New Yorkers take 2.5 million daily rides on MTA New York City Transit buses, but the busiest bus system in the country leaves a lot to be desired. Reliability has been in decline for years, and congestion in the urban core means it’s often faster to walk than to take a chance on a bus.
Riders are well aware of these shortcomings, and are increasingly voicing their displeasure by choosing other ways to travel. Ridership is down 13 percent–or 140 million annual rides–since 2006, despite thousands of new New York residents and jobs and an overall increase in subway and regional rail ridership.
Today, TransitCenter and a coalition of New York transit advocates launch a two-pronged effort to improve New York’s buses. The first is “Turnaround,” a new report that highlights proven solutions to bus service in other global cities and makes concrete recommendations for how those solutions can be applied to New York. The second is the NYC Bus Turnaround Campaign, an ongoing advocacy effort that hold politicians’ feet to the fire on bus issues.
The effort is already resonating with those who represent NYC bus riders – 35 elected officials including NYC Public Advocate Tish James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams supported the Turnaround launch.
“Turnaround” is a joint research effort from the new NYC Bus Turnaround Coalition, which comprises TransitCenter, Riders Alliance, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. In light of the pressing issues facing New York’s bus riders, the coalition is calling on elected officials, departments of transportation, and the MTA to fix the failing bus system by rethinking how streets are designed, how the buses are run, and how bus service is planned citywide. Recommendations include:
● Redesigning New York’s bus network to remove unnecessary detours, straighten out indirect routes, and better match how New Yorkers actually use the bus system.
● Transforming the bus boarding process to reduce wait times by allowing riders to board at every door and pay through cell phones and tap-and-go cards.
● Keeping buses on schedule through improved dispatching and technology allowing real-time control of buses in the field.
● Designing streets improve bus reliability through dedicated bus lanes and camera enforcement–not just on Select Bus Service routes, but across the most congested parts of the bus network.
● Making the bus intuitive and easy to use through countdown clocks, better onboard announcements, and clearly branded kinds of service.
● Increasing transparency about bus performance with an open data policy that mandates regular releases of bus performance information in formats that are easy for civic technologists to analyze, promote, and transform.
Some of these proposed changes fall to the MTA, others to the New York City Department of Transportation, still others to elected officials in the city council and the state legislature. The new NYC Bus Turnaround Coalition will work in the coming months and years to win those changes, and give a leading city like New York the world-class bus system it deserves.
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