Outer Borough Bus Service Isn't Keeping Up With Job Growth, Report Finds

New York City's bus service has not kept pace with employment growth, according to a new report.

The report, released by Lower Manhattan think tank the Center for an Urban Future, said that over the past two decades the number of outer borough residents commuting to boroughs other than Manhattan has increased more rapidly than the number making trips to Manhattan's business districts. Most who live in the outerboroughs and have jobs there take the bus to work.

The report's author, David Giles, said the outer borough bus system is straining under the weight of 60 percent more riders since 1990.

"Despite the fact that transit ridership patterns have been shifting with more people working in the boroughs, the MTA and NYC Department of Transportation have not made the investments necessary to keep up with these trends," he wrote.

The study, called "Behind the Curb," concludes that "the biggest losers in all this have been New York City’s working poor."

The report goes on to say that New York has the slowest bus speeds in the country. Not surprisingly, outer borough bus riders have the longest median commutes.

But the outer boroughs are where New York's new jobs are. Giles said Manhattan had a net loss of 109,029 jobs between 2000 and 2009. But during the same period, the outer boroughs saw employment gains: Staten Island had 4,045 jobs (a 4.6 percent increase); Queens had 11,584 jobs (2.4 percent); the Bronx had 16,557 jobs (7.7 percent); and Brooklyn had 35,010 jobs (7.9 percent).

Those jobs were mostly produced by the health care and education sectors. But other large employers — like the new Hunts Point Market in the Bronx with 20,000 employees and JFK Airport in Queens with 50,000 employees — complain that it's getting harder for their employees in the boroughs to reach work because, in part, the buses are getting more crowded. Additionally, as new employers spread out, some of them are far from existing bus lines.

The Center recommends the city speed up the roll-out of Select Bus Service — buses with dedicated lanes and, in some cities, technology to move faster by keeping lights in their favor. It also calls for the state to commit to a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA, something transit advocates have been saying for years.

Listen to the report's author, David Giles, discuss his findings on WNYC Radio.