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Want Better Bus Service? Share Your “Woes on the Bus” With NYC Electeds

NYC's buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. Image: TransitCenter

If you’ve ever taken a New York City bus, you probably have a horror story. Maybe you were late to school thanks to a double-parked motorist idling in the bus lane, or missed an appointment after you waited 20 minutes for a bus to show up, then three arrived all at the same time, already packed with riders. Now you can tell your elected representatives to fix these problems via the Riders Alliance’s “Woes on the Bus” campaign.

With an average speed of 7.4 miles per hour, NYC’s buses are the slowest in the nation. The good news is that there are lots of proven ideas to turn around the system. A coalition of transit advocates is calling for “tap and go” fare collection and all-door boarding, more dedicated bus lanes, improved dispatching and scheduling practices, and the redesign of the city’s bus network, which hasn’t changed much since the streetcar era.

To win those improvements, advocates have to convince elected officials to make them happen, but a lot of New York pols don’t have bus horror stories, because they don’t ride the bus. If they did, they wouldn’t be promoting Wi-Fi and charging stations as “21st century transportation” or attempting to thwart dedicated bus lanes.

As part of the campaign to turn around NYC bus service, the Riders Alliance wants to hear your “Woes on the Bus” horror stories, which will help make the case for change to elected officials.

You can submit your stories on the Riders Alliance website, and they’ll be compiled and shared with elected officials.

In the meantime, stay tuned next Thursday, when the City Council transportation committee will hold an important oversight hearing on NYC bus service.

StreetFilms
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NYC Buses: Time for a Turnaround

New Yorkers take 2.5 million rides on the city’s buses every day. While NYC’s buses provide essential transit, especially in areas beyond the reach of the subway, they are among the nation’s slowest and least reliable.

Now a coalition of transit advocates are promoting practical strategies to improve the performance of NYC buses systemwide.

Transit advocates knew something was wrong when they observed declining bus ridership despite increasing population, a growing economy, and record-high subway ridership. To figure out what could be done about it, they spoke to industry experts and researched successful efforts in peer cities to identify common sense solutions to NYC’s bus problems. This research is summarized in their report “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses”.

The bus system faces big challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming how riders get on and off the bus, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, policy makers in city government and the MTA can turn around the decline of the city’s buses and attract riders back to the system.

We’ll get to see how serious public officials are about tackling these problems on October 6, when the City Council transportation committee holds an oversight hearing on how to improve the quality of NYC bus service.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the second in a series of four films examining transit in American cities. If you enjoyed this one, check out the first film, “High Frequency: Why Houston is Back on the Bus.”

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A Closer Look at How the L Train Shutdown Will Disrupt Transit Trips

This diagram shows the alternate routes commuters would have to take to travel between L Train stops. Image: BRT Planning International

Without L train service in Manhattan, trips that used to be a one-seat ride between these origins (y-axis) and destinations (x-axis) will involve multiple transfers and/or long walks. Image: BRT Planning International

The 18-month shutdown of the L train between North Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue may be three years away, but officials still have to move quickly to help hundreds of thousands of L passengers get where they need to go. So far, city officials and the MTA have yet to provide much in the way of specifics.

To get a better sense of how transit service should adapt for the L shutdown, Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook of BRT Planning International analyzed how the loss of the L train west of Bedford Avenue would affect trip times if no measures are taken. Trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan that are currently a one-seat ride will become far more convoluted and inconvenient, as you can see in the top matrix.

Translated into time lost, the effect is most severe for L train riders who cannot conveniently connect to other subway lines at Myrtle/Wyckoff or Broadway Junction. You can see in the matrix below (which includes travel times between a sample of L train stations and other stations) that people by the Brooklyn stops west of Myrtle/Wyckoff are most affected.

Read more…

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Streetfilms Shortie: Fast and Easy Bus Boarding in Oslo

While in Oslo shooting a Streetfilm on the city’s ambitious plans to become as car-free as possible by 2019, I got to interview Frode Hvattum, head of strategy for Ruter, the regional transit agency. I asked a quick question about Oslo’s amazingly efficient train and bus service. In this short video, Hvattum discusses how Oslo’s city center buses and proof of payment system speed things up for riders.

