Cities that are Making Travel Easier for Bus Drivers

Major cities across the U.S. and further afield are increasingly adopting new practices and technology that make it easier for bus drivers to safely perform their jobs.

Being a bus driver in any major city can be difficult under the best of circumstances as it requires an almost sixth sense to anticipate traffic challenges. Fortunately, many cities are working hard to make navigation on the streets much easier via a number of high and low tech solutions.

As one of the most congested cities for traffic, New York is constantly grappling with traffic increases, finite street real estate and the need for millions to use buses to move around the city. Dedicated bus lanes are nothing new when streets are widened or improved, but many cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are getting innovative by revamping major streets with peak hour and dedicated bus only lanes. Many of these cities such as New York still struggle to provide bus routes to certain areas of the city, which have been filled by a private passenger van underground known as “dollar vans.”

Left turns on busy city streets for a bus driver are particularly difficult due to their size and slower ramp-up speed pitted against short light sequences. The city is currently in the midst of a trial study project whereby Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in concert with the city’s new ASTC traffic controllers and wireless network (NYCWiN) are being used to provide priority left turn lights for city buses.

The RFID sticker tags are installed on the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) buses and are used to activate a protected left turn at the intersection. The technology can be used on a variety of buses from the city’s fleet ranging from the older MCI bus models to the upcoming new Prevost Bus models.

Cities across the country and the world have been slowly adopting priority bus lanes over the last several years to increase efficiency for riders and drivers alike. A 2012 study from the Norman Y. Mineta International Transportation Institute (MTI) took a look at seven cities that utilize bus lane networks including Los Angeles, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, and Sidney. The cities were chosen on a variety of criteria to obtain a broad mix of approaches to traffic and public transportation. The study looked at design and oversight, funding, scope, and enforcement.

The report is geared specifically to city planners and policymakers interested in learning more about the development and implementation of bus lanes in other cities. The hope is that the results of the study will provide the impetus for further expansion and funding of such priority lanes in the cities in question as well as other cities throughout the U.S. and around the world.

MTI was established and funded by Congress as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. The MTI focus is on research, education and information as well as technology transfer. As more cities learn from and adopt these and other practices bus drivers in major cities across the U.S. and further afield will have an easier time safely performing their jobs.

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