patronage which is likely to be due to improved speed and reliability, this represents a benefit for the less well-off and socially excluded.

 

Reduced traffic levels are likely to result in reduced numbers of accidents.

 

Insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.

  Insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Case Study 2: West Midlands Bus Showcase

The West Midlands Bus Showcase concept was developed to deliver a step change to bus services and make them more attractive to new users, particularly motorists. Routes have bus priority (including segregation, selective vehicle detection and signal control) and other features including high frequency services, attractive waiting environments at stops, real time information and strict enforcement of stopping restrictions.

Line 33 Birmingham to Pheasey was the first Showcase scheme to be introduced in 1997. Birmingham City Council and the passenger transport executive Centro spent £2.9 million on infrastructure, and operator Travel West Midlands invested £1.2 million in new buses. More routes have been completed including Superline 301.

The impacts of the showcase measures vary between routes, but they have achieved increases in bus patronage of 10-30%, and a 5 per cent (of bus patronage) mode shift from the car i.e. new passengers from car have increased bus patronage by 5% (http://www.pteg.net downloadable PDF). Increased bus patronage and increased numbers of mobility impaired passengers have increased bus boarding times and offset some of the potential reduction in journey times. The Superline, for example, has seen patronage increase by 22% (13% of these were former car users) and peak direction journey times fall by 9% in the AM peak and 4% in the PM peak. (www.centro.org.uk/handbook/index.htm)

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comments
  Insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions but improved bus journey times and reliability and mode switch from car are likely to represent greater benefits than any possible disbenefits to those that continue to travel by car. It is likely then that this represents improved efficiency overall.
  Reduction in traffic volumes and its relocation further away from pedestrians (in the middle lanes) will have improved amenity.
  No information on traffic speeds so it is not possible to conclude with any certainty whether reduced traffic levels represent a significant reduction in local pollutants and greenhouse gases. Longer-term effect is likely to be positive in terms of the environment.
  There appears to be increased patronage which is likely to be due to improved speed and reliability, this represents a benefit for the less well-off and socially excluded.
  Reduced traffic levels are likely to result in reduced numbers of accidents.
 

Insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.

 

Insufficient evidence to draw conclusions.

= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Case study 3: A47 Hinckley Road, Leicester

Bus lanes have been introduced over 4.5km of the A47 Hinckley Road in Leicester. The lanes operate 24 hours and provide almost continuous priority in the inbound direction and at congestion hot spots in the outbound direction. They have red surfacing and can be used by cyclists and taxis.

The county council's automatic traffic counters on the A47 recorded similar levels of overall traffic before and after the introduction of the bus lanes; weekday inbound flows increased by 6% between October 1997 and May 1998, while outbound flows reduced by 2%. However, during the morning peak hour, flows on Hinckley Road fell by 17% (from 1,100 to 910) in the inbound direction and there was a similar reduction of 150 vehicles during the evening peak in the outbound direction.

The bus priority measures had a minimal effect on car journey times; during the morning peak they dropped by 5% in the inbound direction and during the evening peak they increased by 2% in the outbound direction. But there were significant improvements in bus journey times; a 22% drop in the AM peak (from 23 to 18 minutes) and 23% in the evening. Limited stop park and ride buses can cover the distance to and from the city centre nearly one and a half minutes faster than a car.

04.jpg

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comments
  Improved bus journey times and reliability and probable mode switch from car represents significant benefits that are likely to be greater than the disbenefits due to reduced speeds for those that continue to travel by car. Cyclists are also likely to benefit from being able to use the bus lane. It is likely then that this represents improved efficiency overall.
 

Reduction in traffic volumes during the peaks and its relocation further away from pedestrians (in the middle lanes) will have improved amenity. Cyclists are also likely to benefit from being able to use the bus lane.

 

The small reduction in traffic volumes with only a slight reduction in speeds is likely to have led to reduced emissions of local pollutants and greenhouse gases. The longer-term effect is likely to be even more positive in terms of the environment.

 

Improved speed and reliability for buses represents a benefit for the less well-off and socially excluded that travel by bus. Also, those that are walking or cycling will benefit from reduced proximity to traffic.

 

Reduced traffic levels are likely to result in reduced numbers of accidents. Allowing cyclists to use the bus lane is also likely to have improved safety for this road user group.

 

Improved bus journey times and likely improvements in speeds for cyclists with only a small impact on car speeds may have a positive impact on economic growth.

