New report suggests how to fix city’s dilapidated bus system

In light of plummeting bus ridership that has been apparent for over a decade now, local politicians are backing TransitCenter, Riders Alliance and other transit advocacy groups in their launching of the NYC Bus Turnaround Campaign.

In a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday, July 20, campaign members presented a report outlining how the city could fix its dilapidated bus system. Bus riders are often disappointed by indirect routes, slow service and long waiting times, among other issues, according to the campaign.

“We cannot miss the bus on improving our bus transportation system; we cannot allow it to happen,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who commutes to his office via public transportation. “When you go to those parts of the borough where you don’t have a subway line, such as South Brooklyn, that depend on their bus services, you have many seniors who are intimidated by entering the subway system and they cannot utilize bus services. It is a real problem for them.”

The report, entitled “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses,” draws solutions from other U.S. cities that have struggled with declining bus ridership in the past. A few of the suggested solutions include:

  • Implementing tap-and-go on-board fare collection and allowing boarding from all doors.
  • Ensuring that buses begin their runs on time.
  • Creating dedicated bus lanes as well as queue-jump lanes for buses.
  • Providing real time information at bus stops and on buses.
  • Breaking up bus routes that are too long.
  • Allowing bus riders to access to information about bus performance through a comprehensive open data policy.

How bad is bus service?

“My last immediate bus service incident was on this past Saturday, waiting for about 25 minutes for a B41 local bus, in the heart of a torrential downpour. After 25 minutes, two limited buses came along and passed my bus stop. So I walked half a mile to the next limited stop, only to get a local bus 20 minutes later,” said Mike Rosenbluth, a long time member of the NY Transit Museum and various transit advocate committees. “BusTime is a good thing; bus clocks are a great thing. I would say ramp up the technology, make dispatching from the central office real and allow buses to un-bunch themselves. The technology is there; why not use it?”

“One of the reasons that bus service is underused is mainly due to the frustration and difficulty in using buses,” added Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “In my district, we have a large student population, and because my district sits at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge, many high school students have to take the bus to get over the bridge to get to high schools and colleges in Staten Island. Because of the difficulty they have in using those buses, many will instead get a car and drive over rather than use public transportation,”

According to the report, New York City buses travel at an average speed of 7.4 miles per hour on weekdays. In comparison, buses in Los Angeles travel at an average speed of 10.7 miles per hour. In busier area, such as Downtown Brooklyn, buses average speeds of less than four miles per hour.

As a result of the unreliable and slow-moving service, bus ridership has declined by 16 percent since 2002. In contrast, both the city’s population and subway ridership have grown consistently.



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