Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.
New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.
The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.
All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”
In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.
Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].
But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.