For years, interminable waits and laughable speeds defined bus travel in New York City. At one low point, a comedian on a Big Wheel beat an M42 across Manhattan. Slowly but surely, though, buses are leaving all that behind. Next Stop: A better, faster and more reliable ride.
Select Bus Service (SBS)
SBS combines a handful of smart tweaks to shave precious seconds that add up to serious time savings. Dedicated lanes policed by automated enforcement cameras keep speeds constant, while off-board fare collection (where you swipe your MetroCard while you wait for the bus to arrive) and low-floor buses (which allow disabled passengers to board faster) dramatically reduce the amount of time a bus spends at a stop. All that adds up. SBS has shortened commutes on Fordham Road in the Bronx, and on First and Second avenues (where it was introduced last year) as much as 20 percent. And it’s coming to Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn later this year.
Green light, Go!
A handful of New York City buses are armed with an enviable superpower: the ability to talk with traffic lights. The system (based on optical signals relayed between the bus and the light) can recognize an approaching vehicle from as much as 150 feet away, and then sustain a green light, or shorten the time it takes for a red light to turn green. The logic is that to improve efficiency for everyone on the road, priority should be given to the vehicle carrying the most passengers. The end result is a quicker trip and less traffic for everyone.
New People, New Routes
More efficient service is one thing, but choosing where buses go is a whole other business. Earlier this year, New York City Transit (with a lot of nudging from T.A.) spent $17.8 million restoring, improving and adding service to 21 routes around the city, including a brand new line connecting waterfront areas in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City, all of which have seen a huge population boom recently. Unlike subways, bus systems can quickly and affordably adapt to keep up with development patterns and commuting trends. That means more transit where it’s needed most.
In the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy, New York City’s bus system stepped onto center stage. In fact, in the days following the storm, buses literally replaced subways with a “bus bridge” shuttling passengers over bridges where subway tunnels were flooded. According to Governor Cuomo’s official commission on Hurricane Sandy, a critical step to withstanding the economic impact of future storms is to build a more extensive system of high-quality buses. We couldn’t agree more.