Select Bus Service
Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) —
New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn gave voters their first detailed glimpse into what her transportation agenda would be if she's elected Mayor. It's like Bloomberg's -- but without the big, bold visions.
Friday, January 18, 2013
New York City's newest express buses were designed to be easy to spot from a distance with two flashing blue lights in the marquis. But, Friday afternoon, the MTA said it was turning off the blinking deep blue indicator lights to avoid any chance that drivers might confuse the Select Bus Service buses for oncoming an emergency vehicle when viewed in a rear view mirror.
City Council Member Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island lobbied the MTA for the change. "We have trained the public that when they see blue flashing lights to get out of the way and all emergency vehicles to get to said emergency," he said. "Buses are not emergency vehicles." Drivers in his district told him they felt like they were being pulled over by police only to find it was a bus approaching.
Removing confusion for drivers however, might shift confusion to bus passengers. It could also deal a set back to NYC's plan to spread a new and improved brand of express bus service known elsewhere as bus rapid transit. To move buses faster under this scheme, buses are given dedicated lanes and passengers pay before they board using vending machines at bus stops.
The MTA Announcement:
Reacting to specific concerns, MTA New York City Transit has agreed to turn off the flashing blue lights that have served to alert riders to the arrival of Select Bus Service buses (SBS) since the speedier service was introduced. This measure is being taken to eliminate the possibility of confusing the vehicles with volunteer emergency vehicles, which are entitled by law to use the blue lights. We are currently in the process of developing an alternate means of identifying SBS buses.
"Those lights distinguish the Select Bus from the local bus," a spokesperson at Institute for Transportation and Development Policy explained in defense of the lights. ITDP advises cities -- including New York City -- on building and designing bus rapid transit systems. “We expect that if those lights go off, passengers will be confused about which kind of bus is approaching, which is important, because there are two different fare systems,” the spokesperson said. Passengers need to know if they should pay at the vending machine before the bus arrives, or they risk missing it. NYC passengers pay for local buses on board.
Rather than a deciding between two types of confusion, the MTA's choice to darken the blinking blue bus lights seems to have been more of a legal one, as Ignizio describes it. NY state traffic law states that colored flashing blue lights are reserved for emergency vehicles, specifically volunteer firefighters.
Ignizio made the legal case to the MTA after personally finding the lights confusing and putting the question to his Staten Island constituents. More than 100 people on Facebook agreed with him, he said.
Ignizio met with then-MTA head Joe Lhota, now a mayoral candidate, and made the case for turning off the lights. Ignizio says, Lhota said he would do something about the lights. And now the MTA has.
The bus rapid transit experts at ITDP say other cities use different ways to distinguish an express bus from a local. Some cities paint buses different colors, for instance. The MTA is considering what indicator will replace the flashing blue lights.
When asked how many complaints the MTA received from confused motorists about the lights, a spokesman said, "one." In 2008 (the year the service was launched). In the Bronx.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
By Kate Hinds
New York City's Department of Transportation says redesigned streets have been very, very good to small businesses.
A new report says that retail sales are up along city streets that have bike paths, pedestrian plazas, slow zones, or select bus service.
In some cases, the increase is dramatic: on Brooklyn's Pearl Street, where the DOT maintains retail sales have increased by 172 percent since a parking triangle was turned into a pedestrian plaza.
In Measuring the Street, the DOT lays out metrics for evaluating street redesign projects. These include benchmarks like injuries, traffic speed and volume. And now it includes retail sales data along redesigned routes.
The report casts the city's street redesign in a favorable light just as hundreds of planners descend on the city for the Designing Cities conference, happening this week at New York University.
"For the first time, we have years of retail sales that were reported to the Department of Finance, and we were able to look at that data and apply it directly to the SBS corridors, the bike lane projects, etc.," said DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
Sadik-Khan ticked off a list of streets that she said economically benefited from being overhauled.
"On Fordham Road [in the Bronx], we saw the growth in the retail sales by local businesses -- and these are not chain stores -- grow 71 percent following the introduction of the SBS route there in 2008, which is three times the borough-wide growth rate."
The report says that along Ninth Avenue, retail sales are up 49 percent -- sixteen times the borough growth rate -- three years after that street's protected bike lane went in. Manhattan's Union Square, which was revamped in 2010, reports a lower commercial vacancy rate.
Sadik-Khan said the reason for increased sales is straightforward: if you build it, the people will come.
