Home Buses DOT Mobility Report highlights NYC’s bus problem

DOT Mobility Report highlights NYC’s bus problem

by Benjamin Kabak
DOT's Mobility Report identified just show slowly buses move through New York City.

DOT’s Mobility Report identified just show slowly buses move through New York City.

Every day, the 8.5 million people who live in New York, along with numerous tourists and others journeying in for work or education or fun, have to get somewhere. We have to get to our jobs and our schools, our grocery stores and our parks, and our museums, plays and baseball stadiums. We take subways and buses, cars and taxis, bikes and boats. On some days, our riders are smoother than others, but by and large this transportation network gets us where we need to be.

It’s not, however, all perfect, and lately cracks in a particularly vital segment have been on full display. New York City’s bus network seems to be hemorrhaging riders at a study clip, and although policy-makers have expressed concern over sharply declining ridership figures, they have not yet taken steps to solve New York City’s bus problems. A solution could require a major reconfiguring of how we prioritize traffic and street space, and current City and MTA officials haven’t been willing to dig in for a fight.

Earlier this week, NYC DOT released a new Mobility Report [pdf], and the colorful document highlights how New York City is more crowded than ever before and traffic speeds, especially in Manhattan’s so-called central business district south of 60th Street, have never been slower. “With record tourism, jobs and population growth, New York City is now experiencing packed subway trains, along with a 300% surge in daily bicycling since 1990,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted in a statement. “The report’s conclusions are clear: As we move forward, policy makers will need to redouble efforts to chart a course that supports mass transit and other options to keep a growing and thriving New York City moving.”

If only it were that simple. As the population grows, mobility has slowed, and buses have been the biggest victims of slow speeds. The numbers are stark. In 2000, annual bus ridership hit 699 million, and that number held steady until 2010 when the MTA slashed numerous bus routes and generally reduced service throughout the city. Since then, and despite a rollback of some of the cuts, annual ridership hit 651 million last year, and there is no indication this trend will reverse.

Bus ridership has been steadily declining since 2010.

Bus ridership has been steadily declining since 2010.

The report discusses the rise of cycling as a popular means of filling in holes in the transit network and solving many people’s last-mile problems, but it seems to lay the blame of the bus decline squarely on the shoulders of speed. Using BusTime data, DOT found that travel speeds in Manhattan, where ridership has sunk the most, are slowest, and in many spots, buses are traveling slower than a healthy adult can walk. For example, a westbound M42 averages 3.2 miles per hour between 2nd Avenue and 6th Avenue between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on a weekday. For many people, it is literally faster to walk.

That bus speeds are so slow is no big surprise, but what can we do to fix it? The report indicates that speeds are the cause for a decline, but it falls short of identifying any cures. Generally, three issues create slow buses. First, the boarding process where riders dip their MetroCards (and often struggle with it) is slow and clunky, creating very long dwell times at stations. Second, buses are subject to the whims of the street. Without dedicated infrastructure, buses get stuck in traffic, and even in places where dedicated lanes do exist, enforcement is spotty. Queue-jumping technology, or signal priortization, was supposed to be a part of the city’s Select Bus Service offerings, but it still hasn’t been rolled out. Add it all up, and you get slow buses.

From where I sit, fixing the buses would involve a massive philosophical change in which pre-board fare payment is the norm rather than a feature of a souped-up express bus. It would involve rethinking the bus network to ensure that buses provide connections between where riders are and where they want to be. It would also require a major push to bring dedicated bus lanes to far more areas of the city. Buses shouldn’t be a secondary mode of transit, subject to congestion; buses should get priority over surface congestion.

Ultimately, if the city is serious about eliminating congestion, especially in Manhattan, the answer will be some form of pricing model, but that will lead to the need to invest in buses. And to do that, the city has to start respecting buses. Otherwise, they will be forever stuck in traffic, inching slowly down their routes, sometimes faster than walking, usually slower than biking, and always a second-class mode of transit.

