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20 CHAPTER THREE CASE STUDIES This chapter presents six case studies: MinneapolisSt. Paul; has continued to periodically review existing operations and Falls Church, Virginia; Miami, Florida; San Diego, California; plan additional shoulder lane projects. The result is that cur- Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Dublin, Ireland. rently there are 14 routes and 400 buses that use the freeway shoulder lanes on a daily basis. Four of the major Interstates are equipped with more than 200 mi of freeway shoulders CASE STUDY 1--MINNEAPOLISST. PAUL used as transit routes. TWIN CITIES The MinneapolisSt. Paul Twin Cities area first established For the first 5 years of the program, MnDOT and Metro BBS operations in 1991 on a six-lane arterial highway Transit split the costs of shoulder lane projects; Metro Tran- (Highway 252). In rapid response to a 1992 flood closure of sit found that if they brought funding to the table, MnDOT some major highways, the BBS operations were expanded was more receptive to constructing a project. After the shoul- to the freeway system as well as to several other key high- der lanes became "just another part of the highway system," ways. The BBS network has continually expanded and to- MnDOT established an annual budget of $2 million for day consists of 230 mi of shoulders for authorized bus use. the program, which adds approximately 20 mi to the system Figure 14 summarizes the comprehensiveness of the current annually. It is part of the overall annual budget and MnDOT BBS network. Figures 15 and 16 present the annual miles of works with Metro Transit to prioritize the funds. A construc- bus shoulder use facilities added to the network annually tion figure of $100,000 per mile was quoted as the good over- since 1992 and the cumulative total network miles of bus all cost to use for upgrading shoulder lanes, including the shoulder use facilities. rebuilding of drainage grates and paving at a 3- to 5-in. asphalt depth. History As the transit use of shoulder lanes became a permanent feature of the freeway system, much of the day-to-day efforts The use of shoulder lanes for transit in the Twin Cities evolved into discussions of planning and implementation of area evolved out of an emergency situation, when a 1992 new shoulder lanes for transit. Rather than being stand-alone Mother's Day flood closed one of the major bridges that improvements, the shoulder lane projects (whether it be crossed I-35 westbound. This bridge was one of the major ac- widening, reconstruction, or restriping) are completed as part cess points into and out of the city. The governor formed a of a larger highway improvement and maintenance project team of Minnesota DOT (MnDOT) and Minnesota Transit along that same freeway segment. Interestingly, the Min- officials to brainstorm on how to get more access on parallel nesota State Patrol has not been actively involved in recent bridges. The use of shoulder lanes by transit vehicles years owing to safe operating experience (they do have the emerged as an idea worth implementing. The concept was ability to report or cite transit vehicles that violate the shoul- approved late one week and by early the following week the der lane policy). shoulder lanes were restriped and limited signage was in place for transit to begin operations. Maintenance of the shoulder lanes is handled by MnDOT, which has a $1 million line item in its budget specifically This first test of buses in the shoulder lanes went so for shoulder lane maintenance. Metro Transit benefits smoothly that they began testing operations on other con- through federal 5307 capital guideway maintenance funding gested freeway segments. Team Transit was then formed as based on a payment of $30,000 per shoulder lane mile (as a permanent group, consisting of Metro Transit and suburban shown in Section 15 reporting), which results in approxi- bus operators, MnDOT, Minnesota State Patrol, and the mately $6 million annually that they reserve to supplement Metro Council of Governments. The Deputy Commissioner their operations. of MnDOT helped overcome potential problems with lower level staff bureaucracy by establishing a key contact person There are little to no public relations efforts related to the at MnDOT, who serves as an advocate for the shoulder lane shoulder lane program--officials believe that it has not been policy within the agency. To this day, the Team Transit group necessary.
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21 FIGURE 14 BBS network--Twin Cities area. FIGURE 15 Bus shoulder miles built or rebuilt annually.
