From Thursday, Dec. 1 through Thursday, Dec. 8, Johnson County Transit (The JO) bus drivers will begin training on the shoulders of I-35 in anticipation of the new Bus On Shoulder (BOS) operations that are scheduled to start in early January 2012.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, the bus drivers will use the shoulders in order to gain experience driving on the shoulders with normal daily I-35 traffic. The training will take place on I-35 between 95th Street and Lamar Avenue. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers will be on-hand providing escorts during the training.
The bus drivers have prepared previously for driving on the shoulders via classroom curriculum and closed course driving this past month. Approximately 40 bus drivers will participate in the week-long bus on shoulder driver training.
In January, The JO will start operating the JO Xpress service which will allow bus drivers to use the I-35 shoulder in order to bypass congestion and create more consistent travel times for transit commuters along this corridor. The bus on shoulder will operate on I-35 between 95th Street and Lamar Avenue.
BOS operations mean that buses can travel on the shoulder when traffic on I-35 has slowed to less than 35 miles per hour, thus bypassing congested areas. Buses can’t travel more than 10 mph faster than the traffic on the highway and won’t exceed 35 mph. Additional BOS operational guidelines include:
• Buses must always yield to vehicles entering or exiting the highway.
• If there is an obstruction on the shoulder – debris, a stalled car, etc., then the bus must re-enter traffic and move around the obstruction.
• Buses aren’t required to use the shoulders. The bus drivers will use their discretion based on weather and traffic conditions.
• There is signage to indicate where bus on shoulder operation is permitted.
The JO and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) have been working together for the past 18 months to safely implement BOS operations as a way to move people more efficiently through traffic. Bus service currently runs along I-35, but the enhanced bus service will feature BOS operations during the morning (5:45 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and afternoon/evening (3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) rush hours. Initially, there will be about 8-10 buses per day that may use the shoulder.
BOS operations have been effectively used since the 1990s in Minnesota. It has also been adopted in Miami-Dade County, San Diego and the Washington D.C. area to provide enhanced transit service for commuters. All of those cities have found it to be an effective tool for moving people safely.
KDOT has made improvements to the shoulder of I-35 to allow for BOS operations in Johnson County. Adjustments were made to the existing guardrail, new signs and pavement markings were added to the 7.8-mile stretch of I-35 from 95th Street to the Wyandotte County line.
Other transit enhancements include additional stop locations, bus shelters, real time signs and new park and ride locations.