Automated bus lane enforcement is more effective than police, among other findings

Bus-only lanes are one of the most effective ways to improve bus service. However, they do no good if constantly impinged on by traffic, as happened with Washington, DC’s recent experiment with a priority bus lane to replace a shut-down portion of Metrorail. This largely failed when “parked cars freely blocked the right of way” while trucks “weaved in and out of traffic” according to the Washington Post.

The good news: enforcement is relatively easy and at little cost. We just have to actually do it.

A 2017 report from the National Capital Region Planning Board found that enforcement cameras mounted to the front of buses are the most effective tool. These cameras help levy hefty fines on people driving who violate the bus-only lane—usually around $200 or $250.

A benefit-cost analysis reveals that painting a white line on the pavement to denote the bus-only lanes coupled with bus mounted cameras has the highest return on investment, with $1 invested returning nearly $8 in “travel time savings and fleet saving benefits,” according to the report.

The next best option – painted white lines with stationary cameras mounted on traffic lights – plummets to a return on investment of $1 yielding $5 in benefits.

Yet the two most common enforcement strategies – police enforcement and red paint – are the most expensive and offer the least benefit. This is because police enforcement is much more expensive than enforcement cameras and because red paint costs an astonishing $308,000 per mile to install.

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