Cincinnati's First Rush Hour Bus-Only Lane Has Launched

The pilot program will test the effectiveness of keeping cars out of the right lane of Main Street downtown from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

click to enlarge A bus at Government Square just before turning onto Main Street - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
A bus at Government Square just before turning onto Main Street

Starting Nov. 5, you'll want to stay out of the right-most lane on Main Street between Government Square and Central Parkway, at least between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The launch of the bus-only lane is a pilot program to test out the concept advocated by transit activist group the Better Bus Coalition and passed by Cincinnati City Council earlier this year. The goal is to speed up bus service in one of the city's busiest corridors, hopefully improving service system-wide. Government Square is the city's central bus hub, and more than 600 buses travel the stretch every weekday, according to Metro. Only about 90 of those use the right lane on Main Street to pick passengers up at bus stops, however.

In addition to some signage and paint marking the new restricted lane, the city had to remove a pedestrian bump-out to make way for the lane.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will measure the effectiveness of the lane over the next few months by comparing on-time rates for buses that use that route before and after the lane's launch.

Folks who aren't driving buses will still be able to make right turns onto Seventh Street and to enter and exit parking lots.

"The goal is to move people — to move people in a way that is better, faster, smarter, and more cost-effective," Councilman P.G Sittenfeld, who sponsored council's motion, said at a ribbon-cutting for the lane. "But when we talk about moving people, I think that double-meaning is also fitting: Because if we get this right, what it really means is that people are spending less time on their commute, and more time with family, more time volunteering, more time doing the things they love. And that’s a pretty profound thing to be able to give back to our community." 

SORTA board members, staff from the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering and others joined in the official launch. Cam Hardy, the president of the Better Bus Coalition, says the lane is just the beginning.

"We made history today as we cut the ribbon of the first ever bus only lane in history of the city," he tweeted after helping cut the ribbon. "We will work with the city to ensure its enforcement and we hope that after this is successful we can roll out more."

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