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Posts from the Buses Category


How About a Transit System Where No One Has “No Good Options”?

Image: FiveThirtyEight

New York doesn’t have to be a city where a half-million people have “no good options” for transportation. Image: FiveThirtyEight

A lengthy FiveThirtyEight article today by Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum crunches some data to arrive at two major insights: First, New Yorkers use Uber much like they use taxis, and second, for-hire cars are used primarily by well-off New Yorkers to supplement transit in close-in neighborhoods, not to replace car ownership in the outer boroughs.

The best part of the piece is actually a graphic that breaks down NYC’s transportation tribes, segmented by income and transit access. One of these groups didn’t get much attention in the article. See that red box? Here’s what Silver and Fischer-Baum say about that:

Low income, poor public transit access: In census tracts with no nearby subway line, 66 percent of households have access to a private vehicle. An exception among these neighborhoods, however, is those where incomes are below $35,000 per year: Car ownership remains low there. Given the high cost of living in New York, a $35,000 income is the equivalent of about $20,000 for an average American household, making even a clunker a stretch to afford. Families like these have no great choices.

This isn’t a small population. Of the 750,000 New Yorkers who commute more than an hour each way, two-thirds make less than $35,000 a year, according to a 2010 Pratt Center analysis. For comparison, only six percent of those hour-plus commuters made more than $75,000 annually. People of color carry the heaviest burden: Pratt’s numbers show that on average, black New Yorkers face commutes that are 25 percent longer than white New Yorkers. For Hispanics, commute times average 12 percent longer than for whites.

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Will the Governor Who Never Rides the Bus Sign NYC’s Bus Lane Camera Bill?

Governor Andrew Cuomo definitely hasn’t taken an MTA bus “since he first assumed office in 2011,” Gothamist reported yesterday, and it’s probably been much longer than that. So will the governor who never rides the bus sign the bill to expand camera enforcement of New York City’s growing bus lane network?

Cuomo gets off a bus in Havana. Photo: Governor's Office/Flickr

Cuomo gets off a bus… in Havana. Photo: Governor’s Office/Flickr

“If Governor Cuomo actually rode the bus like the two million New Yorkers who do it daily, he’d see how much we need improved bus service,” Nick Sifuentes of the Riders Alliance told Gothamist.

Specifically, if Cuomo saw first-hand what the millions of daily NYC bus passengers put up with, he might warm to the bill to expand bus lane cameras, which has awaited his signature since it passed the legislature two months ago.

The bill would bring automated bus lane enforcement to 10 additional bus routes, on top of the six already approved by Albany. Keeping double-parked drivers and shortcut-seekers out of the red bus lanes will make trips faster for transit riders.

The performance boost is sorely needed, with bus ridership stagnating even as subway ridership has boomed.

After the legislature passed the bus lane enforcement bill in June, the Cuomo administration told Streetsblog that it is reviewing the bill. That position hasn’t changed.

Here’s a photo-op proposition for Team Cuomo: Have the governor sign the bill before hopping on an MTA bus — say, along Woodhaven Boulevard, where tens of thousands of daily riders stand to benefit from the new cameras.


MTA Bus Driver Kills Senior in Midtown; NYPD, Media Blame Deceased Victim

West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps

West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps

An MTA bus driver killed a senior in Midtown this morning.

At around 9:40 a.m. Rochel Wahrman, 69, was crossing W. 57th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue south to north when the driver of a westbound X5 hit her with the left side of the bus, according to reports.

From the Daily News:

The fatally injured woman was on her knees, leaning up against the bus, in the moments following the crash, witnesses said.

She had her head bowed down… she wasn’t moving,” said Shams Sheikh, 56, manager of a nearby newsstand. “The medics came right away.”

Wahrman died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

West 57th Street is four lanes, two in each direction, at the site of the crash. Photos of the scene show the bus stopped in the inside westbound lane. If Wahrman was crossing south to north, she would have walked across two lanes, approaching the middle of the street from the bus driver’s left, before she was hit.

DNAinfo and JP Updates cited police sources who said Wahrman was jaywalking and that the bus driver had the right of way. There were no reports of how fast the driver was going, or how he failed to see Wahrman in the street.

NYPD told JP Updates “no criminal activity was suspected” and “police are not expecting to file any charges.”

