New lanes keep buses flying downtown

New bus lanes, special traffic lights installed for First Coast Flyer system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drivers might notice some interesting changes to traffic lanes in downtown Jacksonville.

JTA has created new bus lanes for its First Coast Flyer system to keep the buses moving quickly.

Several routes along the existing First Coast Flyer system already had bus lanes, but new ones were created along Bay, Jefferson and Broad streets and along Kings Avenue.

Forsyth Street used to have two lanes of traffic, and now it has three.

"What it does is it allows the First Coast Flyer and our other fixed-route buses to be able to stay on schedule and run on time at a better performance,” JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler said.

Along with the bus lanes, some new technology has been put into place to help keep the JTA buses moving along. The queue jumps at intersections function as special traffic lights to help JTA buses safely merge back into traffic.

The process goes like this: The First Coast Flyer pulls into the bus lane, dropping off and picking up riders. When the bus is ready to re-enter traffic, it signals the light for oncoming traffic to turn red, allowing the bus to merge into traffic.

JTA drivers said that without the queue jump, it's difficult to get back into traffic, especially during rush hour.

JTA officials said there have been issues with drivers not yielding to buses, even though not letting a bus back into traffic is against the law.

Drivers are also not allowed to use bus lanes during peak hours from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Emergency vehicles, school buses and bikes are allowed to use those lanes at any time.

Traffic citations can be given to those who violate the bus lane codes.

"We've seen a lot of drivers that will try and jump in front of the bus to pass them,” Rassler said. “We don't recommend you do that. What we want you to do is stay behind the bus until you come up on your right-hand turn."

The new JTA First Coast Flyer routes downtown will begin service in December.