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Eyes on the Street: NYC’s Newest Bus Zones on 23rd Street, Jay Street

New dedicated bus lanes on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller

The new bus lane on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT crews recently put down new terra cotta paint for buses on 23rd Street in Manhattan and Jay Street in Brooklyn.

In the fall, Select Bus Service will bring faster bus service to the M23’s 15,000 daily riders with dedicated lanes, off-board payment, and consolidated bus stops. The bus lanes are set to run eastbound from Ninth Avenue to Second Avenue and westbound from mid-block between First and Second Avenue to Eighth Avenue.

The red lanes are here already — Streetsblog alum Stephen Miller snapped this photo of 23rd Street looking west from Seventh Avenue.

And in Downtown Brooklyn, there’s fresh red paint on Jay Street at the long bus stop alongside the Myrtle Avenue plaza:

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New York City Subways and Buses, All on a Single Map

Downtown Brooklyn on the Bullet Map

Downtown Brooklyn on the Bullet Map

Here’s a really cool project years in the making: Queens native and OpenPlans alum Anthony Denaro put New York City subway and bus lines on one map.

Denaro says the idea was to include all lines accessible with a single swipe or an unlimited MetroCard. To wit, the “Bullet Map” covers all subway lines, New York City Transit and MTA Bus lines, as well as the Long Island NICE Bus and Westchester’s Bee-Line Bus. Not included: the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, PATH, express buses, and NYC EDC ferries.

As he explains on a Medium post detailing the project, one thing Denaro hopes to accomplish is to make the MTA’s complex bus system more legible to New Yorkers who might use it more if they saw the full extent of its connections with the subway.

Millions of NYC residents live beyond a 15 minute walk to a subway station. Hundreds of thousands of people start their commute by boarding a bus and then transferring to the subway. This is a map for us.

The attention to buses is apparent, with bus lines in the foreground on the map, and subway lines in the background. And there are no insets. “The densest parts of a transit diagram are the most important,” says Denaro.

Denaro told Streetsblog he’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in a few weeks, and will be selling pocket maps as well as poster prints. An app may eventually be in the works, too.

In the meantime, he’s looking for feedback on how to make the Bullet Map better for transit users. You can find him on Twitter, or leave your impressions in the comments.

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The Jay Street Bike Lane Won’t Work If NYPD Parks All Over It

Double-whammy: these caps are blocking a bus stop and the bike lane. Photo: Brandon Chamberlin

Police officers block the bike lane and a bus stop on Jay Street this morning. Photo: Brandon Chamberlin

As crews restripe Jay Street to implement a curbside protected bike lane, some sort of learning curve is to be expected. Drivers need a little time to adjust to the new parking lane, which floats to the left of the bike lane buffer. But NYPD should know better from the start.

Streetsblog reader Brandon Chamberlin snapped the above photo of two police vehicles parked in the bus stop in front of City Tech on Jay Street this morning, blocking the way for both buses and cyclists. The bus stop has always been there — it’s not new.

In DOT’s redesign, the bike lane and curbside bus stops are “shared space” — as opposed to a floating bus stop design where bus drivers would pull up to a boarding island to the left of the bike lane. It’s a situation that requires some extra effort, with cyclists and bus drivers having to look out for each other — even without factoring in illegal parking.

If police ignore the rules and park at the curb, things will break down quickly. Cyclists will have to weave out of the bike lane into traffic, and bus riders will have to walk off the curb to board. The stress and chaotic traffic conditions that the Jay Street redesign was supposed to fix will just resurface in slightly different form.

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Streetsblog USA
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A Better Bus Stop: Big Ideas From Transit Riders for a Better Wait

Streetsblog has been calling attention to the dismal state of transit waiting areas with our Sorriest Bus Stop in America tournament. Transit riders have to put up with conditions that no one should stand for — bus stops with nothing to sit on and no shelter, bus stops by dangerous, high-speed roads with no sidewalks, even “secret” bus stops with no visible marker that they exist.

