Part 7: Transit Priority Measures

Disclaimer: Legacy Content

The information on this page is derived from Moving Forward Together Plan, approved by Halifax Regional Council in 2016. Minor adjustments to route numbering and route planning have since been made and approved in Halifax Transit Annual Service Plans. 

7    Transit Priority: Giving Transit The Advantage

Transit Priority Measures (TPMs) are interventions which provides transit vehicles with a competitive time advantage over private vehicles. They can be physical or policy related, and may be as simple as Yield to Bus Legislation (introduced in Nova Scotia May 1, 2011) or as significant as the bus-only roadway known as the Transitway in Ottawa.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to giving transit priority, but often there are multiple TPMs which could be implemented in isolation or along a corridor to provide faster and more reliable transit service. The Transportation Association of Canada’s Guidelines for Planning and Implementation of Transit Priority Measures (2013) includes a number of TPMs that are used in Canada. The table below summarizes some of the more common TPMs that have been considered by Halifax Transit, and the transit issues that they can resolve:

Transit Priority Measure Queue jump lane/ Queue bypass lane
Benefit to Transit  
•    Use of a turn lane or conducting a movement that is not available to general traffic can improve transit delay at an intersection.
•    Can have the effect of creating a transit lane if the lane/permitted movement is underutilized by general traffic.

Transit Priority Measure On-street Parking restrictions
Benefit to Transit 
•    Create additional road capacity for use by moving traffic.
•    Additional capacity can be assigned for exclusive use by transit or to reduce queuing.

Transit Priority Measure Reserved transit lanes
Benefit to Transit 
•    Reduce delay to transit vehicles by removing them from the traffic queues.

Transit Priority Measure Passive Transit Signal Priority (Adjustment to timing plans to favour transit)
Benefit to Transit 
•    Reduce delay/queuing on the roadway benefitting from adjustment of green time.

Transit Priority Measure Separate transit phase or Active Signal phase adjustment
Benefit to Transit 
•    Provide additional green time to buses, leading to reduced transit delay at the signal. 
•    Separate phase can provide a queue jump opportunity where no receiving lane exists.

Transit Priority Measure Traffic signals required by transit
Benefit to Transit
•    Decrease transit delay/queuing at a stop controlled approach.
•    May reduce right angle collisions.

Transit Priority Measure Off-street transit centre
 Benefit to Transit 
•    Separate stopped buses from moving traffic.

In recent years, Halifax residents and Regional Council have identified the importance of making sure our transportation network is built to accommodate all modes of transportation: pedestrians, cyclists, private vehicles, trucks, and transit. While not all roads are designed or intended to serve all these purposes, it is important that our city is safe and accessible for all residents, no matter how they travel.

In a historic city such as Halifax, however, the narrow road rights of way often mean that widening roads to build a sidewalk, create additional parking, or add another lane for traffic or for transit’s exclusive use is a very costly proposition. Value judgements must be made about where and when significant investment
in Transit Priority Measures makes sense. The following section describes Halifax Transit’s process for identifying strong candidates for Transit Priority Measures.

7.1    Investing Where it Makes Sense

The primary focus of any significant capital investment in Transit Priority Measures should be along the ten Corridor Routes. Due to the high level of service on Corridor Routes, these are the areas where TPMs can have the most significant impact. Secondly, roadways with a high through-put of buses will be considered, and thirdly any opportunities or partnerships for TPMs which could be implemented relatively easily will be considered.

7.1.1    Corridor Routes
Corridor Routes are areas where transit plays a significant role in moving large volumes of people and, given the opportunity, could move more. As such, these will be the focus of TPM investment. Roadways serviced by Corridor Routes have a high through-put of buses of all service types, all day, and seven days a week. These roadways experience heavy traffic (particularly during peak hours), carry high volumes of transit passengers, service a variety of destinations and land uses, and are generally well served by pedestrian infrastructure. Transit Priority Measures in these locations will raise the profile of transit service and make a statement to other road users that transit belongs here, and that transit is an important investment to build the sustainability and health of our communities.