And presumably those people have wallets.
"We've seen anywhere between a 10 to 15 percent increase in ridership on all the SBS bus routes," Sadik-Khan said, "amid a citywide decline of 5 percent on bus routes." She said more riders along a route means more people getting on and off the bus, which means more foot traffic.
The DOT looked at sales tax records reported to the city's Department of Finance. The data excludes large chain stores and non-retail businesses.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Traffic lights will yield to buses in New York City -- at least on a stretch of Manhattan's East Side.
It's a small but significant step that could further speed travel times for the city's Select Bus Service. SBS routes have dedicated lanes, express stops, and passengers pay before they boards. Now New York's SBS is rolling out signal priority: stop lights that can sense when a bus is approaching -- and stay green to let it pass.
“Traffic Signal Prioritization is a vital piece in making bus travel more attractive,” said New York City Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement.
An initial run of 60 buses on Manhattan's heavily traveled M15 route will be outfitted with the technology to communicate with streetlights along First and Second Avenues. Manhattan's signal priority, which has been tested on an SBS bus route in the Bronx, will begin in November. The MTA says another 200 buses could join the program if it proves successful.
The cost of upgrading the 60 buses will cost $480,000.
SBS is a form of Bus Rapid Transit, a popular form of mass transit in other countries, often as a cheaper substitute for a subway system. Traditional BRT systems use lanes that are physically separate from other traffic. But in New York, the lanes multitask -- cars can use the lanes to make turns, and taxis can drop off passengers in the SBS lanes.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
(Staten Island, NY -- Colby Hamilton, WNYC) Staten Island is getting a bus rapid transit -- or something like it. New York City's brand of fast buses, which feature off-board payment and relatively few stops, is coming to the city's least populous borough.
So-called "select bus" routes already run in Manhattan and the Bronx.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says daily commuting for thousands of Staten Island transit users could be reduced by as much as half an hour a day.
The new bus service along the S79 line on to Hylan Boulevard will make just 22 stops, down from 80 stops on the regular bus service. Approximately 4,000 daily riders use the current, non-select service along the S79 line.
“By streamlining the number of stops to 22, we’re bringing a red carpet to the borough’s busiest bus corridor,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
Bloomberg called select bus service throughout the city a “proven winner.” MTA Chief Joe Lhota said, as a part of a recent round of service restorations, other Staten Island bus lines are being added -- and will coordinate with the ferry schedule.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Staten Island will be the third borough in New York City to get so-called "Select Bus Service." The service, the S79, will connect the Staten Island Mall and the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. The MTA expects the service to reduce travel times by 20%.
Some 8,900 passengers travel that route daily, according to the MTA, compared to 52,000 along First and Second Avenues in Manhattan and 45,000 along the route of the Bx 12 in the Bronx, New York's first SBS, which has been running since 2008.
SBS is a BRT-like service, though without some of the features that characterize BRT systems around the globe, like physically-segregated lanes and subway-like stations.
However it does incorporate designated lanes, signal priority, and fewer stops. The Staten Island buses will not have off-board payment, a feature that has irked some Manhattanites unaccustomed to paying before they get on the bus.
Along the busier routes, paying off-board is a big time-saver, the city DOT has said. But in Staten Island, the route is so lightly traveled -- or "highly dispersed," as the MTA calls it, that the authority has concluded it wouldn't make much of a difference. Walker Hook, the CEO of the Innstitute for Transportation Development Policy, which sets up and provides technical advice for BRT systems worldwide, called that assumption "reasonable."
The S79 will only run as a select bus, with local passengers being served by the S78 and S59.
The service will start in September.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
By Janet Babin : Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
For New Yorkers, all rules are just suggestions.
Exit at the rear of the bus? Fuggedaboutit!
“Please exit through the rear door,” quips the sonorous lady in the recorded messages that drone on over the din of noisy passengers. There's a reason for that -- it makes bus riding much faster for everyone. In some cities, you get a ticket for exiting at the front.
In New York?
Iris Holland was oblivious to the message as she exited from the front of the M15 bus onto Second Avenue the other day.
“I’m going for physical therapy, so instead of getting out at the end and having to walk, I sit near the front and get out at the front,” said Holland.
Pretty much no one listens to the admonitions. Which are there, of course, to make the buses move faster.
It's a bit better, but not much, on the city's select buses, where you don't have to wait for people to exit before you can get on and pay. But you have to buy a ticket, or get a receipt before you board, which causes no end of confusion, even -- or especially -- among seasoned New York bus riders.
The other day along New York City’s M34 bus route, a gaggle of would-be passengers queued up for an approaching cross-town ride. It was orderly enough; no pushing, shoving or angry glances to speak of.
But there was some confusion around the payment kiosk.
“How do you get a bus ticket?” asked Alice Sramkova, visiting from Prague, Czech Republic, with her two pre-teen daughters trailing behind her. And she wasn't the only one - several New Yorkers kept within ear shot hoping to hear an answer.
Other passengers leaned in to offer advice. “This is your ticket,” said one, pointing to her Metro Card. “No, your receipt is your ticket,” clarified another. By now a circle of uninitiated passengers surrounded Sramkova. Many did not realize they had to pay before the bus stopped. “I guess we got on the bus twice without having a valid ticket,” smiled Sramkova.
So it is with the NYC MTA’s so called “Select” bus service – that is, buses designed to speed up designated routes. To get them to move faster, the MTA has initiated several changes, that include limited stops, paying before boarding the bus with a Metro card only, boarding via the front or the back doors, and dedicated bus lanes.
According to the MTA, the changes trim up to 20-% off of travel times.
And on the M34, that’s saying something. It may feel like whatever bus you’re on is the slowest, but in fact, the MTA found that the M34 was among the slowest in the city. The route also carries more than 33,000 riders a day.
Before Select buses, the average speed of any city bus was 4.5 miles per hour – that’s only a hair faster than walking. The MTA began speedier service along 34th Street in November 2011, but passengers are still getting used to it. The service was first offered on Fordham Road in the Bronx in 2008. Select buses also run up First and down Second Avenues, on the M15 line.
Even though they’ve been around longer than the 34th Street Select Buses, there were still some blank stares and misunderstandings as passengers tried to board a Select Bus at 14th Street and Second Avenue last week.
Paying off board does not seem to come naturally to many passengers. “I don’t see what the big deal is to use your Metro Card and get on the bus; it’s a waste,” said rider Joan Marks.
The MTA said the purpose of paying off board is to save time of course. Think how long it takes to swipe all those Metro Cards as people enter the front of the bus, and then there are those who pay the $2.25 fare with coins, taking even longer. All that time people are paying, your bus is going nowhere.
Since bus drivers don’t check receipts, it is tempting to hop on board and ride for free. But that could turn out to be one expensive ride. Anyone caught without one of those receipts could face a $100 fine. And the MTA refused to say how many, but emphasized that bus inspectors are still riding the Select buses, searching for scofflaws.
Still, the MTA said fare evasion is receding. Fines have dropped by more than a third from their peak in June 2011, when the MTA issued 1067 summonses for fare evasion.
Bus drivers who notice riders flashing Metro Cards their way will often tell riders to get off the bus. That’s what happened to Mona and Osama Salih when they boarded an M15 bus last week without the required proof of payment receipt. Both showed the driver their Metro cards, thinking that’s all they had to do.
“The bus driver said you have to pay off the bus and then he left,” said Mona. She could not believe he didn’t wait. “Why has a Metro card if you have to have a receipt,” added Osama.
When riders don’t know the drill, some bus drivers will leave them behind. But not always.
“There’s a lot of tourists,” said bus driver Al Thomas. He said he will almost always explain how they are supposed to pay, but will only wait for them to pay if he is not holding up all the other passengers. “Depending on the light, because if you wait for everybody, it defeats the purpose.”
The Salih’s boarded a second Select Bus minutes after the first one had left. And this time, they carried their crumpled receipts in their hands, just in case.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
Every year, the group gives out two awards for poor bus service: the Pokie, for the slowest bus, and the Schleppie, for the least reliable.
The advocacy group said it clocked the M50 -- which runs crosstown between the United Nations on the East Side of Manhattan to Pier 43 on the Hudson River-- at noon at an average speed of only 3.5 miles per hour.
"The bus is just tremendously slow," said Straphangers spokesman Gene Russianoff. "You can push a lawnmower faster across Midtown than it takes the M50 to go from First to Second Avenue."
Russianoff said that though the M 50 is particularly desultory, the city's bus system is plagued by plodding speeds as it makes 2.5 million trips on an average weekday. "That's a lot of people stuck in traffic who deserve quicker trips," he said.