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22 longer bridges, Metro Transit requires an 11.5-ft shoul- der width given the difficulty of driving adjacent to the bridge railing. In these cases, MnDOT has been agree- able to taking 6 in. from the adjacent travel lanes to cre- ate the extra space in the shoulder. · Bus drivers were initially uncertain about operating in the shoulder lanes and would generally operate at slow speeds. However, speeds increased with experience. · There are gaps in the shoulder lane sections at loca- tions where bridge abutments are directly adjacent to FIGURE 16 Total bus shoulder miles in Twin Cities metro area. the shoulder lanes, narrowing the shoulder to less than 10 ft. The sections are noted on the listing of shoulder lane sections given to bus drivers. A small Operations sign is also located before the narrowed section to alert the driver, who simply merges into the main Below are some highlights of transit operations of freeway travel lanes to avoid the narrow section, and then shoulder lanes: merges back into the shoulder lane on the other side. Gaps also occur in areas where Metro Transit believes · Bus drivers use the shoulders only when general pur- that there are too many weaves (e.g., a complex free- pose lane (GPL) travel speeds drop below 35 mph. way interchange) that could create safety hazards if Buses travel only 15 mph faster than mainline traffic, the shoulders were used. up to a maximum of 35 mph. If traffic is moving 35 mph · In freeway segments with auxiliary lanes, buses will or faster, buses must operate in the regular traffic lanes. tend to stay in the auxiliary lane rather than the shoul- Transit drivers are not required to use shoulders, but in- der lane because the auxiliary lane usually is free flow stead use their professional discretion on roadway con- or has only minor congestion. ditions and personal comfort levels. · In addition to all public transit operators, charter buses · If a disabled vehicle blocks the shoulder lane, or the are now allowed to use the shoulders based on a recent highway patrol has pulled a vehicle over in the shoul- change in state law. There was also an attempt to allow der lane, the transit vehicle merges into the GPLs to vanpools to use the shoulders, but this proposed law did bypass the obstruction. Because the speeds are low for not pass. automobiles in the GPLs and the bus in the shoulder · Deadheading buses are allowed to use the shoulder lane, the merge is a relatively easy maneuver for the lanes. transit vehicle. · Present experience is about 20 annual accidents with · Metro Transit occasionally does field checks to mon- buses on the shoulders (mainly sideswipes and dam- itor whether drivers are exceeding the speed limit or aged mirrors). operating in areas not a part of the shoulder lane sys- · The priorities for implementing improvements to the tem. Violations of the operating procedures are rare. shoulder lanes needed for transit operations are based The Minnesota Highway Patrol is now able to stop on number of buses, frequency of congestion, ease and and ticket a bus operator; however, this has not yet cost of implementation, and the ability to tie the im- happened. provements in with another freeway improvement job · Initially, there were some copycat drivers who followed to minimize costs. the buses into the shoulder lanes; however, this has not · There is a general sense that the use of shoulder lanes been a problem for some time. has had a positive impact on ridership. At the same time · The freeway signage is minimal. There are signs on it is hard to measure the effect, because new service and freeway on-ramps to alert drivers to watch for buses on park-and-ride lots have been implemented over the the shoulders and the occasional sign between inter- same period. changes that designate the shoulders for use by buses. · Metro Transit has not evaluated the impact that the · Signage also designates the beginning and end points of use of shoulder lanes has had on operating costs; bus shoulder lane operations. however, it would like to do so in the future. The key · Among the 200 mi of shoulder lanes, several occur on benefit cited is trip reliability; a benefit to both the arterial highways. At signalized intersections, a "pork- customer and the operator (in terms of ease of sched- chop" raised curb section allows cars a free right turn ule development). with sufficient length along the raised curb to serve as · According to Metro Transit, passenger reaction has a bus queue jump to the front of the signal and as the lo- been very positive, with 95% of riders surveyed indi- cation for a bus stop. cating they believed they were saving time (generally · On bridges, the 10-ft shoulder width is acceptable if the higher than actual), and 65% reporting that they had bridge length is relatively short (e.g., an overpass). For recommended the service to others.