Wahrman was at least the second person struck by an express bus driver in Midtown in eight days. On August 12, a BxM9 driver seriously injured a man with a cane on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street. The MTA and DNAinfo blamed the victim.


Eyes on the Street: West 125th Street Gets Its Bus Lanes

It’s showtime for West Harlem bus lanes. Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s finally happening. More than a year after bus lanes were installed on 125th Street east of Lenox Avenue, the first signs have appeared that DOT will soon be painting red bus-only lanes in West Harlem.

The first round of camera-enforced bus lanes, from Lenox to Second Avenue, have helped speed local buses on 125th Street between 7 and 20 percent, according to DOT and MTA. The M60 Select Bus Service, for which riders pay before boarding instead of swiping onboard the bus, is running 32 to 34 percent faster. Meanwhile, buses on sections of 125th Street without the bus lanes have either slowed slightly or not seen any change in speed.

Speedier buses are set to come to West Harlem after the lanes are extended from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue. DOT said in April that the bus lanes would be installed this summer, and the first paint markings are now popping up. DOT says the work will be completed this fall, weather permitting. The bus lanes will eventually be accompanied by transit signal priority, which keeps transit riders from getting stuck at red lights.

It’s been a long road to getting bus lanes on 125th Street. First suggested after advocacy by WE ACT for Environmental Justice over three years ago, DOT and MTA began working with local community members on the plan in late 2012. Facing opposition from community boards and local elected officials, the Select Bus Service proposal was shelved less than a year later before being revived, in abbreviated form covering only central and East Harlem, in late 2013.

Since then, West Harlem elected officials have repeatedly called on DOT to extend the bus lanes to their neighborhood. It looks like West Harlem bus riders are finally getting their wish.


Eyes on the Street: New Bus Lanes Arrive on Woodhaven Blvd

Photo: Toby Sheppard Bloch

Bus lanes being installed on Woodhaven Boulevard near Fleet Court. Photo: Toby Sheppard Bloch

It’s not quite Select Bus Service, but it’s a step in the right direction: A pair of long-awaited bus lanes are rolling out on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Offset bus lanes, installed to the left of curbside parking, are being added to both sides of Woodhaven between Dry Harbor Road and Metropolitan Avenue, covering about 1.3 miles [PDF]. Streetsblog reader and Queens Community Board 5 member Toby Sheppard Bloch sent in a photo of the progress. Short sections of curbside bus lanes are also being added to Woodhaven in both directions as it approaches Rockaway Boulevard.

The bus lanes, which will not affect parking regulations along Woodhaven, will be in effect Monday through Friday from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. Due to restrictions imposed by Albany, the bus lanes will not be camera-enforced. A bill awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature would allow the city to install bus lane cameras on Woodhaven and other routes.

While these bus lanes overlap with the route of Select Bus Service planned for Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard, they’re really a separate project that arose from DOT’s 2008 “Congested Corridors” study. They were originally scheduled to be installed last fall; DOT blamed poor weather and a lack of available resources for the delay. Work began in mid-July, and the agency expects to wrap the project by installing overhead bus lane signage in the next couple weeks.

The full redesign of Woodhaven Boulevard for Select Bus Service will come later. That project will add pedestrian safety improvements, limited-stop service, off-board fare collection and more substantial bus lanes. DOT selected a design for that project in March, saying that construction would wrap in 2018.

While Select Bus Service continues to face opposition from some civic associations in the area, transit advocates, led by the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives, have been building support for SBS with their #FixWoodhaven social media campaign.


James and Lancman Push for Driver Alert Tech on City Vehicles

A new City Council bill would require crash avoidance technology on at least 100 city-owned vehicles that alerts drivers before a collision occurs, and potentially applies brakes to prevent a crash.

The legislation, sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Member Rory Lancman, would require a one-year pilot program on 100 vehicles in the city’s 28,000-car fleet, followed by a study on its cost and effectiveness at reducing crashes.

The technology includes cameras for improved driver visibility or warnings to drivers of pedestrians or cyclists in their blind spots. It can also alert drivers and apply emergency braking in advance of potential rear-end collisions, which comprise almost one in three crashes in the city fleet that result in injury.

There are 85,000 government employees with access to city-owned vehicles. Last year, non-NYPD drivers were involved in 5,805 collisions resulting in 584 injuries, including 49 crashes that injured pedestrians and 15 that injured bicyclists.

