TRANSIT took note of this very interesting post from Jarrett Walker of the Human Transit blog describing changes to the existing contra-flow bus lanes in downtown Minneapolis, USA.
Walker’s proposal which was implemented in Minneapolis (as part of the Access Minneapolis 10 Year Transport Plan) was to consolidate north-south bus routes on two main streets, but expand the existing, single contra-flow bus lane to create 2 side-by-side bus lanes. The extra lane allowed buses to pass each other, giving the bus lanes additional capacity – in fact, doubling the number of lanes led to a 3x increase in capacity!
As soon as we read the post, we were interested in considering the possibilities of implementing this in Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia. More info and details of Jarrett’s proposal after the jump.
minneapolis: unlocking downtown with transit malls (Human Transit)
In the old arrangement, the major volumes of buses that needed to get through downtown Minneapolis mostly ran in single-lane bus lanes with no passing capability, where every bus was as slow as the slowest bus. Buses were also spread all over downtown, with a few running on almost every street, creating an arrangement that was illegible for passengers. The spread-out pattern also meant relatively few buses at any stop, hence relatively few passengers waiting, hence poor shelter from the city’s harsh climate and often personal safety concerns. [TRANSIT: Minneapolis is astoundingly cold, but similar concerns could describe KL]
After years of study, meetings, and spirited discussions, we recommended a new arrangement. North-south buses (the largest volume) would mostly be consolidated on just two north-south streets right through the center of downtown — Marquette Avenue and Second Avenue South. Each street would have a double-width bus lane in one direction (similar to the Portland transit mall minus light rail) with car traffic in the other direction. I’m always surprised there aren’t more two-lane bus lane arrangements, because although they’re a big commitment, they use space really well: A single-width lane with no passing capability starts getting seriously gummed up around 60 buses/hour, but double-width lanes handle 180 buses/hour. Doubling the width triples the capacity. It can also dramatically increase speed and reliability.
We have long called for contra-flow bus lanes on major parallel 1-way streets in downtown KL as a way to improve traffic flow and make bus services more frequent and reliable.
In fact, contra-flow bus lanes did exist in the past but they were removed due to protests from drivers (sadly, TRANSIT did not exist at the time else we would have spoken up in favour of the bus lanes).
But the proposal as implemented in Minneapolis is very interesting because of the commitment to introduce double-width, contra-flow bus lanes. Clearly the city was committed to improving public transport movements and making the service more reliable and not worrying about complaints (and you can imagine, there were complaints) from the motoring public.
What is also interesting is the anticipated increase in congestion did not happen, partly because of the consolidation of bus service. And apparently, reducing the number of lanes for cars does not have as much of a negative impact as compared to the positive benefit of creating the additional bus lane.
This is something to be considered for Kuala Lumpur – with two major parallel streets (Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman) in the downtown that are perpetually jammed, double contra-flow bus lanes would be an excellent way to get public transport moving and make the service more reliable.
A similar consolidation of bus routes is also needed in KL – a project like this would be an excellent way to get things started.
For more information on the Marquette and Second Ave. project, please see the following links: