Home Buses Reaping the spoils of bus lane enforcement

Reaping the spoils of bus lane enforcement

by Benjamin Kabak

One of the biggest obstacles the MTA and NYC DOT face in implementing their brand of Select Bus Service concerns bus lane enforcement. Since the city has hesitated to embrace physically separated lanes, somehow, the two agencies need to find a way to keep cars out of bus lanes. Aggressive policing can accomplish this but so too can bus lane cameras. The MTA can now use such cameras in some bus lanes, but the agency has ran into a problem with the city over fine collection.

According to recent reports in The Daily News, current MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota has yet to authorize bus lane camera enforcement because fines collected from lane violators does not reach the MTA. Instead, it get siphoned into the city’s coffers, unlikely to benefit transit projects or riders. The situation is, in a word, absurd.

Pete Donohue has the story:

The MTA is poised to boost bus-lane enforcement on First and Second Aves. — a step that’s long overdue — but only if the city agrees to share the income with the transit agency.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota refused to sign off on the purchase of the bus-lane enforcement cameras for the M15 Select route after staffers told him all the ticket revenue would go to city coffers, sources said last night.

In other words, the MTA would make an investment and the city would get all the returns. Lhota has an MBA from the Harvard Business School but anyone with the IQ of a beagle would see there’s something very wrong with that. One source said the illogic of entering into such an arrangement was indeed questioned by the prior transit administration.

The MTA has hesitated to discuss the issue publicly as any spat with the Bloomberg administration is unlikely to draw favorable. “We’re still finalizing a time frame,” a spokesman said to The News. “This turned out to be a bit more complicated than anticipated, but we are moving forward.”

Furthermore, according to Donohue, the authority doesn’t want all of the lane enforcement revenue; it just wants some to defray the costs of enforcement equipment. State politicians, though, who do not need to be beholden to a lame-duck city mayor, have been more aggressive in arguing for the revenue. Apparently, a similar set-up exists between the city and MTA for toll-evasion fines, and Staten Island’s Nicole Malliotakis wants to end that practice. “Money generated by MTA personnel should go back to benefit the MTA,” she said.

This truly seems like a no-brainer. NYPD officers have issued 27000 bus lane tickets since October and dole out, on average, around 40,000 traffic violation summonses on bridges and tunnels. The MTA does not receive any direct revenues from these enforcement efforts. Even if some of the dollars are returned to the MTA through the city’s contributions to the authority’s operating budget, the inequities are extreme and nonsensical. The MTA, which could use the money to improve service or restore routes lost to the 2010 cuts, allows enforcement dollars to slip away. That’s just a bad relationship, and Lhota is right to hold back on purchasing enforcement equipment until a more equitable solution can be reached.

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Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines June 14, 2012 - 9:12 am

[…] Lhota Holds Up Bus Lane Cameras After Learning City Gets All Ticket Revenue (News, Kabak) […]

Bolwerk June 14, 2012 - 9:17 am

Lhota is better acquainted with the financials than I am (I hope), but there still might be a logic to letting the city have the money. At least in theory the city does have to maintain the infrastructure below the tires.

And the most important aspect to the fines isn’t the money; it’s keeping people out of the bus lanes so the buses can actually move. I agree with Donohue, but then I don’t see why the city shouldn’t be paying for the enforcement cameras.

Peter June 14, 2012 - 2:14 pm

It would be nice if the MTA got the money, but even if it didn’t, ridership would presumably go up if service became faster due to traffic-enforcement.

This seems to be a case of cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face.

Andrew Smith June 14, 2012 - 9:47 am

Anyone know of any studies that discuss how frequently dedicated bus lanes (when actually kept free of cars) actually move more people at greater speed than if they were used for cars? Or of any projections done here in New York?

Doing an accurate estimate beforehand has to be damned hard. You need to estimate how many buses you’ll be able to run and how many people will ride them and how fast they’ll be able to go. And you have to calculate not only how many cars you’ll displace from the one lane but how much slower traffic will go in all the other lanes (which obviously varies from hour to hour) and how many people will start using another road (or public transit). How the hell do you ever know in advance if you are, overall, helping people get places or hindering them?

Bolwerk June 14, 2012 - 10:23 am

For transit riders, who surely outnumber POVs, you can probably compare pre-SBS and post-SBS schedules and get a pretty good idea. I just don’t know where to get a pre-SBS schedule so readily. Or, less helpful, compare Third Ave. to First Ave.? I don’t see why the traffic patterns on Third would be too different from pre-SBS First Ave. conditions. Either way, the schedules are designed for expected traffic conditions, not hoped-for ideal conditions. (IIRC, the non-SBS services can’t use the SBS lane, so the pre- to post-SBS change in their behavior might give you a good idea.)

