Pilot projects will come aplenty in Portland as the new Rose Lane Project takes shape over the next two years to move buses and streetcars out of traditional traffic lanes and into a — potentially — speedier situation through the use of bus-only transit lanes and signal improvements.

The Portland City Council voted to adopt the Rose Lane Project, an effort of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, that kick off this summer as part of the Central City in Motion concept to improve transportation in the city’s downtown core. The Rose Lane Project, specifically, will spread the network of transit priorities broader in an effort to make bus service through downtown faster and more reliable. 

This effort takes its most noticeable form in the use of bright red bus-only lanes. Portland recently experimented with a trio of bus-only lanes in the city, including one that traversed the Burnside Bridge, with the bureau saying that delays were reduced up to 75 percent during rush hour in some places and cutting minutes from commutes. 

To expand the Rose Lane effort, the city will kick off 29 pilot projects, centered downtown, which, the bureau says, will have a ripple effect throughout the entire region to speed service and reliable service times by reducing delays in the most congested areas of service. 

Along with the visible bus-only lanes, which often pair near bicycle-only lanes, the Rose Lane Project will also work on making transit signal improvements that could allow buses to start sooner than vehicle traffic, ensuring the buses move through city streets at a quicker clip than vehicle traffic. 

The first areas that will see the updates include an extension of the eastbound bus lane from the Burnside Bridge to East 12thAvenue, priority lanes on MLK and Brand Street to serve bus and streetcar, a bus and turn lane along with crossing and bicycle improvements from the Hawthonre Bridge to SE 12h Avenue, bus lane improvement along SE Madison Street, cycling, safety and bus line improvements on NW Broadway and a bus priority and traffic signal upgrade at Collins Circle.  

The Rose Lane Project grew from the city’s enhanced transit corridors plan, adopted in June 2018. The February vote by the city council allows for installation of the quick-build pilot projects in 2020 while staff continues to identify a network vision for enhancing the project. With the goal of a faster, more frequent and fuller transit system, the Rose Lane Project will also get its own visual identity to create a “memorable” aesthetic that promotes transit. In 2021 and beyond, the Portland Bureau of Transportation expects to continue pilot project deployment, monitoring and modifications. 

Follow Tim Newcomb at @tdnewcomb.