Nestrans emphasises important role of bus lanes

Stuart Smith 2013, News

Nestrans and Aberdeen City Council held a joint press briefing on Tuesday 19 March 2013 to emphasise the importance of providing and enforcing bus priorities on major corridors in and around the city.  Nestrans has funded a network of enforcement cameras which go live from Monday 25 March and will be administered by Aberdeen City Council.

What are bus lanes? Bus lanes are sections of road which are specifically for the use of buses, taxis, licensed private hire cars and bicycles. They are identified by white markings on the road and blue signposts which indicate the operational hours.

Why are they needed? Without bus lanes, buses and other vehicles used for public transport would be stuck in traffic and unable to provide a reliable service. They are needed to ensure the smooth operation of public transport services.

Bus lanes help to tackle congestion, as well as improve public transport journey times and reliability.

Bus lanes have helped the flow of public transport in the north east of Scotland since they were first implemented in Union Street in 1992. Aberdeen City Council has sought to introduce bus lanes where they are needed to provide faster and more consistent bus journey times.

Almost one in ten people in Aberdeen use the bus to get to work and about 20million bus journeys are made in the city annually.

Almost a third of city households don’t own a car and at least another third of the population does not always have access to a car.

What are the benefits?  Better journey times – Longer bus journey times may require bus operators to invest significantly in more vehicles and drivers to keep the same frequency of service for passengers. The cost of meeting this investment is likely to result in increased fares. Bus lanes help to reduce journey times and keep fare increases to a minimum.

Improved reliability – Better services and increased likelihood that more people will use public transport, leading to a drop in the number of vehicles on the road and improved air quality.

Who can use them?  Buses, taxis, licensed private hire cars and pedal cycles.

Why not just get rid of the bus lanes and cut congestion by opening up more lanes to all traffic?  Junctions, rather than the number of lanes on the approach to the junction, limit the capacity of a route. Bus lanes always stop short of the junction to allow all vehicles to get into the correct lane and do not reduce capacity at the junction.

Example

If a roundabout has capacity to allow 18 vehicles per minute to pass through and there are 180 vehicles in a queue, it will take 10 minutes for them all to get through the junction.  If there were three lanes on the approach to the junction, the queue could extend to 60 cars in each lane. A bus approaching would have to join the end of the queue and wait 10 minutes to get through the junction.

However, where one lane is designated as a bus lane, the bus does not need to join the end of the queue, but can proceed to the point where the bus lane ends, saving waiting time.

As long as the junction capacity remains at 18 vehicles per minute, it still takes vehicles not using the bus lane the same 10 minutes to progress, but a bus journey time can be cut substantially.

So, although the length of the queue for other vehicles is longer (in this example to two lanes each of up to 90 cars), their journey time remains the same. This longer queue and seemingly underused bus lane can give the wrong impression, but are actually a great advertisement encouraging greater use of the bus.  If some drivers do decide to change to using bus, car journeys would be shortened.

Why enforce bus lanes? Enforcing bus lanes will:

  • Improve the free flow of permitted traffic in bus lanes which are becoming increasingly congested as a result of motorists flouting the rules;
  • Increase the reliability of bus services and improve journey times;
  • Make buses a more attractive option for travel;
  • Improve road safety – inappropriate bus lane use can present a safety risk to cyclists and other authorised bus lane users.
  • Improve air quality by reducing the number of cars on the roads;

Bus lane surveys carried out in 2011 showed a considerable increase in violations recorded across the city, from approximately 300 violations per month (recorded by Grampian Police in 2007) to more than 10,000 violations per month.

Further information on bus lane enforcement can be viewed on Aberdeen City Council’s website at: http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_buslaneFacts_200313.asp