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City, transit agency want bus-only lane pilot program, but how to pay for it?

Would require infrastructure improvements on Main
Posted: 2:39 PM, May 09, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-09 18:39:45Z

CINCINNATI -- The city's transportation department and the regional transit authority both want to implement a pilot program to test a dedicated bus lane on Main Street during rush hour, but they don't know how to pay for it.

That was the message from acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney in a report prepared for Mayor John Cranley and members of City Council, released Wednesday.

Six council members in March signed a motion directing the administration to study the feasibility of piloting a dedicated bus lane on Main Street between Government Square and Central Parkway during afternoon rush hour.

"The Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) and SORTA supports a simplified pilot project for a dedicated bus lane... however, the request requires considerable infrastructure work which is cost prohibitive," Duhaney wrote.

SORTA is the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which owns and operates Cincinnati Metro bus service.

Main Street at Seventh Street features a curb "bump out," where the curb extends out into the street to decrease the length of the crosswalk. (Google Maps)

Duhaney said implementing the pilot would cost roughly $150,000, for infrastructure work that includes traffic signal, striping and signage improvements as well as removing the curb bump out at the northeast corner of Main and Seventh streets.

The grassroots transit advocacy group, the Better Bus Coalition, first proposed the pilot program in March . It would dedicate the far right lane of Main Street between Fifth Street and Central Parkway to bus travel only during evening rush hours of 3-6 p.m., leaders told City Council during a March 13 hearing. The proposed trial would not impact current on-street parking and loading zones, which are already suspended during peak drive times.

Better Bus Coalition President Cam Hardy told council members that this would be a first step toward a more reliable Metro system.

Proposed Main Street rush hour transit-only lanes, with priority signals throughout. (Provided)

"Our goal is to provide council with realistic solutions to help improve transit in our region," he said. "This sets the stage for more bus stop infrastructure."

The proposal comes alongside an in-progress traffic signal study, meant to optimize traffic flow for all road users in the often clogged Downtown streets.

"Since this pilot project would be part of our transportation system, the entire system should be analyzed," Duhaney wrote in his report. The DOTE has requested its consultant on the traffic signal study to incorporate another feasibility study of the dedicated bus lane in its modeling for an improved Downtown traffic signal grid.

Duhaney said DOTE expects results from the traffic signal study by late November 2018.

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