Automated bus lane enforcement may have died in the state legislature, but that’s no reason the city can’t get creative when it comes to enforcing bus lanes.
While true grade separation is the holy grail of reliable transit, an at-grade bus lanes can be protected much like a bike lane.
Chicago’s regional planning agency collected the above collage of protected bus lanes around the world. In each, the bus lanes is elevated or protected from general traffic, making it difficult for cars to enter.
Meanwhile New York City’s DOT tweeted out an image of one recently:
Closer to home, I noticed a small protected bus lane recently on SR522 just outside Bothell. (There are surely others, let me know in the comments if you’ve seen them.)
These aren’t impregnable, of course, and they surely they require some creative street maintenance strategies. But some kind of protection will be necessary if automatic enforcement can’t pass out of the legislature, otherwise the city’s laudable investment in dedicated right-of-way will be wasted. While state legislators should absolutely take another shot at camera enforcement next session, the city needs to start thinking of plan B.
For example, as you can read about in this Ryan Packer article at The Urbanist, the city is currently planning to paint a bus lane right past Key Arena. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that such a bus lane will quickly turn into a massive Uber/Lyft drop-off zone before and after an event. Some protection (bollards? Raised curb?) is necessary to give the buses a fighting chance, assuming the city prioritizes the needs of evening commuters going to Ballard and West Seattle above the need to “flush” arena traffic after the game (an open question!).
If not, riders may just keep taking matters into their own hands.