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Bus On Shoulder

Bus operations along the congested portions of Highway 1 pose a significant challenge for Santa Cruz METRO as the agency works to keep public transit competitive with single-occupant vehicles in the same traffic conditions. In order to address this problem, a number of state transit agencies, in collaboration with their Department of Transportation partners, have implemented bus-on-shoulder (BOS) operations during peak congestion periods.


To help solve the congestion problem, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to increase ridership, public transit must offer an advantage over driving alone especially along corridors with heavy traffic. Several years ago, Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) approached the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) about the possibility of studying bus operations on Highway 1 shoulders. Assembly Bill 946 (Assembly member Mark Stone) was passed in 2013 allowing Monterey and Santa Cruz counties to operate buses on shoulders. The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) and the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) awarded the majority of the funding necessary to move forward with a feasibility study.

In October of 2016, MST, as contract manager, hired CDM Smith to conduct a Feasibility Study to evaluate the possibility of operating buses on highway shoulders in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. This study was prepared in cooperation with Caltrans, California Highway Patrol (CHP), TAMC, MST, RTC, METRO and local jurisdictions. The full Feasibility Study can be found on the METRO website: Monterey Bay Area Feasibility Study of Bus on Shoulder Operations on State Route 1 and the Monterey Branch Line.

Key Findings of Feasibility Study – Santa Cruz County

The Feasibility Study included data collection, literature review, traffic analysis, transit route performance analysis, concept feasibility, cost-benefit assessment and project implementation/next phase. During the review and study period, the project team sought stakeholder participation from local jurisdictions, Caltrans, CHP, AMBAG and TAMC. Some of the key findings of the Feasibility Study for Santa Cruz County are:

BOS in Minnesota

  • Severe Hwy 1 morning and afternoon peak period traffic lasts for long periods.
  • Congestion and unreliability keeps METRO from using Hwy 1 more extensively for bus services.
  • Hwy 1 shoulders lack the width and pavement structural section to support bus-on-shoulder operations without significant construction.
  • The existing and planned auxiliary lanes provide an opportunity for bus on shoulder operations and should be implemented in coordination with each of the auxiliary lane projects. This approach would be the most effective and operationally superior.
  • Project cost estimates were developed for the different options along the project corridor. A summary evaluation for both counties was prepared showing a range of costs. BOS, combined with the auxiliary lanes, shows promise in Santa Cruz County with a cost of $7.9 million.

Next Steps for Bus-on-Shoulder (BOS)

Concept of Operations was prepared which provides the framework for the design, implementation, and operation of the facility. METRO, the RTC, and Caltrans are discussing the possibility of integrating the Bus-on-Shoulder improvements into the already planned Highway 1 auxiliary lanes projects under development.

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