The Straphangers Campaign gave its Schleppie Award to the M 101, 102 and 103 buses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for arriving in bunches and failing to meet their schedules. He said those lines could move faster if the city protected them from traffic with dedicated lanes and sped up boarding by having passengers pay beforehand at bus stop kiosks--as is the case with Select Bus Service on the 34th Street crosstown route.
The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority agrees, in concept."The past year established Select Bus Service as a game changer in New York, with 20 percent faster bus service now on three routes," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "We are working with the city to expand the SBS network, bringing faster boarding, dedicated bus lanes and enhanced bus lane enforcement to more and more routes."
The city's bus system has absorbed some blows in recent years. The NY MTA cut 37 bus lines and shut down 570 bus stops as a cost-saving measure in June 2010. And while subway ridership has grown over the past two years, bus ridership is down by nearly two percent.
MTA statistics show that breakdowns on city buses have increased by 12% since last year. And the percentage of city buses that are 12 years or older has more than doubled, from 16% of the bus fleet in 2010 to 35% in 2011.
TN MOVING STORIES: Beverly Hills Wants To Stop Subway Under School, DOT Issues First Ever Tarmac Delay Fine, GM To Produce Pink Car
Monday, November 14, 2011
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Houston will require businesses to offer bike parking. (Link)
Bay Area bikers are getting free lights. (Link)
Reports of the death of the internal combustion engine have been greatly exaggerated. (Link)
Beverly Hills wants to stop Los Angeles from boring a subway tunnel under its high school. (AP)
It's Joseph Lhota's first day on the job as head of New York's MTA. (NY Daily News)
And: the MTA may shut down whole subway lines overnight next year as part of a massive work blitz. (NY Daily News)
Select Bus Service comes to New York's 34th Street. (WABC7)
The DOT slapped American Airlines with a $900,000 fine for tarmac delays -- the first ever. (Politico)
A new comic book teaches riders how to navigate San Francisco's transit system. (Greater Greater Washington)
Chicago's transit authority is threatening to reduce some suburban bus service if several Cook County commissioners follow through with a plan to cut funding. (WBEZ)
General Motors is producing its first pink car for the U.S. market. (Detroit Free Press)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Last night at a public meeting in Midtown Manhattan, the New York City DOT unveiled a new design for 34th street. Major parts of the old plan were scrapped. There will be no wide pedestrian walkway on what was to have been a carless stretch of 34th Street between Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and the Empire State Building at Fifth Avenue, in an area that lacks as DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has mildly put it "quality public space."
Also gone from the plan are bus lanes protected from traffic by concrete barriers. Instead the bus lanes will be marked with terra cotta paint, as on Select Bus Service lanes along First and Second Avenues. And two-way traffic will remain along the corridor, allowing vehicles to move in both directions toward approaches to the Lincoln and Midtown tunnels at either end of 34th Street.
Urban planners, who did not want to speak for attribution, lamented the death of what transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan once called "the the only true bus rapid transit plan" on the boards for New York, with physically segregated plans. The plan had been modeled on successful bus rapid transit systems in cities like Bogota, Columbia, and Ghanzhou, China. In those cities, cars cannot wander into the bus lanes, as they frequently do in New York, making buses far more speedy than cars. The plan for 34th street, planners say, would have provided a true "subway-on-wheels" experience river-to- river in midtown, connecting Bellevue hospital, the Empire State Building, Penn Station, and the Javits Convention Center.
But major businesses had complained the previous plan had too little space for pick-ups and drop-offs. The new plan has 300 loading zones, a seven-fold increase.
“This is good," Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership said of the plan. "The property owners who were most upset before—Macy's, Vornado and the Empire State Building—were all either happy or not quite ready to endorse it but thinking this is a much better plan.”
Christine Berthet, co-chair of Community Board 6 transportation committee, said the city's attention to public feedback had produced a better design.
“I think this is the one which has the most interaction, where they seem to be listening the most,” she said.
More public meetings about the 34th Street design are scheduled for March 30th and 31st.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Critics of the New York City Department of Transportation's plan to redesign 34th Street won a round yesterday when the city nixed a plan to replace car traffic in the corridor with bus lanes and a pedestrian island.
The plan had called for higher curbs, special bus lanes and bus ticket kiosks on the block between 5th and 6th Avenues. Some business owners said the redesign would've tied up traffic, and made it harder for drivers to shop and for businesses to receive deliveries.
