Home Buses Video: MTA piloting bike racks on buses

Video: MTA piloting bike racks on buses

by Benjamin Kabak

As I’ve mentioned before, the MTA’s pilot programs have become something of a catch-all for new initiatives. Most of these programs are of the new-to-New York variety that have been implemented elsewhere, usually for years without incident, and the latest — bike racks on a pair of bus routes operating on Staten Island — is no different. To drive home the point, the MTA released a video over the Labor Day weekend that highlights just how people are supposed to use the bike racks.

The pilot itself is a great idea. The S53 and S93 bus routes will have front-mounted racks that can each fit two bikes. Customers are responsible for loading and unloading the bikes while the video reminds those cyclists of key safety tips to ensure drivers are aware of when riders are using the racks. The two routes both serve a college campus with many cyclists and bike routes on both sides of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“Bringing the Bike & Ride program to the S53 and S93 will increase the mobility of students who are traveling between home and campus. Before this program, our customers had no direct way to travel with their bicycles on public transportation between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Now customers can take advantage of the city’s bike lanes and greenways without worrying about how to transport their bicycles,” Darryl C. Irick, President of MTA Bus and Senior Vice President, NYC Transit Department of Buses, said. “A future expansion will depend on results of this pilot and will most likely focus on routes that cross bridges.”

It’s easy for us to scoff at this pilot as yet another one of those examples of New York exceptionalism. Bike racks are common on buses throughout the world, and the MTA doesn’t really need to pilot them to know that they’ll work and be tremendously popular. But here, the MTA is looking at how these two different racks work and which type should be used throughout the city. The agency is also looking at routes with tight turns and situations where front-mounted racks impair the MTA’s ability to machine-wash buses.

And what of the costs? The racks check it at a hair over $1100 a pop, a downright reasonable figure for something transit-related and one that should decrease if the MTA orders more in bulk. So long as this program moves out of pilot and into full implementation, this is an upgrade long overdue.

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bigbellymon4 September 8, 2015 - 12:50 am

These racks should not only be used by local buses that cross bridges (B39, S53/93, Bx15, etc.), but also by buses that pass by/through a city park that contains bike lanes (B68, B43, all crosstown buses in upper Manhattan that pass through Central Park) or pass by major areas that are bike oriented (Coney Island). Besides that, this feature should have been implemented decades ago.

Chris C September 8, 2015 - 10:03 am

Any one done any work on how long buses and thus pedestrians will be delayed as someone takes time to put a bike on and off the rack.

AMH September 8, 2015 - 11:01 am

Typically there’s no additional delay. The cyclist just mounts their bike while everyone else is boarding.

Stephen September 8, 2015 - 4:10 pm

With only 2 bikes per bus, I don’t imagine there will be much in the way of delays. It’s not like when someone gets on a bus and then gets off 1 stop later (I see that from when I start my return trip at Main Str and 1 or 2 folks get off at the first stop. But, it’s a legitimate stop, so no whining from me. I will figure that a bike rider might put the bike on and then go all the way to end or to a train station so that they can transfer to a train to get to Manhattan.

John S September 8, 2015 - 6:57 pm

We have had them in Seattle for decades. Unless a cyclist is the only person getting on or off at a stop, you won’t see any delay – the racks are pretty efficient.

Tower18 September 8, 2015 - 9:46 pm

It takes no more than 10 seconds to get a bike into the rack. It’s surprisingly easy.

Cities around the world have had success with this, there’s nothing to fear.

Roadgeek Adam September 10, 2015 - 2:39 pm

As long as they are the same ones NJ Transit uses, I guarantee you with the right people using them, it takes no more than 90 seconds to get it on.

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 10:16 am

Only a few large transit agencies don’t have bike racks on there busses. Most notable beyond the MTA, NICE, NJT & Bee-Line. In NJT’s case – a good portion couldn’t be outfitted since 1. MCI coaches don’t have the spot for the rack & 2. the Lincoln tunnel.