In these areas, Transit Priority Measures will be implemented together in a cohesive way along the length of the corridor planned, in order to provide the best advantage possible. It is worthy of note, however, that as Corridor Routes are located on busy, well-travelled roadways throughout Halifax, it is expected that the implementation of TPMs in these locations  could have a significant capital cost, and may have a significant impact on traffic both while under construction and once they are in operation.

TPMs Requiring Significant Capital Investment

Although this plan does not include an exhaustive list of large scale TPMs which could greatly benefit the Halifax Transit network, two critical areas have been identified which require significant investment in TPMs in order for Corridor Routes to function properly over the life of this plan. These are:

1.    A TPM is required on Bayers Road in order to ensure reliable service on Corridor Routes 1 and 8, as well as a number of other routes. This is particularly important during PM peak, when routes can often be delayed for nearly a half hour. If no TPMs are introduced to address this issue, it will be an operational necessity to realign the routings. In the interim, Route 1 service will be required to travel along Roslyn Street in the PM peak in the outbound direction in order to maintain schedule adherence.
2.    A TPM is required to ensure transit vehicles can move reliably through traffic on Gottingen Street. This plan calls for increased service on Gottingen Street, including two way service on Route 1. Due to the high volume of buses on Gottingen Street, the installation of a TPM that allows buses to navigate through the congestion in a more consistent and predictable way would have a significant impact on service quality and reliability.

In order to meet the customer service guidelines related to schedule adherence as outlined in this plan, these TPMs are necessary.
7.1.2    Roadways with High Throughput of Buses
The second priority for investment will be areas where there is a high throughput of buses. This will help move a high volume of transit vehicles and passengers through our busiest roadways quickly and efficiently at all times of the day.

7.1.3    Opportunity Investment
The third priority for investment will be the opportunities which arise from work being undertaken by other departments, or projects which might require very little capital investment but could have a significant impact on transit’s reliability. Some examples of this type of project could be:

•    The removal of parking on one side of the street during afternoon peak hours;
•    Posting a sign to permit transit vehicles to make a movement which is typically not permitted (i.e. “Right Turn Only Except Buses”).

7.2    Implementing TPMs: Getting Started

The two locations listed above (Bayers Road and Gottingen Street) are considered the key priority areas where TPMs can have the most significant and immediate positive impact on the transit network. As such, Halifax Transit intends to explore potential alternatives for TPMs in these locations. Due to the complexity and investment required, it is anticipated that it may take several years to design and implement the appropriate measures.

However, a recent study identified 11 possible easily implementable TPMs and evaluated them using the equations outlined in Appendix E. One of those listed (#8, Main Street at Hartlen Street) was implemented in Fall 2015. Based on a number of factors including payback period and scheduled road maintenance, a phased implementation strategy was developed for a  five year period.  The TPMs examined by this study are included on the table in the following page.

It is anticipated that over the five year implementation of the Moving Forward Together Plan, these TPMs will be designed and implemented as resources allow, pending detailed design and costing, and approval from other regulatory bodies

