Federal Approval Clears Way for Bus-Only Lanes in Portland

Portland will soon be spreading out the red carpet for buses.

2 minute read

October 10, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan

Regional ETC Pilot Program / Portland Bureau of Transportation

"Late last month, the Portland Bureau of Transportation received approval from the Federal Highway Administration to use red coloring on bus-only lanes," reports Jonathan Maus.

Despite their appearance in cities like Seattle and San Francisco, "the use of red to designate bus-only lanes hasn’t been fully adopted into the FHWA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)," explains Maus, necessitating a "request to experiment" before the street treatment can be installed.

Maus also cites Jarrett Walker in explaining the state of the "experiment":

Jarrett Walker, an author and consultant who helps cities improve bus service, says red bus lanes are a no-brainer. “They are an absurdly obvious idea and it’s even more absurd that the federal government had to give us permission,” he shared in an email this morning.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation will use their new red painting powers to implement the Rose Lane Project, funded with $2.5 million from the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. PDOT still has to finalize the plans for the city's forthcoming bus-only lane network.

"A list of 25 potential bus priority routes were adopted in June 2018 when council passed the Enhanced Transit Corridors (ETC) plan," according to Maus. "That plan identified 15 central city (two of which – SW Madison and NE Everett — have already been implemented) and 10 regional routes that could be turning red (see maps below). 11 of the central city routes are likely to come with a “low-stress” cycling facility."

The city expects to finalize those plans by the end of 2020.

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