Bee-Line also had a pilot, but chose not to go ahead do to costs. I was around $500 per bus about half of the MTA.

adirondacker12800 September 8, 2015 - 5:06 pm

Most NJTransit buses are something other than MCI.


Most of the MCI buses are for suburban service to the PABT. You don’t need a bicycle in Manhattan.

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 6:40 pm

Why not?

adirondacker12800 September 8, 2015 - 8:01 pm

There’s this think called the subway in Manhattan, that can get you within walking distance of most places.

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 8:54 pm

NoNeed to be sarcastic about it!

Tower18 September 8, 2015 - 9:47 pm

His comments have gone past no value added to being value subtracted. I don’t know why he’s here, except it apparently gives him a place to be contrary.

BenW September 10, 2015 - 10:42 am
Steve September 12, 2015 - 5:07 pm

So is that why CitiBike is one of the most popular bike share systems in the world, because there’s no need for it?

adirondacker12800 September 12, 2015 - 6:32 pm

It’s an important niche product. Like off off Broadway theater tickets are.
The MTA says the subway turnstiles record a fare 5,597,551 times on an average weekday. Wikipedia says Citibike has an average of 34,176 rides per day. 34,176 divided by 5,597,551 is 0.006105527. In nice round numbers for every 1,000 subway riders there are 6 Citibike users. A small profitable niche.
That makes it even less necessary to haul your own bike into Manhattan.
Which doesn’t make the bike racks on NJTransit NABI buses evaporate.

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 6:47 pm

Most NJT intrastate busses are manufactured by North American Bus Industries while the interstate busses are MCI coaches. There are 80 or so Neoplan articulated busses as well.

JJJJ September 8, 2015 - 5:49 pm

I believe you can place your bike under the bus for the big buses that go in the tunnels.

22rr September 8, 2015 - 10:32 am

Doesn’t this slow down bus service quite a bit? Isn’t the point of a bike so that you don’t need to take the bus?

AMH September 8, 2015 - 11:05 am

It doesn’t usually slow down service since the bus needs to wait for others to board anyway. It’s very beneficial on buses that cross bridges (such as the Verrazano) that you’re not allowed to bike across.

Jacob Morgan September 8, 2015 - 11:34 am

A person would want to take a bike if their total commute were too long/time consuming to do all on a bike. The bike speeds up access to the start and end points of the transit routing.

Tower18 September 8, 2015 - 9:49 pm

It doesn’t make a ton of sense on something like a Manhattan cross-town trip, which would be faster by bike anyway, but it can be useful as part of a longer journey, especially for the “last-mile” problem for riders who aren’t bike commuters or can’t handle biking the full journey.

There’s also inclement weather days.

Also, no it doesn’t slow down service.

kevin September 10, 2015 - 5:20 pm

It takes a while to ride across the Verrazano….

wise infrastructure September 8, 2015 - 11:02 am

isn’t bike sharing a superior way to have the bikes where desired instead of slowing down all users of the buses?

how many bikes can fit on each bus?

Jacob Morgan September 8, 2015 - 11:39 am

Maybe. If it works for you. However, it’s not widely available and rarely in outer borough neighborhoods where people may want to use a bike to cut down on time walking to a bus or to a more efficient bus/subway route. Plus, if you have ever used Citibike, you have probably seen how limiting the 45 minute time limit is, and how common issues are with docking stations being full or empty when you need them.

Stephen September 8, 2015 - 4:05 pm

Only 2 bikes per bus.

kevin September 10, 2015 - 6:04 pm

How many bike share stations are there in Staten Island? Or in Bay Ridge?
Because that is where this is happening.

AMH September 8, 2015 - 11:02 am

Surely other transit agencies machine-wash their buses?

wise infrastructure September 8, 2015 - 11:08 am

Given the inability of users to do something as easy as swipe a metro-card, one can just envision 5+ minute loading times for buses plus liability issues. Adding 1-2 feet of length to a bus means little in less congested areas, but in NY the bus drivers already now pulling a rabbi out of a hat and now you are asking them for more. How will the union feel about this?

