The Gottingen Street bus lane is moving buses through rush hour faster and getting more people taking transit, but it’s meant towing dozens of vehicles monthly.
That’s according to a report coming to Halifax regional council on Tuesday evaluating the 2019 performance of the bus lane, completed in late 2018.
The bus lane uses the northbound, or outbound, lane of Gottingen Street from Cornwallis Street to Charles Street. Transit staff originally recommended keeping the lane free of parked cars all day on weekdays, but facing backlash from local businesses, councillors decided to change the plan to only prohibit parking and loading at peak times — from 7 to 9am and 3 to 6pm.
Now those restrictions could apply only in the afternoon.
Here’s what Halifax Transit found over 2019:
- Travel time for buses using the lane between 3 and 6pm on weekdays was 7% lower, year over year, and travel time between 4 and 5pm, the busiest time, was 19% lower.
- Travel time in the morning was unchanged.
- Transit ridership was up 10% on weekday mornings and 17% in the afternoons.
- Mode share, the percentage of people travelling on the street using the bus instead of other modes, increased from 48% to 55%.
- Overall traffic speed and the number of collisions on Gottingen Street were unchanged, and the number of collisions involving buses that resulted in vehicle damage decreased.
- Parking enforcement officers wrote an average of 104 tickets every month for cars parked in the bus lane, and while there was a “general trend downward,” “monthly totals have not decreased significantly.”
- An average of 34 vehicles per month were towed from the bus lane, and like the tickets, “there was a “general trend downward,” but “monthly totals have not decreased significantly.”
The bus lane is making all traffic flow more efficiently on Gottingen Street, according to the staff report, but because there are often still vehicles parked there at 3pm, “It takes staff resources to have them removed, and often the first 15-30 minutes of the time period are not used effectively.
“It only takes one illegally parked vehicle to impact the entire lane and flow of the street.”
To raise awareness of the parking restrictions, the staff report contemplates more signage or more red paint indicating the lane, but doesn’t actually recommend in favour of it.
The only change recommended for council is to remove the parking restrictions in the morning, when the heaviest traffic flows in the opposite direction.
“Data indicate that the bus lane is most beneficial during weekday afternoon peak periods, and that it provides less benefit to transit operation during weekday morning peak periods,” the report says.
“Removing the weekday morning peak would reduce the impact to on-street parking, simplify parking restrictions, and reduce the enforcement burden for the bus lane.”
Regional council meets at 10am on Tuesday.
Other transportation-related items on the agenda include the recommended appointment of transportation and public works director Brad Anguish as the city’s traffic authority and an application for $2 million in funding from the provincial government for the purchase of five new buses.
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I went to UBC in the late sixties. At that time, cars illegally parked in rush-hour bus lanes were very efficiently removed and impounded by Busters, a towing company. Shortly before the posted time, fleets of Busters tow trucks appeared all over the city to snatch cars from curbside lanes and clear the way for buses.
Fifty plus years later, Busters still has that contract, Vancouverites are pretty well trained, and the buses are generally free to travel as they are meant to.
The simplest parking regulation is no parking anytime. While local businesses may feel lack of parking is hurting them, a bigger problem may be that the street is unpleasant to walk, due in part to the high volume of buses roaring along, but that’s another issue.
Meanwhile, it seems odd that council is deciding to deal with ongoing lack of respect for parking regulations by reducing parking regulations. I also note that apparently these changes are being made without any data or considerations for bicycles using this lane. While I avoid this lane, since sharing it with buses is absurd, there should be some information about bicycles using this lane before the parking rules change.