Also, taking away a lane may improve the traffic equilibrium and speed up other traffic. Presumably dedicating a bus lane means buses won’t be blocking wayward autos as much as it means wayward autos won’t be blocking buses.

Flatbush Depot June 14, 2012 - 1:42 pm

Internet archive. Just get the URLs for the current M15/Bx12 local schedules and paste them into the search box on the internet archive, and you will see the old schedules that had both local and limited runs listed together.

Current M15 local schedule: http://www.mta.info/nyct/bus/s.....015cur.pdf

Oldest M15 local/LT schedule available on internet archive: http://web.archive.org/web/200.....015cur.pdf

For the old M16/M34 just replace “m015cur” in the first URL I listed with “m034cur” and put that whole URL in the internet archive search box.

Michael June 14, 2012 - 10:18 am

Enforcement is critical to keeping the bus lanes moving. I hope the MTA and City can resolve this issue soon to ensure that the fines can be passed on to transit.

I think the real question is why don’t all parking and traffic fines go to transit? San Francisco they have merged the parking enforcement into the SFMTA with MUNI to ensure that the fines from tickets goes towards improving transportation in the city.

NYC should take a percentage of all parking and moving violations in the City and pass them on to the MTA NYC Transit.

The biggest violators of bus lanes are Taxi’s and delivery trucks. No Taxi Hailing Signs should be put up on the sidewalk to stop people from trying to hail cabs in the bus lane. Taxis and delivery trucks that are caught in the bus lane should have fines and points placed on their licences to make sure they do not repeat the offense.

Jeff June 14, 2012 - 11:16 am

Ha, it’s funny, because I believe taxis are actually allowed to violate bus lanes to pick up and discharge fares. Seems absurd, but you have to remember how vocal and powerful the livery industry is.

SEAN June 14, 2012 - 12:14 pm

Lhota Holds Up Bus Lane Cameras…

That’s one amazing tallent!

Jim D. June 15, 2012 - 10:35 am

There’s a simple solution – give the MTA shared jurisdiction for the enforcement of traffic laws in bus lanes and stops (with the authorization to issue tickets, of course) and let whichever agency writes the ticket keep the revenue.

Eric F June 15, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Is the MTA going to pay for the enforcement? Can this be applied to other areas? If I double park in front of a school will the ticket money be deposited with the Board of Ed.?

Bolwerk June 15, 2012 - 4:42 pm

A little. More importantly, the MTA is who will be harmed.

Sharing the revenue seems reasonable.

Andrew June 15, 2012 - 6:13 pm

The MTA is paying for enforcement – that’s the point. According to the article: “The MTA isn’t looking to take all the ticket revenue. It wants some portion of the revenues to defray the expense of the equipment, source said.”

If you double park in front of a school, you don’t impede classroom instruction. If you drive in a bus lane, you impede bus service.

Juan Castillo June 15, 2012 - 3:15 pm

So far, the 34th Street +selectbusservice crosstown corridor has been improving ridership for the bus riders in Midtown. The only problem is that the police vehicles, taxi cabs, and tour buses are blocking the way of the westbound M34 and the eastbound M34/M34A. The stop for those tour buses should have been relocated down to the NW corner of W 33rd St & 8th Av, thus clearing a space for the M34 to stop at. Also, the DOT should try to make a few random streets (either horizontal or vertical) a little wider by the different measurements of a street lane, and to make sure that any vehicle does not get in the way of Bus Rapid Transit, they will stay on their own lane, plus separate traffic lights with countdown clocks (1 for the buses, 1 for the vehicles, 1 for the bike riders on bike lanes and 1 for the pedestrians) That might seem logical enough to improve traffic flows.

Tom June 18, 2012 - 3:53 pm

Even MTA buses can block bus lanes. About a year ago, I was on the Bx12 SBS on Fordham Road. Nobody was blocking the bus lane and our bus was speeding past automobiles in the backed-up “regular” traffic lanes.

Then we caught up to a local Bx12 bus. Instantly we also dropped down to a local schedule–waiting at every local bus stop behind the local bus (although we didn’t open our doors). Passing the local bus was impossible as the regular lanes were bumper-to-bumper.

If local buses are allowed in bus lanes, there should be some way for SBS buses to pass them at stops.

Andrew June 18, 2012 - 8:25 pm

This is one of the reasons I’ve repeatedly objected to physically separated bus lanes, which don’t allow buses to pass other buses. (In your case, your bus could have passed the local if traffic in the other lanes hadn’t been so heavy.)

Offset bus lanes – one lane out from the curb, with parking adjacent to the curb – solve this particular problem: the local pulls to the curb at the local stop and the SBS passes it in the bus lane.


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