Transit buses using shoulder
January 6, 2015
Commuters beware: if traffic is backed up on State Road 224 in the coming weeks, transit buses may be traveling in the northbound emergency lane.
For the second year in a row, the Utah Department of Transportation has given Park City Transit permission to utilize the northbound shoulder on S.R. 224 in the Snyderville Basin corridor leading into Park City during heavily congested times.
"You have to be aware you may have a bus coming up that shoulder," Park City Senior Transportation Planner Brooks Robinson said.
Last month, transit officials replaced the signs along S.R. 224 warning motorists that bus operators are now allowed to use the temporary transit lane between the Canyon’s intersection and Newpark, from Milepost 8 to Milepost 11, when traffic speeds drop below 20 miles per hour.
"We’ve been working with UDOT for quite a few years, trying to get them to agree to the use," Robinson said. "This will be the second year we’ve been able to run the program."
The implementation of the temporary transit lane program originated out of a desire to alleviate traffic congestion in and out of Park City during large events, such as Sundance.
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Transit officials say the program helps save bus riders’ time as it moves the buses out of the traffic gridlock during peak hours. Officials also say it increases transit use as riders see buses traveling faster in the temporary lanes.
At their discretion, bus operators may utilize the temporary transit lane anytime during the day when traffic speeds are below 20 miles per hour, but the bus cannot exceed the speed of traffic in the transit lanes by more than 15 miles per hour.
After the program’s debut last year, transit officials conducted various measurements with the busses and personal vehicles to gauge travel time.
"We found that using the temporary lane was saving about eight minutes commute time," Robinson said.
Transit officials say emergency vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian access to the shoulder lanes is still the number one priority.
"If there are cyclists, a broken down car or Highway Patrol in that lane, then the bus operators know they need to move back into the travel lane," Robinson said.
Temporary transit lane regulations also stipulate bus operators are to yield to other vehicles and snow plows.
"It’s all at the discretion of the driver," Robinson said. "We’ve done extensive training for our drivers about engaging and using the shoulder."
Marjorie Rasmussen, a UDOT traffic engineer, said the program was very successful last year for getting people to events.
"They actually didn’t have to use it very often, but I think it went really well," Rasmussen said. "It encourages people to use the busses because it makes it a more timely form of transportation. That’s the main reason for implementing it, for getting people in and out of Park City."
UDOT and Park City Transit officials revisited the agreement from last year and decided to utilize the program again, in addition to during Sundance.
"Right now, it is in a year by year status," Rasmussen said. "But I think we would like to make it a continuous thing any time traffic is backed up, not just during the larger events."
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