Bus lane

A bus lane or bus-only lane is a lane restricted to buses, often on certain days and times, and generally used to speed up public transport that would be otherwise held up by traffic congestion. Bus lanes are a key component of a high-quality bus rapid transit (BRT) network, improving bus travel speeds and reliability by reducing delay caused by other traffic.

A dedicated bus lane may occupy only part of a roadway which also has lanes serving general automotive traffic; the related term busway describes a roadway completely dedicated for use by buses.


The world's first designated bus lane was created in Chicago in 1940.[1][2]

The first bus lanes in Europe were established in 1963 in the German city of Hamburg, when the tram system was closed and the former segrated tram tracks were converted for bus travel. Other large German cities soon followed, and the implementation of bus lanes was officially sanctioned in the German highway code in 1970. Many experts from other countries (Japan among the first) studied the German example and implemented similar solutions. On 15 January 1964 the first bus lane in France was designated along the quai du Louvre in Paris and the first contraflow lane was established on the old pont de l’Alma on 15 June 1966.[3]

On 26 February 1968 the first bus lane in London was put into service on Vauxhall Bridge. The first contraflow bus lane in the UK was introduced in King's Road, Reading as a temporary measure when the road was made one-way (eastwards to Cemetery Junction) on 16 June 1968. The initial reason was to save the expense of rerouting the trolleybus, which was due to be scrapped on 3 November of that year. However the experiment proved so successful that it was made permanent for use by motor buses.[4]

By 1972 there were over 140 kilometres (87 mi) of with-flow bus lanes in 100 cities within OECD member countries, and the network grew substantially in the following decades.[5]

The El Monte Busway between El Monte and Downtown Los Angeles was the first dedicated busway in the US, constructed in 1974.[6]


Bus lanes may be located in different locations on a street, such as on the sides of a street near the curb, or down the center. They may be long, continuous networks, or short segments used to allow buses to bypass bottlenecks or reduce route complexity, such as in a contraflow bus lane.[7]

Bus lanes may be demarcated in several ways. Descriptive text such as "BUS LANE" may be marked prominently on the road surface, particularly at the beginning and end. Some cities use a diamond-shaped pavement marking to indicate an exclusive bus lane. The road surface may have a distinctive color, usually red, which has been shown to reduce prohibited vehicles from entering bus lanes.[8] Road signs may communicate when a bus lane is in effect.

Bus lanes may also be physically separated from other traffic using bollards, curbs, or other raised elements.[9]

In some cities, such as The Hague in the Netherlands, buses are allowed to use reserved tram tracks, usually laid in the middle of the road and raised slightly above the road surface.


Bus lanes may have separate sets of dedicated traffic signals, to allow transit signal priority at intersections.[10]

Peak-only bus lanes are enforced only at certain times of the day, usually during rush hour, reverting to a general purpose or parking lane at other times. Peak-only bus lanes may be in effect only in the main direction of travel, such as towards a downtown during morning rush hour traffic, with the buses using general purpose lanes in the other direction.[11]

Entire streets can be designated as bus lanes (such as Oxford Street in London, Princes Street in Edinburgh, or Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn), allowing buses, taxis and delivery vehicles only, or a contra-flow bus lane can allow buses to travel in the opposite direction to other vehicles.[12]

Some locations allow bicyclists or taxis to use bus lanes, however where bus or bicycle volumes are high, mixed traffic operations may result in uncomfortable conditions or delays.[13] Certain other vehicles may also be permitted in bus lanes, such as taxis, high occupancy vehicles, motorcycles, or bicycles. Police, ambulance services and fire brigades can also use these lanes.[14]

In the Netherlands mixed bus/cycle lanes are uncommon. According to the Sustainable Safety guidelines they would violate the principle of homogeneity and put road users of very different masses and speed behaviour into the same lane, which is generally discouraged.[15]


Bus lanes can become ineffective if weak enforcement allows use by unauthorized vehicles[16] or illegal parking.

Evidence from the operation of urban arterials in Brisbane, Australia shows that a properly enforced bus lane, operating as designed without interference, can increase passenger throughput. In 2009 and 2010 traffic surveys showed that in Brisbane on a number of urban arterials with Bus and Transit lanes, non-compliance rates were approaching 90%. Following enhanced enforcement of the lanes, non-compliance rates dropped and overall efficiency of the Bus and Transit lanes improved with an up to 12% increase in total passenger throughput in the lane. Average bus journey times dropped, in some cases, by up to 19%.[17]

Some cities, including San Francisco and New York, employ automated camera enforcement, using either stationary cameras adjacent to the bus lane, or cameras on the front of buses to automatically issue citations to vehicles obstructing the bus lane.[18][19]


Bus lanes give priority to buses, cutting down on journey times where roads are congested with other traffic and increasing the reliability of buses. The introduction of bus lanes can significantly assist in the reduction of air pollution.[20]

Bus lanes marked with colored pavement have been shown to reduce intrusions into bus lanes, speeding travel time and increasing bus reliability.[21]

Major networks

Some network lengths of bus lanes in major cities, listed by buses per km of bus lane):

