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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 1331, Portland, OR 97204

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Federal Highway Administration experiment with Red Pavement Markings

Red transit lanes are designed to help buses, streetcars, and trains move better. 

PBOT is partnering with TriMet, Metro, Portland Streetcar and Portland State University (PSU) to install and experiment with red pavement markings in transit priority lanes. We are testing to see if adding red on the pavement helps increase driver understanding and compliance in transit priority lanes. PSU will help us collect before and after data and evaluate performance.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has given permission to a number of U.S. cities, including Portland, to participate in a national experiment to use red paint to signal to other road users that buses, streetcars, and trains have priority.  Our application request to experiment was approved by FHWA in September 2019.

The use of red pavement markings could provide PBOT another tool in our toolbox to make transit faster and more reliable and help TriMet make transit better. Experimenting with red pavement markings was recommended in the City’s Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan, adopted by City Council in June 2018.

What are red transit lanes?

Red transit lanes are lanes where transit has priority and other road users are either prohibited or allowed limited access.  

  • People driving may not enter a solid red lane, this includes drivers of cars, trucks, taxis, and ride hailing vehicles like Uber and Lyft.
  • Red does not change how lane can be used. The lane is still defined by the markings, signs, and signals on the road.
  • Red makes the transit priority lanes more visible.
  • Red can help reduce the number of automobile drivers improperly driving in transit lanes.
  • In some locations, drivers may use the lane beyond the red markings to access parking, driveways or turn at the intersection, where indicated by signage and markings.
  • In some locations, cyclists may use red lanes where indicated by signage and markings.

When and Where: In what locations might I expect to see red pavement markings?

PBOT may experiment with red pavement markings in transit priority lanes in several locations. Transit priority lanes already exist in many of these locations and are currently indicated by other signage and markings. Red pavement markings may also be used in a few locations where PBOT is implementing new transit priority lanes with projects identified through the PBOT Central City in Motion (CCIM) Implementation Plan.

The map below displays the locations included in the FHWA experiment with red and what year installation is anticipated.

Locations included in FHWA Experiment:

Locations of FHWA Experiment

In November 2019, we made our first three installations of red pavement markings at the following locations:

  • SW Madison Street – SW 4th Ave to SW 1st Ave
  • NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd - south of NE Lloyd Blvd
  • SE Grand Avenue – at E Burnside and NE Couch St


The first red pavement marking installation in Portland: SW Main between 1st – 2nd Ave (expected in late October).


 Before photo of first red pavement installation




Coming soon!


What might the red pavement markings look like?

The exact design of red pavement markings may vary from location to location, depending upon the context and whether the lane is strictly transit only or if other drivers are allowed limited use of the lane to access local businesses, on-street parking or turn right at the next intersection. Some examples of potential use of red are illustrated below.


Why is this part of a FHWA experiment?

Use of red in transit priority lanes is considered an experimental treatment because it is not yet included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD contains the national standards governing all traffic control devices. The MUTCD sets minimum standards, provides guidance, and ensures uniformity of traffic control devices within the United States. There is currently no official guidance or standards in the MUTCD regarding the use of red colored pavement to designate transit priority. However, agencies across the country have successfully implemented of transit priority lanes with red by participating in the FHWA Experimentations Program. Often, experimentation programs lead to formal action on ideas or proposals.

The MUTCD Experimentations Program through the FHWA allows jurisdictions, roadway authorities, and transportation agencies to experiment with new traffic control devices or different applications of existing devices that are not compliant or included in the MUTCD. Jurisdictions must apply to the program to be eligible to participate and be able to demonstration that experimental treatments improve road user safety or operations.

Other cities that are experimenting with this new tool, have helped make bus service more efficient by decreasing conflicts between buses and other road users. Some of the cities deploying red transit lanes include: Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Denver.

  • In New York City, lane incursions reduced by approximately 50% and illegal parking/standing in transit lanes reduced by over one third
  • With fewer lane violations, red paint delineation results in quicker and more reliable transit service
  • Red lane treatments have contributed to fewer collisions and risky driver movements. In San Francisco, overall collisions dropped by 16%

Seattle, WA example of red installed in a transit priority lane.

 Example of red lane in Seattle


Contact Info to Learn More:

April Bertelsen | Transit Modal Coordinator

Portland Bureau of Transportation
Phone: 503.823.6177