Despite this, New York City’s buses are the slowest among major cities in the world. Bus ridership citywide has dropped about 14 percent since 2007 and Select Bus Service (SBS) has done little to improve commutes.
According to a report from the city comptroller, the average speed of SBS buses is 8.9 miles per hour, a mere 20 percent better than the average rate for local buses, 7.4 mph.
As a straphanger, it’s not often there is something to commend the MTA on, but they deserve some real praise for unveiling a plan recently to turn around our city’s failing bus system. The MTA is promising a redesign of the entire bus system by 2021 and the expansion of all-door boarding by 2020.
They plan to expand a program known as traffic signal priority, which allows a bus to hold a green light or shorten a red light, in order to keep buses moving. The proposal calls for digital signs showing when the next bus is scheduled to arrive and installing technology that will allow riders to determine how full the next bus will be.
Bus routes will also be re-examined in order to make them more connective to other routes and other transportation options.
With cooperation among government agencies, elected officials, and the community, these changes are very possible, and they won’t take 30 years and billions of dollars to make a reality. But success is very much dependent on cooperation.
The city’s Department of Transportation must work with the community and the MTA to expand the implementation of bus lanes, bus stop arrival time displays, and traffic signal priority. The NYPD must do its part by strengthening enforcement of cars parking or driving in bus lanes.
And, our elected officials in Albany must pass into law legislation to expand bus-mounted cameras to help enforce bus lane rules in more locations. Right now, this is only available on 16 existing routes. Without all of these changes, commuters will be stuck with fancy new buses that are still sitting in traffic.
Each weekday, a fleet of more than 5,700 MTA buses provides more than 2 million rides on 326 routes. With our city in the midst of a transportation crisis, we must do more to provide better options for people in the outer boroughs.
If we don’t, the alternative is more private cars on the road, which will only add to the traffic woes that keep city buses from being an effective mode of transportation. We deserve reliable, efficient and affordable bus service, and I am cautiously optimistic that the bus turnaround plan will finally make this a reality.
Melissa Sklarz is a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 30th Assembly District in western Queens.