You could be fined if you drive in the red designated bus lanes in downtown Baltimore

Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-22 18:26:00-04

During the morning drive and rush hour home, traffic downtown can be brutal.  The back-ups slow down motorists and folks riding the bus.

"Oh wow, traffic is horrible,” said Latanya Reed.  “Downtown Baltimore traffic, very horrible.”

"It usually takes a long time depending on what bus you get on,” Grey Sun said.  “But it's usually a mess."

The long waits and slow busses are the reason behind MTA's BaltimoreLink transit improvement project.  It’s a comprehensive restructuring of the bus service.

"We want to make sure that the transit service running through downtown is reliable and efficient,” said MTA contractor Patrick McMahon.  “Right now, not all of our bus service is, and part of that is because of the congestion they get caught in downtown."

That's where some newly painted red road lanes come in.  The colorful pavement is meant to catch your attention, the lanes are for busses only.  They've actually been dedicated for that purpose since 2009, but now they are all very clearly marked.

"The lanes are now painted from Market Place to Howard Street on both Pratt and Lombard Streets," said McMahon.

It's a nearly $1 million project.

Not every driver is heeding the markings, and that is okay for now.  But soon, motorists not supposed to be riding there will face penalties.         

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Signs are up at multiple spots downtown reminding drivers they can face a $90 fine and a point on their deriving record if they cruise in the designated bus lanes.

By separating the busses from other traffic, officials hope routes will run smoother and quicker, making public transit a more attractive option.

"I think that's very good, it makes it move faster, it puts people on their game," Sun said.

But not all bus riders think the changes will pay off in the end.

"I understand they're trying, but we'll see, we'll see how it works, we’ll see,” said Reed.

There are plans in the works to expand the designated bus lanes to other parts of the city where there are a high number of buses running.  Public meetings about that proposal will be held later this year.