As Albany’s legislative session winds down for the summer, New York City’s transit advocates had hoped to see movement on an issue surrounding Select Bus Service. As Staten Island representatives objected to flashing blue lights on legally strong but practically dubious grounds, state representatives have struggled to find a suitable replacement color, but as of last week, they had settled on purple. Now, this effort’s future is in doubt.
Since we first heard of the purple light initiative, the bill has undergone some changes. Its current version is even more restrictive in that only bus rapid transit — or Select Bus Service — vehicles that use only pre-board fare payment may make use of the flashing purple lights. Astute readers may note that this would, of course, exempt the Staten Island S79 SBS service as this route still employs on-board fare payment.
Still, the concessions have not been enough to assuage Senator Andrew Lanza’s concerns. Matt Flegenheimer of The Times has the report:
“At first I thought they were joking,” said Senator Andrew J. Lanza of Staten Island, who had pressured the authority, along with Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, to do away with the blue lights. “This is the best you come back with? Flashing purple?”
Mr. Lanza raised the prospect of other colors, arguing that residents had become conditioned “in an almost Pavlovian way” to pull over at the site of bluish lights, sensing an emergency.
Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner, the bill’s sponsor in that chamber, said purple had been designated by the State Department of Motor Vehicles — which deemed it “the only option,” according to Mr. Kellner, given the existing functions of colors like green, yellow and red.
So not only does Lanza object to light blue flashing lights on a giant bus, but he too believes anything “bluish” is a concern. Perhaps Sen. Lanza needs to be reminded that this is blue and this is purple. Ultimately, it still seems as though this is a ploy by Staten Island representatives to make bus improvements as difficult as possible. The bill remains stuck in committee.
Postscript: Hilariously enough, Flegenheimer quotes Joe Lhota in his article. “Why do they need them?” he said of the flashing lights. “I can differentiate a bus.” SBS riders have been complaining to me, to the MTA and to anyone who will listen that it’s challenging to tell the difference from great distances between local and SBS service, especially at night. This point should be obvious to the former MTA Chair I would hope.