Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Starting Monday, cameras will be watching out for the special bus lanes on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. Drivers will now get a $115 ticket if a camera catches them driving in the bus lane.
So-called “select bus service” began last month, with the idea that if buses could provide a faster ride, passengers would have an alternative to the overcrowded Lexington Avenue 4,5 and 6 subway lines. To speed up the buses, the Department of Transportation painted special terra cotta lanes, arranged for passengers to pay on the street so buses did not have to wait while riders fumbled to find their Metrocards and created technology so lights will remain green if a bus is approaching a traffic signal.
But unlike some other cities, New York’s rapid bus lanes are not physically segregated from other traffic, and cars can easily drive into the bus lanes. Beginning Monday, the DOT wants drivers to know the lines aren’t just a suggestion -- they’re turning on five cameras on First and Second Avenues, with more will go up in the months to come.
Drivers and cabbies will still be allowed to enter a bus lane to make the next available right turn or to "expeditiously" drop off or pick up passengers.
The new payment method has caused some rider confusion, but officials say buses are running more quickly now.
The Department of Transportation will also add bus lane cameras on Fordham Road in the Bronx and on 34th Street. Brooklyn is the next borough to get the select bus service, along Nostrand Avenue.