  Implementation of scheme will have had significant costs. On the other hand, improved bus speeds and reliability will reduce operating costs and are likely to increase fare revenues, representing a financial benefit to bus operators.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Other UK evidence

Bus priority measures can improve the public image of buses, encouraging more people to use services, and improve the use of road space.

Daugherty (Daugherty, 1999) examined a number of bus priority schemes in the UK. The journey time improvements achieved by the schemes were of less than five minutes which was relatively small in comparison to the overall journey length. Nonetheless, a scheme in Brighton achieved a 16% increase in patronage through a combination of bus priority and an introduction of a flat fare. The Aberdeen scheme generated a 1.4% increase in patronage, from a combination of new travellers and increased trip rates of previous travellers.

Introduction of a bus priority scheme in north-east London (Route 43) along with a red route scheme which aims to keep traffic moving by restricting parking and stopping, resulted in journey time savings and improvements in the reliability of the route. Patronage on the route increased by 8.8%, to 8700 passenger journeys per week (Thomson 1993). Over the same period London wide bus patronage fell by 2%.

The London Bus Initiative (LBI), implemented between 2000 and 2003, covered 27 high-frequency bus routes. The goals of the programme were:

  • To increase patronage;
  • to make improvements benefiting the whole route; and
  • make buses the mode of first choice on LBI routes.

The project cost €105 million over three years which consisted of €19 million for enforcement, €50 million for traffic engineering, €6 million for bus operations €16 million for programme support and €15 million for major projects.

There was a significant reduction in waiting times and slight reduction in travel times at a time when network-wide traffic congestion was increasing. The increase in patronage of 21.9% is likely to represent a significant improvement in service levels. Some of the new passengers are likely to have come from car may have reduced overall congestion levels.

An important element in any bus priority scheme is enforcement to ensure that buses are not impeded by other vehicles. London was the first part of the UK to introduce decriminalised parking and bus lane enforcement using parking attendants and cameras. The offence of driving in a bus lane became a civil rather than a criminal offence and liable for a penalty charge notice (PCN). The penalty charge was set at £80, but has since been increased to £100. There has been a drop in the number of PCNs issued - down by 80% in some areas – and buses were able to travel faster in bus lanes.

Bus operators First and Yorkshire Terrier set up an enforcement trial in Sheffield with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE). They paid for extra police motorcycle patrols during peak periods and motorists were warned through a media campaign that driving in a bus lane would result in a fixed penalty notice (FPN). The trial ran from April to June 2001. At the start of the trial there were poor levels of compliance, however, a very significant reduction in the number of FPNs issued took place over the trial period, with 82 per cent fewer tickets issued in June than in April. Importantly, one operator reported that lost mileage fell by 60 per cent overall, with the other reporting a drop of 45 per cent. Lost mileage is defined as scheduled miles minus operating miles. The latter is affected by traffic lost miles (e.g. congestion delays) and operating lost miles (e.g. driver shortage and vehicle breakdown). Both operators also found that they kept to scheduled journey times better and more consistently. The conclusions drawn from the trial were:

  • effective enforcement is essential to bus priority;
  • the initial level of FPNs more than paid for the cost of additional policing, so in theory the trial would have been self-funding; however, as more motorists comply with bus lanes, the rule of diminishing returns applies;
  • enforcement was essential during peak hours, but more enforcement was needed at other times of the day to maintain standards; and
  • enforcement was perceived as fair to all road users.

It should be noted that the schemes described are, in several cases, a combination of bus priority, service quality improvements and marketing. It is therefore not possible to identify the impact of bus priority on bus patronage specifically. More generally it is clear that effective enforcement and ease of understanding are important elements in an effective scheme.

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comments
 

Significant increase in patronage including transfer from car suggests improved quality of service in several instances. Other schemes appear to have had less success in increasing patronage. Impact on car drivers is not shown which generally makes it impossible to draw any firm conclusions on efficiency impacts.

 

Reduced traffic due to transfer from car where this is reported is likely to have improved amenity.

 

Transfer from car is likely to represent a reduction in traffic volumes, assuming traffic speeds are similar this is likely to have led to a reduction in local pollutants and greenhouse gases.

