Bus lane

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For the 2007 Thai film, see Bus Lane (film).
"Tram lane" redirects here. For areas exclusively for trams, see Reserved track.
Bus lane in the middle of Roosevelt Road in Taipei, Taiwan
BRT lane laid on Taiwan Boulevard in Taichung, Taiwan

A bus lane or bus-only lane is a lane restricted to buses, often on certain days and times, and generally used to speed up public transport that would be otherwise held up by traffic congestion. Certain other vehicles may also be permitted, such as taxis, high occupancy vehicles, motorcycles, or bicycles. Police, ambulance services and fire brigades can also use these lanes [1] Bus lanes are a key component of a high-quality bus rapid transit (BRT) network.

The related terms busway and bus gate describe a roadway all of whose lanes are restricted to buses or authorized vehicles. By contrast, a dedicated bus lane may occupy only part of a roadway which also has lanes serving general automotive traffic. The term "bus gate" is relatively new, and used primarily in the UK.


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, when the tram system was closed and the former segrated tram tracks were converted for bus travel. 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 15 January 1964 the first bus lane in France was designated along the quai du Louvre in Paris and the first contraflow lane was established on the old pont de l’Alma on 15 June 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 initial 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 kilometres (87 mi) 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 dedicated busway in the US, constructed in 1974.[7]


A bus lane is not necessarily very long, as it may be used only to bypass a single congestion point such as an intersection. On the other hand, 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 tram tracks, 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] When the entire roadway is restricted, it may be called a "bus gate" in the UK.[citation needed]

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 dedicated traffic signals, to allow priority at intersections.

Bus lanes may be marked in several ways. They are usually demarcated by lines on the road; road signs may warn that there 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 color. Other special-purpose lanes may similarly be marked; for example, a cycle path may have bicycle symbols and a different colored 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 passenger 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%. 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% increase in total passenger throughput in the lane. Average bus journey times dropped, in some cases, by up to 19%.[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.[citation needed]


Bus lanes give priority to buses and cut down on journey times where roads are congested with other traffic. The introduction of bus lanes can significantly assist in the reduction of air pollution.[11]

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.[12]

In contrast, the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong carries 14,500 buses per day,[13] 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.[further explanation needed]

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 (23km are 24-hour restricted bus lane)[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] 13
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]
New York United States 8.5 5,777 1,480 80+[31]:27 111
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[32] 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 taking of private land),[33] or space must be 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).[34] See www.end-of-bus-lane.org.uk for a UK site outlining problems with them.

Bus lanes may also contribute to roadway marking and signage "clutter", and make roads more difficult for other road users to use. An example is a side junction, where a motorist is required to monitor the bus lane before turning across it. Bus lanes often terminate (temporarily or otherwise) close to multi-lane roundabouts (traffic circles). If cyclists' use of the bus lane is permitted, left hook collisions can become more commonplace (in left-hand traffic countries), as a motorist may not expect other traffic in the bus lane.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Use of Bus Lanes by Motorcycles (from Traffic Advisory Leaflet 2/07, Department for Transport, United Kingdom) Archived 8 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Milestones in U.S. Public Transportation History (from the APTA website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  3. ^ History of the NTD and Transit in the US (from the NTD website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  4. ^ Les zones bleues et les couloirs pour autobus (from the AMTUIR website, Musée des Transports Urbains. Retrieved 6 December 2007.(French))
  5. ^ WHEN Mrs. Barbara Castle, in her role of Minister of | 15 August 1969 | The Commercial Motor Archive
  6. ^ Assessing travel time impacts of measures to enhance bus operations - Jepson, D.; Ferreira, L., Road & Transport Research, December 1999. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  7. ^ Los Angeles Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  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 9 February 2012.
  11. ^ (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20110807100412/http://www.airquality.co.uk/reports/cat05/1004010934_MeasurementvsEmissionsTrends.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ [1] Archived 13 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201003/03/P201003030140_0140_62651.doc
  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 Archived 8 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (from a report of the UK Commission for Integrated Transport, last updated Monday 28 November 2005. Accessed 21 March 2008.)
  19. ^ More bus lanes and bigger stops in Singapore
  20. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 February 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  21. ^ [2] Archived 29 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Factsheet Madrid Archived 16 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ [3] (Jakarta Trans Jakarta official website. Accessed 26 June 2012.) Archived 23 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ a b [4] (Bogotá TransMilenio official website. Accessed 5 April 2009.) Archived 10 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Frota das linhas municipais de ônibus (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 27 March 2008.) Archived 19 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Extensão dos corredores (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 27 March 2008.) Archived 23 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  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 16 September 2008.)
  29. ^ Transport in Hong Kong > Public Transport > Buses (from the Hong Kong Transport Department website. Accessed 16 September 2008.) Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Berger, Michael (8 April 2008). "Busspur für Zweiräder". Kurier (in German). Vienna, Austria. p. 20. 
  31. ^ http://www.nctr.usf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/jpt16.4_Agrawal.pdf
  32. ^ Transport Department - Transport Department
  33. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (12 March 2007). "Transport plan will force homes and businesses to move". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  34. ^ 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.