Bus on Shoulder in the Triangle – 1st road test complete!


Guest post by Brad Schulz, Triangle Transit Communications Officer

If you’re like me, you start your car already late for work. Once you’re finally on I-40, you lead foot it – hoping you can make up a few minutes and can get to the office on time if traffic will, for once, cooperate. But as sure as Murphy made a law, it doesn’t happen. Traffic slows to a crawl. You’re gripping the wheel and watching the minutes tick by, wondering what the boss will say when you finally get to work.

Now imagine this– as you’re stuck in that traffic you look in your rear view mirror and see a Triangle Transit bus on the shoulder. No, it’s not having mechanical problems. In fact, it’s the only thing moving as it pulls by you on the shoulder while you stay super glued in another congested weekday commute.  Suddenly you wish you were on the bus instead of mired in traffic.

Fantasy? Nope. It’s not a dream. Triangle Transit, the Regional Transportation Alliance and the NC Department of Transportation recently did just that – ran a road test of a full size transit bus on shoulder. If the planets align for weary travelers, North Carolina’s first bus on shoulder demonstration project could be a reality by summer.

Where would it run? It would operate westbound on I-40 between the Durham Freeway (NC 147) and the 15-501 Exit. Eastbound buses could travel on the shoulder between 15-501 and Page Road. If the NCDOT approves the plan, signs would clearly let drivers know they could see a bus beside them on the right.

When would it run? Triangle Transit buses with trained operators could only use the shoulders when travel speeds are below 35 MPH in the main lanes, and buses could only travel up to 15 MPH faster than other vehicles. If there’s a car in the breakdown lane or an emergency on the shoulder, the bus driver can’t use it.

Has this worked in other places? Before you think we just dreamed this up, Minnesota implemented the idea around 20 years ago, with nearly 300 shoulder-miles in use today. More than 10 states now use bus on shoulder lanes and no state has discontinued a bus on shoulder program once it began. Take a look at the photos below from Minnesota’s Department of Transportation.

So what could it mean for me? Transit customers have shorter, more predictable and reliable travel times. If you’re a regular rider, your chances of missing a transfer would drop. The Minnesota experience has shown that riding the bus means you’ll spend less time fuming behind the wheel. With those stress-free extra minutes, you’ll have more time to read, catch up on that work you promised the boss, or surf the Web with Triangle Transit’s free Wi-Fi.

We’ll keep you posted on next steps and remember… the next time you’re stuck in traffic on I-40, just picture yourself in that bus riding around that gridlock. There you go… you’re already smiling.

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