  Improved speed and reliability for buses represents a benefit for the less well-off and socially excluded that travel by bus. Also, those that are walking or cycling may benefit from reduced proximity to traffic and fewer vehicles parked in the bus lanes where enforcement has been improved. The importance of enforcement and understandability is clear.
  If traffic levels have indeed reduced this is likely to result in reduced numbers of accidents.
  Improved bus journey times and likely improvements in speeds for cyclists may have a positive impact on economic growth. Impact on car speeds is not reported however and so no conclusion can be drawn in terms of possible impact on economic growth.
 

The initial cost of the bus priority measures will have been significant but there are ongoing benefits in terms of increased revenue and reduced operating costs for a given service level.

Improved enforcement in Sheffield apparently paid for itself through increased fines in the short-term but fine revenues dropped significantly as compliance increased.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Bus lanes in San Francisco

Transit speeds had been dropping over the previous two decades resulting in reduced ridership and higher operating costs, necessitating service cuts which in turn reduced ridership still further. In response the San Francisco transit authority installed a network of bus-only lanes on many streets in the downtown core.

The implementation of these lanes has not achieved the speed and reliability benefits hoped for. It is thought that this is largely due to traffic in the bus lanes impeding the buses. According to the San Francisco Transportation Authority more than one quarter of vehicles violate the bus-only Lane in the Civic Centre area on Market Street during the day and more than 60% of vehicles violate the outbound bus-only Lane in the PM peak hour. The reasons for the high level of bus lane violation are set out below:

  • Insufficient enforcement;
  • bus lane is of a similar colour to the rest of the highway and the symbol, a diamond, that is used to denote that the lane is bus-only is known throughout California as the symbol for a carpool lane (although "bus only" is also painted on the bus lane surface);
  • there is a great deal of variety in operating hours of different bus lanes leading to confusion amongst drivers; and
  • inconsistent signage guidelines across the city.

Case study 4: Guided bus-way Manchester Road, Bradford

Context

The A641 Manchester Road in Bradford is the main route south from the city centre to the M606 motorway and the towns of Brighouse and Huddersfield. Before the guided bus scheme, there was no priority for buses on the Bradford section of this corridor. Traffic congestion meant long journey times and poor reliability. Congestion delayed buses in both directions during peak hours. Timetables included an additional 10 minutes to allow for delays. Congestion on Manchester Road affected the reliability of cross-city services on the Shipley and Leeds corridors.

Surveys in 1998 - 99 highlighted reliability and punctuality as bus users’ greatest concerns. Car drivers also identified reliability and punctuality of buses as the most important factor influencing their willingness to switch to bus. The city council was concerned about the way that the dual carriageway cut South Bradford in two for pedestrians, forcing them to rely on footbridges and subways.

In 1998, the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (MDC), West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (Metro) and bus operator First commissioned two studies. These recommended the development of a guided bus scheme as part of the South Bradford Quality Bus initiative. This would give Manchester Road a high level of bus priority.

City of Bradford MDC, Metro and First formed a public/private sector partnership to develop a guided bus scheme. They refined their proposals in 1999, so the final scheme consisted of a mix of guided bus-way, with-flow bus lanes and priority at signal-controlled junctions. Construction began in November 2000 and the scheme opened in February 2002.

Description

The guided bus-way required the reallocation of 2.3 kilometers of road space on the dual carriageway’s central reservation. The scheme also involved the introduction of conventional near-side with-flow bus lanes for 1.1 kilometers of the route. These are available to buses and cyclists. In some places the number of lanes available for general traffic was cut from three to two in each direction.

The objective was to provide two lanes for through traffic over the full length of the scheme. Three lanes were retained at junctions to cater for turning traffic. The speed limit was also lowered from 40 to 30 mph. The City Council installed signal-controlled pedestrian crossings at 11 locations to serve bus stops on the central guided bus-way and at kerb-side bus stops.
The Council also raised the kerb at stops on Manchester Road and elsewhere along the corridor to give close and level boarding. New bus shelters were also part of the scheme, including three landmark “super shelters”.

Implementation date

Construction work was close enough to completion to allow driver training to begin in July 2001. Services began to operate along the guided busway on 31 January 2002.

During daytime on Mondays to Fridays there are 22 buses an hour in each direction on Manchester Road between Odsal and Bradford city centre.

figure3

Costs

The scheme cost 12 million at 2001 prices, including the cost of the new buses. Highway works cost £4.7 million, noise insulation £600,000 and diversions to statutory services £1 million.

