Sustainable Transport Priority

Discover how we assist with integrating and prioritising sustainable transport modes.

Tram priority

Melbourne has one of the most extensive tram networks of any city around the world.  

As most tram routes share the traffic lanes with general vehicles, Melbourne’s trams are fitted with transponders which are picked up by special detectors placed in the lead up to, and at, signalised intersections. 

  • When a tram is approaching, the start of the green light will appear earlier or extend the green light longer, to maximise the chances of the tram getting through without stopping.
  • On many roads,  trams can activate a right turn phase to clear right turning vehicles from the path of the tram. This minimises one of the greatest causes of tram delay.
  • Where trams are detected at the stop-line, special tram only phases can be run to let the tram through the intersection earlier. These sometimes have a white T-light for the tram.

Bus priority

  • Priority can be provided for buses with a short queue jump bus lanes at the approach of signalised intersections. This allows buses to reach the head of the queue for a head start with a white B-display. 
  • If buses share road space with other traffic, special detector loops can distinguish a longer vehicle from cars and activate the bus priority.
  • We are also trialling the use of tracking equipment, such as GPS, to give buses priority at intersections. When the bus approaches the intersection, priority can be activated if the bus is behind schedule. 

Pedestrian priority

In some locations, there are overhead sensors facing the road to detect when pedestrians have commenced and completed their crossing. These are called PUFFIN (Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent) crossings which adjusts the walk and clearance times to give more time to slower moving pedestrians and, if the pedestrians cross quickly, returns promptly to a green light for vehicles.

Other traffic signal techniques which provide pedestrian priority include:

  • Stretch walks provide longer walk times for pedestrians on major roads with high traffic and long-running phases.
  • Auto introductions automatically introduce the walk display when safe to do so. These are used in locations with moderate numbers of pedestrians.
  • Permanent demands mean that the walk display doesn’t need to be activated via the push button, these are used in locations with high numbers of pedestrians (Melbourne CBD).
  • Late introductions are when the walk display can introduce after the start of a phase. These are used in locations where it is safe to do so, including locations where visibility is good between pedestrians and vehicles. 

Pedestrian times include walk time (green walk display) and clearance time (flashing red standing display). 

Cyclist priority

Roads that are classified as a cycling priority route generally have bicycle lanes or off-road bicycle paths. 

  • Where a bicycle path crosses a road, bicycle lanterns can be used which may run in conjunction with pedestrian lanterns so that cyclists may legally ride across the road, without dismounting. 
  • Where a bicycle lane runs parallel with a vehicle, cyclist priority can be given with a bicycle storage box road markings and a bicycle lantern that provides a head start for cyclists.

Movement & Place Framework

As well as a focus on safety, we need to consider objectives at a strategic and network level to ensure a sustainable transport system. 

Traffic signal operations is a complex task balancing the demands from various road users, including: 

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Heavy vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Buses 
  • Trams
  • Vehicles

Our aim is to optimise the movement of people and goods, in line with the priorities detailed in the Movement & Place framework


Was this page helpful?


Please tell us why (but don't leave your personal details here - message us if you need help or have questions).