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  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.
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.
On 26 February 1968 the first bus lane in London was put into service on Vauxhall Bridge. 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.
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. When the entire roadway is restricted, it may be called a "bus gate" in the UK.
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 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.
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%.
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 introduction of bus lanes can significantly assist in the reduction of air pollution.
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.
In contrast, the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong carries 14,500 buses per day, 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]
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|
|Singapore||Singapore||5.5||3,775||1,200||200 (23km are 24-hour restricted bus lane)||29|
|Kunming||People's Republic of China||5.7||~||~||42|
|Beijing||People's Republic of China||19.6||26000||754||294||88|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||6.8||19,768 ||666||22||899|
|New York||United States||8.5||5,777||1,480||80+: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||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), 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). 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.
Bus lane sign in Norway
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bus lanes.|
- Bus rapid transit (BRT)
- Bus priority
- Guided bus
- High-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV lane)
- Public transport bus service
- Reversible lane
- Straddling bus
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