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imogen June 10, 2016 - 11:04 am

Contactless will help, too. If it’s a card, there’s 50%+ time saved from payment. If it’s a phone, bluetooth beacons can eliminate payment times altogether by charging riders without after 30 seconds on the bus (including prompting to refill).

imogen June 10, 2016 - 11:04 am

err, that “without” snuck in there.

BBnet3000 June 10, 2016 - 11:35 am

It can save even more than that at busy stops if they put taggers at all doors and let people board anywhere and perhaps even tag after boarding.

AMH June 13, 2016 - 9:44 am

Yes, this is what needs to happen.

Graham June 11, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Where I live we’ve had a contactless system for years, passengers still have to enter at the front of the bus where the driver is, but can leave via either the front or the back door.

The real strenght of the system though is that it is fully integrated, the same contactless ticket can be used on the busses, trains or ferry. One of the nice things about that is that it both speeds transit (by making intermodal changes simpler.) and cuts down on fare jumping.

wiseinfrastructure June 10, 2016 - 11:42 am

Even the 3 door boarding on our select buses is not acceptable – the doors are so narrow that people can not move freely

-build/buy new buses with seating only on the left and several wide doors on the right

Astoria rider June 10, 2016 - 1:57 pm

Not just the doors. Those aisles are no narrow. I agree to rip seats out.

JJJ June 12, 2016 - 9:29 pm

The size and quantity of doors on the buses of US bus systems is one of the biggest problems thats constantly ignored.

Its not a technical issue. Around the world, 3 doors on 40-foot buses is the norm, not 2. Additionally, you CAN have wider doors. I just rode a bus in Yosemite where the rear door felt twice as wide as a standard transit bus door.

BrooklynBus June 10, 2016 - 12:53 pm

The goal should not be merely to speed up bus travel times. That is only one component. The real goal should be to improve bus travel times. That is done by filling transit deserts, changing routes to make them more direct and to improve connections with other routes. There are many new routes that need to be set up like a direct route from Riis Park to Sheepshead Bay station in Brooklyn. During non-summer months the Riis Park parking lot is under utilized. If free parking would be provided during non-summer months, anyone with a car in Rockaway could drive and park there and jump on the bus for a quick ride via the Belt Parkway. That would give them a much quicker trip to Manhattan than they currently have. There also needs to be new or modified bus routes to serve the new ferries that are coordinated with ferry arrivals and departures.

But the MTA is not interested in improving bus routes to have better serve riders. They merely set up a few shuttle routes that terminate short of making proper connections to give the illusion they care. They do not want new bus routes which would get heavy demand. That is why they only consider increased operating costs and do not consider potential revenue that would partially offset those costs. Their goal is not to improve transit but to spent the least amount of operating costs they can. None of their new routes (B32, 84 etc) are doing better than routes that were discontinued in 2010 such as the B71. They do not want to bring that route back and extend it through the Battery Tunnel because riders night actually use it. They are trying to make it appear that new SBS bus routes is all that is needed. What sense does it make to invest now with new SBS routes, when the fare machines will all have to be scrapped in 2019 when we switch to contactless media?

Yes bus lanes are important, but they should only be instituted where the volume of buses can actually support them where combined headways are three minutes or less. We do not need to increase traffic congestion by taking away general traffic lanes when buses are operating only every 15 minutes as is being proposed for Woodhaven Boulevard.

We need to encourage bus service by reducing total trip bus travel time, not by trying to make auto travel slower than the bus.

bigbellymon4 June 10, 2016 - 10:17 pm

I agree with your statement, but the route that you propose from Riis Park to Sheepshead Bay wouldn’t work doing rush hours as the Belt Parkway is always crowded with traffic. Plenty of the new routes don’t work because they are through low population areas. Yes, they might be needed, but not as much as areas in Southeast Queens or in South Brooklyn.

