Cincinnati is studying the possibility of adding a bus only lane to Reading Road in Avondale. Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld had introduced a motion in September 2019 asking officials to study the idea.
Sittenfeld said there are a significant number of Cincinnati Metro bus routes that use the Reading Road corridor.
"This specific one that we're looking at would be Reading Road between William Howard Taft and Paddock Road," Sittenfeld said. "So really, I mean it's basically trying to maximize the bang for buck, the return on investment. And I would also note, of course this is good for bus riders because they can get from A to B more efficiently and more reliably."
Sittenfeld had also supported the pilot project for a bus only lane that's currently on Main Street in Downtown Cincinnati. He said even though that one is limited to a "handful" of blocks, it has been a success and improved the reliability of the bus system.
"As a result, riders can kind of better trust that the scheduled trip time will be their actual trip time without downtown congestion making them late," Sittenfeld said. "A lot of these things fit together holistically. So, the more people have trust in the reliability of the bus system, that in turn ends up increasing ridership."
Sittenfeld said the idea is to expand the program to areas where "it’s feasible and it would make a big difference."
He said community "buy in" has to be a part of the process and he admits there could be some tradeoffs for the neighborhood.
"Making sure that they say yes, we see this as a benefit and an improvement for our neighborhood," Sittenfeld said. "Our next immediate step is in consultation with Metro, with the Better Bus Coalition, really engaging the community to gauge if this is something they want and feel like would add benefit."
The city administration report on the Reading Road bus only lane was released in June.
It found the cost for the project would be about $300,000. That includes pavement tattoos, new signs, additional line stripping, staff oversight and signal retiming.
The city and the neighborhood would also have to decide if that proposal would be 24-hours a day, or only during the morning and evening commutes.
The city report did list several challenges. Those include:
- Enforcement of a bus-only lane along this stretch of Reading Road will be an additional task for law enforcement. Given the relatively short distance of the Main Street bus-only lane, enforcement of no parking is handled relatively well. However, given the longer distance of a Reading Road bus-only lane, enforcement would require a significant investment in law enforcement time.
- Within the proposed bus-only lane corridor, Reading Road currently has two travel lanes in each direction. Converting the curb lane to a bus-only lane would leave one travel lane in each direction for remaining traffic. DOTE staff requested that the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) use their travel demand model to run a scenario with only one through lane in each direction on Reading Road to determine how that would impact traffic. That model indicated that some drivers would select other routes. The alternate routes are often through neighborhoods. The unintended consequences of travel lane reductions (designating a bus-only lane) may affect the adjacent transportation network.
- Currently there are dual left turn lanes from Martin Luther King Boulevard, both east and westbound, to Reading Road. Implementation of a bus-only lane would require this intersection be restriped with only one left turn lane from Martin Luther King to northbound Reading Road and one left turn lane from Martin Luther King to southbound Reading Road.
- Finally, a portion of the east side of Reading Road, between Glenwood Avenue and Avondale Avenue, currently allows off-peak parking (no parking between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for morning rush hour; no parking between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for afternoon rush hour). Implementation of a bus-only lane in this area would mean on-street parking would no longer be available here.
A council committee is expected to discuss the proposal at a meeting in August.
Sittenfeld said if the city can show people that bus only lanes are successful, other neighborhoods will likely be interested in having them in the future.