Friends, ‘Burgers, Country-people, we’ve seen it coming. It started with orange construction barrels and new “platforms” that disrupted our jump to light-speed as we headed west and east on 1st Ave N and S. Now these platforms are connected by freshly laid red asphalt, emblazoned with the terrifying words, “BUS ONLY.” They’re part of the SunRunner BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) which is scheduled to launch this fall.
“Bus only? Surely that doesn’t mean me,” drivers think, as they cruise down the smooth new lanes.
Indeed, it does mean you. And I’m here to help you understand the new lanes by applying the rules to a familiar childhood game that you already understand: The floor is lava. In this case, RED LANES ARE HOT LAVA!
You don’t drive in them. The red asphalt is 2200 degrees (same as lava!) and will melt your tires (public bus tires are special). BUT, there’s good news. You have a device on your car that enables your tires to withstand the searing heat. It’s called your turn signal. It operates lights on the corners of your vehicle that in early history were used to signal to other drivers your intent to turn. Enabling these blinking lights allows you to drive—temporarily—in the Lava Lane until you turn. Now, some of you might already be in the habit of driving eternally with your blinker on. Don’t be that way. Only use the Lava Lane for turning.
It’s that simple.
Sunrunner buses save time and hassle
I know what you’re thinking. “The entire lane for a lousy bus?” Yeah! But this is a good thing. Even if you never plan to ride this lane eating bus, hear me out. Last weekend I drove to Upham Beach. It took 25 minutes to get there. I dropped the family off by the sand, and promptly wasted another 35 minutes trying to park. If we’d ridden the Sunrunner ($2.25 each way, $1.10 for youth, 8 years and under are FREE), we’d have made a 30-35 minute trip, with zero minutes spent parking. AND I spent more to park than bus fare would have been. (More good news, as I was writing this, PSTA announced that they are cutting fares in half to encourage rides while gas prices soar.)
Even if you’re a local and you don’t think you’ll ever use this, think about all the hotel dwelling tourists. There’s a car rental shortage. These buses will create a new opportunity for beach visitors to come downtown, and for downtown visitors to reach the beach, and all places in between without clogging the road with UBERs or requiring more parking.
You might think you’ll miss those lanes, but I’ve already driven this stretch of restricted road dozens of times and I can assure you, even during Rays games, two lanes for cars is plenty to hit all the green lights. In fact, I’ve found making turns even easier, because there’s always a clear lane so I’m not jockeying with cars going straight.
I get it. No one rides the bus. I confess, I’ve never ridden the bus here! But I do ride buses and trains when I travel. So I’m willing to give it a try. I’m also okay being a little inconvenienced by something that benefits other people, even if it’s only a few of them.
Just remember. Red lanes are hot lava. Use them sparingly, with your turn signal or your tires will melt.