BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING
                              Senator Jim Beall, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:          AB 1746           Hearing Date:    6/28/2016
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Author:   |Mark Stone                                            |
          |----------+------------------------------------------------------|
          |Version:  |5/24/2016                                             |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Urgency:  |No                     |Fiscal:      |Yes             |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Consultant|Sarah Carvill                                         |
          |:         |                                                      |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          

          SUBJECT:  Transit buses


            DIGEST:  This bill expands the authority to operate transit  
          buses on highway shoulders to eight additional transit  
          operators.

          ANALYSIS:
          
          Existing law:

            1)  Establishes numerous distinct transit districts,  
              transportation authorities, and associations of governments,  
              and enumerates the specific powers of each.

            2)  Authorizes the state Department of Transportation  
              (Caltrans) to construct exclusive or preferential lanes for  
              buses only, or for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles,  
              or to permit exclusive or preferential use of designated  
              lanes on existing highways that are part of the state  
              highway system.  

            3)  Requires motorists to drive on the right side of the  
              roadway, with specified exceptions such as when the motorist  
              is legally passing another vehicle.

            4)  Prohibits motorists from passing on the right, except in  
              specified circumstances if conditions enable the motorist to  
              pass safely, such as when the vehicle overtaken is about to  
              make a left turn.  







          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 2 of ?
          
          

            5)  Prohibits a motorist from passing on the right if it  
              requires driving off the paved or main-traveled portion of  
              the roadway.

            6)  Allows a bicycle to travel on a shoulder of a roadway.

            7)  Authorizes the Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) and the  
              Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (SCMTD), subject to  
              approval by Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol  
              (CHP), to designate shoulders of certain highways and  
              freeways within those transit districts as transit bus-only  
              corridors (commonly referred to as bus-on-shoulder [BOS]  
              programs).

            8)  Requires MST and SCMTD to each determine jointly with  
              Caltrans and the CHP appropriate segments for BOS programs  
              based on criteria including but not limited to right-of-way  
              availability and capacity, peak congestion hours, and the  
              most heavily congested areas.

            9)  Requires MST and SCMTD to each work with Caltrans and CHP,  
              in a transparent manner that includes opportunity for public  
              comment, to develop guidelines to ensure driver and vehicle  
              safety, as well as integrity of the infrastructure.

            10)        Requires Caltrans, MST, and SCMTD to monitor the  
              state of repair of highway shoulders used in the program,  
              including repairs attributable to the operation of transit  
              buses on the shoulders.

            11)        Provides that MST and SCMTD shall be responsible  
              for all costs attributable to this program.

            12)        Authorizes the program to commence operation as  
              soon as MST, SCMTD, Caltrans, and CHP have agreed upon  
              guidelines.

            13)        Authorizes operation of a transit bus on the  
              shoulder of a state highway in conjunction with a BOS  
              program within the areas served by MST and SCMTD.

          This bill:

            1)  Authorizes the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, the  








          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 3 of ?
          
          
              Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, the Livermore Amador  
              Valley Transit Authority, the Los Angeles Metropolitan  
              Transit Authority, the North County Transit District, the  
              San Diego Association of Governments, the San Diego  
              Metropolitan Transit System, and the Santa Clara Valley  
              Transportation Authority to operate their own  
              bus-on-shoulder programs, subject to the same requirements  
              MST and SCMTD must meet to operate BOS programs under  
              current law. 

            2)  Requires that each of the above entities, in conjunction  
              with Caltrans and the CHP, must submit a report to the  
              legislature two years after initiating a bus-on-shoulder  
              program. Reports must be posted on the entity's website and  
              include the following:
               a)     The geographic scope of the program

               b)     A copy of the guidelines agreed to by the entity,  
                 Caltrans, and the CHP

               c)     Information about any highway modifications made in  
                 relation to the program

               d)     The costs associated with the program

               e)     Performance measures used to evaluate the success of  
                 the program, such as safety, freeway operations, and  
                 changes in the reliability of transit and travel time  
                 savings

           COMMENTS:

            1)  Purpose.  The author states that traffic congestion is a  
              critical issue for transit programs throughout the state,  
              and many districts are trying to find low-cost, safe, and  
              reliable ways of making their transit programs more  
              appealing to riders.  The author notes that many transit  
              agencies and districts are aware that schedule reliability  
              is a main concern for their ridership, but do not have the  
              funds to drastically expand infrastructure.  The author  
              argues that this bill will allow the specified districts to  
              pursue, with the approval of Caltrans and the CHP, BOS  
              programs that would allow for reliable service without  
              significant infrastructure costs.