BrooklynBus June 11, 2016 - 8:55 am

The Belt Parkway would only be required for one exit and with traffic probably still would be faster than local streets which still could be used as an alternative. Plenty of other route changes are needed. For example the spaghetti set up of routes whereby the B16 tries to serve both Ft Hamilton Parkway as well as 13 Av has never been successful causing inconvenient transfers and bypassing Maimonidies Hospital. Separate routes for each street are needed. A route connecting Bay Ridge to JFK using the Belt Parkway and making some intermediate stops on the service road like at Bay Parkway, Knapp Street, etc is also needed. The problem again is that the MTA is too interested in keeping operating costs to a minimum and refuses to make meaningful changes involving existing routes. They want people to believe that all that is necessary is to add a few shuttle routes at 30 minute headways and convert existing routes to SBS.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 1:47 am

You are a genius. I live in Rockaway and I agree that the route you suggest would increase public transit, reduce travel times and reduce car usage. Don’t punish commuters, make commuting faster and safer and more accessible. We should use all our highways, bridges and tunnels. We need more routes and buses that would eliminate unnecessary transfers. The MTA needs to listen to you.

Kevin Walsh June 13, 2016 - 5:49 pm

Can buses use the Belt Parkway? I thought overpass clearances were too low.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 7:21 pm

Buses have been using the Belt Parkway in service (B83) and not in revenue service to get to Ulmer Park Depot in non-revenue service for like ten years now. All they need is a permit from City DOT. All the overpasses have been pretty much rebuilt or soon will be rebuilt and were never so low as to not allow buses to use the center lane. Bus drivers know to use the center lane when going through a low underpass.

paulb June 10, 2016 - 12:59 pm

Drivers should have a much tougher time claiming the high ground about losing a lane or parking or traffic light priority to the bus than when they’re angry about a bike lane. Still, there seems no end to how you get indulged when you own or drive a car.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:01 am

Let’s stop dividing commuters. Everyone needs to travel the way that is best for them. People drive cars mostly because it’s the best way for them. The MTA needs to expand the system and make commuting by train, bus or ferry faster, safer and accessible. Give us more trains, buses and ferries and open our roadway ways to all so we don’t need to use cars.

For example: I noticed that buses travel 15 to 30 minutes apart on Liberty Avenue. Why? If we had more buses running more frequently more people would use them.

What do you tell a commuter when he doesn’t have a bus, train or ferry to get around with? Ride your bike 10 to 30 miles to get to work or home? What do you tell a family of five to do when they go to Costco for shopping? Ride your bike of bus? It’s not realistic.

al June 10, 2016 - 3:13 pm

At these speeds, and considering the wait time between buses, it might be a great idea for the city council to legalize electric motor assisted kick scooters.

pete June 10, 2016 - 5:14 pm

Building pedestrian underpasses (sometimes by using the existing subway mezzanines) and putting fences on the street in midtown is the only way to speed up traffic in Manhattan.

Light turns green, no cars move. Left turn cars are blocked by pedestrians, right turn cars are blocked by a double parker in he rightmost lane. So right turn cars are in the middle lane instead, and the right turn cars are then blocked by pedestrians. Light turns yellow/orange count down starts, only then a couple cars go through the intersection, and then it is back to red.

Adirondacker12800 June 10, 2016 - 5:27 pm

Why should dozens if not hundreds of pedestrians be inconvenienced for a few cars?

BrooklynBus June 10, 2016 - 6:54 pm

Because it is one measure that would help move traffic which is not the goal of many pedestrians because they are selfish, do not want to be inconvenienced, are impatient, and want to jaywalk whenever they can since many of them do not drive and do not care about the needs of others. All they want are fewer cars which will not happen overnight without massive improvements to mass transit.

So the cars will not magically disappear and we have to work on all fronts. And one of those is to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and other vehicles.

22r June 10, 2016 - 7:01 pm

well, most of the cars on the streets of Manhattan are, quite frankly, unnecessary and just taking up an unfair amount of space

BrooklynBus June 10, 2016 - 8:18 pm

And exactly how would you know that? Last week to was on a cruise that departed from Bayonne. How exactly was I supposed to get to and from Queens without going through Manhattan?

Also most of the traffic in Manhattan is not from the private automobile but from cabs, limos, trucks, government vehicles etc.