CityCountryPopulation (million)Buses (#s)Population per busBus lanes (km)Buses per 1 km of bus lane
SingaporeSingapore5.53,7751,200200 (23 km are 24-hour restricted bus lane)[27]29
SeoulSouth Korea10.48,9101,167282[28]32
São PauloBrazil10.914,900[33]730155[34]96
Kunming People's Republic of China5.7~~42[35]
Beijing People's Republic of China19.626,00075429488
Hong KongHong Kong6.819,768[36]66622[37]899
New YorkUnited States8.55,7771,48080+[39]:27111
Auckland New Zealand 1.6 128 (by the end of 2017)[40]
CountryHighwayBus lanes (km)Section
South KoreaGyeongbu Expressway137.4Hannam IC (Seoul) ~ Sintanjin IC (Daejeon)
Hong KongTuen Mun Road8.5[41]So Kwun Wat ~ Sham Tseng

The busiest bus lane in the United States is the Lincoln Tunnel XBL (exclusive bus lane) along the Lincoln Tunnel Approach and Helix in Hudson County, New Jersey, which carries approximately 700 buses per hour during morning peak times an average of one bus every 5.1 seconds.[42] In contrast, the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong carries 14,500 buses per day,[43] or an average of about 605 an hour all day (not just peak times), but the bus lane must give way to all the other road users resulting in long queues of buses.


The installation of bus lanes requires additional space to either be constructed (increasing the impact of the road on the surrounding area, and possibly requiring taking of private land),[44] or space must be taken from existing lanes, reduce the space available for private vehicles.

See also


  1. Milestones in U.S. Public Transportation History Archived 7 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine (from the APTA website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  2. History of the NTD and Transit in the US Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine (from the NTD website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  3. Les zones bleues et les couloirs pour autobus (from the AMTUIR website, Musée des Transports Urbains. Retrieved 6 December 2007.(in French))
  4. "WHEN Mrs. Barbara Castle, in her role of Minister of - 15th August 1969 - The Commercial Motor Archive". archive.commercialmotor.com.
  5. Assessing travel time impacts of measures to enhance bus operations - Jepson, D.; Ferreira, L., Road & Transport Research, December 1999. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  6. Los Angeles Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine (from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission website. Retrieved 6 December 2007.)
  7. "Transit Lanes - National Association of City Transportation Officials". 18 April 2016.
  8. "Pavement Markings & Color - National Association of City Transportation Officials". National Association of City Transportation Officials. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  9. "Separation Elements - National Association of City Transportation Officials". 19 April 2016.
  10. "Signals & Operations - National Association of City Transportation Officials". National Association of City Transportation Officials. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  11. "Peak-Only Bus Lane - National Association of City Transportation Officials". National Association of City Transportation Officials. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  12. "Signs Giving Orders". Highway Code. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  13. "Shared Bus-Bike Lane - National Association of City Transportation Officials". National Association of City Transportation Officials. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  14. The Use of Bus Lanes by Motorcycles (from Traffic Advisory Leaflet 2/07, Department for Transport, United Kingdom) Archived 8 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Sustainable Safety". 2 January 2012.
  16. McNaughton, Maggie (3 October 2006). "1779 cheats spotted in single morning using bus lanes". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  17. Lyndon, S. Marinelli, P.A. Macintosh, K. and McKenzie, S. High occupancy vehicle lane enforcement: a successful trial in Brisbane by adding a splash of magenta. Proceedings of the 34th Australasian Transport Research Forum, 28–30 September 2011, Adelaide. http://www.atrf11.unisa.edu.au/PaperListing.aspx Archived 31 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  18. "Red Light Camera and Other Automated Enforcement". SFMTA. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  19. "Bus Lane Camera Violations". NYC 311. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  20. (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20110807100412/http://www.airquality.co.uk/reports/cat05/1004010934_MeasurementvsEmissionsTrends.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (February 2015). "Church Street Transit Lanes Final Report" (PDF). Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  22. "Automäärät pääkaupunkiseudun bussilinjoilla". www.kuukankorpi.com.
  23. HKL SUY D: 10/2009: Joukkoliikenteen luotettavuuden kehittämisohjelma
  24. Bus lanes (from Roads and Traffic Authority, 18 February 2008
  25. The slow lane - The Economist, Thursday 7 February 2008
  26. 2.19 Bus Services Archived 8 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine (from a report of the UK Commission for Integrated Transport, last updated Monday 28 November 2005. Accessed 21 March 2008.)
  27. "More bus lanes and bigger stops in Singapore". Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  28. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 February 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. Archived 29 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  30. Factsheet Madrid Archived 16 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  31. "Berita – PT Transportasi Jakarta". Archived from the original on 23 June 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012. (Jakarta Trans Jakarta official website. Accessed 26 June 2012.)
  32. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (Bogotá TransMilenio official website. Accessed 5 April 2009.)
  33. Frota das linhas municipais de ônibus Archived 19 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 27 March 2008.)
  34. Extensão dos corredores Archived 23 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine (São Paulo local government website. Accessed 27 March 2008.)
  35. "BRT Developments in China" (PDF).
  36. Hong Kong The facts (Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, July 2009, from the Hong Kong Transport Department website. Accessed 16 September 2008.)
  37. Transport in Hong Kong > Public Transport > Buses Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine (from the Hong Kong Transport Department website. Accessed 16 September 2008.)
  38. Berger, Michael (8 April 2008). "Busspur für Zweiräder". Kurier (in German). Vienna, Austria. p. 20.
  39. http://www.nctr.usf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/jpt16.4_Agrawal.pdf
  40. "New Bus Priority coming". Greater Auckland. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  41. "Transport Department - Transport Department". www.td.gov.hk.
  42. Archived 13 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  43. http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201003/03/P201003030140_0140_62651.doc
  44. Dearnaley, Mathew (12 March 2007). "Transport plan will force homes and businesses to move". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
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