Red Bus Lanes Euston Road
Red Bus Lanes Euston Road. Flikr user Ian Fisher.

Per Bill Bryant, SDOT’s manager of transit programs:

SDOT is designing and plans to install new pavement markings to more clearly differentiate bus lanes from regular traffic lanes in locations where violations are a problem.

Initial locations include existing bus lanes on Pacific Street approaching the Montlake Bridge, Wall and Battery streets east of Third Avenue, and N. Midvale Place (Route 44) between 45th and 46th.

Success will be evaluated based both on compliance rates and on the durability of the painted bus lane surface. Other locations are likely if the initial installations prove successful. At this point we’re focused on 24/7 bus lane locations, but will try to adapt the new approach to part time (i.e., peak-only) locations if successful.

SDOT doesn’t yet have a cost estimate, but pouring a bunch of paint over an existing bus lane shouldn’t be that expensive. I suspect that this improvement, like all sensible bus improvements, will deliver measurable improvements to speed and reliability at almost negligible cost. On Battery St in particular (where I used to walk to work every day), the existing bus lane restriction is somewhat effective, but the channelization is complex and confusing to drivers unfamiliar with the area. A swath of bright red paint would help communicate to drivers where they aren’t supposed to be.

If these lanes prove to be effective (and they’ll still need more enforcement than today, to meet their full potential), I’d like to see SDOT go to the next step: mixing red color into the asphalt of the road surface the next time the road is paved. This ensures the color will last the lifetime of the road surface, and is the way most bus lanes seem to be implemented in the places (like central London, pictured above) where they are truly ubiquitous and permanent.

35 Replies to “SDOT to Pilot Red Bus Lanes”

  1. The photo is interesting. In the US we assume drivers are too nearsighted to read anything but the closest word printed on the pavement, so instead of writing “BUS LANE” we write “LANE BUS” (or “AHEAD STOP” instead of “STOP AHEAD”). That has always bugged me. Kudos to the Brits for following the typical convention of putting the first word above the second.

    1. I’m the same way. I used to read a pair of messages painted on the highway “top to bottom”, as:

      “Washington Green Keep”

      “Ashtray Your Use”

      1. I agree. It only makes sense to put them in reverse order if there are really long spaces between them. But I don’t see the point in doing that unless you are advertising Burma-Shave.

  2. I like this project! It’s cheap, and it will get the bus haters screaming in the Bothell TImes comments section way out of proportion to the amount of money involved.

    I’ve seen a few cars pulled over on 2nd and 3rd Ave recently. Of course, pulling them over only exacerbates the problem, even if the City gets a little fine revenue. Is the problem that certain streets are transit-only certain times of day, or is this another Metro time-of-day rule that just confuses people? If there is a need for delivery vehicles to use 3rd Ave, wouldn’t it be simpler to have those vehicles get time-limited permits to access 3rd Ave off-peak?

    1. Based on standing on the 3rd & Union and watching drivers at 5pm, it appears a lot of out-of-state drivers (based on plates, plate frames, and/or bumper stickers) are driving up and down 3rd.

      It seems like 3rd in particular, along with the rest of downtown, is just an overload of signs and information. We seem to enjoy signing everything (just spent a week in NYC and the signage there is big and minimal: tunnel left, bus lane, no turn). The lighted do-not-enter signs are small and obscured by the bus wires. There are a ton of do-not-turn signs, but again, obscured and quite small with a ton of text. Then there are a couple blocks where its OK for drivers to use 3rd, but not past a certain point. And of course we have long, diagrammatic signage approaching 3rd to inform drivers of this ability (in addition to every other sign we can think of). It would be better and far less confusing if 3rd were 24/7 bus only with easy, clear signage rather than the existing 7am-9am, 3:30-6pm weekdays except on the following blocks for the following reasons with a novel’s worth of different signs.

      1. I agree. It should be 24/7 bus lanes. I think the street (or one of the streets downtown) should be bike and bus only. I suggested this on the bike blog as well as here:
        There are issues with deliveries, but those could be handled any number of ways (as I suggest in the comments). Having one lane be bike and bus only (all the time) would really simplify things. Driving downtown is confusing enough without having to check your watch to see if it is legal to make a turn or not (especially since there are so many one way streets).

      2. I concur. I often follow confused drivers with out of state plates down 3rd Ave, only to have them stop in the center lane when they see “DO NOT ENTER”. They then signal right but can’t move right because of pedestrians or buses in the right lane. GPS navigation, which does not deal with time restrictions, is likely to blame.

      3. It should be 24/7 bus lanes.

        No no no no no no NO!

        We need more multimodal circulation on 3rd Ave, not less.

