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BBS? A more Efficient Way to Travel

BBS, what’s that? Bus-Bypass Shoulders. What that means is that during peak congestion hours on highways buses have the right of way on the shoulders and can pass slower moving traffic. Back in August I wrote an article for Traffic Technology  International on the benefits of BBS. (It can be found here).

Last week I had the opportunity to tour some of the highway construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area. There were a few things that shocked me:

  • All of the GO Rail-Station parking lots that we passed were at capacity.
  • There were no GO Buses seen all day
  • The highway tapered very quickly to the east of Toronto causing congestion throughout most of the day

Some interesting notions were raised by the other individuals on the construction tour, which included:

  • Tiered parking at the GO-station lots to increase parking capacity. It was also noted that the GO train frequently is also at capacity, which means more trains would also be required
  • What about alternate public transportation in getting to the GO station? One co-worker said that when he was in university that the Burlington transit was free for students if they had a GO-Bus/Rail ticket from that day. It was to encourage students to not drive to school and use public transportation. The scheme worked and many students chose to use the GO-Burlington system.
  • Have more buses running. They should have more frequent stops than the rail and should link up with local transit stops. But they also must be almost as efficient as the rail. (In order to do this, they need their own lane or BBS)

The above raises other concerns. There was some discussion around the fact that commuters do not like to pay for transit twice. Although there has been some discussion around the PRESTO card (a multi-transit card) there has not been much, if any, discussion around combined lower transit fares.

From this the discussion, eliminating or minimizing the parking lots was also discussed. Why not continue to operate the parking lots as they are and promote people to either be dropped off or to take transit? This comes back to a matter of convenience. For some individuals public transit or drop-off is not possible and thus If an individual can find parking easily they are more likely to use the GO system. Minimizing car trips should be our goal, not eliminating them.

So what does all of this have to do with the Bus System?

Buses can provide, along with the trains, a greater transportation network. The rail stations are spaced quite far apart. GO Buses could run in between to smaller, commuter lots that are closer to individuals homes. Plus if they are on the highway shoulders than they can continue to run efficiently. Alternatively if the buses run efficiently on the highways than both the buses and rail can work in conjunction with one and other to improve overall transit needs.

GO transit has a large fleet of buses that it can use. Buses are also cheaper and faster to construct than a train. In essence buses should remain a part of the future transportation solution.

Comments

Comment from Aaron Grossman
Time October 15, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Hey Sasha
great article, This BBS sounds great only issue is really emergency vehicle access (thats why the shoulders are there) Busses ought to be able to get out of the way however.
One item of concern for me is possible Go Bus and eventually rail transit to Kitchener they are talking about this but itll be years before they do anything. Guelph has Go busses, but enough people from Kitchener are traveling to Toronto for work.

Talk to you soon

AG

Comment from Sasha
Time October 17, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Agreed. Yes the shoulders were designed for emergency vehicle access. Both in Minneapolis and Ottawa, where they have extensive BBS systems, bus drivers undergo a series of training for dealing with disabled vehicles, emergency vehicles, police vehicles, broken-down vehicles and snow. Drivers are taught to merge back into the right-hand lane and to go around the impedence.

It may be years before Kitchener gets a GO bus, which is very unfortunate. Particularly because KW is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. People who live and commute would definitely appreciate GO Bus and Rail service. It would also be a benefit to those who come into the city infrequently.

Comment from david
Time October 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I know you’re all “Toronto’ but you might be interested in doing an article about the NCC is refusing to let OC transpo have the new lane on the 417 for a bus only /BBS “transit way’ lane.

Comment from Sasha
Time October 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I will definitely have to look at the propsed new 417.
I know that Ottawa has been at the forefront of BBS for Canada and are just behind Minneapolis in the North American spectrum.
Thanks for the idea Dave

Comment from David
Time October 20, 2008 at 4:59 pm

i had no idea Ottawa was so forward thinking (especially with our back ass wards train, which runs north/south, while people live east/west). Now i really am curious why the bus lane has been refused???