Impact on demand

The scheme aimed to:

  • improve bus reliability;
  • reduce bus journey times;
  • increase passenger confidence; and
  • encourage motorists to switch to the bus.

‘Before’ data was collected in May and June 2000. ‘After’ surveys took place in May and June 2002. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ monitoring programme consisted of:

  • car and bus journey time registration surveys;
  • bus occupancy counts;
  • automatic traffic counts; and
  • manual classified traffic counts.

A survey of attitudes among 240 bus passengers carried out in April 2002 showed that over 60 per cent ranked the service as good or very good on a range of 16 indicators.

Traffic flows

The principal finding was a clear fall in peak traffic using Manchester Road. Inbound traffic on Manchester Road fell by 14% in the morning peak (07.30 to 09.30) and 13 % in the evening peak (16.00 to 18.00). Outbound traffic on Manchester Road fell by 17% in the morning peak (07.30 to 09.30) and 7% in the evening peak (16.00 to 18.00). The effect was not restricted to peak periods. Total weekday traffic using Manchester Road fell by about 11%, mostly switching to other routes in and out of the city.

Total inbound traffic on six radial routes to the south of the city centre including Manchester Road fell by 6% in the morning peak and 9% in the evening peak. Total outbound traffic on the six radial routes fell by 4% in the morning peak, but increased by 3% in the evening peak.

There is evidence that some traffic switched to other routes: into the city centre via Wakefield Road and outbound via both Little Horton Lane and Wakefield Road.

Journey times

The installation of 11 new signal-controlled pedestrian crossings was an essential component of the scheme but had an adverse effect on bus and car journey times. Nevertheless, the additional crossings greatly improved pedestrian links between communities on opposite sides of Manchester Road.

Inbound

Scheduled bus journey time between Odsal Top and Bradford Interchange is 15 minutes in the morning peak and 13 minutes at other times. The express bus service is about three minutes quicker.

Average journey times for inbound stopping bus services reduced by one minute in the morning peak period (7%), but journey times for the express service did not improve. In the morning peak hour the average time saving increased to two minutes (13%). Inbound car journey times increased in both periods by between one and two minutes.

Before the scheme began, peak inbound car journeys were five minutes faster than stopping bus services and similar to express bus times. After implementation, inbound car journeys took as long as stopping buses and the average express bus was three minutes faster than the car.

In the morning inter-peak period, journey times increased for both buses and cars. The net effect was to increase the difference in journey times between stopping buses and cars from four to five minutes.  In the morning peak, the scheme improved bus reliability by reducing variability in express and stopping bus journey times. At the same time, variability in journey times by car increased.

Outbound

Scheduled bus journey time between Bradford Interchange and Odsal Top is 14 minutes in the evening peak and 12 minutes at other times. The express bus service is about three minutes quicker. Average journey times for outbound stopping services fell by more than one minute in the evening peak period (10%) and by more than two minutes (16%) in the evening peak hour. The express service achieved a slightly greater improvement, whereas average outbound car journey times were largely unchanged. Variability in bus and car journey times declined in the evening peak period. There were insubstantial changes to average times for outbound buses and cars in the inter-peak.

Differences between journey times by car and bus have been reduced. However, stopping buses remain more than two minutes slower in the peak and five minutes slower in the inter-peak.

Although there is no direct evidence, the new signal controlled pedestrian crossings and speed limit changes are likely to have increased journey times for all forms of transport.

Bus patronage

In August 2001, First launched its ‘Overground’ network in Bradford. This boosted bus use and made comparison of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ figures difficult. The analysis was based on electronic ticket machine (ETM) data and on bus occupancy counts. The number of passengers boarding buses on the length of the corridor directly affected by the scheme between Odsal and the city centre grew by between 7 and 10 %: more than on other corridors into Bradford. Both data sources indicate modest growth in the morning peak and inter-peak periods. There was growth of about 20% in the afternoon inter-peak and of 10% in the evening peak.

Reduced delays

Most inbound time savings in the morning peak hour were achieved in two locations on the corridor. These were the guided busway approach to the Mayo Avenue junction, where one minute was saved, and the right turn into Croft Street at the ‘city’ end of the corridor, which saved 30 seconds. Together these accounted for 10 per cent of scheduled bus journey time between Odsal Top and Bradford Interchange.

The majority of outbound evening peak time savings were achieved by the guided busway north of Mayo Avenue on the approach to the Mayo Avenue roundabout, with a saving of one and a half minutes or 12 per cent of scheduled bus running time from the city centre to Odsal Top.

