The MTA and DOT Select Bus Service initiative is a rather fragile and frail imitation of real bus rapid transit, and even a slight shift in the way the service is set up can have deep ramifications. When two Staten Island politicians more concerned with space for cars rather than the letter of the law raised a stink over SBS’ flashing lights, I figured turning off the blue indicators would have an impact on the service, and a recent article by Dana Rubinstein confirmed as much.
According to unnamed bus managers who oversee Select Bus Service, turning off the lights has resulted in slower buses that don’t move as quickly as they used to. “It’s really affecting the quality of service,” one said to Capital New York. The reasons are twofold: First, riders not accustomed to the system cannot easily distinguish between SBS buses and local buses, thus delaying boarding and travel times. Second, cars are not as quick to vacate supposed bus-only lanes as the blue lights no longer signal approaching vehicles.
In January, the MTA vowed to find another color for its flashing lights — one that wouldn’t violate state law — but results has been slow in coming. Recently, two City Council members have urged the agency to restore the flashing lights, but all the MTA has said is that they’re working on it. “We’re aware of customer concerns about being unable to distinguish between regular and SBS service, which is why we’re intently studying the best alternative to flashing blue lights,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said to Rubinstein. Only action though will speed up the buses again.