TPM Location Description
TPM Location Description
1 Macdonald Bridge @ Wyse Road (WB) This TPM would reallocate the rightmost toll lane (currently a MacPass Lane for the westbound approach to the Macdonald Bridge) for the exclusive use of transit vehicles. This option builds on the success of the transit only northbound left turn lane from Wyse Road to the Macdonald Bridge and reduces the merging requirements for transit vehicles.
2 Windmill Road @ Victoria Road (NB) This TPM involves road widening for the northbound direction on Windmill Road, north of the intersection with Victoria Road. An exemption is required to permit transit vehicles to use the existing northbound right turn lane on Victoria Road (into the Ford Dealership driveway) and proceed through into the newly created lane.
3 Windmill Road @ Seapoint Road (SB) This TPM involves road widening for the southbound direction on Windmill Road, between the intersections at Seapoint Road and Bancroft Lane. An exemption from regulation is required to permit transit vehicles to use the existing southbound right turn lane on Windmill Road at Seapoint Road and proceed through into the newly created lane. Transit vehicles would continue to be exempt from the requirement to turn right onto Bancroft Lane.
4 Portland Street @ Woodlawn Road (WB) This TPM involves an extension of the existing transit lane to enable access to the lane by transit vehicles from further back in the queue. No change to existing signal timings is required.
5 Barrington Street @ Macdonald Bridge Ramp (NB) This TPM involves relocating the transit stop and restriping the northbound lanes to restrict the curb lane to right-turning traffic (only traffic proceeding to the bridge). Additional lane configuration changes can be made at the intersection of Barrington Street and North Street; however these additional lane use changes are not necessary to implement this TPM.
6 Windmill Road @ Akerley Boulevard (SB) This TPM involves the installation of physical separation to eliminate conflicts between southbound through transit vehicles on Windmill Road and left turning vehicles from Akerley Boulevard onto Windmill Road. This then allows for southbound transit vehicles to experience free flow at the traffic signals except when there is a pedestrian crossing Windmill Road.
7 Robie Street @ Almon Street (SB) This TPM involves an exemption from regulation to permit southbound transit vehicles to proceed straight through the intersection from the curb lane on Robie Street at Almon Street. As there is currently no receiving lane, a transit only phase is also required to accommodate this transit movement.
8 Main Street @ Hartlen Street (NB) This TPM involves an exemption from regulation to permit northbound transit vehicles to turn left onto Main Street from the curb lane on Hartlen Street. As there is already a second receiving lane for the left-turn movement, a transit only phase is not required to accommodate this TPM.
9 Chebucto Road @ Connaught Avenue (EB) This TPM involves an exemption from regulation to permit eastbound transit vehicles to proceed through from the curb lane on Chebucto Road at Connaught Avenue. As part of this TPM, the size of the existing channelized island will be reduced and an additional receiving lane will be created to accommodate this movement. With the additional receiving lane, a transit only phase is not required
10 Mumford Road @ Chebucto Road (SB) This TPM involves restriping the lanes on Mumford Road at the intersection with Chebucto Road to provide a third (transit only) left turn lane from Mumford Road onto Chebucto Road with the reduction to a single northbound lane on Mumford Road. A transit only phase is required to accommodate this TPM.
11 Cobequid Terminal @ Cobequid Road (SB) This TPM involves installing a protected/permitted phase for westbound left turning vehicles (vehicles leaving the Cobequid T erminal and turning left onto Cobequid Road). No lane modifications are required and no exclusive transit phase is required.

7.3    Developing a Long Term Strategy

While it is important to analyze the impact of an individual Transit Priority Measure on the adjacent transportation network and road users, it is just as important to consider the cumulative impact of a number of Transit Priority Measures when applied in one particular corridor.

For example, on Windmill Road in Dartmouth, the impact of the series of TPMs is more than the sum of each measure’s savings. While each intervention seems small on its own – a queue jump lane or transit signal priority – over the course of the corridor, buses save many minutes each day by getting around traffic. When taken together, implementation of Transit Priority Measures across a corridor can have an impact more than the sum of its parts, moving transit vehicles more efficiently and getting passengers to their destination faster and more reliably.

Implementing a series of TPMs along a Transit Priority Way also does more than provide a competitive advantage to transit vehicles. It raises the profile of transit service and creates a positive feedback loop: when passengers or drivers of private vehicles see transit vehicles skipping past traffic snarls using TPMs, they may be encouraged to take the bus in the future, boosting ridership and building the case for further investment in more TPMs.

In addition to the list of TPMs summarized in the table on the preceding pages, it is important that a comprehensive inventory of possible TPMs is compiled and evaluated. From this inventory a cohesive implementation strategy for Transit Priority Ways will be created.

Transit Priority Ways along Corridor Routes can be the first step towards Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Halifax. The potential for introducing higher order transit, including BRT, rail, or new ferry routes, was not explored as part of this plan, but will be investigated as part of the Integrated Mobility Plan. It is anticipated that the outcomes of the Integrated Mobility Plan will help to inform and guide investment in TPMs in the long term future.