Conclusions

Implementation of the Manchester Road guided busway scheme as part of the South Bradford Quality Bus Initiative resulted in increased bus patronage, reduced delays to buses, reduced peak bus journey times and reduced peak traffic flows.

Contribution to objectives

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comments
 

Significant increase in bus patronage, reduced delays to buses, reduced peak bus journey times and reduced peak traffic flows.

Clear fall in peak traffic.

 

Reduced traffic due to transfer from car where this is reported is likely to have improved amenity.

  Transfer from car is likely to represent a reduction in traffic volumes, assuming traffic speeds are similar this is likely to have led to a reduction in local pollutants and greenhouse gases. The longer-term effect is likely to be even more positive in terms of the environment.
  Improved speed and reliability for buses represents a benefit for the less well-off and socially excluded that travel by bus. Also, those that are walking or cycling may benefit from reduced proximity to traffic and fewer vehicles parked in the bus lanes where enforcement has been improved.
  Reduced traffic levels results in reduced number of accidents.
  Improved bus journey times and likely improvements in speeds for cyclists may have a positive impact on economic growth. Impact on car speeds is not reported however and so no conclusion can be drawn in terms of possible impact on economic growth.
  Implementation of scheme had significant costs. On the other hand, improved bus speeds and reliability reduced operating costs and are likely to increase fare revenues, representing a financial benefit to bus operators.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Contribution to objectives

Summary of different systems’ contribution to key objectives
Objective Edinburgh Greenways W. Midlands Bus Showcase A 47 Hinckley Rd, Leicester Manchester Road, Bradford Other evidence
 
 
  (especially longer term) (especially longer term) (especially longer term) (especially longer term)
 
 
 
 
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Contribution to problems

Summary of different systems’ contribution to alleviation of key problems
Problem Edinburgh Greenways W. Midlands Bus Showcase A 47 Hinckley Rd, Leicester Manchester Road, Bradford Other evidence
Congestion
Community impacts
Environmental damage
Poor accessibility
Social and geographical disadvantage
Accidents
Economic growth
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Gaps and weaknesses in the evidence

None of the studies presented gives a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the schemes post implementation. Selected statistics do not allow us to draw firm conclusions on the overall effectiveness of the schemes. Furthermore, it is appropriate that bus priority measures are combined with increases in service levels, marketing and vehicle quality improvements, but implementation of these measures together does make it difficult to separate out the impacts of each element.

Appropriate contexts

Appropriate area-types
Area type Suitability
City centre
Dense inner suburb
Medium density outer suburb
Less dense outer suburb
District centre
Corridor
Small town
Tourist town
= Least suitable area type = Most suitable area type

Useful links

DfT guidance on bus priority measures: http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_roads/documents/page/dft_roads_504705.hcsp

References

Handsley & Butterwick, 1999 cited in The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide, 2004

Leeds City Council, 1999, HOV lanes information sheet cited in The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide, 2004

Scottish Executive, A Comparative Evaluation of Greenways and Conventional Bus Lanes, Report number 83. Obtainable from: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/cru/resfind.aspx?series=9

Silver, 1995, El Monte busway: a 20 year retrospective, Transportation Research Circular 442. cited in The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide, 2004

Thompson, 1993, Prioritising Bus Priority. PTRC seminar proceedings European transport, highways and planning 21st summer annual meeting. Cited in The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide, 2004

TRL, 2004, The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide

Vuhic, 1995, Bus Transit Operations on HOV Systems (workshop presided by Steve Parry) Transportation Research Circular 442 cited in The Demand for Public Transport: a practical guide, 2004 

Jepson, D., Ferreira. L.  (1999). Assessing travel time impacts of measures to enhance bus operations. Part I: past evidence and study methodology.  Road & Transport Research Journal.

Brunton, Paris, 2012, Transport User Benefits an alternative to the rule of half

Queensland Government, 2012, TransLink Transit Authority, Public Transport Infrastructure Manual

Government of West Australia, 2004, Public Transport Authority, Design and Planning Guidelines for Public Transport Infrastructure, Bus Priority Measures: Principles & DesignWorchestershire County Council, 2007, Integrated Passenger Transport Strategy, Bus Priority Measures - Best Practice Report

Department for Transport, Traffic Management Division, London, 2004, Bus Priority – The Way Ahead