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Philly officials support automated bus lane enforcement and say it could improve ‘transit equity’ -

Republican State Rep. Martina White plans to introduce legislation for automated bus lane enforcement in Philadelphia.

White, who chairs the State House public transportation subcommittee, issued a memo with her plan and calling for cooperation from her colleagues earlier this month.

The legislation would create two pilot programs that would allow the use of an automated bus lane enforcement system in which cameras record and ticket drivers who park in bus lanes.

According to the memo, SEPTA would run the program, which is designed to “promote traffic safety and accessibility and reduce congestion.” If enacted into law, the measure would also allow SEPTA to be compensated for running the program. Money from the program would go toward small-business grants in the city.

White could not immediately be reached for comment, but officials from the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (oTIS) are on board with the plan, though it would require City Council approval once it passed in the state legislature. Transportation officials are eyeing Chestnut and Market Streets and Roosevelt Boulevard in the future as places for the enforcement.

The city recently launched an automated camera enforcement program on Roosevelt Boulevard using speed cameras at select intersections to improve safety.

City transportation officials say such a program for bus lanes can help improve transit equity.

“Automated enforcement reduces the interaction of police and communities while also assuring that people who ride buses, including people of color and low-income customers, have better access to jobs and other destinations,” said Michael Carroll, oTIS deputy managing director and a SEPTA board member.

Recently, the city launched a pilot program that provided designated loading zones on Chestnut Street to increase bus speeds and reduce traffic congestion.

The city released a report on its findings from the pilot and found median midday travel times dropped by 19% between 22nd and Broad streets, and illegal parking and loading that blocked lanes was reduced. Still, city officials suggest automated camera enforcement “will improve bus service on Chestnut Street by providing consistent enforcement when needed most — when a vehicle is blocking the bus.”

“We see buses stuck in traffic, and when we try to make it better, like on Chestnut and Market … there’s some engineering things we can’t do,” said Chris Puchalsky, director of policy and strategic initiatives for oTIS.

SEPTA and the city also conducted two enforcement blitz programs between 2018 and 2019. Andrew Busch, spokesperson for the transportation authority, could not provide numbers for the second, but the first iteration of the blitz improved bus travel times by 6% on Chestnut Street river to river during midday hours.

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