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.