        The right thing to do downtown is to dismantle the 3rd Ave Transit Mall and start moving buses to 4th and 5th Avenues. That might have to wait until Link lets us axe a bunch of routes, but creating a bus sewer on 3rd just kills any sense of pedestrian invitation on 3rd Ave.,

      4. @velobusdriver – actually, Waze GPS navigation handles time-of-day restrictions quite well, including different rules for different classes of vehicles. Definitely a good feature for drivers downtown.

  3. Maybe someday we can have colored concrete bus lanes. Lasts 50 years and will ALWAYS be red so it’ll always be a bus lane (think dedicated infrastructure).

    Also need to add to the bus lane sign: “German luxury cars =/= buses”

  4. Why not stick a motorcycle cop at the troubled spots as a near term solution?

    1. That would be especially helpful at 4th and Battery. That seems to be the worst spot in my experience for bus lane misuse or blocking (someone turning right from 4th and blocking the bus lane because there isn’t enough room for them in the car lane).

      1. My favorite is the southbound 99 bus lane between the Aurora Bridge and downtown. Without fail, every morning there’s a BMW of some sort, that puts on their right turn signal and drives the entire lane, finally getting off at Roy St.

        I guess they figure that they could take the first right turn if they see a cop.

      2. That’s the problem with bus lanes that are also turn lanes. That is a hard problem to fix, unfortunately. If you move the bus lane to the inside, then the bus has to move its way over for each on ramp and exit. That would be OK (maybe) for that BRT line, but terrible for buses that exit in Fremont. You could add extra ramps, but that is really expensive and kind of crazy for Aurora.

      3. An acquaintance of mine bragged that the ticket was worth the price of admission, given how rarely he received one. (this was on 520) The only way to dissuade this behavior is to increase the price either through more thorough enforcement or California style HOV fines – $490 *minimum*

      4. Well, the Aurora problem isn’t anything like other bus lane problems, like Howell, where violators are holding up bus through movements. It’s more just frustrating to see someone so blatantly cheating the system.

  5. I would imagine the red stuff will be the same as the green stuff used for the Broadway Bike Lane intersection crossings

  6. I’m wondering if this will help compliance at all simply because motorists can’t seem to get ordinary normal things right like if they are going to make a right turn at a red light many think it’s perfectly OK to park their vehicles on a crosswalk to wait (the $124 possible fine evidently is not enough of a deterrent) for the turn that they feel they must make on a red light.

  7. That’s very cool! I’m looking forward to the red paint. This would be good at any bus pullouts like along the 5 so that people don’t *PARK* in the spaces.

  8. Not only would it last longer, it would be more expensive. If they repave one of these lanes, it would make sense.

    1. BTW, even with tinted concrete or asphalt, the color would likely fade with wear. There are a couple of crosswalks in Redmond that were paved with red tinted concrete many years ago, and now the color looks very faded. As the concrete wears, the aggregate is exposed, and around here, that’s usually gray, not pink.

    2. Dyed concrete is the preferred method. It was used on the newest section of 99 at the ped crossings between N 175 th and N 192nd. Additionally, dyed concrete was used on the mountable sections of roundabouts at D Street and I-5 in Blaine.

      The usage of paint isn’t advised as a full lane of paint would reduce tire friction which could result in poor stopping during wet conditions. The paint with product to increase tire friction is quite costly to install.

      The problem with red is that it bleaches and fades after a couple of years. Look at signs that are nearly five years old and the red has faded significantly.

      My concern with these red lanes matches my concern with the green boxes…they aren’t MUTCD compliant.

    3. The FHWA granted permission to San Francisco and Chicago to experiment with red colored transit-only lanes. I couldn’t find anything about Seattle but I’m pretty sure they’ll do the same.

      The bike boxes themselves are experimental, not the green paint. Note that the use of green colored pavement for bike lanes in certain areas has been given interim approval and is no longer experimental.

  9. I think some London style bus lanes would be great in Seattle. The way they work there is that every bus lane is actually a bus, bike, taxi (black cabs only), and, in the last few years, motorcycle lane. This means that in a lot of places where there is not any other cycling infrastructure there is usually a lane that a cyclist can still feel somewhat safe in. The red color of the lane is a really strong indication to everyone that it is a place you normally shouldn’t be, so you don’t see people misusing it very often. When I cycled there, before I knew the rules about the lanes, the red was really obvious and caused me to give using the lane a second thought.

    1. …now only if they adopt London’s policy where motorcycles can use the red lanes.

  10. The bus lane at 46th and Green Lake Way N westbound needs to remain accessible for a right turn to enter Aurora Ave N. Does it need to be marked that way so you don’t get a ticket or is that understood?

    1. It should be signed accordingly otherwise it is a bus only lane and anyone other than a bus can be cited.

  11. As a transit operator I’m happy that SDOT is doing this…when is SPD going to start enforcing this. Without meaningful enforcement the paint is absolutely meaningless.

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