Albany’s Bus Lane Cam Deal Only Covers Five Select Bus Service Routes

design_b.jpgUnder the bus cam deal in the state budget, the city could crack down on drivers in the Nostrand Avenue Select Bus Service lane, shown here, but not regular bus lanes across the city. Image: NYCDOT.
We reported on Friday that bus lane camera enforcement was passed as part of the so-called student MetroCard deal: If the MTA would eat the cost of student fares, Albany would allow it to keep its bus lanes free of traffic. That wasn't ever a good deal for transit riders, but as is so often the case, it gets worse in the fine print. 

The version passed into the budget bill wasn't the original legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, which would have authorized cameras for 50 miles of bus lanes, but a more limited authorization that restricts cameras to a few Select Bus Service routes. 

Here's the offending language:

WITHIN THE CITY OF NEW YORK, SUCH BUS LANE PHOTO DEVICES SHALL ONLY BE OPERATED ON DESIGNATED BUS LANES THAT ARE SELECT BUS SERVICE LANES WITHIN THE BUS RAPID TRANSIT DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM AND ONLY DURING WEEKDAYS FROM 7:00 A.M. TO 7:00 P.M.

The bill later specifies exactly which routes are eligible for cameras: Fordham Road, First and Second Avenues, Nostrand Avenue, 34th Street, Hylan Boulevard, and a route-to-be-named in Queens "not to exceed ten miles." 

Transit advocates remain positive about the legislation -- enforcement is most important along SBS routes and something's better than the usual nothing -- but for now, the benefits of camera enforcement will be limited. They'll be another SBS feature, not a path toward providing faster speeds for all of New York's slowest-in-the-country buses. It's a small, preliminary victory for New York City transit, embedded in a much larger defeat.