Macy's was among the concerned. Senior vice president Ed Goldberg said he worried the changes to the streetscape would have made it harder to steer giant cartoon balloons up Broadway on Thanksgiving.
"Obviously anything that we do that is an obstruction, be it sidewalk or street, is of concern to us," he said." It's about our one big magic day of the year during the parade."
But others had looked forward to the city's plan to make one block of 34th Street free of cars. Several small store owners said they favored the move because a pedestrian island would've brought more shoppers on foot and made it easier to cross the street in the middle of the block.
Clothing store manager Rossana Rosado said pedestrians needed more space to move around. "There's always a traffic jam out there," she said. "It's impossible for people to get across the street, even, because there isn't a place for pedestrians to cross."
The city's Department of Transportation will present a revised plan for the 34th Street corridor at a public meeting on March 14.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The outer boroughs of New York City are creating jobs, but the newly employed might have some trouble commuting: New York's bus service has not kept pace with employment growth. Those are claims in a report just released by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank in Lower Manhattan.
The report says that over the past two decades, the number of outer borough residents commuting from borough to borough or within their borough has been increasing much faster than the number who make the more traditional trip into Manhattan's business districts. Because the subways are generally oriented toward moving riders to and from Manhattan, many outer borough residents with outer borough jobs take the bus.
The report's author, David Giles, says 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 writes.
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 says 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 with 4,045 jobs (a 4.6 percent increase); Queens with 11,584 jobs (2.4 percent); the Bronx with 16,557 jobs (7.7 percent); and Brooklyn with 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.
Monday, November 22, 2010
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Starting today, cameras are helping to police New York's bus rapid transit route. The Department of Transportation announced five cameras are watching out for drivers that illegally enter the bus lanes on the new Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side.
In case you were wondering, the New York Police Department has issued 13,833 summonses for violating the lanes—that's without the use of any camera assistance.
The figure is current, according to NYPD, as of November 17. That means the NYPD has been issuing about 350 tickets every day since the SBS lanes launched on October 10. Each ticket for driving in the bus lanes is at least $115.
Here's the math: NY's Finest have served about $1.6 million in summonses in protection of speedier East Side bus service so far.
We'll follow up to see if the pace of ticketing tapers off as drivers learn more about the lanes and awareness of the rules and enforcement increase. We'll also try to find out if the pace of the buses picks up with this traffic enforcement.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
From the NYC DOT:
Immediate Release RELEASE # 10-057
Thursday, November 18, 2010
NYC DOT AND MTA/NYC TRANSIT ANNOUNCE CAMERA ENFORCEMENT OF 1ST/2ND AVENUE BUS LANES BEGINS MONDAY
Authorized by Albany, bus lane cameras will speed transit by deterring unauthorized use
New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman/CEO Jay Walder today announced that bus lane camera enforcement of the new, exclusive Select Bus Service bus lanes along First and Second avenues will begin Monday to further enhance bus service and speed travel for the 54,000 daily riders of the M15.
Manhattan Select Bus Service's Launching Pains: Cranky Passengers, Cabs in the Bus Lane, Faster Ride
Thursday, October 14, 2010
(Alex Goldmark — Transportation Nation) Manhattan got its first taste of "bus rapid transit" this week. New York's MTA calls it Select Bus Service, and it is rolling up and down dedicated red lanes...well, mostly.
I rode the M15 SBS in afternoon traffic from one of the busiest stops at 14th street through Midtown and up into the more residential (and busier) Upper East Side until 68th street, talking to riders along the way. For most of the trip it was clear this is a bus line working out the kinks on a good idea. Riders were still learning how to use the new payment system, which is on the sidewalk, not on the bus. And, to put it kindly, drivers of other vehicles are still learning to stay out of the bus lanes.
In all it took me just about 30 minutes each direction, a little under that going northbound and a little over heading southbound.
(There's some dispute about whether New York's system can even be fairly called BRT, since it doesn't include several important features of the systems in Bogota and Guanzhou, China, like physically separated lanes and BRT "stations" similar to light rail stations.)
That's fast in comparison to last week's options. Two riders told me they are now getting to work in half the time—but transit riders are notoriously inaccurate when estimating travel times. Most riders, though, haven't yet timed out their trips. They were more confused with the new payment system and with a route that now skips stops that the old express or "limited" bus used to make.
All along the route, though, New York City Department of Transportation and transit employees were on hand to explain how the new vending machines work, and answer questions about the new route. And man, were they needed.