          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 4 of ?
          
          
            2)  Scope.  This bill applies to transit buses operated by  
              specified transit districts only.  No other buses would be  
              allowed to drive on the shoulder.  There is no sunset on the  
              BOS authority conferred in existing law or by this bill.

            3)  BOS programs: the benefits.  As noted by the author, the  
              primary benefit of BOS programs is that they allow transit  
              buses to bypass congestion using existing infrastructure.   
              This reduces delays in bus service and increases the overall  
              reliability of transit, which in turn increases transit's  
              appeal to the public.  BOS programs are also believed to be  
              an effective method of recruiting new transit riders, since  
              drivers creeping along in regular traffic lanes actually see  
              buses cruising by them uninhibited.  One Illinois transit  
              district reported that bus ridership on a heavily-traveled  
              corridor more than tripled in the two years following the  
              initiation of a BOS demonstration project there.  On-time  
              performance, which had averaged less than 70%, reportedly  
              increased to over 90%. 

            4)  BOS in other states.  Several jurisdictions across the  
              country and in Canada have implemented BOS programs,  
              including major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta,  
              Columbus, Miami, and the Twin Cities. These programs have  
              been successful in shortening commute times and increasing  
              transit ridership without increasing the number of  
              collisions.  In 2012, the Transit Cooperative Research  
              Program (TCRP) released a guide for implementing BOS  
              programs based in part on an earlier study of seven BOS  
              initiatives.  These case studies provide detailed  
              information on how existing programs have established  
              signage and road marking requirements, set minimum lane  
              widths and speed limits, trained drivers, minimized  
              conflicts between buses and merging traffic, and otherwise  
              improved infrastructure to accommodate buses on highway  
              shoulders.  This resource provides a starting point for  
              transit agencies contemplating new BOS programs.

            5)  The California experience.  Previous legislation, AB 946  
              (Stone, Chapter 426, Statutes of 2013), authorized a BOS  
              program specifically for MST and SCMTD.  To date, these  
              agencies have not initiated programs due to a lack of  
              resources for planning and evaluating potential projects.   
              MST anticipates initiating a feasibility study this summer,  
              so actual bus use of shoulders is still not imminent in  








          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 5 of ?
          
          
              Monterey.  

              California does have direct experience with BOS, however.   
              In 2005, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)  
              conducted a demonstration program in partnership with the  
              San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Caltrans, and the  
              CHP.  An October 2007 Technical Report issued jointly by  
              Caltrans and SANDAG noted that the program achieved a time  
              savings of one minute per mile over a four-mile section of  
              highway, which is equivalent to approximately $13,000 in  
              annual savings for the transit operator.  Overall, the  
              report concluded that the project yielded strong benefits  
              for transit operations, was perceived positively by transit  
              drivers and transit passengers, and maintained safety on the  
              highway.  

            6)  Competing shoulder uses: a possible safety hazard.  While  
              the potential benefits of BOS programs are considerable, it  
              is important to bear in mind that shoulders already serve  
              important functions in maintaining traffic movement and  
              highway safety.  Law enforcement officers and highway  
              maintenance workers use them regularly to perform critical  
              job functions, and representatives of these organizations  
              emphasize that the shoulder is a dangerous place to work  
              even without transit buses in the mix.  According to the  
              California Association of Highway Patrolmen, nearly 30 CHP  
              officers have died after being struck by cars on the  
              shoulder.  Caltrans workers are also often the victims of  
              collisions that occur when regular traffic strays too close  
              to the edge of the right lane.  Opponents of this bill are  
              concerned that it will be difficult for fast-moving buses to  
              avoid emergency response and law enforcement personnel, road  
              maintenance workers, and disabled vehicles on the shoulder -  
              especially considering that buses are heavy vehicles and  
              require longer stopping distances than the average passenger  
              car.  Additionally, congestion in regular traffic lanes may  
              make it difficult for buses to merge back into the right  
              lane when necessary.  

