At Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting, the status of the bus lane was brought into focus by Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins, who called for the pilot project to be scrapped as soon as possible. The lane would be returned to a “fully function lane though the downtown.”
The pilot project began in October 2013 and was to have ended in October of this year. Staff said that they are preparing a report on the project which will be presented to Committee in January.
“Normally I like to hear reports before I make decisions,” said Terry Whitehead of the bus lane. “But I think my mind was made up a long time ago on that particular venture.”
A decision on the bus lane will be made at council next week.
The bus lane extends approximately three kilometres, starting at Mary Street in the east end of downtown and running until just before Dundurn in the west. The complaints from most seem to be confined to motorists getting caught up in traffic through the downtown, as well as merchants along King Street west of Bay.
There are a few ways in which the project can be changed, including correcting several problems with the lane. This may be covered in the upcoming report.
1. Change the timing of the traffic lights
The lights are timed for the “green wave” effect, in which the lights will turn green one after another. This works great when the traffic is moving smoothly, but if the traffic is idle this has the opposite effect. Once one light turns green the traffic cannot advance as vehicles ahead of them, which are in the way, still face a red light. By the time the traffic is able to move, the lights start turning red again. This makes for slow progress.
2. Transit Priority Signal for Buses at James / MacNab
A transit priority signal was actually something that was wanted by transit staff. According to one staffer, the transit priority signal was turned down by the traffic department. Having a signal for left turning buses from the lane, as well as the next step could do a lot to help.
3. All buses should be required to use the lane
Mountain buses travelling south on John Street use King as a way to get to the MacNab Transit Terminal. As the buses have no actual bus stops on King Street, these buses stay in the left lane to make turning left into the terminal easier to do. This is part of what seems to frustrate motorists since the buses aren’t using the bus lane. If buses had to use the lane this could help lighten the strain on traffic.
4. Eliminate the bus lane west of Bay Street
Many of the business owners who dislike the lane are those on King West, where the lane hugs the right shoulder. This segment of the land could be returned to a parking lane. The segment of the lane from Mary has significantly higher bus traffic. The section between Mary and Bay is also in the second lane and not on the shoulder, which doesn’t impact drop offs on the side of King.