Every bus stop ought to be a safe, comfortable place to wait for the bus, and riders across the country have ideas about how to go a few steps further than that. Bus riders in 10 cities have proposed some creative ways to improve bus stops in the annual “Trick Out My Trip” crowdfunding initiative from ioby (“in our backyards”). Through the end of this week, all the funds raised for these bus stop improvements will receive a match of up to $10,000 from TransitCenter.

Here’s a look at what bus riders are proposing in three cities. You can check out all 10 bus stop ideas (and give generously) at ioby. The matching period ends Friday.

Memphis: Bus Stops as Bike Repair Stations

Cossitt-1

Volunteers in Memphis are raising money to install bike racks and bike repair stations at three bus stops in key locations. These will help address the “last mile” problem by making it easier to bike to the bus.

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DOT Replaces Loading Zones With Metered Parking Along B44 SBS Route

Nostrand Avenue Merchant Association Vice President Pia Raymond speaks alongside Assembly Member Diana Richardson (right) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (far left). Photo: David Meyer

Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association Vice President Pia Raymond speaks alongside Assembly Member Diana Richardson (right) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (far left). Photo: David Meyer

DOT announced today that it will adjust the curbside parking rules on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, where B44 Select Bus Service launched in November 2013. The agency plans to replace some commercial loading zones with metered parking along the half-mile stretch of Nostrand between Empire Boulevard and Parkside Avenue. DOT says the changes, which merchants asked for, won’t lead to more bus lane blocking on the B44 route.

When DOT puts down new bus lanes or protected bike lanes on commercial streets, the city’s curbside parking dysfunction gets thrown into sharp relief. Double-parking that previously went more or less unnoticed becomes a more visible problem, for example, when it blocks a bus lane. The success of these projects depends in no small part on getting the parking policy right.

In this case, DOT took some steps to reduce illegal parking as part of the bus lane project. Before SBS launched on Nostrand, most of these blocks had free curbside parking with time limits. DOT added meters and loading zones in an effort to reduce illegal parking by shoppers and delivery vehicles.

But since then local merchants have said the balance is out of whack — they wanted more metered parking and fewer loading zones.

After conducting a months-long study using time-lapse video to analyze curb activity, DOT agreed that there were a number of underutilized loading zones along the corridor. The agency will replace that curb space with metered parking. DOT does not expect the changes to affect the rate of parking violations in the bus lane.

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Mayor de Blasio Needs to Step Up to Keep L Train Passengers Moving

This morning the MTA announced that starting in 2019, it will close the L train between Eighth Avenue and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg for 18 months to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy — surprising no one who’s been paying attention.

For several months now, it’s been obvious that the MTA and the de Blasio administration will have to work together on a plan to keep hundreds of thousands of L train passengers moving during these repairs. The MTA will have to adjust subway service and run more buses, and the city will have to allocate space on the streets for high-capacity busways and safe bicycling.

But in a statement to the Times, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris framed the shutdown as a problem of the MTA’s own making:

We are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Well before this shutdown occurs, New Yorkers deserve clarity from the M.T.A. on how it intends to minimize inconvenience and keep people moving throughout the duration of the construction.

And when Mayor de Blasio addressed the L train shutdown this morning, he didn’t stray from that message:

So, we’re looking at that very seriously. First of all, I’ll remind everyone the MTA is run by the State of New York. The amount of time that they have projected — the 18 months — is a very big concern for me and for the City government. We’re going to have some very serious conversations about the MTA, about whether it has to take that long and how it’s going to be handled. I want to make sure there’s a lot of redundancy in place. By the time it happens, one — small but important factors — we’ll have the citywide ferry service in place, so that’ll be helpful, but we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously. So I want to press the MTA to show us that 300,000 riders really will have good and consistent alternatives. And we’re certainly going to look at what we have to do in terms of the bridge as part of that. We’ll have an answer on that after those discussions with the MTA.

Noticeably absent from de Blasio’s statement is a specific mention of buses and bikes as “redundancy” measures. Ferries can help, but setting aside street space to move large numbers of bus passengers and bike riders will do more to make up for the loss of L train service.

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