Rush hour traffic is certainly frustrating for commuters in cars, but it can be especially disruptive to public bus services.

When buses are caught in gridlock and forced to sit through multiple light cycles, it can cause a phenomenon known as “bus bunching,” wherein the next bus in line catches up to the bus ahead of it. This can wreak havoc on bus schedules, sometimes leaving commuters left in the lurch while they wait for buses that might be hours behind schedule.

This issue has been particularly problematic in Baltimore, where the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) has been struggling to correct its inefficient and unreliable bus service.

That’s why the city is investing $11 million in an effort to install traffic light sensors that prioritize bus traffic over other types of vehicles.

Once the sensor system is in place, traffic lights will stay green for six to 10 seconds longer when a bus is approaching, and the duration of red lights will be shortened by the same amount of time when buses are waiting to move.

Each of the city’s 200 buses will also be equipped with sensors that allow them to communicate with the sensors on upcoming traffic lights. City officials don’t expect the new system to disrupt car and truck traffic, but if it does the light timers can be easily adjusted to account for slowdowns and backups.

  • The MTA is also moving 19 bus stops to the far side of their intersections so that buses don’t have to stop and wait for a light twice when dropping off and picking up passengers.

In conjunction with the new sensor system, this change could make bus traffic far more efficient on some of the city’s busiest roadways. For the residents of Baltimore who depend on public buses to get to and from work, these updates could make daily commutes a whole lot less stressful.