Spring 2004, p.17

Sensible Transportation
$5 Million to Jump Start NYC Bus Rapid Transit

Senior New York City Transit Officials say that Bus Rapid Transit in New York City will, at least initially, involve incremental improvements to existing equipment and routes, with some new elements like bus enforcement cameras and queue jumping.

The Mayor takes the subway to work every morning, not the bus. And for a good reason: Bus service in New York City is slow and irregular thanks to heavy traffic, illegal parking in bus stops and long loading and unloading times. Moreover, since free bus to subway transfers started in 1997, bus service has not kept pace with soaring ridership.

But relief may be in sight. For the last two years, Transportation Alternatives and our allies at the Straphangers Campaign have advocated for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a great way to improve bus service. The New York City Transit Authority and Department of Transportation have shown a high level of interest in the project; in March, the MTA and the City DOT announced that they will pay $5 million to have a consulting firm identify which BRT methods will work best in the city. Starting in September, a consultant will identify 15 potential BRT routes and pick five routes for detailed planning. The agenciesí intent is to create BRT on these five routes within the next few years.

Possible candidates for BRT service in New York City include First and Second Avenues in Manhattan and major avenues leading into commercial centers in the other boroughs, such as Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; Jamaica Avenue, Archer Avenue, Main Street and Northern Boulevard in Queens; and Third Avenue in the Bronx.

Bus Rapid Transit features that show the most promise for New York City:

  • More frequent service where needed
  • Bus bulbs, which extend the sidewalk out one lane so that buses do not have to maneuver into and out of bus stops
  • Longer bus stops to eliminate delays as buses wait to enter the stop
  • Bus lanes with raised lane dividers or other physical means to discourage or prevent other vehicles from violating bus lanes
  • Low floor buses, which can speed boarding and exiting and encourage riders to exit through the rear door
  • Pre-boarding fare payment at selected high volume boarding times and/or locations to reduce dwell time at bus stops
  • Bus traffic signal priority to help tardy buses catch up to schedule
  • Real-time management of buses to achieve even spacing between buses

Read the latest news on bus rapid transit.