Are bus lanes a waste?

TRANSIT took note of this article in the Star Metro, a further exploration of the bus lanes issue that has cropped up recently.

Moaz from TRANSIT was interviewed and expressed TRANSIT’s views about bus lanes, which are:

  • That they need to be improved;
  • That they need to be continuous;
  • That they need to be enforced;
  • That they need to be physically separated from other traffic (kerbs, not paint);
  • That they should be for buses, not buses and taxis;
  • That, wherever possible bus lanes should be replaced by bus-rapid transit

Bus lanes are a waste, say motorists (Star Metro)

Wednesday April 21, 2010
By CHOONG MEK ZHIN
metro@thestar.com.my

THE imbalance of the planning and operation of the public bus system in Kuala Lumpur is causing a growing dissatisfaction among other road users, particularly when the dedicated bus lanes are misused or under-used.

Retiree Yoong Choon Sah, 58, said the lanes were used by few buses and taxis and he did not see any justification for creating them in the first place.

“The bus lanes were first implemented sometime in the mid-1990s to ease congestion and improve our public transportation system.

“The objective has not been met so bus lanes are just wasting precious space,” Yoong said.

Not in use: A lot of buses and taxis use Jalan Raja Laut but most do not seem to use the bus lane after the Bandaraya LRT station. Image courtesy of The Star

Yoong said during non-peak hours, police officers would sometimes be present to issue summonses to vehicles misusing the lane.

“Jalan Syed Putra heading to Petaling Jaya, for instance, will be congested at about 3.30pm on these occasions because of the presence of policemen who stop the cars by the side of the lane, causing congestion,” Yoong said.

He added that during the rush hour, policemen would direct traffic into the lane, which defeated its purpose.

In the way: Inconsiderate motorists who park in the bus lanes also add to the congestion. Image courtesy of The Star.

“The lane is to make public transportation more efficient. By clogging it up, especially during rush hour, the lane loses its purpose,” Yoong said.

Traffic consultant Goh Bok Yen from MAG Technical & Development Consultants Sdn Bhd said bus operators in the city do not have enough buses to fully use the lanes.

“For example, a stretch of Jalan Ampang between KLCC and the monorail line was converted into a one-way road with a contra-flow bus lane. It was removed eventually so all vehicles can use it again because there were not enough buses or taxis using it,” Goh said.

He said the bus lanes were located along arterial roads like Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Syed Putra, Jalan Ipoh and Jalan Raja Laut, which were busy roads.

“These roads have been correctly identified by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as locations in need of bus lanes. Buses use road space effectively simply because they can carry more passengers than cars using the same amount of space,” he said.

Goh said the bus lanes could be improved by using new enforcement technology and changing as well as enhancing the existing system.

Not in use: The usually empty bus and taxi lanes like this one along Jalan Syed Putra are causing a growing dissatisfaction among road users who see it as a waste of space. Image courtesy of The Star.

“The bus lanes in the city today are only identified by permanent markings on the road. There is a need to put physical barriers at the lanes that have a low capacity so no other vehicles would be able to use it,” Goh said.

High capacity areas popular for passenger pick ups should not have barriers so buses are able to break out of the flow when necessary and not congest their own lane.

Goh and Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (TRANSIT) chairman and adviser Moaz Yusof Ahmad both felt that implementing a contra-flow for bus lanes and having median bus lanes would improve the system.

Goh said contra-flow was aimed at ensuring that bus efficiency was not disrupted and should be used particularly during peak traffic hours.

Defeating the purpose: At peak hours, traffic policemen will divert regular motorists onto the bus lanes, leaving taxis and buses stuck in traffic as well. Image courtesy of The Star.

“However, this will only be successful if the bus lanes are interconnected and form a complete route. Otherwise, the buses will get caught in a traffic jam where there are no bus lanes,” Goh said, adding that buses must be given priority at junctions and traffic lights as well.

Moaz said the concept, which sends a roughly huge bus coming from the opposite direction, would deter motorists from using the lane due to psychological reasons.

Currently, enforcement of bus lanes against offending motorists are done by physical enforcement which can also lead to congestion.

Goh cited a good enforcement system such as the London’s CCTV on buses that used a psychological approach to prevent people from using the bus lane thus eliminating the need for enforcement officers to be physically present.

“The CCTV’s purpose is to capture images of the vehicle misusing the lane. London takes it a step further by immediately displaying the plate number on its Variable Message Signboard (VMS),” Goh said.

Another suggestion he made was to provide a lay-by where officers can direct the offending vehicle without blocking oncoming traffic.

Goh said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) was mainly blamed, particularly when it came to bus lanes.

“It is unfair to blame them. I believe the real problem is not the bus lanes but that the bus companies do not have enough buses to use the lanes thus people see them empty and feel it is an unjustified use of space,” Goh said.

He also said the DBKL, as a planning authority, had to continuously review the system and improve as well as use new technology for better efficiency.

“We need a total revamp. We need a comprehensive system that coordinates the many different transportation modes available so that people can enjoy as seamless and hassle-free journey as possible,” Goh said, adding that the system should be demand-driven with the passenger’s needs in mind.

He said roads should be planned according to transportation mode, priority and the area.

TRANSIT Says:

As you know, TRANSIT strongly supports the idea of bus lanes.

First, because they are a way to encourage the reliability and frequency of public transport to improve to a level where people will be confident to use public transport.

Second, because a bus carrying 80 people is moving more people using less road space than the equivalent 70-80 cars (based on the average occupancy that is close to 1 passenger per vehicle).

In other words, buses should be separated from cars and other traffic using bus lanes, and this is because buses can move more people than cars.

TRANSIT also supports the concept of lateral segregation – physical separation of our roads to meet the needs of different types of traffic – provided that it is designed safely and effectively.

The best experience that we have with real lateral segregation is the construction of separate motorcycle lanes on some expressways in the Klang Valley. The same concept can and should be applied to separate bus lanes from ‘regular’ traffic.

What are your thoughts about bus lanes? Please comment below or send an email to klangvalley.transit@gmail.com, or use our twitter @transitmy or facebook TRANSIT-Malaysia.

You can also take our poll:

Thank you!

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5 thoughts on “Are bus lanes a waste?”

  1. Basically the bus lane is useless in Kl, ppl still park their car on the lane and during congestion time the lane is for everybody. Then the bus also didnt use the lane sometimes. Some metrobus use the lane and drive extremely slow to drag up more times. Some bus lane is too small for the bus.

  2. i agree with YBF. i notice along Jalan Ipoh, near Dynasty Hotel, many cars are parked on the left most lane. why is that happening on one of the busiest roads in KL? I believe it is happening on all busy roads all over KL. maybe we should have a more radical change, like the one i saw on TV about seoul’s bus lanes, where to move it to the fastest lane. but if there is no enforcement, it won’t succeed anyway,

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