Bus lane

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For the 2007 Thai film, see Bus Lane (film).
Bus lane on Broadway (Manhattan), with the words "BUS ONLY" painted in English
Bus lane laid in the middle of Roosevelt Road in Taipei, Taiwan
Bus lane, or BRT lane laid on Taiwan Boulevard in Taichung, Taiwan

A bus lane or bus only lane is a lane restricted to buses on certain days and times, and generally used to speed up public transport that would be otherwise held up by traffic congestion. Often restrictions do not apply to certain other vehicles, which may include taxis, high occupancy vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles.[1] Bus lanes are a central part of bus rapid transit.


According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)[2] and the National Transit Database (NTD),[3] the world's first designated bus lane was created in Chicago in 1940.

The first bus lanes in Europe were established in 1963 in the German city of Hamburg. Other large German cities soon followed, and the implementation of bus lanes was officially sanctioned in the German highway code in 1970. Many experts from other countries (Japan among the first) studied the German example and implemented similar solutions. On January 15, 1964 the first bus lane in France was designated along the quai du Louvre in Paris and the first counter-flow lane was established on the old pont de l’Alma on June 15, 1966.[4] On 26 February 1968 the first bus lane in London was put into service on Vauxhall Bridge.[citation needed] The first contraflow bus lane in the UK was introduced in King's Road, Reading as a temporary measure when the road was made one-way (eastwards to Cemetery Junction) on 16 June 1968. The reason was to save the expense of rerouting the trolleybus, which was due to be scrapped on 3 November of that year. However the experiment proved so successful that it was made permanent for use by motor buses.[5] By 1972 there were over 140 km of with-flow bus lanes in 100 cities within OECD member countries, and the network grew substantially in the following decades.[6]

The El Monte Busway between El Monte and Downtown Los Angeles was the first busway in the USA, constructed in 1974.[7]


A bus lane is not necessarily very long, as it may only be used to bypass a single congestion point such as an intersection. Some cities have built large stretches of bus lanes amounting to a separate local road system, often called a busway system.

In some cities, buses (and also sometimes taxis) are allowed to use reserved tramtracks, usually laid in the middle of the road and raised several centimetres above the road surface.

Entire roads can be designated as bus lanes (such as Oxford Street in London or Princes Street in Edinburgh), allowing buses, taxis and delivery vehicles only, or a contra-flow bus lane can allow buses to travel in the opposite direction to other vehicles.[8]

Some bus lanes operate at certain times of the day only, usually during rush hour, allowing all vehicles to use the lane at other times, and it is common to have bus lanes in only one direction, such as for the main direction of the morning rush hour traffic, with the buses using normal lanes in the other direction.

Bus lanes may have separate sets of traffic signals, to allow priority at intersections.

Bus lanes may be marked in several ways. They must be demarcated by lines on the road; road signs may warn that they are bus lanes on certain days and times; descriptive text such as "BUS LANE" may be marked prominently on the road surface, particularly at the beginning and end; the road surface may have a distinctive colour. Other special-purpose lanes may similarly be marked, e.g. a cycle path may have bicycle symbols and a different coloured surface.


Bus lanes can become ineffective if weak enforcement allows use by unauthorized vehicles[9] or illegal parking on them (for example in shopping areas).

Evidence from the operation of urban arterials in Brisbane, Australia shows that a properly enforced Bus or Transit lane, operating as designed, can increase person throughput. In 2009 and 2010 traffic surveys showed that in Brisbane on a number of urban arterials with Bus and Transit lanes non-compliance rates were approaching 90 per cent. Following enhanced enforcement of the lanes, non-compliance rates dropped and overall efficiency of the Bus and Transit lanes improved with an up to 12 per cent increase in total person throughput in the lane. Average bus journeys times dropped, in some cases, by up to 19 per cent.[10]

In London, UK, bus lanes may also be used by motorcycles, taxis and bicycles. Any other vehicles using bus lanes during the hours of operation will be fined £130 if caught by CCTV cameras installed specifically to monitor this kind of behavior.


Bus lanes give priority to buses and cut down on journey times where roads are congested with other traffic.

The busiest bus lane in the United States is the Lincoln Tunnel XBL (exclusive bus lane) along the Lincoln Tunnel Approach and Helix in Hudson County, New Jersey which carries approximately 700 buses per hour during morning peak times an average of one bus every 5.1 seconds.[11]

In contrast the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong carries 14,500 buses per day,[12] or an average of about 605 an hour all day (not just peak times), but the bus lane must give-way to all the other road-users resulting in long queues of buses.

