Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses

Every day, New Yorkers take 2.5 million bus rides on a system that is slower and less reliable than at any other point in the city’s recent history. Together with Riders Alliance, the Straphangers Campaign, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, TransitCenter is convening a group  determined to reverse declining performance and ridership on the country’s busiest bus network by implementing proven solutions.


In a new report, “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses,” we outline several concrete solutions that can be applied to make New York’s buses work better for riders. These include a top-to-bottom re-examination of the citywide bus network, reforming the boarding process, using better methods to keep buses on schedule, and designing streets to help buses run smoothly.

Complementing the report is BusTurnaround.NYC, which allows visitors to “ride along” with three New York City bus riders. The website also shows you high level report cards for every New York City Transit bus route, and provides the opportunity to ask for better buses from MTA & DOT officials.

New Yorkers deserve buses they can depend on, and “Turnaround” is the first step in a sustained advocacy effort to improve the country’s busiest bus system.




Fixing the bus system in New York has never been so urgent. If the MTA, the NYCDOT, and the elected officials who represent riders can find the courage to tackle the problem, New York can reverse the bus system’s decline and reclaim its place as a center of transit innovation and leadership, locally and worldwide.

Redesign NYC’s bus network and routes for more frequent and efficient service



Determine how and where the current bus network is failing and redesign as needed. Bold reconsideration and revision of our bus network is overdue. New routes may be needed. Some existing routes may be obsolete or need substantial adjustment.

Redesign indirect routes. Many of our routes have unnecessary turns and deviations. We should take a fresh look at routes, revising them to take the most direct path between major destinations.

Rightsize the distance between bus stops. New York is a global outlier in terms of how closely stops are spaced, and on many routes, stops are even closer together than our own standards dictate. Optimizing the number of stops will speed trips for riders.


Transform how we get on and off the bus


Implement tap-and-go onboard fare collection and all-door boarding to dramatically reduce the time spent at bus stops. As the MTA considers new fare-payment technology, the agency should also consider how it can improve the boarding process so that we’re sure to achieve the maximum gains from this significant investment.

Continue to pursue better bus design to improve movement onto and within our buses. For example, low-floor buses and bus doors that open quickly and easily for entering or exiting passengers can reduce time spent at bus stops.


Adopt better methods to keep buses on schedule



Ensure that buses depart from the terminal on time. Frequent late starts at the beginning of runs make it difficult for buses to provide service at the expected times and with even spacing.

Once buses are on the road, intervene early when they get off track. In cities with the most reliable buses, dispatchers are in constant communication with drivers to modify service and keep buses on schedule. Such intervention is standard practice in New York subways, but not on the city’s buses. MTA New York City Transit’s bus control centers should emphasize reliability and consistency of service in addition to their current role in responding to discrete incidents.

Implement headway-based control for frequent buses to empower dispatchers and drivers to make real-time improvements for riders. For frequent routes, maintaining even spaces between buses is key. Allowing dispatchers to occasionally hold a bus at a stop or instruct another bus to skip a stop improves service for the greatest number of riders.

Design streets to prioritize buses



Utilize dedicated lanes to move buses more quickly through crowded streets. Effective enforcement measures such as buslane cameras must ensure the lanes remain clear and violators are fined.

Install bus “bulbs” and boarding islands to eliminate time spent weaving in and out of traffic. These treatments also create dedicated waiting areas for riders, reducing traffic on busy sidewalks and improving pedestrian safety.

Optimize traffic signals to improve reliability by allowing buses to maintain a constant speed and reducing time spent at red lights.

Implement queue-jump lanes to reduce delay by giving buses a short, bus-only lane and a three- or four-second exclusive signal at intersections, allowing them to “jump” ahead of car traffic.


Campaign Launch



Press Release

Download the Press Release (PDF, 274KB)


Selected Coverage

Download the Report