Adirondacker12800 June 10, 2016 - 8:55 pm

Across the Bayonne Bridge from Staten Island and to Staten Island over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge? Or through the Bronx and over the George Washington? Though technically the Cross Bronx turns into the Trans Manhattan for the few blocks between the Harlem River and the Hudson River.
PATH to Jersey City and a cab? It would have been a real trek with luggage. And quite a hike from the HBLR to the dock if you were crazy enough to do that.

BrooklynBus June 11, 2016 - 8:44 am

Both your car alternatives are very indirect and certainly no quicker. The dock itself is 2.3 miles long so a walk even without luggage was out of the question. As for a cab, considering we had to wait in line on the dock for 45 minutes, that cost alone would have been prohibitive. The point is sometimes a car may be your only feasible alternative.

Adirondacker12800 June 11, 2016 - 11:58 am

all the passengers drove in their own car to the ship. odd

BrooklynBus June 12, 2016 - 4:45 pm

Not odd at all when there are few if any mass transit alternatives. There was a place for taxis to stop but I didn’t notice any.

Rob June 13, 2016 - 8:44 pm

We took NJ transit (PATH and light rail) as close as possible then called a cab for the last couple miles and it wasn’t very expensive. If we had a car I guess we would have driven, but then we would have to pay parking.

BrooklynBus June 14, 2016 - 7:50 am

I would have had to add a bus and train to that mix. Not very convenient especially with luggage. It would have been cheaper when you consider the parking. But it took us nearly three me hours anyway with the 45 minute wait on the pier and Manhattan traffic was not that bad. Only took 30 minutes across Manhattan and another 20 waiting to get through the tunnel and going through it. So how long would it have taken me from Astoria to Bayonne after my 90 minute subway ride to Astoria unless I met my friend in Manhattan which still would have been a 75 minute ride? U

Adirondacker12800 June 14, 2016 - 5:00 pm

It would take 90 minutes to get to Astoria if you started out in Coney Island.

WINS has traffic reports every ten minutes at :01, WWBR has traffic reports every ten minutes at :05
WCBS has traffic reports every ten minutes at :08

Very handy, instead of sitting in traffic you can alter your plans a bit and get to where you are going some other way, faster. But if you did that you couldn’t whine about how pedestrians ruined your trip across Midtown.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:31 am

Stop the hate. People that drive have a right to travel too. Stop being so narrow minded. People need cars too. Not everyone has a train, bus or ferry to get around. People sometimes need a car. Let’s stop discriminating against people who drive. It’s wrong. We need to unite commuters and share our transportation system.

Guest June 10, 2016 - 10:52 pm

As though drivers and pedestrians are some distinct class of people…

Drivers become pedestrians once they exit their cars and are just as guilty of jaywalking.

Pedestrians jaywalk because they are on foot. A driver is sitting on their ass in a car, in a climate controlled environment at that.

We could use mid-block crossings on the long side of blocks. Would encourage pedestrians to utilize that crossing.

Tower18 June 11, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Sorry, “moving traffic” should not be the goal of anyone. Moving “people” should be the goal, and frankly, the best way to do that is to *eliminate* traffic, not to take measures to move cars faster. We’ve been down that road for 40 years and we know it to be a (literal and figurative) dead end.

BrooklynBus June 12, 2016 - 4:53 pm

You are speaking theoretics and reality. We don’t necessarily have to make traffic move faster, but we should not be taking steps to moderate or slug moving traffic move even slower which is what this administration is doing.

Mass transit needs to be improved but not by intentionally slowing traffic to give mass transit more of an edge. There are some trips that are best made by car which you refuse to recognize. No one wants to lug bulky purchases from Home Depot like a Christmas tree on the bus.

TimK June 13, 2016 - 10:58 am

No one wants to lug bulky purchases from Home Depot like a Christmas tree on the bus.

And no one has to.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 11:41 am

Many like myself use their car every week or two to load up on grocery shopping, and choose not to shop every other day like most Manhattanites. We may not wish to pay extra for delivery every time we do any type of shopping. We have the right to make that choice.

Those who believe cars need not exist and feel they have the right to choose how others decide to spend their time have no right to impose that on others by seeking to make car travel as inconvenient as possible.