22rr September 8, 2015 - 12:26 pm

I remember frequently riding the bus in LA and everyone would groan impatiently when the bus driver had to get out to load a bike or put down the wheelchair ramp… of course it’s great to provide service to bikes and essential to provide service to handicap, someone needs to think through the design of the bus accessories and the procedure by which this all happens to avoid slowdowns

Jeff September 8, 2015 - 2:05 pm

According to the MTA’s video, bus drivers are not permitted to assist in loading or unloading of bikes.

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 6:39 pm

That is standard practice with north American transit agencies. Passengers must load & unload their bikes unless MCI type coaches are used.

It’s obvious that a great number of commenters here have a lot to learn regarding transit & the first/ last mile problem based on above remarks. Bikes fill that need in several ways & shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of hipster form of mobility.

adirondacker12800 September 8, 2015 - 7:59 pm

Wiipedia says Citibike has 93,184 annual subscribers and provides 34,176 rides a day. Even the hipsters don’t bike.

SEAN September 9, 2015 - 8:03 am

At least not yet. LOL

Dan B September 9, 2015 - 9:54 pm

They’re just riding their own bikes until Citibike switches over to fixies. 😉

snogglethorpe September 13, 2015 - 8:16 am

Bikes are surely a very good last-mile solution, it’s just that bus bike-racks (and other “bring your bike on board” methods) are not a very good way of achieving greater bike usage, simply because they’re ridiculously unscalable: they only work well if very few people use them.

Better solutions are station bike parking (which is vastly more space-efficient than car parking and so very compatible with dense urban locations) and bike-share.

JJJJ September 8, 2015 - 5:48 pm

Off topic: Federal investigation into the Port Authority gravy train has resulted in the United CEO resigning, along with two other high level executives.

Official reason: Special flights United subsidized for the Port Authority CEO to fly home.

See also: Atlantic City Service, and the reason Im posting here, the proposed extension of PATH to EWR.

United this year abandoned JFK for EWR.

United has been lubing up both New Jersey and the Port Authority, presumably to get them to support extending PATH to EWR, and thus making EWR hands down the most convenient airport for Wall Street.

TL;DR: NYC metro is still corrupt as fuck and major transit projects are being decided on based upon which primarily benefits millionaires and CEOs

SEAN September 8, 2015 - 6:54 pm

The cranky flyer an aviation blog that is similar to this one, reported on this deal months ago. http://www.crankyflyer.com

BruceNY September 8, 2015 - 8:57 pm

Aren’t these bikes sitting ducks for thieves? By the time you see your bike being stolen and the driver lets you off (what if you’re just at a red light, and not an actual stop–is the driver permitted to open the door?), what are your chances of catching the thief and getting your bike back? Or will bikes need to be chained to the racks to prevent this (requiring yet more time)?

Duke September 8, 2015 - 11:38 pm

Counter-question: do other bus operators in the US, some of which operate in cities with higher crime rates than New York, have a problem with this? If not then it is a speculative rather than practical concern.

SEAN September 9, 2015 - 7:57 am

Bikes are secured by a bar that goes over the front tire. For a bike to be stolen, the thief literally needs to be in front of the bus in full view of the driver.

Tipical not invented in New York syndrome.

lop September 11, 2015 - 1:36 pm

What do you expect the bus driver to do exactly? Run over the thief? He’s not a cop, he’s not chasing anyone down for you. Bikes will be stolen from time to time.

lop September 11, 2015 - 1:34 pm

Not every day, but it happens.


JJJ September 9, 2015 - 11:39 am

Why are people infatuated with throwing out all these hypothetical problems when it is a concept that has been proven in literally every other big city in the country?

Bu bu but dwell time! Bu bu but theft!

Its no wonder we cant build shit in this country anymore because everything new is a potential disaster that would never work, never mind it does work everywhere else.

rustonite September 10, 2015 - 9:41 pm

Late to the party, but…St. Louis Metro has bike racks on every bus in the system. They’re super easy to use, they take about ten seconds. Nobody tries to steal the bikes (and if they’d try anywhere, they’d try it here). For seriously: if Murder City can have bike racks, the Big Apple can.


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