During the MTA Board’s committee meetings this morning, New York City Transit unveiled plans to adjust its bus scheduling, and the result are a bunch of minor cuts to bus schedules throughout the city. No routes will be scrapped, and the J train will in fact enjoy two additional morning trains. But neighborhoods will see bus wait times inch upward as certain routes are cut.
The changes, which you can find right here as a PDF, come across as minor. Some buses will see headways increased from 10 to 12 minutes. Others will see wait times go from five minutes to five minutes and thirty seconds. A few routes in some of the outer boroughs and Staten Island will see off-peak headways increase from 15 minutes to 20. Because of the addition of a few routes and the increase in J service, these changes will actually cost the MTA $300,000 a year, but they are cuts nonetheless.
According to the committee documents, the MTA is putting forth this proposal to “ensure that bus and subway schedules accurately match current rider demand and operating conditions…These changes also address the need for running time adjustments to more accurately reflect observed operating conditions.” It all sounds good, but there’s a fundamental problem of supply and demand. When it comes to public transit options, supply often drives demand. If I know a bus runs frequently and regularly, I’m more likely to take it than I otherwise would be. If Transit cuts back bus service so that trips are less frequent, it will make the bus a less attractive transportation alternative and will further drive down demand until they can cut the supply to zero. In a world where public transportation is a public good, these scalebacks are just a part of death by a thousand cuts.