Our current bus-only lanes don’t perform at an optimal level (and don’t inspire public confidence as a rapid public transit tool) since they are sometimes clogged with people illegally parking or driving in them. The Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lanes are often blocked by cars using them to illegally park, Uber and Lyft dropoffs and drivers using them to get around traffic. Drivers get away with it because parking officers can only be in so many places at one time.
A study from the DC Metro region has shown that automated camera enforcement (not red paint or signage) is the best method of enforcement for bus only lanes. Since bus lanes are critical to meeting so many of the Metro’s goals — such as increasing bus speeds, providing high quality mobility options, creating outstanding trip experiences, and providing reliable options to bypass congestion — enforcement technology has become a key focus.
Enter the Metro Unsolicited Proposal (UP) process. In 2018, Metro received a UP proposal from CarmaCam to test an automated camera cell-phone application to assess the magnitude of bus-lane violations — i.e. how many cars were illegally using the bus lane. We conducted a free proof of concept which proved that the application worked in capturing images of infractions and found that the Wilshire Bus Lanes had a car parked or driving in the lane every four minutes during the five effective lane hours (7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.).
With data that shows the scale of the problem, Metro is pursuing options for automated camera technology to assist with enforcement of the bus lanes both with our partner city agencies and at the state legislative level.
Many transportation authorities have front-mounted automated cameras on their buses to catch bus lane infractions (including agencies in San Francisco, New York, Seattle and London). However, these cities all undertook many steps to enable legislative authority to get those cameras.
Also promising (and maybe with a shorter implementation timeline) is teaming parking enforcement officers with automated camera technology like that used in Metro Parking lots, San Luis Obispo and in Sacramento as a second pair of eyes.
In either case, we are pursuing partnerships, legislation and innovative technology solutions to get our buses moving faster to get our customers where they need to go.
Avital Shavit is a Senior Manager in the Office of Extraordinary Innovation. Luis Garcia is an Intern with the Office of Extraordinary Innovation.