Someone asked why many pedestrians should be inconvenienced with the building of overpasses to benefit a few cars. I could ask the same question. Why should ten thousand drivers on Queens Blvd be inconvenienced with the building of bike lanes to benefit a thousand bike riders?

Adirondacker12800 June 13, 2016 - 11:50 am

Awwwwww the poor widdle cars again!

pete June 13, 2016 - 12:26 pm

Adirondacker1280 did your food come by bike from the farm?

Adirondacker12800 June 14, 2016 - 4:39 pm

It didn’t come on a bicycle. Or in a private automobile. Get some of private automobiles out of the way, the trucks can get to where they are going faster. Less time idling in traffic means less pollution. air pollution, noise pollution, visual, dribbling things onto the pavement…

Eric June 13, 2016 - 12:50 pm

“Why should ten thousand drivers on Queens Blvd be inconvenienced with the building of bike lanes to benefit a thousand bike riders?”

They shouldn’t.

But bikes are trendy, so they get disproportionate investment.

Tower18 June 13, 2016 - 7:01 pm

LOL you’re right, bikes sure do get disproportionate investment. Not the direction you’re implying though.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 7:25 pm


Guess we need to build elevated bikeways all over the city. Why should bikes have to stop for cars?

Boris June 13, 2016 - 1:08 pm

“We have the right to make that choice.”

Your right to unlimited automobility does not trump my right to wide sidewalks, safe crossings, and fresh air. Why is it only the motorists who should have rights? And anyway, even if you did get what you think you want (remove all the pedestrians and widen all the streets), you still wouldn’t get to where you are going faster. Tragedy of the commons.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 5:47 pm

Interesting how all the automobile haters love to put words in my mouth. Didn’t say sidewalks shouldn’t feel widened if warranted. Not against safe crossings. Not against fresh air. Not against removing pedestrians. Not for widening of streets. I am for getter mass transit.

Automobiles, trucks, and taxis are all part of a balanced transportation system and are necessary to some degree. What I am against is the anti-automobile bias people like you display where drivers gave zero rights and all the rights go to pedestrians and cyclists, so it is perfectly okay to make driving as difficult and slow as possible even if it means no one else benefits or thousands of cars have to suffer to benefit a few hundred cyclists.

You know it is possible to advocate for better mass transit and also advocate for removal of bottlenecks and take other measures to speed auto travel like to not intentionally screw up traffic signals as DOT is now doing forcing you to hit a red signal for every one your two green signals, when it used to be five green signals to a red one on arterial streets. That unecessarily increases traffic congestion and air pollution while benefitting no one.

The way to increase mass transit usage is by improving it, not by naming auto travel slower.

TimK June 13, 2016 - 1:55 pm

Many like myself use their car every week or two to load up on grocery shopping, and choose not to shop every other day like most Manhattanites. We may not wish to pay extra for delivery every time we do any type of shopping. We have the right to make that choice.

Yes, you do.

What you don’t have the right to is a transportation system that is set up to cater to your whims while poorly serving users of other modes. Car traffic not as smooth and fast as you’d like? No place to park? Tough shit, suck it up, buttercup. We all live here and we all have a right to get around.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 5:54 pm

Again putting words in my mouth. Never asked for a transportation system to cater to my whims and poorly serving other modes. Did I ask for more parking?

All I am asking is for people like you to get off your anti-automobile bias where it us deemed okay to make auto travel as inconvenient as possible.

TimK June 14, 2016 - 9:06 am

You did ask for that. You’re just either too dishonest to admit it, or too deluded or dumb to realize it. I’m honestly not sure which. I will say that you never seem to realize that you can say things without actually putting them into words. Maybe get a dictionary and look up “imply”?

You are constantly beating the drum for mass transit improvements…as long as motorists are not inconvenienced in the slightest. You say you’re okay with improvements for pedestrians and cyclists…as long as motorists are not inconvenienced in the slightest.

The transportation system is already set up to cater to the whims of motorists, and you’re fighting hard to keep it that way. Whether or not you realize what you’re doing is beside the point.