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23 Other interesting facts about Metro Transit's operations thing went. Their success appeared to boil down to three follow: key factors: · Although most freeway on-ramps are metered, the 1. Buses only operate in the shoulders when traffic meters were removed from the HOV/bus bypass speeds are low, because the ability to react to chang- lanes. ing conditions is much easier at low speeds. · There have been no safety issues between buses/car- 2. Bus drivers are given the discretion of how they re- pools and solo drivers. spond to various traffic conditions. Rather than over- · There are concerns about buses not having sufficient regulating shoulder lane operations, Metro Transit acceleration distance from a metered stop to merge relies on the professional judgment of its bus drivers. safely on to the freeway. 3. Bus drivers yield to the automobile driver in all cases, thereby minimizing potential conflicts (most notably at on- and off-ramps). Field Observations The simplicity of the Twin Cities BBS operation is noteworthy. Meetings with Minnesota Transit Team The signage is minimal and limited to "Shoulder--Authorized Buses Only." These signs were placed approximately one- A one-day meeting of the Minnesota Transit Team was held. quarter to one-half mile apart along the freeway shoulders. This team consists of representatives from MnDOT, Min- Where there is a merge with an on- or off-ramp, an additional nesota Transit Agency, private bus operators, Minnesota sign was added to caution the automobile drivers that buses State Patrol, and representatives of the Regional Transporta- were operating on the shoulder. Bus drivers are trained to yield tion Management Center (RTMC). Presentations were pro- to automobiles. This was evident at interchanges when auto- vided by each member of the team. mobiles have to merge through the shoulder to access the gen- eral traffic lanes. State Highway Patrol To better understand the BBS operations, a ride along The State Patrol has had very few problems with the bus op- Route 180 to the Mall of America, an express route oper- erations. Last year, operating guidelines for freeway shoul- ating solely to connect downtown with the Mall and that der lane use were added to state law. Therefore, the State operates using an articulated bus on the freeway shoulder, Patrol is now able to write speeding tickets to bus drivers that is advantageous. The bus traveled during rush hour and the exceed 35 mph while operating in the shoulder. Before being freeway congestion was heavy. Although the actual speed added to state law, the State Patrol had an operating agree- was only 5 to 15 mph faster than the adjacent automobile ment with the Minnesota Transit Agency and MnDOT that traffic depending on the traffic conditions at a particular outlined the various rules for bus operation. location on the route, the impression passengers get is of a much faster speed because they see themselves passing so The State Patrol works very closely with the RTMC and many cars. Ridership on Route 180 was substantial, even has a zero tolerance towing rule for anything that is in the on the return trip after 8:00 p.m. (more than 30 passengers shoulder while the buses are operating. They have contracted boarded at the mall). with a towing agency and generally have a vehicle blocking the shoulder towed within 30 min of its first report. MnDOT There was an in-line bus station located just off the side pays for this service. As part of the RTMC, it has a Highway of I-35 at a major arterial crossover. Built in the 1960s, the Helper program that includes Freeway Instant Response, design lacks customer amenities. Nevertheless, it works which operates 7 days per week. and many passengers exit or enter at this station, transfer- ring from other routes along the arterial. There are plans to The State Patrol also noted that buses have encountered build a median busway, and the station will be relocated to no problems with stalled vehicles and highway patrol cars. the median. It was possible to view the freeway shoulder operation Transit Operators from overpasses at various points along the freeway. One can see how bus drivers reacted to freeway obstructions Metro Transit indicated that driver training primarily takes (there was some construction work underway in the shoul- the form of classroom training on the state law, operating der lane, compelling bus drivers to merge into the mixed- rules, and how to respond to issues. The drivers are not given flow lanes) and motorists who were inadvertently blocking any extensive in-bus training on driving on the shoulders. the shoulder lane. The team also observed how bus driv- However, drivers are given annual safety updates and brief- ers merged with traffic at freeway on- and off-ramps. ings on shoulder lane use. Metro Transit's operating rules for What was most striking was just how smoothly every- BBS use are provided in Appendix C.
