For a couple of weeks I’ve seen on the message boards on I-40 that buses will soon be using the shoulders. I went to
Ottowa Ottawa once for my former newspaper to look at that city’s busways, lanes dedicated to buses, usually with Jersey barrier on each side. The Canadian busways, as I remember them, had the advantage, though, of uninterrupted travel. A shoulder on a U.S. interstate does not.
As I drove from Durham to Raleigh this morning I paid attention to the shoulders on I-40 East. The first thing one notices is that they are not continuous. Shoulders peter out, stop, start, disappear, and reappear with regularity. I don’t see any way that the right shoulders can be used safely. A bus driver would have to have every inch of the erratic nature of shoulders memorized, and I doubt it that’s going to be part of their training. Add to that the iffy nature of pulling out into rush-hour traffic when a shoulder’s terminus is looming and you have a very dangerous situation.
All shoulders run eventually into on or off ramps. What will the bus do when it reaches one of these and is blocked by heavy traffic on the left of the bus? Will the driver barrel across the entrance of an off ramp, disregarding vehicles in the actual lane of travel that might want to exit the highway? Will they do the same at on ramps, disregarding vehicles coming down from their right? Or will they slam on their brakes and wait for the on and off ramps to clear?
If buses continually move to the shoulder and then move back into the right lane when the shoulder disappears, it won’t be long before all other drivers learn not to get anywhere near the right lane, which sort of defeats the purpose of augmenting the travel lanes, doesn’t it.
Count me very skeptical of this latest experiment.
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