Vincent Edmonson stands for a portrait on the newly painted transit lane that is part of PBOT's effort to make bus, streetcar, and train service better.

Vincent Edmonson stands for a portrait on the newly painted transit lane that is part of PBOT’s effort to make bus, streetcar, and train service better.

Cheyenne Thorpe/OPB

A half-block of Portland’s Southwest Main Street turned cherry red Wednesday as the city began its experiment with painted transit priority lanes. 

The city hopes by making it clear that drivers should stay out of the bright red lanes, buses, streetcars and trains will be able to zoom through congested corridors faster, in turn making public transportation more appealing. 

“It’s really there to just remind drivers and get their attention that it’s a bus-only lane,” said TriMet spokesperson Tia York. “We know people are distracted, we know they’re in a hurry, but if we can just grab their attention and say this stretch of road is for buses only, it’ll help speed up our bus trips.”

Portland is one of a series of cities that have been given permission to slap red paint onto these lanes by the Federal Highway Administration. 

John Brady, a spokesperson with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said red is not yet a nationally-approved color for transit priority lanes. Though, he said, the FHA is considering allowing it across the country, depending on the success of the lanes in cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. 

City of Portland utility workers place the letters for the new "Bus Only" sign on the red transit lane.

City of Portland utility workers place the letters for the new “Bus Only” sign on the red transit lane.

Cheyenne Thorpe/OPB

Portland State University will be charged with collecting data to determine how successful the paint is at keeping drivers from driving in the transit priority lanes.

The transportation bureau plans to install red lanes on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Lloyd Boulevard, Northeast Grand Avenue and Burnside Street, and Northeast Grand Avenue and Couch Street, where there are either bus-only lanes and streetcar-priority areas. Brady said they hope to finish painting the lanes by the end of the year.