By Chad Felton, The News-Herald
Last September, in a partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation, Laketran initiated Bus on Shoulder, a pilot program authorizing Park-n-Ride buses to bypass rush hour traffic moving slower than 30 miles per hour along the Interstate 90/Route 2 eastbound and westbound shoulders from the Euclid Spur to downtown Cleveland.
During the first month of the program, drivers reported using the shoulder an average of two times per week, resulting in much faster travel times for commuters. Shortly thereafter, the transit agency expanded the service by permanently launching the program.
Deputy General Manager Ben Capelle said while Bus on Shoulder runs “pretty frequently,” several factors are considered for its usage. “There are a lot of variables — congestion, accidents, weather — that impact how often we use the shoulders. Our 7:15 a.m. departure from Mentor Park-n-Ride uses it almost daily, where the 7:00 a.m. departure, just 15 minutes earlier, may only use it once a week. When there’s a major accident, all 18 departures use it. “What became surprising to me is how well ODOT has kept the shoulders clean, even though the winter storms, so we’ve been able to operate the program year around,” he said.
Julia Schick, director of marketing and public relations, said the program adheres to strict parameters to ensure all-around safety on the road. “The speed limit for buses traveling on the shoulder is 35 miles per hour and areas where Bus on Shoulder is in effect are marked with ‘Authorized Buses Only’ signs.”
Entrance and exit ramps along the highway are treated as a yield signs, according to the company. “Our riders are very happy with the (Bus on Shoulder) outcome, but since the program is still relatively new, we still get calls from the public who see our buses driving on the shoulder, thinking that it’s illegal,” Schick said. “We want people to know this program was put in place to promote the use of public transportation and avoid the need to expand the highway infrastructure (for a high-occupancy vehicle lane), which in the end saves taxpayers money.”
Laketran Board of Trustees President Brian Falkowski said the agency has been very happy with the customer response from the Bus on Shoulder program. “We are continuously looking for ways to add value to the customer experience and this program helps guarantees on-time arrival, despite traffic conditions,” he said. “It’s a win-win because by staying on time we operate more efficiently and the customers get where they need to go without all the delays traffic can cause. This fantastic program has been a terrific addition to our Park-n-Ride service.”