City to test its first-ever bus-only traffic lane Downtown

Posted at 4:38 PM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-12 01:18:52-04

CINCINNATI -- Downtown will soon see the city's first bus-only traffic lane.

In a 5-0 vote, City Council's Education, Innovation and Growth Committee approved a plan to test restricting traffic on Main Street's right parking lane between Government Square and Central Parkway. Once implemented, only bus traffic will be allowed to use that lane during the afternoon rush hours.

Parking is already restricted in that lane between 4 and 6 p.m., so no existing Downtown parking will disappear. The pilot program will measure the impact on traffic and arrival times for the multiple bus routes that use the corridor.

The bus-only lane would take over the right parking lane on Main Street between Fifth and Main steets during the afternoon rush. (Provided)

P.G. Sittenfeld -- the councilman who led the push to implement the pilot -- said bus-only traffic lanes are part of what makes a city competitive to attracting young talent.

"I think this is a big deal," he said Tuesday. "I think cities that are growing, that are serious about their density, that are serious about treating employers and commuters equally have this. This is not our end goal; it's only the beginning."

The plan also received the endorsement of the city administration, the Downtown Residents' Council and Downtown Cincinnati, Inc.

The grassroots transit advocacy group, the Better Bus Coalition, first proposed the pilot program back in March. Since, they gathered the support of all five committee members.

Council members did have questions, though: Chiefly, some wanted to know how the administration planned to educate the public to the new rule and how it would be enforced.

"Just because we make a law doesn't mean people will follow it," said Councilman Chris Seelbach. "This won't work unless we're serious about changing people's behavior."

Seelbach's comments came hot off the heels of a committee meeting last week during which members discussed how to address problems surrounding the newly-arrived rental e-scooters.

"People aren't supposed to ride those on the sidewalk, but they do it anyway," he said.

To make room for a bus-only lane, the city will remove this curb "bump-out" at Main and Seventh streets in downtown Cincinnati. (Pat LaFleur/WCPO)

Sittenfeld said he worried about the prospect of granting Downtown drivers a grace period to adjust to the new rules

"If we're lax on this at the beginning, that will send the exact opposite impression we want to on this," he said.

The city's transit manager, John Brazina was at Tuesday's meeting and presented details of the plan. He said his department would develop strategies to address these concerns before implementing the pilot.

"We do have all of that in our minds to follow through before we implement anything," he told council members.

The plan will also require removing a curb "bump-out" at the intersection of Seventh and Main streets, which currently obstructs the flow of traffic in the right-most lane. That and additional signage and re-striping of the sidewalk should cost around $55,000, Brazina said.

Transportation director Don Gindling couldn't give a specific timeline for implementation of the program, saying he wanted to consult with contractors for an accurate estimate. Sittenfeld asked Gindling and Brazina to report to council one more time before implementing, with a plan for outreach and enforcement strategies.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.