BrooklynBus June 14, 2016 - 2:30 pm

I am to our dumb or dishonest to admit what? The fact that you can’t have an honest discussion and must resort to insults says volumes about you.

I certainly do know the meaning of the word imply and have not implied anything of the sort. Your anti-automobile bias prevents you from understanding what is being written. I am for bus lanes when they are justified. That means combined headways must be every 5 minutes or more frequently. Buses every 10 or 30 minutes do not justify exclusive lanes, certainly not without HOV. You are the one who concluded I against any mass transit improvement or bicycle lanes if cars are at all inconvenienced. But since you prefer to inconvenience cars even if no one benefits, you couldn’t care less. Now did I just assume something you never implied?

TimK June 14, 2016 - 4:30 pm

You are the one who concluded I against any mass transit improvement or bicycle lanes if cars are at all inconvenienced.

Yes, I did, because you say things like this:

I am for bus lanes when they are justified. That means combined headways must be every 5 minutes or more frequently.

How many bus routes in New York City meet that criterion? How many bus routes that run where you drive meet that criterion? (I’m willing to bet that the answer to the latter question is “zero,” which means no bus lanes where you drive, which means no inconvenience for you.)

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:37 am

We need more tree huggers and not Christmas tree killers. Try riding your bike and hug a Christmas tree. Save a tree, stop a motorist. Lol.

Tower18 June 11, 2016 - 2:33 pm

Also, lemme try this on for size:

“Because it is one measure that would help move *people* which is not the goal of many *drivers* because they are selfish, do not want to be inconvenienced, are impatient, and want to *speed and run red lights* whenever they can since many of them do not *walk* and do not care about the needs of others. All they want are fewer *pedestrians*”

How’s that?

BrooklynBus June 12, 2016 - 4:58 pm

What are you talking about? What is “one measure that would help move people..,.”?

TimK June 13, 2016 - 11:00 am

Pick anything you’re opposed to, and it would probably fit.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 11:50 am

Brilliant response.

I am for many mass transit improvements, just not the ones who may be for.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:53 am

I think you hate people who drive cars too. Is it ok for people who walk and ride bikes to run red lights? People who drive are also pedestrians to and from their cars. Stop hating people. People who drive might even drive their cars to trains and buses. Who are you to tell people they can’t drive a car? What if they don’t want to travel longer by train or bus? What if they don’t have a bus or train in their community? What if their looking for a parking spot to ride a bike to work? Please control your bias towards drivers. I do agree that people who walk or ride bikes are never selfish, impatient or rude. You should seek psychological help for your anger issues. Lol.

pete June 11, 2016 - 3:20 pm

Why should dozens if not hundreds of pedestrians be inconvenienced for a few buses?

Adirondacker12800 June 11, 2016 - 3:36 pm

The buses are going to be climbing up and down the pedestrian underpasses?

Eric June 13, 2016 - 12:51 pm

The buses also carry hundreds of people. Also, you can’t get very far on foot before getting tired, you can get a lot further on a bus.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:11 am

Stop dividing commuters. People that drive are also people who walk, take buses, trains, ferries and cycle. It’s called sharing the roadway. They are people too who have a right to travel just like everyone else. Your way of thinking is divisive. Think of drivers as pedestrians who need to drive. We are all the same. Think of a driver as a really big pedestrian. He needs more space. It’s more than a few pedestrians in cars. They have rights too.

Guest June 10, 2016 - 10:49 pm

Not going to happen (pedestrian underpasses).

LordDeucey June 11, 2016 - 2:59 pm

Or do what Las Vegas did and install pedestrian overpasses at the busiest intersections with barriers midstreet to prevent jaywalking at the intersection.

Kai B June 13, 2016 - 12:01 pm

Vienna tried this in the 1960s and they few the built failed pretty miserably due to low use and overall seediness. They were closed by the late 1990s or only saved due to subway construction that connects to them. One’s a nightclub now.

pete June 13, 2016 - 12:20 pm

Put up fences on the sidewalks to force people to use underpasses. Street drive lanes are for vehicles, not pedestrians. There is an example of a fenced sidewalk on 33rd street and park avenue so it isn’t a new thing for the NYCDOT.