            7)  Weight and wear and tear.  In addition to the possible  
              safety hazards described above, this bill raises questions  
              about inherent, design-related incompatibilities between  
              shoulders and buses.  While there is no single design  
              standard for shoulders in the state of California, generally  
              they are not built to the standard of regular traffic lanes  








          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 6 of ?
          
          
              and are less able to withstand the wear and tear of traffic.  
               As mentioned above, the kind of traffic that this bill  
              would impose upon shoulders is particularly heavy.  The  
              average transit bus weighs nearly 40,000 pounds - about 10  
              times the mass of the average car 
            8)  - and the low emissions buses that are increasingly used  
              by California transit agencies are even heavier.  This bill  
              places the cost burden of additional wear and tear due to  
              BOS operations on transit agencies exclusively.  It also  
              requires transit agencies to work with Caltrans and CHP to  
              collect and publish data on maintenance costs and roadway  
              modifications associated with BOS programs.

            9)  A tight squeeze.  Another difficulty with putting buses on  
              shoulders stems from their respective widths.  According to  
              the TCRP, most regular traffic lanes are 11 to 12 feet wide,  
              but many shoulders can be less than 10 feet in width,  
              particularly on older roads.  The TCRP suggests 10 feet as a  
              reasonable minimum shoulder width for BOS, but this is  
              exactly the width of a standard, 8.5-foot-wide transit bus  
              once its side mirrors are factored in.

            10) Driver behavior.  BOS programs may also pose problems  
              related to the habits and behavior of other drivers.   
              Opponents of this bill argue that the sight of buses  
              traveling on shoulders may inspire drivers in regular  
              traffic to follow them, illegally, into what is intended to  
              be a bus-only lane.  Unlike professional drivers, these  
              individuals would not be trained to use the shoulder safely,  
              or to adhere to relative and absolute speed limits specific  
              to BOS travel.  Another concern arises from the fact that  
              the public is accustomed to seeing the shoulder as a safe  
              place for disabled vehicles.  Drivers experiencing  
              mechanical problems may not exercise appropriate caution  
              when pulling into a shoulder that is also designated for bus  
              travel.

            11) Balancing the risks and the benefits.  Experiences in  
              other states provide evidence that BOS programs can be a  
              useful tool for increasing transit reliability and, by  
              extension, increasing transit use.  It is also important to  
              note that as of 2012, TCRP knew of no BOS programs that had  
              been discontinued due to safety issues.  As an additional  
              safeguard, this bill retains the provisions from AB 946 (see  
              Related Legislation below), requiring Caltrans and CHP to  








          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 7 of ?
          
          
              review and approve any new bus on shoulder programs.  Still,  
              there are many reasons to approach BOS programs with  
              caution.  As it is currently written, this bill would expand  
              an existing law that has yet to result in the implementation  
              of a single BOS program to authorize such programs in eight  
              additional transit districts.  While it is clear that  
              additional data on BOS in California would be useful, such a  
              dramatic enlargement of BOS authority may not be warranted,  
              given the potential risks of such programs and the limited  
              experience of state government and transit agencies in this  
              area.  The author and committee may wish to consider  
              amendments limiting the scope of this bill to the original  
              sponsoring transit agency and the two transit agencies  
              authorized to implement programs under existing law.

          Related Legislation:
          
          AB 946 (Stone, Chapter 426, Statutes of 2013) - authorized MST  
          and SCMTD to operate a BOS program with approval from Caltrans  
          and CHP.

          Assembly Votes:

            Floor:  76-0
            Appr:   18-0
            Trans: 16-0
                            
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Appropriation:  No    Fiscal Com.:  Yes     
          Local:  No


            POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on  
          Wednesday,
                          June 22, 2016.)
          
            SUPPORT:  

          Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (sponsor)
          Alameda-Contra Contra Transit District 
          California Transit Association
          Central Contra Costa Transit Authority
          Environmental Health Coalition
          Monterey-Salinas Transit
          North County Transit District
          San Diego Association of Governments








          AB 1746 (Mark Stone)                               Page 8 of ?
          
          

          OPPOSITION:

          California Association of Highway Patrolmen
          International Union of Operating Engineers

                                      -- END --