Notice anything different at the intersection of Lavaca and MLK? This week, we’re excited for the city of Austin’s launch of the third transit signal in Austin, near the UT campus.
What’s a transit signal?
Transit signals, or queue jumps, allow buses to skip ahead of other vehicles at stoplights. The special signals turn on shortly before the regular traffic signals turn green. At MLK, buses will be able to make the left turn ahead of general purpose traffic, avoiding the usual intersection congestion.
How does it work?
The transit signal is located at the far right at the intersection stoplight. Its three white lights notify bus operators when they can drive through the intersection. The signals are timed to allow up to two buses through the intersection before the stoplight turns green. Once the light turns green, buses must wait until the next transit signal cycle.
Why do we need it?
The intersection at MLK/Lavaca is a tricky spot for our service and is the northern end of the bus only lanes through downtown. Traffic gets tight and often motorists will attempt to cut from the left turn lane across the bike lane to make the next turn onto Guadalupe. This causes safety and operations issues and buses end up having a hard time passing through the area to continue on their routes to UT.
In addition, the downtown/UT area is the busiest in our service area. Each day, we have 11 routes traveling northbound from Lavaca to Guadalupe through the UT campus area, with up to 80 riders on each bus. This means that now on a daily basis the signals can help us move thousands of passengers through the congested area even faster with more reliable service.
You may have already noticed the two other transit signals previously installed around town, at Crestview Station and Republic Square Park. These have proven to be very successful!