Once more unto the buses we go. Today’s bus story comes to us via the old reliable Straphangers Campaign. The transit advocacy group has released a report accusing bus service of lagging behind ridership demands, and the MTA isn’t happy about it.
In short, the Straphangers believe that bus riders are getting short-shrifted. “Crushed by crowds? Have to wait for more than one bus to go by? It’s not your imagination, transit officials have never caught up to the waves of new bus riders,” Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign lawyer, said.
Gains in service lagged behind increases in ridership in three boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens: In Brooklyn, the gap was more than triple, with ridership increasing 26% since 1997, but service only 8%. In Queens and the Bronx, the gap was 10 percentage points. Ridership was up 24% in the Bronx, but service only 14%. In Queens, ridership increased 30%, but service only 20%.
Gains in service outpaced increases in ridership in two boroughs: In Manhattan, gains in service were slightly more than increases in ridership (15% to 13%). On Staten Island, gains in service outpaced increases in ridership overall (23% to 18%).
Russianoff used the Straphangers’ findings to warn against the possible service cuts the MTA faces in light of budgetary issues. “It makes no sense to cut service that’s already lagging behind ridership and new riders are flocking to transit service as the price of gasoline heads toward $5 a gallon,” he said.
But while the Straphangers leveled their criticisms, New York City Transit swung back. Says their press office:
The Straphangers assertion that our bus customers are being “crushed by crowds” or that customers are “having to wait for more than one bus to go by” does not systemically occur on NYC Transit bus routes. It is equally untrue that NYC Transit has not kept pace with the increase in ridership which resulted from free bus-to-subway transfers and discounted fares. The fact of the matter is that the increase in bus ridership, most of which occurred by the end of 2001, was met with unprecedented increases in bus service.
At the heart of the matter is an assertion by the MTA that bus ridership levels are well within Board-adopted loading guidelines. While NYC Transit stresses this claim, the Straphangers claim that the MTA has long kept these numbers a secret and that their independent research doesn’t jibe with the MTA’s claims. “If New York City Transit’s own checks of ridership show it is providing enough matching levels of bus service, it should publicly release the crowding information on a regular basis,” Russianoff said.
The truth, much like the next bus, is out there somewhere.