Priority in traffic for public transport is a prerequisite for success


Priority in traffic is a prerequisite for success

Next to frequency, predictability is the most important factor for public transport customers. Time is valuable and public transport delays annually cost society 3.5 billion kroner in lost time. Ruter also incurs extra operational costs of 3-400 million kroner from delays – money that could have been spent providing an even better service for customers.

Ruter’s measurements show that for several years it has been difficult to reach punctuality targets for public transport. Trams and buses in Oslo and Akershus have lower priority in traffic than in equivalent urban areas in Norway and Europe to which it is natural to draw comparison.

Measures giving priority in traffic to public transport and capacity utilisation provide more public transport for the moneyMeasures that reduce or eliminate delays for public transport are very profitable and carry low costs, but are nevertheless often not prioritised or implemented. Public transport therefore has significant problems and delays in traffic, and these will potentially grow.

Population growth alone may lead to a 40 per cent increase in car traffic in Oslo and Akershus, which means that the challenges will only grow and become more serious if necessary measures to give priority to public transport are not implemented now. Strengthening the implementation of such measures is therefore a clear prerequisite for reaching the goal of meeting the growth in personal transport demand through public transport, cycling and walking.

Measures for public transport that improve travel time, reduce or eliminate delays and provide quick effects include:

  • Road surface marking
  • Improved signage
  • Prioritisation of buses and trams at intersections
  • Creation of dedicated public transport streets and lanes

Prioritisations in traffic must be made

Measures that give priority in traffic to public transport entails prioritisations in the struggle for street space in an increasingly dense urban structure. In many city centre streets as well as at transport hubs, it is a challenge that the total number of means of transport has become too high. This means that public transport is often delayed, including by other public transport. Ruter’s recommended strategies for the development of the service entails an increased transfer to trains and the metro for the large transport streams towards and through Oslo, and an equivalent relief for the bus. By giving trams and light rail a bigger role in city traffic, more people can travel without increasing the number of means of transport. At the same time, this increases the need for predictability, and the total traffic growth also means that bus traffic will increase. Not least, we depend on being able to secure priority and road access on approaches to transport hubs and terminals.

To achieve a good urban environment, tough priorities must be made and tailored solutions are required. The collaborative project «Powerful priority in traffic measures» aims to realise quickly 100 measures to improve reliability and punctuality of  public transport in Oslo. The project has encountered many challenges and much of the issue appears to be an inability to give actual priority to public transport when the measures are to be implemented.



The right measure in the right place

The work on providing priority access in traffic for public transport must therefore continue and be reinforced, not least through the opportunities that arise from the fact that the authority for signage of municipal roads has been delegated to the municipality. First and foremost, a binding mobility strategy must be prepared for Oslo. This plan should provide the necessary guidelines for the work on providing better access and priority and commit the parties responsible for implementation. Equivalent mobility plans should be developed for the regional cities in Akershus, supplemented by a strategy for improved flow of public transport for the main road network towards Oslo and for approaches to transport hubs. Ruter believes the following principles should be the basis for the mobility strategies of the municipalities:

The network of roads in the city centres should prioritise people who walk or cycle and public transport. In some city centre streets, having both trams and pedestrians can work, with a street design that provides room for bustling cafés and shopping. In other, preferably parallel, streets, private cars and bicycles can be prioritised. On select streets in the approach to the city centre, public transport must be given priority. Cycling paths should be established in many places that today have street parking.

Accessibilty to stops and transport hubs must be enhanced by walking zones and short cuts, and larger parts of the city centre must be pedestrianised. In several areas, the distance between stops can be increased, assuming that conditions for pedestrians and cyclists are good.

To maintain and enhance the competitiveness of the city, it is important to ensure good conditions for goods delivery and necessary commercial transport. A further time differentiation in the use of the street network can safeguard both goods delivery and the flow for public transport and bicycles. In practice, this will mean that more of the goods delivery must take place at night, and that construction activities in city centres must adapt their logistics accordingly, using the roads when there is no congestion. This in turn will require a new type of monitoring activity.

9.1 Street functions

1. Public transport and cycling street

1. Public transport and cycling street

Street with a cycling path along and behind the stops. A raised curb between the cycling path and the public transport lane provides better safety for all travellers and prevents vehicles from stopping in the cycling path. Goods delivery and parking is located on side streets to ensure good flow for public transport.

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2. Public transport and shopping street

2. Public transport and shopping street

Street with broad pavements without curbside parking, provides a lot of space for shopping and urban life. Goods delivery occur in separate goods delivery docks and parking in parking garages. Public transport is provided good flow and stops have a high standard.

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3. City street with tram

3. City street with tram

Broad street with no height differences for pedestrians, cyclists and travellers on the tram. This provides opportunities for flexible street use safeguarding the need for transport, goods delivery, shopping and urban life at different times of the day and year.

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4. Public transport and car street

4. Public transport and car street

Street with a high passenger capacity. The street is designed to move many people quickly by bus and tram in dedicated lanes.

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The illustration shows different street functions in the city and which measures are suitable for which type of street
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Work on improving flow for public transport is also about the details of the service. Getting on and off public transport quicker has a significant impact on journey times. The design of stops and materials, ticketing times and distances to stops are therefore important for flow. 

Access on approaches to important transport hubs must be prioritised because it affects many customers. This applies to the large public transport terminals Oslo S, Skøyen, Bryn/Helsfyr, Ski, Ås, Lillestrøm, Jessheim, Sandvika, Lysaker and Asker. The measures must be combined with better adaptations for buses on the main roads and for buses and trams in city centre of Oslo. The measures that are implemented must provide a continuous lane for buses and trams with no interferences or delays.


Car traffic must be limited

To reduce car traffic towards the centre of Oslo and the regional cities in Akershus, it is necessary to introduce traffic regulating measures that give a competitive advantage to public transport, cycling and walkingIn some places there will be conflicts between public transport and bicycles that must be resolved, but the greatest conflict is clearly between green mobility modes and private cars. The car requires too much space to be prioritised in dense cities, and street parking is generally incompatible with prioritising cycling or public transport. Street use in the city centre of Oslo and in the regional cities should therefore be changed. Parking must be moved to dedicated facilities. The freed street space allows for broader pavements, more space for street life, pedestrians, cyclists, goods delivery, and ensuring a reliable flow for trams and buses.

To reduce car traffic towards the centre of Oslo and the regional cities in Akershus, it is necessary to introduce traffic regulating measures that give a competitive advantage to public transport, cycling and walking.