Eric June 13, 2016 - 12:55 pm

This is counterproductive. Having to take longer routes up and down makes it less attractive to be a pedestrian, which shifts this traffic to the road and increases congestion. For this and similar reasons, modern urban planning looks negatively at pedestrian over/underpasses.

The only place I’ve seen pedestrian underpasses work is Moscow, and that’s because it’s so damn cold there that you’d rather walk underground than wait at a crosswalk for the light to change.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 6:21 pm

It works fine in Las Vegas. But we don’t as as much room here so we would be very limited where overpasses would make sense, but it is not counter productive. You are against pedestrians having to walk a few feet further in the name of pedestrian safety and to help move traffic. But you would have no problem with cars having to travel extra in the name of pedestrian safety and to help move traffic. You are just selfish.

Adirondacker12800 June 13, 2016 - 6:39 pm

No one forces you to drive in Manhattan. Which is why the majority of people leave the car someplace else. If they have one at all.

BrooklynBus June 14, 2016 - 2:31 pm

I take my car into Manhattan about once a year, only when I have to. I use mass transit the rest of the time.

Adirondacker12800 June 14, 2016 - 6:11 pm

For someone who drives into Manhattan once a year you get stuck in Manhattan traffic alot.

BrooklynBus June 15, 2016 - 2:43 pm

Which is why I rarely do it. (Twice a year at most.) The thing is when I do get stuck it is at times you can’t predict. One hour across Houston Street on a Saturday afternoon. Forty five minutes on one block of Second Avenue on Sunday around 10.PM.

The only times traffic flowed great was during the rush hour. Five minutes across Canal Street at 8 AM and five minutes across 61 Street from York Av to Sixth Ave at 6 PM. And those are when it supposed to be the worst. Go figure.

Adirondacker12800 June 15, 2016 - 2:50 pm

Make up your mind. Either you aren’t driving in Manhattan and new traffic patterns don’t affect you or you are and you get to whine about how the poor widdle cars have to take an extra 45 seconds here and there.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 2:22 am

I disagree many people are forced to drive in Manhattan. They don’t want to take two or three hours to travel by bus or train from the outer regions. If you made it faster and safer more people would use public transit. What about commercial vehicle that transport machinery or supplies? What about trucks, buses, taxis and emergency vehicles? I think you hate people that drive. Remember drivers are also pedestrians, cyclist, bus, train and ferry passengers too. Think positive and inclusive.

Adirondacker12800 June 13, 2016 - 12:55 pm

streets are for people. Why does wrapping one or two of them in steel cage make them more important?
Keep increasing the congestion charge until the congestion goes away.

pete June 13, 2016 - 2:03 pm

How about increasing property taxes in Manhattan until there are less pedestrians and more abandoned buildings?

Eric June 13, 2016 - 3:14 pm

Congestion charges are economically efficient pricing of a limited resource. When there is not enough road space to go around, everyone who does use the road has to pay, and the price rises until demand equals supply. Either drivers pay by waiting in traffic (time is money) which is waste that helps nobody, or they pay via a congestion charge which goes straight to the city budget. Obviously the latter is better.

Property taxes are not a price on a limited resource, they are a tax which decreases economic activity somewhat like all taxes do.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 3:14 am

Is there something wrong with you? Streets are for people? What about the people inside the car who are using the streets to get to work or home or to the hospital or shopping? Are you a pedestrian only type person or cyclist only type? Where do you get your food from? A grocery store that needs trucks to deliver food. Who’s going to put out a fire? Firemen in fire truck. Who’s going to catch the guy who robs you on the street? The cop in the police car. Who’s going to take you to the hospital after you run a red light and hit a pedestrian on your bike? The EMT’s who drive an ambulance. Who’s going to put your new rug in your house or deliver your new furniture? I think you need to work more to pay for your services with congestion pricing. Do you live in la la land? Lol.