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24 All operators are allowed discretion in how they operate MnDOT oversees the signage program for this transit op- on the shoulders. If they are not comfortable operating in the eration. In addition, the agency has been proactive in other shoulders they do not have to. Many of the newer operators avenues that support freeway shoulder lane use. Many of the are tentative on the shoulders and often will operate at lower interchanges include bypass lanes for the buses to access speeds or more often in segments where the shoulders are the freeway and it pays for and maintains stations that abut wider. The operators indicated that there is tremendous cus- the freeway. Also, MnDOT funds the acquisition of property tomer pressure to operate on the shoulders and that passen- and the capital cost to build major park-and-ride lots that sup- gers will often voice displeasure to drivers that choose not to. port the transit operation. One such lot had 1,800 spaces in a The operator is also responsible for gauging the speed of the four-story structure. The lot was accessible from both sides vehicles in the lane adjacent to the shoulder. The operating of the freeway by means of by-pass lanes. rules note that a bus can only travel 15 mph above the speed of the traffic in adjacent lanes. The bus also can never travel MnDOT indicated that one of the reasons that the proj- faster than 35 mph. If the speed of the vehicles in the adja- ect is so successful is the ability to tie shoulder projects to cent lanes is greater than 35 mph, the bus must merge into the other freeway projects. Because of the extreme winter main traffic lanes and not operate on the shoulder. weather in Minnesota, the maintenance budget for the free- way is substantial. The operating speed was defined by the transit operators through a survey of their level of comfort operating at various speeds on the shoulder. Most of the operators in that survey Customer Perception indicated that they did not feel comfortable operating above 35 mph at any time in the shoulders. Because of the cold Time savings with the freeway shoulder lane use are report- snowy weather in Minnesota, operators are given discretion edly in the range of 5 to 15 min for the average trip depend- whether or not to operate in the shoulders when visibility is ing on the level of congestion. An average of 7 min is saved low, with many choosing not to during heavy snowfall. on most trips during peak travel periods. However, the customer perception of the time savings is much higher. Cus- Drivers are able to use the shoulder at any time during the day tomers view the use of the shoulders not only as time savings, when congestion exists. They are also able to use shoulders for but also as a way to minimize their stress resulting from deadheading, which is a major benefit for the operator. All of the sitting in traffic congestion. Also, the customer's perception express buses operating in the corridor use the freeway shoul- of schedule adherence and trip reliability is much higher der. Suburban operators and private operators are also allowed given the use of the freeway shoulders. to access the shoulders. School buses do not have this privilege. Next Generation of Shoulder Lanes Minnesota DOT MnDOT is currently working on developing a set of guide- MnDOT is extremely proactive on transit use of shoulders lines that would outline when shoulder lanes are warranted. and allocates money toward the ongoing maintenance and Items that could be included in these guidelines are: expansion of the freeway shoulder lane program. The opera- tion of buses on the shoulder had been incorporated into most · Required metered ramps for shoulder lane use, of the freeway programs--for example, freeway shoulders · A certain level of congestion during peaks (this is being are snowplowed before arterials and capital programs pro- refined), vide for gutter replacements and asphalt enhancements. · All new freeways to include 12-ft shoulders for transit use (planned or future), MnDOT has an overall program that annually reviews where · Catch basins built to support transit use, freeway shoulder lanes for transit can be added and where en- · Pavement depth of 7 in. or more to support transit use, hancements can be made. The agency was initially concerned · Number of buses that would use the shoulders, about the ability of storm drains on shoulders to withstand the · Length of delay (related to congestion), and constant travel of buses over them. Given budgetary constraints, · Ease of implementation. MnDOT did not initially concern itself with shoulder lane drainage structures. Over the years however MnDOT imple- mented a program of reconstructing the drains. Drainage struc- Lessons Learned ture improvements include enhancing the concrete structure on the head-end and far-end of the drain structure and raising the Lessons learned from this experience indicates that there is structure to surface level when necessary. The drainage struc- potential for the Minneapolis freeway shoulder lane concept ture improvement program is ongoing, with the remaining struc- to work in other areas for the following reasons: tures to be improved as funds become available. Also, MnDOT ensures that new shoulders are constructed 12 ft wide, with a · Use of the shoulder lanes is limited to transit vehicles 7 in. base, rather than the former specification of a 2 in. base. driven by professional operators.
