New bus priority lane found to be saving riders 10 minutes

The northbound Douglas Street priority bus lane from Tolmie Avenue to the Burnside Road West/Interurban Road area, which opened this week, is already saving bus passengers up to 10 minutes during peak travel periods, says the B.C. Ministry of Transportation.

That is a significant amount of time, said Susan Brice, chairwoman of the Victoria Regional Traffic Commission. “It is because all the buses connect with other buses and it’s a network,” Brice said. “So if you are making up 10 minutes, then you can have other connections happen.”

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She called the bus lane extension “a significant milestone.”

B.C. Transit planning manager James Wadsworth also touted the 10-minute savings. “Communities that have implemented bus lanes such as this often see a 30 per cent increase in ridership,” he said. “People are induced by the travel-time savings as an incentive.” Having motorists see an efficiently moving bus is important, Brice said.

“We’d always had this vision of the bus sliding into town and passing all the vehicles stuck in congestion,” she said. “It was always one of our hopes that people might see that and make a decision about considering using public transit, so that’s all working well.”

Janelle Staite, the Transportation Ministry’s deputy regional director, agreed that the indicators are positive. “Anything we can do to give transit a competitive advantage on that corridor is really helping toward that endgame of moving people out of their vehicles and moving them onto the bus.”

The new 2.3-kilometre section of bus lane is part of a system that also includes a southbound priority lane that now runs from Tolmie to Fisgard Street. The southbound lane will be extended to the Burnside/Interurban area in a project due for a spring 2019 start.

B.C. Transit is working with the ministry on the plan.

“We’re also in the planning stage of looking at transit-priority treatments on the Island Highway in Colwood and View Royal,” Wadsworth said.

Since early November, use of the Douglas Street bus lanes has been restricted at all times to buses and to vehicles making turns within a block or pulling in and out of driveways.

Most motorists appear to be obeying the rules, Wadsworth said. Additional signs and road markings are making the lanes more apparent to motorists than in the past, he said.

“Compliance is much better than it was before.”

Brice had a similar response, saying she has heard that people are abiding by the rules and keeping the lanes open for buses.

“I have not heard any negative feedback,” she said. “At some point we’ll ask for some statistics but it’s still pretty early days.”

The fine for illegal use of a bus lane is $109. Victoria police will be mounting an education campaign soon on use of the lanes.

The $14.2 million in funding for the northbound lane addition came jointly from the provincial and federal governments through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. The province contributed $9.58 million and the federal government $4.63 million

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