“Everyday New Yorkers are still at too high a risk of being killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle,” James said in a press release. “Every year, there are thousands of collisions involving City drivers that end up costing lives and millions of dollars. We must examine every possible avenue to reduce crashes, which is why we must examine and test collision avoidance technology that could help save lives and taxpayer money.”

During fiscal years 2007 through 2014, there were 1,213 pedestrian personal injury claims filed against the city, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Taxpayers shelled out $88,134,915 during that period for pedestrian injury cases.

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Levine and Rodriguez Press DOT to Implement West Harlem Bus Lanes ASAP

Council Member Mark Levine speaks in support of bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Mark Levine calls for bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transit advocates and Upper Manhattan elected officials gathered this morning at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street to urge DOT to extend bus lanes on 125th Street to West Harlem as soon as possible.

The city installed bus lanes on 125th east of Lenox Avenue last spring, and DOT says they will be extended west to Morningside Avenue next month. Given the contentious history of the project, however, local electeds who support the bus lanes don’t want to take any chances. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat sent a letter to DOT stressing the need to follow through on the project [PDF].

While the vast majority of local residents depend on transit, not private cars, the proposal for West Harlem bus lanes continues to draw fire at community board meetings — particularly CB 10, where the chair has complained about bus lanes slowing down her cab rides and transportation committee meetings are often filibustered by bus lane opponents.

“Look, the politics of this are always complicated. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be fighting over it,” Levine said this morning. “There’s still a very entrenched car culture in this city, and for years the car has been king. And that’s how we made policy.”

Levine is worried that further delay could push the bus lane project into next year. “We’re going to keep the pressure on every day until the work is completed,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”

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DOT and MTA Launch M86 Select Bus Service

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and other officials at today’s M86 Select Bus Service launch on the Upper West Side. Photo: Ken Coughlin

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and other officials at today’s M86 Select Bus Service launch on the Upper West Side. Photo: Ken Coughlin

Electeds and other city officials today launched M86 Select Bus Service, which should reduce travel times for thousands of New Yorkers.

With 25,000 riders a day, the crosstown M86 carries more passengers per mile than any other New York City bus route. DOT first identified the line as an SBS candidate in 2009.

Unlike other Select Bus Service lines, the M86 will not have designated bus lanes. But it does have off-board fare collection and all-door boarding, which are key to keeping buses moving.

M86 SBS buses will have flashing blue destination signs so riders can distinguish them from local buses. Bus bulbs, likely to be added later, are also part of the plan.

DOT estimates the new service will speed M86 commute times by around 20 percent.

The de Blasio administration has committed to bringing 13 new Select Bus Service routes online by the end of 2017.

Photo: DOT

Photo: DOT

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Eyes on the Street: Third Avenue Bus Island Nears Completion

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians and bus riders at one of the most dangerous intersections in Midtown now have a bit more breathing room. Work on a block-long pedestrian island on Third Avenue is complete, providing space for pedestrians between drivers turning right onto 57th Street and traffic heading uptown. It also includes a new bus stop and shelter [PDF].

The intersection, crammed with crosstown traffic and cars heading to the free Queensboro Bridge, ranks low for pedestrian safety. There were 39 pedestrian injuries and one death there from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. Itself a Vision Zero priority intersection, the crossing sits at the juncture of two priority corridors.

The new Third Avenue pedestrian island, viewed from 56th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Eyes on the Street: Red Paint for “Queue-Jump” Bus Lanes on the M86

A new bus lane next to the right-turn lane keeps buses from getting stuck at the back of the line as they exit the 86th Street Transverse at Fifth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

A “queue-jump” bus lane next to the right-turn lane keeps buses from getting stuck at the back of the line as they exit the 86th Street Transverse at Fifth Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Select Bus Service on 86th Street in Manhattan won’t be getting full bus-only lanes, but riders will benefit from short bus lanes at busy intersections. DOT has added two “queue-jump” lanes where 86th Street and 84th Street meet Fifth Avenue, to keep buses from getting stuck behind traffic waiting at lights.

The most important component of the M86 SBS upgrade is off-board fare collection. The sidewalk fare machines have been installed, but are not yet turned on for passengers.

When the upgraded service launches, the SBS vehicles will also receive flashing blue destination signs so riders can easily distinguish them from local buses. The new signs have begun rolling out on the M15 SBS on First and Second avenues.

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