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25 · Use of the shoulder lanes is at the transit operator's dis- no answer (42%). Travel time benefits were greater on cretion; there is no requirement that the operator must bad weather days. use the shoulders if it is believed that conditions are un- · Of those passengers responding, 38% mentioned greater safe (e.g., inclement weather). adherence to schedules. · Use of the shoulder lanes is limited to times when the general lanes are congested; the low speeds in the gen- eral traffic lanes, coupled with speed limitations on tran- BBS Signage sit vehicles, allows transit vehicles to adequately respond to potential transit vehicle and automobile conflicts. Signage is very simple as shown in Figures 1720. · Positive responses from both transit passengers (in terms of time savings and trip reliability) and auto- mobile drivers (in terms of accepting buses in the shoul- Miscellaneous der lanes). · Most of the express buses operate on 10-min headways. · Charter buses are allowed to use the BBS lanes if au- Because some freeway segments have five or more bus thorized (permit), although use of the BBS facilities is routes in operation, there could be four to five buses op- not encouraged owing to enforcement issues. erating in caravan fashion along the freeway. · Paratransit vehicles are allowed to use the BBS lanes. · Cooperation between the transit agency and the DOT · The biggest benefits of BBS are achieved when the was very important. They work to support one another weather is bad and traffic is very congested. with the overall goal of making the project work. The · Passengers often ask the bus drivers to use the BBS Team Transit group appeared to work very well to- lanes, which is an indication of how much they value gether and provided a "can do" attitude about making the travel time advantage. the system work. · From the standpoint of traffic safety, benefits to transit operations, and public relations, the use of freeway Shoulder Reconstruction and Construction Costs shoulder lanes has been a success. When a highway shoulder is being considered for bus-only shoulder use, existing shoulder conditions need to be evalu- Bus Driver Survey ated to determine what work is required to accommodate the additional dynamic load caused by the buses. The cost of the Bus drivers on routes using I-35W and TH-5 were surveyed required improvements depends on specific conditions. to determine their reaction and the degree to which they use Costs also vary depending on whether the shoulder conver- the bus-only shoulders. sion for bus use is an independent project or is included as part of a larger construction project. A 1998 study for · Most of the drivers used the bus-only shoulders at rush MnDOT identified five general conditions when determining hour during congested situations, although even in good whether to upgrade. weather most drivers still reported using the bus-only shoulders on a regular basis during the evening peak · Condition one--Shoulder width and bituminous depth traffic period. are adequate. Catch basins do not need adjustment. · A majority of the drivers perceived significant travel Only signing and striping improvements are required. time savings when using the bus-only shoulders. On a The average cost for a freeway section is $1,500 per typical day, they perceived a 5 to 20 min time savings. mile. The average cost for an expressway section is On a day when traffic is at its worst, they perceived a $2,500 per mile in 1998 dollars. 10 to 60 min time savings when using the bus-only · Condition two--Shoulder width and bituminous depth shoulder lanes. are adequate; however, minor shoulder repairs and · Most drivers reported that the bus-only lanes were not catch basin adjustments are needed, and signing and wide enough. Most of these drivers were using I-35W, striping improvements are also required. The estimated which initially only had a 9.5-ft-wide shoulder. cost for this work is $5,000 per mile, plus signing and · A majority of the bus drivers have experienced conflicts striping costs (1998 dollars). with automobile drivers (driving on the edge of shoul- · Condition three--Shoulder width is adequate, but bitu- der to prevent buses from passing). minous depth is insufficient. Shoulder and roadway can be overlaid at the same time. Signing and striping im- provements are also required. The estimated cost for Bus Passenger Survey this work is $12,000 per mile, assuming a 2 in. bitumi- nous overlay, plus signing and striping costs. · Passengers provided the following estimates of travel · Condition four--Shoulder width is adequate, but bitu- time savings on atypical days--1 to 3 min (11%), 4 to minous depth is insufficient. Roadway is not being 6 min (22%), 7 to 9 min (12%), 10 to 30 min (13%), and overlaid; therefore, the bituminous shoulder must be