The introduction of bus lanes can significantly assist in the reduction of pollutants.[13]

Major networks[edit]

Some network lengths of bus lanes in major cities, listed by buses per km of bus lane):

City Country Population (million) Buses (#s) Population per bus Bus lanes (km) Buses per 1 km of bus lane
Helsinki Finland 0.6 470[14] 1,238 44[15] 11
Sydney Australia 4.3 1,900 2,260 90+[16] 21
Santiago Chile 6.5 4,600 1,400 200 [17] 23
London UK 7.5 6,800 1,100 240[18] 28
Singapore Singapore 5.5 3,775 1,200 200[19] 29
Seoul South Korea 10.4 8,910 1,167 282[20] 32
Madrid Spain 7 2,022[21] 2,720 50[22] 40
Jakarta Indonesia 10.1 524 5,000 184,31[23] 30
Bogotá Colombia 6.7 1,080[24] 6,200 84[24] 45
São Paulo Brazil 10.9 14,900[25] 730 155[26] 96
Kunming People's Republic of China 5.7 ~ ~ 42[27]
Beijing People's Republic of China 19.6 26000 754 294 88
Hong Kong Hong Kong 6.8 19,768 [28] 666 22[29] 899
Vienna Austria 1.8 56[30]
Country Highway Bus lanes (km) Section
South Korea Gyeongbu Expressway 137.4 Hannam IC (Seoul) ~ Sintanjin IC (Daejeon)
Hong Kong Tuen Mun Road 8.5[31] So Kwun Wat ~ Sham Tseng


The installation of bus lanes requires additional space to either be constructed (increasing the impact of the road on the surrounding area, and possibly requiring private land)[32] or taken from existing lanes; this may reduce the capacity of the road for private vehicles. The loss of lanes is controversial with many road users when this is actually an ancillary reason (i.e. when local authorities want to explicitly combine improved public transport options with reducing or at least not improving convenience for motorists).[33]

Bus lanes may also contribute to marking and signage 'clutter' and make roads less intuitive to use for other road users. An example is a side junction, where a motorist is required to monitor the bus lane before turning off across it. Bus lanes often terminate (temporarily or otherwise) close to multi-lane gyratories, and if cyclists' use of the bus lane is permitted, left hooks can become more commonplace as a motorist may not expect other traffic in the bus lane.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Use of Bus Lanes by Motorcycles (from Traffic Advisory Leaflet 2/07, Department for Transport, United Kingdom)
  2. ^ Milestones in U.S. Public Transportation History (from the APTA website. Retrieved 2007-12-06.)
  3. ^ History of the NTD and Transit in the US (from the NTD website. Retrieved 2007-12-06.)
  4. ^ Les zones bleues et les couloirs pour autobus (from the AMTUIR website, Musée des Transports Urbains. Retrieved 2007-12-06.(French))
  5. ^ http://archive.commercialmotor.com/article/15th-august-1969/39/when-mrs-barbara-castle-in-her-role-of-minister-of
  6. ^ Assessing travel time impacts of measures to enhance bus operations - Jepson, D.; Ferreira, L., Road & Transport Research, December 1999. Retrieved 2007-12-06.)
  7. ^ Los Angeles (from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission website. Retrieved 2007-12-06.)
  8. ^ "Signs Giving Orders". Highway Code. Retrieved 10 January 2008. 
  9. ^ McNaughton, Maggie (3 October 2006). "1779 cheats spotted in single morning using bus lanes". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Lyndon, S. Marinelli, P.A. Macintosh, K. and McKenzie, S. High occupancy vehicle lane enforcement: a successful trial in Brisbane by adding a splash of magenta. Proceedings of the 34th Australasian Transport Research Forum, 28–30 September 2011, Adelaide. http://www.atrf11.unisa.edu.au/PaperListing.aspx. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  11. ^ http://www.arctunnel.com/about/
  12. ^ http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201003/03/P201003030140_0140_62651.doc
  13. ^ http://www.airquality.co.uk/reports/cat05/1004010934_MeasurementvsEmissionsTrends.pdf
  14. ^ Arttu Kuukankorpi: Paikallisliikenne
  15. ^ HKL SUY D: 10/2009: Joukkoliikenteen luotettavuuden kehittämisohjelma
  16. ^ Bus lanes (from Roads and Traffic Authority, 18 February 2008
  17. ^ The slow lane - The Economist, Thursday 7 February 2008
  18. ^ 2.19 Bus Services (from a report of the UK Commission for Integrated Transport, last updated Monday 28 November 2005. Accessed 2008-03-21.)
  19. ^ More bus lanes and bigger stops in Singapore
  20. ^ http://transport.dialogue.org.hk/pdf/091128/2_ChangkyunKim.pdf
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Factsheet Madrid
  23. ^ [2] (Jakarta Trans Jakarta official website. Accessed 2012-06-26.)
  24. ^ a b [3] (Bogotá TransMilenio official website. Accessed 2009-04-05.)
  25. ^ Frota das linhas municipais de ônibus (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 2008-03-27.)
  26. ^ Extensão dos corredores (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 2008-03-27.)
  27. ^ BRT Developments in China (presentation by Chang, S.K. Jason; National Taiwan University
  28. ^ Hong Kong The facts (Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, July 2009, from the Hong Kong Transport Department website. Accessed 2008-09-16.)
  29. ^ Transport in Hong Kong > Public Transport > Buses (from the Hong Kong Transport Department website. Accessed 2008-09-16.)
  30. ^ Berger, Michael (8 April 2008). "Busspur für Zweiräder". Kurier (in German) (Vienna, Austria). p. 20. 
  31. ^ [4]
  32. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (12 March 2007). "Transport plan will force homes and businesses to move". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  33. ^ Falconer, Phoebe (1 May 2007). "Get moving: Bus access, safety mean no end to rush-hour hassle". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011.