OmniRide to Participate in Bus-on-Shoulder Pilot Program

| March 11, 2015 | 0 Comments | News
This screen shot of a bus operating on the shoulder in Minneapolis, is taken from a video being used to train PRTC bus operators.

This screen shot of a bus operating on the shoulder in Minneapolis, is taken from a video being used to train PRTC bus operators.

From Christine Rodrigo of Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, followed by information provided by VDOT

Something new is coming for PRTC’s I-66 commuters. Starting March 23, PRTC’s OmniRide commuter buses will be authorized to drive on the paved shoulders in specific areas of I-66 inside the Beltway when the regular lanes are highly congested as part of a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) one-year pilot program.

Allowing authorized transit buses with trained bus operators to drive on the right shoulder of the highway will provide PRTC’s Manassas OmniRide and Gainesville OmniRide commuters with a faster trip that adheres more closely with scheduled arrival and departure times in heavy traffic.

“Our passengers desire a reliable trip to work and home. Being able to operate on the shoulders when the regular lanes are congested will help PRTC meet our riders’ expectations,” Eric Marx, PRTC’s Director of Planning and Operations, said.

VDOT is authorizing PRTC buses to use the right shoulder in designated areas when traffic in the regular lanes slows below 35 mph. The maximum speed when driving on the shoulder will be 25 mph. Even when conditions meet VDOT requirements, shoulder use is optional based on each individual bus operators’ professional judgment and the roadway conditions.

Training for bus operators is required on topics such as safely moving onto the shoulder and back onto the main lanes, driving on the shoulder at exit and entrance ramps, and avoiding stalled vehicles on shoulders. Buses operating on the shoulders will be required to yield to all other vehicles. Signs have been placed on I-66 to alert all motorists to the use of shoulders by buses.

The three areas where PRTC buses may use the right shoulder are:

  • Eastbound on I-66 for 1.3 miles between the Route 29/Lee Highway overpass to North Quinn Street, just before the Rosslyn Tunnel;
  • Westbound I-66 for 1.5 miles from North Nash Street just beyond the Rosslyn Tunnel to the Route 29/Lee Highway overpass near Spout Run Parkway; and
  • Westbound I-66 for 1.1 miles from the North Quincy Street overpass and connecting to the 1.6 mile auxiliary lane that ends at the Sycamore Street off-ramp.

VDOT has approved another segment of roadway for bus on shoulder operations, however PRTC does not operate in that area. This pilot location runs along the eastbound Dulles Connector Road extending from the existing bus on shoulder lane that ends at the ramp to the West Falls Church Metro Station to the merge onto eastbound I-66 near the Great Falls Street overpass.

Allowing buses to use the shoulders is a low-cost way of providing immediate benefits to transit whenever there is moderate to heavy congestion.

Visit PRTCtransit.org for a map showing the designated areas of I-66 where buses can operate on the shoulders and for a listing of frequently asked questions about the program.

Here is more information about the I-66 Bus-on-Shoulder Pilot Program: Inside the Beltway as provided by The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Q. What is the Bus-on-Shoulder pilot?

A. The Bus-on-Shoulder (BOS) operation allows authorized transit buses with trained drivers to operate on paved shoulders at certain locations on I-66 inside the Beltway at low speeds during periods of congestion to bypass traffic and maintain transit schedules. BOS is a low-cost treatment that can provide immediate benefits to transit whenever there is moderate-to-heavy congestion.

Q. What are authorized transit buses?

A. Transit agencies that have a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with VDOT on the conditions of operations on the shoulders are considered authorized buses. The MOU with VDOT requires driver training and insurance and has to be executed by the Transit Agency and the Commissioner of Highways.

Q. Where will buses be able to use the shoulder?

A. VDOT is implementing this pilot along I-66 inside the Beltway. The BOS operation will be permitted in the following locations (See map below):

 On eastbound Dulles Connector Road, extending the existing BOS operation which ends at the ramp to the West Falls Church Metro station, to the merge onto eastbound I-66 near the Great Falls Street overpass

 On eastbound I-66 from the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway to N. Quinn Street

 On westbound I-66 from beyond the Rosslyn Tunnel (N. Nash Street) to the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway

 On westbound I-66 from the North Quincy Street underpass to the auxiliary lane beyond Fairfax Drive

VDOT Bus-on-Shoulder Pilot Locations: I-66 Inside the Beltway

VDOT Bus-on-Shoulder Pilot Locations: I-66 Inside the Beltway

Q. When will buses be able to travel on the shoulder?

A. Authorized transit buses will be permitted to travel on paved shoulders in the pilot area when traffic in the main lanes does not exceed 35 miles per hour. Authorized transit buses will be able to travel on the shoulder at speeds up to 25 mph. There are no time-of-day restrictions for BOS operations on I-66 as long as the maximum speed thresholds are met. The timing for BOS operations on the Dulles Connector Road will be per the timings on the signs posted.

Q. If I have an emergency, will I still be able to use the shoulder?

A. Shoulder use for emergencies will continue to take precedence over BOS operation. At all times, authorized transit buses traveling on the shoulder must yield to all other vehicles.

Q. Will all buses travel on the shoulders when speed thresholds are met?

A. No. Only authorized transit buses with trained operators are permitted to travel on the shoulders during periods of congestion. When speeds in the main lanes permit shoulder travel, trained bus operators may elect to use only portions of the shoulder, or none at all, depending on their professional judgment of the conditions on the roadway. PRTC buses are the first authorized for this BOS pilot. It is anticipated that public transit operators Loudoun Transit, Fairfax Connector and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority may join the BOS pilot project in the future.

Q. Will signs be installed along I-66 to alert drivers to the BOS pilot project?

A. Yes. “Shoulder: Authorized Buses Only” signs have been installed on I-66 every half-mile and at the beginning and end of each BOS pilot location.

Q. Are other states using bus-on-shoulder operations?

A. BOS operations have been used successfully in more than 12 states. States that currently use BOS on one or more roadways include: South region: NC, FL, GA Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region: NJ, DE, MD Midwest region: OH, MN, IL, KS West region: CA, WA The Minneapolis-St. Paul region alone has nearly 300 shoulder-miles of bus shoulder in operation since it began approximately 20 years ago. The I-66 BOS pilot program is modeled after the successful bus-on-shoulders program in Minnesota.

Q. I don’t plan to ride the bus. How will I benefit from BOS operation?

A. BOS is a cost-effective way to make bus travel more attractive and more efficient, which can increase transit ridership, save public transit funds and/or allow them to provide more transit service options. The more people use transit as a viable and reliable travel option, the more performance of the overall transportation system is improved.

Q. Who is leading the BOS initiative?

A. VDOT is the primary implementation agency for the BOS pilot on I-66, and is working closely with Virginia State Police and local and regional transit operators to complete the pilot.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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