Bus Traps

Calgary,(1) Alberta, developed an unusual means to curtail traffic in residential areas. The city wished to prevent automobiles from taking shortcuts through neighborhoods although they still wished to serve residents with convenient public transportation. Cars bad. Buses good. Thus arose a devious little road feature named the Bus Trap, which was more of a car trap than a bus trap actually, in spite of what most people called it. The original design worked on a simple practical fact — the wheelbase of a car wasn’t as wide as the wheelbase of a bus.

YouTube by Calgary Transit Review; Bustrap Bill Saves the Day

In theory it made great sense. Construct a big ditch across the road, make it wide enough for a bus to pass unmolested, and make it long and deep enough for an automobile to get inextricably stuck in a hole. Effectively it’s a Punji stick trap for cars. People wouldn’t be foolish enough to ever try to cross a concrete chasm that would likely damage their automobiles if they encountered a huge sign like this one, right?

Bus Trap
SOURCE: Google Street View, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; April 2012

A large explicit billboard along with two additional stop signs, two do not enter signs, an authorized vehicles only sign, and a gaping maw would be quite enough to dissuade me. In fact it seemed like overkill. I imagine the signs and barricades would be sufficient to persuade the vast majority of 12MC readers to avoid the roadway too, or convince anyone with a pulse for that matter. However, the Intertubes are filled with accounts of people foolish enough to attempt such a crossing in spite of the multiple layers of warnings. Results were predictable. It’s hard to feel sorry for them.

One can’t simply back out of a bus trap either. Automobiles need to be pulled out. Some bus traps snare shortcutters multiple times per week if one believes the frequent cautionary tales posted on the Internet. It must be exasperating for bus drivers to alter their routes in order to avoid boneheads who thought they could shoot the gap. How effective could a bus-only crossing be if an automobile repeatedly blocks the way?

University of Calgary, AB, Canada

Blame it all on the University of Calgary. Bus Priority Measures in Calgary: Past, Present and Future researched the history and said:

Introduction of Bus-Only Crossings: As with other relatively young, western cities, Calgary’s streetcars and buses operated mainly in mixed traffic. In the early 1970’s, the concept of the bus-only crossing quickly became entrenched in Calgary (McCleary, 1977) The circuitous layout of the University of Calgary street network led to the introduction of a bus-only crossing between one half of the campus and the other.

Government officials in Calgary seemed quite enamored of their solution as it spread throughout the city. Calgary Alderman Gael MacLeod went to lengths to defend the Centre Street bus trap on the Ward 4 webpage, as recently as February 2012. She explained via video that it both encouraged bus ridership and reduced automobile traffic.

YouTube by Evolution New Media; Centre Street Bus Trap

Bus traps remain plentiful in Calgary, in concentrations found nowhere else from what I could determine. I discovered a few of them in Google Street View which you should feel free to examine on your own.

Nonetheless it’s difficult to deny that a bus trap is a rather draconian, low-tech solution to a genuine traffic problem. In the meantime a lot has changed since the early 1970’s when Calgary began its love affair with its traps. The same dilemma can be resolved easily enough today with something as simple as a swinging iron gate operated by the equivalent of a garage door opener. In fact, that is exactly what has been happening. The bus trap is beginning to fade away even in Calgary.

Sifton School Bus Trap, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Calgary certainly isn’t the only city with bus traps, albeit they seem to be more prevalent within its borders than elsewhere. Traps also took root farther north in Edmonton. The city’s Bus Lanes & Traps page noted that "there are currently 2 bus trap locations" within Edmonton:

Hillerød, Denmark

My small sample size might lead one to conclude that bus traps are an Albertan peculiarity or a Canadian oddity. However, that’s not the case. They are not unique to Canada. Wikipedia actually has a bus trap page and included photographic evidence from Hillerød, Denmark. I couldn’t find that specific trap on a map — I have zero ability to work in Danish even with translation software — so its exact location will remain a mystery to me. Maybe a 12MC reader from Denmark could lend a hand. We have one or two Danish regulars, I think.

I did learn that the Danish term for bus trap is bussluse (bus gate?) and the hole itself is a bussgrav (bus grave?). Those are my new favorite words of the day.

Completely Unrelated

Today (June 30, 2013) is the final day before Google pulls the plug on its popular Reader application. I noticed that lots of people made the switch initially, then it slowed down, and then subscriptions using Reader started going back UP… I guess from people newly discovering 12MC. I hate to lose all of you. Hopefully you’ve found a solution that works for you, and that you will continue to visit the Twelve Mile Circle. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring although it should be easy to remember twelvemilecircle.com.

(1)I’ve had an uncanny ability to pick topics with inappropriate story locations lately, first with tornadoes in Oklahoma City and now with flooding in Calgary. I waited a week with the hope that the situation had improved and that any 12MC readers living along rivers in southern Alberta may have put any difficulties behind them. No offense or insensitivity is intended. I’m almost afraid to write about any new places right now for fear that I may delivery another weather calamity.

4 Replies to “Bus Traps”

  1. If you do a Google Video Search for:

    La Rumorosa Feb 11

    … at the top of the list you should find an incredible bus trap – and probably terrifying for the passengers. (It was white knuckle time for me just watching it.)

    My congrats to the drivers in this video – they really know their stuff.

  2. [dialogue from a family living near a bus trap]
    “When will the police get here, the burglar is already coming up the stairs!”
    “I see the cop car out the window, they’re almost here, they’re driving really fast with their lights and siren on, and … oh my.”

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