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Portland’s first red bus lane will be installed today


Red lanes will hopefully fix this.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We cannot combat climate change without dramatic changes to the way we currently live.”
— Chloe Eudaly, PBOT Commissioner

The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced yesterday they plan to install our first-ever red transit lane today on SW Main Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

This is a small yet important step in PBOT and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s larger Rose Lane Project which will use red to give bus operators priority on a network of routes citywide. As we reported earlier this month, the move comes after PBOT won federal approval to use the red treatment.

In a statement, Commissioner Eudaly said this move is about changing behaviors and tackling climate change. “We cannot combat climate change without dramatic changes to the way we currently live… These new red lanes signal our commitment to doing everything we can to make transit an attractive option for more Portlanders and prioritizing tangible climate action in the face of looming climate catastrophe.”

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Bicycle users will still have to contend with bus operators merging left after 2nd Ave and auto users turning right.

This one block of SW Main currently has four lanes; two standard lanes, one bike-only lane and one bus only lane. PBOT installed the bus and bike lane in December 2017. At that time we reported that advocates — and former PBOT Director Leah Treat — wanted the agency to do more to improve the street. The two requests were to prohibit auto users from making right turns onto 2nd Avenue and to move the bus stop one block west. Both moves would have improved conditions for bicycle riders. In the end, PBOT said those changes were beyond the scope of the project (which originated as a simple repave and didn’t include time or resources for more holistic changes, the said).

The work being done Wednesday will fill in the existing bus-only lane with red coloring. No other changes are currently planned. That means bicycle users will still have to contend with bus operators merging left across the bike lane (because it moves to curbside west of 2nd) and auto users turning right at 2nd).

PBOT hopes these new red lanes prevent drivers from using the bus lane. As we’ve seen in New York City, when coupled with good design and enforcement, red transit lanes work. Since this is an experiment, PBOT says they’ll partner with Portland State University to collect before-and-after data to evaluate the project’s impact on bus speeds and driver compliance.

If this goes according to plan, PBOT says they plan to roll out similar treatments at NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and Lloyd Blvd, NE Grand and Burnside, and NE Grand and Couch. Below is a map of the other locations and drawings of the potential implementations (from PBOT’s page on the red lane experiment):

We are yet to learn details of more robust implementations planned as part of Commissioner Eudaly’s Rose Lane Project. A city council date for those plans has been set for February 2020.

UPDATE: Nick Falbo just posted a live look at the red going in:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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