Indented bus bays are set into the kerb and footpath space. Their purpose is to remove buses from traffic lanes when they stop. This maintains the general traffic flow and can improve safety in some contexts since a stationary bus in a high-speed traffic lane creates a safety risk. In most situations, an indented bus stop layout is a last choice bus stop design due to the sub-optimal operational impacts described further down. 

Indented bus bays can be fully indented (see the figure below) or half indented.

Fully indented bus bay for a standard 13.5m-long tag-axle bus. (Source: Auckland Transport)

A half-indented bus bay, see figure below, allows general traffic to overtake the stationary bus safely, while the bus remains in the main stream of traffic. Consider a half-indented bus bay when there is only one wide lane of traffic.

Half-indented bus bay for a standard 13.5m-long tag-axle bus. (Source: Auckland Transport)

Benefit of indented bus bays

The main benefit of indented bus bays is that they allow other vehicles to pass a stopped bus, avoiding obstructed traffic flows.

Where to use indented bus bays

Use indented bus bays where:

  • the posted speed limit is 80km/h or higher, but ensure:
    • good sight lines of approaching traffic
    • lead-in and lead-out spaces that provide for easy and safe manoeuvring of the bus out of and into the traffic
    • bus stops (if possible) are placed immediately downstream of a traffic signal to provide breaks in the passing traffic into which the bus can depart
  • the bus will have a long dwell time at the stop and obstruct traffic flow
  • busy bus stops with high passenger demand will result in long dwell times, so it may be more efficient to indent stopping buses to allow other buses to pass
  • road characteristics such as poor sightlines associated with curves or concealed entries generate a significant crash risk from traffic overtaking a stopped bus conflicting with oncoming traffic
  • a kerbside bus stop may leave about a 2m lane width to the centreline (which is not quite enough width for a car to safely pass a stopped bus) and drivers should not be encouraged to pass
  • not all buses need to call at every stop such as on high-frequency bus corridors.

Other considerations with indented bus bays, including disadvantages

Other considerations when deciding whether to use indented bus bays are as follows.

  • Indented bus bays may present operational problems for buses and passengers. Avoid fully indented bus bays wherever possible, as they reduce the efficiency of bus services.
  • Where indented bus bays are provided because of poor sight lines for oncoming vehicles, remember that bus drivers in indented bus bays may also experience poor sight lines of oncoming vehicles. This compromises safety when bus drivers try to re-enter fast-flowing traffic streams and increases journey times.
  • Provide fully indented bus bays only when they are:
    • justified by compelling safety or operational reasons
    • required on special vehicle lanes.
  • Designs of indented bus bays should support bus drivers to fully pull into the kerb so the bus does not pose a safety issue.
  • Remember to provide enough space for cyclists to overtake stationary buses where there is on-road cycle provision unless an off-road bypass is provided. Provide at least 1.5m from the bus stop box to the centreline to allow cyclists to pass safely.

Indented bus bays have the following six main disadvantages, which must also be considered when deciding whether to use such bays:

  • Difficult merging – Bus drivers often find it difficult to merge back into the main stream of traffic, causing delays at each bus stop. The variability of this hold-up leads to unreliable, delayed and bunched bus services and adds to overall journey times. This effect is reduced where the kerbside lane is a special vehicle lane, as the reduced density of traffic is likely to provide more opportunity for the bus to depart. Some bus drivers may choose not to pull in close to the kerb, motivated to keep the bus at an angle that makes it easier for them to re-enter traffic, which can block half the lane and impede accessibility.
  • Wasted space – Indented bus stops require a significant distance so buses can pull in ‘flush’ with the kerb. The recommend length of a fully indented bus bay is 63m from the start of the lead-in to the end of the lead-out. This means less area is available for wider footpaths, streetscaping, berms, landscaping or on-street parking.
  • Poor accessibility – The design of indented bus bays can impede customer access, particularly where their geometry prevents buses from reaching and stopping close to the kerb. This is because it can be difficult for the bus door to be close enough to the bus stop or footpath for the ramp to be successfully deployed, making it difficult for some passengers to get on or off the bus.
  • Poorer amenity and safety – Where indented bays reduce footpath width, they can worsen amenity for pedestrians and passengers getting off the bus. This can generate safety and comfort problems where large numbers of people are using electric scooters and other micromobility on the footpath.
  • Illegal parking – Bus bays are prone to attracting inconsiderate parking or unloading, especially in high-activity areas such as town centres and outside shops. This prevents the bus from reaching the kerbside, which can cause difficulties for some passengers and force them to get on or off from the road.
  • Wider roadway – Bus bays widen the roadway area, encouraging speeding, making it more difficult for pedestrians to cross the road safely, and making the street environment less aesthetically pleasing.

When reviewing existing indented bus bays, consider filling in and/or relocating the bus stop to address the original reasons for providing an indented bus bay. The additional footpath space can be used to improve the bus stop environment.