Service for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)’s first Bus-on-Shoulder program launched on Sunday. The innovative transit project on Interstate 275, will also be the state’s first on an Interstate.
“This enhancement will help riders safely arrive at their destinations on time, even during heavy traffic,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “Bottom line, this will improve the reliability of travel times for PSTA riders on I-275, especially those on Route 100x and this will make transit more appealing.”
Already used in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Raleigh, Bus-on-Shoulder is a quick, cost-effective way to provide premium service. It also makes transit more attractive, especially during rush hours.
As part of the FDOT/PSTA program, specially wrapped PSTA buses will be allowed to drive on the shoulders of I-275 between 5th Avenue North to Gandy Blvd in St. Petersburg when traffic speeds drop below 35 miles per hour. To accommodate the program, northbound and southbound shoulders along the I-275 route were widened and hardened.
Buses using the shoulder will travel at a maximum speed of 35 mph and will never travel at a speed higher than 15 mph over general traffic. Officials warn vehicles entering, I-275 via on-ramps will need to yield to the bus if it is riding on the shoulder.
To ensure safety and help alert drivers of oncoming buses on shoulder, Bus on Shoulder Signals (BOSS) have been installed at the 38th Avenue and 54th Avenue interchange on-ramps in the northbound and southbound directions. These are similar to traditional signals at an intersection; however, BOSS have a red light only. When a bus is approaching on the shoulder, the BOSS will turn red, stopping oncoming ramp traffic for a few seconds. Once the bus safely passes the on ramp, the BOSS will go dark (i.e., turn off), and traffic can proceed as normal.
Private vehicles, including privately owned over-the-road-coaches, and school buses will still not be permitted to drive on any shoulder. However, the shoulders remain available for emergency use during and outside of bus-on-shoulder operations.