Pandemic Bus Lanes Show Promise as Permanent Solutions

As cities streamline approval processes for bus-only lanes during the pandemic, transit experts hope the projects will lead to lasting change.

1 minute read

December 21, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Bus Lane

Despite a loss of ridership, transit systems hope to use the pandemic as an opportunity to build infrastructure and explore ways to improve service. | joingate / Shutterstock

In a discussion hosted by TransitCenter on the efficacy of bus lanes installed during the COVID-19 pandemic, transportation professionals weighed in on the need for continued and improved bus service and the effects of the pandemic on transit systems across the country.

The pandemic only highlighted existing inequities in transit systems. While trains tend to serve white-collar workers who have largely shifted to working from home, buses remain a crucial lifeline for essential workers, many of whom are low-income and depend on buses to access jobs. During the pandemic, train ridership in Chicago dropped by 80%, while bus ridership stayed essentially the same.

To take advantage of lighter traffic and improve the efficiency of bus systems, some cities have fast-tracked bus lane projects this year, with Boston adding 14 miles of bus lanes in 2020. By reducing barriers to bus lane projects and implementing quick, temporary solutions, cities can improve traffic in the short term and gain support for making bus lanes permanent in the future as travel picks back up and users see the benefits of more efficient transit service.

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