Express bus services primarily uses existing street and highway lanes, often designated by painted pavement, signs and other markings for exclusive use by buses and/or express buses. The use of routes and connections over which express buses travel generally require some modifications of streets and highways, and often require increased maintenance and upgrading to withstand additional stresses and loads imposed on pavement and roadbeds.
One type of express bus service, often called Bus Rapid Transit or BRT, may actually consist of a completely separate parallel roadway and specific crossings and separate signal activation for the bus operation. The San Fernando Valley Orange Line is an example of a BRT system. Separate, dedicated crossings and signal operations on BRT systems have created confusing and dangerous conditions at automobile crossings, contributing to numerous traffic collisions. Construction of a new BRT route, with all required crossing gates, traffic control and safety equipment, as well as, dedicated right of way, sound walls, noise-reducing roadbed and other mitigation measures can combine to be more expensive than development of a new monorail route and guide way system.
In some cases, elevated bus lane structures have been built for exclusive use by express bus and other high occupancy vehicles; providing vital continuity to express services. The elevated and exclusive bus lanes emanating from downtown Los Angeles Union Station, and extending eastward along the San Bernardino Freeway are an effective but expensive express link along the I-10 freeway to near the San Gabriel River. The buses then continue on the freeway to the suburban communities. The cost of constructing an elevated bus route can be greater than the cost of an elevated steel rail structure, depending on the number of elevated lanes, and height of the lanes above ground; exceeded only by the cost of constructing a new subway system.
Plans to create express bus lanes and services along Wilshire Boulevard, from downtown Los Angeles to the City of Santa Monica, have been diminished by a requirement by the City of Beverly Hills that bus lanes be discontinued throughout that city. Termination of express bus lanes at Beverly Hills city limits would create classic bottlenecks, and their inevitable congestion, at the east and west borders of Beverly Hills, near the midpoint of the Wilshire “express” route. It does seem that Metropolitan Transit Authority planners should seek to upgrade or establish continuous, unimpeded mass transit on streets such as Pico Boulevard which do not pass through Beverly Hills in connecting downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.
Express bus service is often presumed to be less expensive than other forms of mass transit when using existing street lanes at no cost to bus operators. This accounting does not include the cost of the lane (50% for shared use and 100% for exclusive use) and the value of curbside access and adjacent parking lane. The cost of additional maintenance and repair of roadways impacted by heavy bus use and the costs of bus-created traffic congestion should be included in the comprehensive evaluation of the impacts and advantages express bus services provide to specific locations and routes of travel.