City Council Says “Yes” to Car-Free Bus Lanes. Now It’s Up to Albany.

State Assembly Transportation Committee to Decide Today Whether Bill Will Receive Floor Vote

On Thursday, the New York City Council voted 40-7 to approve a home rule message enabling state lawmakers to enact bus lane enforcement legislation. The bill would permit the use of bus-mounted cameras to deter cars from using bus-only lanes. It now moves to Albany, where it has already been introduced in both the State Assembly and Senate. The City Council also voted in favor of a measure that would make it easier to enforce restrictions on blocking the box, which is likewise now in Albany's hands.

With the Assembly set to adjourn on June 23rd, and the transportation committee meeting today to discuss the bus camera bill, one more round of calling and reaching out to key legislators will help move this legislation forward.

Automated bus lane enforcement is a key step toward implementation of Bus Rapid Transit, especially since physically separated lanes do not figure heavily in the city's plans. Similar enforcement legislation was first drafted eight years ago, but, lacking support from the governor's office and high-level MTA management, did not progress this far. The City Council vote indicates that circumstances have changed.

"This is unprecedented," said Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives. "City Council is doing the right thing for the millions of bus riders in this city. This is a really good step towards improving mass transit in the short term. For the time being, it's all about buses."

Council Member Lew Fidler, who voiced support for better traffic enforcement while opposing congestion pricing, said he co-sponsored the bill. The members who voted against were Charles Barron, Erik Martin Dilan, Mathieu Eugene, Darlene Mealy, Diana Reyna, and Kendall Stewart of Brooklyn, and Melinda Katz of Queens.

While the Senate is expected to vote on the bus camera bill soon, a floor vote is not assured in the Assembly, according to Josh Nachowitz of the New York League of Conservation Voters. The Assembly transportation committee, chaired by Rochester Democrat David Gantt, is discussing the bill today and may vote on whether to allow it to come to the full floor. Sponsor Jonathan Bing has officially requested that a committee vote be scheduled, according to Nachowitz, making the bus camera legislation the only bill currently before the committee to receive such a request without yet having it granted. Streetsblog has asked Gantt's office whether the assemblyman plans to schedule a vote, but has not received a response.

"It would be an utter shame for Albany to end the current legislative session without taking action to improve transit in New York City," said Budnick. "Two-thirds of New Yorkers supported congestion pricing because it would have improved transit. People still want better transit. That hasn’t gone away."