Bus on the Shoulder – COTA

Bus on the Shoulder

COTA’s Bus on Shoulder Program

Did you know that COTA buses are allowed to use designated shoulder lanes when traffic is stopped or moving slower than 35 mph? Shoulder lane usage has helped maintain bus schedules and improve on-time performance allowing COTA to get you where you need to be sooner.


Authorized Bus on Shoulder

COTA buses and Mainstream vehicles are authorized to travel in the right shoulder lane/outside berm on I-70 East between Downtown Columbus and State Route 256.

COTA buses and Mainstream vehicles are also authorized to travel along the left shoulder lane/inside berm on I-670 between Downtown and I-270 on the east side of Columbus.

ODOT has installed the necessary signs along the corridor to guide bus drivers and caution motorists. The main signs are white with black lettering, and read “Shoulder. Authorized Buses Only.” They are placed every 1/2 mile along the corridor, and permit the legal use of the shoulder by COTA buses and Mainstream vehicles only. “BEGIN” and “END” placards have been added to the signs to designated the shoulder lane usage area. Yellow signs with black lettering state, “Watch for Buses on Shoulder,” and are posted at entrance ramps to caution drivers entering the freeway of buses using the shoulder.


Watch for Buses on Shoulder

COTA buses are allowed to use the designated shoulder lanes when traffic is stopped or moving slower than 35 mph.


  • Proper speed in shoulder lanes depends on the traffic in the lane directly next to the shoulder lane.
    • If traffic is stopped, buses will not exceed 15 mph.
    • A bus in the shoulder lane will not exceed the speed of traffic by more than 15 mph.
    • The maximum bus speed on the shoulder is 35 mph.
    • If traffic is moving 35 mph or faster, buses will stay in the regular traffic lanes.
  • Buses must merge back into regular traffic lanes when emergency vehicles or stopped cars are blocking the shoulder, or for any other blocking obstruction.
  • Buses are only permitted to use the shoulder where signs indicate. View the “Where can COTA buses use the shoulder lane?” section above for specific information.
    • Only COTA buses are permitted to use the shoulder. Any other vehicle traveling in the shoulder is subject to citation from Columbus City Police or State Highway Patrol.
  • It is always the operator who makes the decision to use the shoulder lane or not. Shoulder lanes offer flexibility and efficiency, but safety must not be compromised to save a few minutes in travel time.
  • There are no time restrictions; buses that are in service, or returning from service, may use the lane at any time.
  • Please remember: COTA has no right of way or privilege to merge back into traffic. Please use caution and be cooperative of buses returning to traffic lanes.


In 2006, COTA partnered with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Columbus Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol in an effort to encourage the use of public transit and to fully utilize the capacity of the urban highway system. The Bus on Shoulder pilot project tested the feasibility of transit buses using the shoulder of the interstate during congested times. The project was evaluated on safety, traffic impacts, bus operator and passenger perceptions of the project, and the impact on freeway traffic flow. ODOT concluded that the pilot was a success and recommended that the program be expanded in metropolitan areas where appropriate.

Since the pilot, COTA buses have been authorized to use the shoulders of the I-70 East Corridor between Downtown Columbus and State Route 256 under certain conditions. The project has helped maintain bus schedules and improved on-time performance.


morpcCOTA, MORPC and ODOT partnered to identify the Bus on Shoulder corridors, inform bus operators and law enforcement about shoulder lane usage, and installed the appropriate signage to ensure safety in the corridor.