Adirondacker12800 June 10, 2016 - 7:02 pm

Awww the poor widdle cars getting slowed down by people. Awwwwwww.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 3:28 am

It’s poor little people in cars who are being unfairly treated by bike fanatics who want to hug trees and hold their breath because of CO2 emissions. Stop global warming- stop bike fanatics from talking nonsense and who are full of hot air and methane gas. Lol! We need more buses and trains not empty bus and bike lanes.

Paul June 11, 2016 - 12:14 am

I think all the recent changes by the DOT have affected traffic flow adversely. I’m a subway rider on weekdays, and a car passenger on weekends, and I can testify that it’s a lot harder to drive through Manhattan today.

For example, in older days, the signals were arranged sequentially so that you could cross a good number of streets in one shot. Since Vision Zero began, the signals are all jumbled up. It’s hard to make good distance in those conditions, with bumper to bumper traffic already in front of you.

Another thing that affects traffic flow are all the twists and turns you need to make what used to be a simple turn. Case in point: last week, I was in a car going to the Williamsburg Bridge on Saturday night. I was on Ave A (which turned into Essex St) going downtown. In older days, one could have made a simple left onto Delancey St. Now, we had to pass Delancey St., turn left onto Broome St, make another left onto Norfolk St, and then turn right onto Delancey. All of that was done in heavy traffic.

The thing is, with all the Vision Zero initiatives going into effect (among other things), the City has to understand that there are consequences. That is, traffic calming measures will slow traffic, which will cause congestion.

If they were smart, they would be working overtime planning and pushing the MTA for other rapid transit routes, so people wouldn’t need to drive as much anyway. We all know that’s not happening.

Plus, the MTA is a State agency, and I can’t see Cuomo allowing them to do anything substantial for New York, and thus help De Blasio.

So, in the name of improving pedestrian safety, they put in traffic calming measures without planning out alternative modes to accommodate all those affected (i.e. trams, subways, any sort of grade separated rail transit). In my opinion, that’s a recipe for disaster, as we are seeing right now.

Duke June 11, 2016 - 1:24 am

In theory, eliminating left turns (this is often known as a “superstreet” concept) is supposed to improve through traffic on the street in question. Left turning traffic, if there is a lot of it, needs to be accommodated with a dedicated left turn phase, which reduces the amount of time that traffic going straight can have a green light. Likewise, unless you have dedicated left turn lanes (difficult in places where space is at a premium, like Manhattan), vehicles waiting to turn left will cause congestion.

The lack of left turns onto or off of Delancey are a definite improvement, not just from a safety perspective but also from a traffic perspective. Coming from Essex you may have been inconvenienced but getting from the bridge to Lafayette St is faster than it used to be without all the left turning cars lining up to get in everyone else’s way.

Ultimately, though, the fact of the matter is the population of the city is growing and the amount of available street space is not. Greater congestion is an inevitable result unless the percentage of trips taken by private auto decreases. Which it isn’t, because with the likes of Uber running around, using a car when you don’t own one is more convenient than ever.

Indeed, I can’t help but wonder how many would-be bus riders are getting pilfered by such services.

Duke June 11, 2016 - 1:30 am

Taking this a step further, I would posit that perhaps some of the issue with bus ridership in Manhattan atrophying is simply demoographic. It’s not just Uber, it’s a greater willingness amongst younger generations to bike… or simply not go places which might reasonably require a bus ride.

Buses, after all, still have an image problem. A lot of people see buses as beneath them and would turn their nose up at the idea of riding one.

TimK June 13, 2016 - 11:05 am

If they were smart, they would be working overtime planning and pushing the MTA for other rapid transit routes, so people wouldn’t need to drive as much anyway.

The MTA is not the obstacle to getting more rapid transit routes (a goal I fully agree with). Funding is the main obstacle.

BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 11:49 am

Yes,the MTA has little control in getting more subways built. But there is much more they can do to improve bus routes other than more SBS routes.

Ed June 11, 2016 - 11:15 am

This confirms what i’ve been telling everyone. It’s faster walking (an hour) to work than to take the crosstown bus esp during peak times. I’m pretty sure (atleast for those who have to take the bus), that NYC businesses/schools would make people’s lives more efficient if they didn’t schedule their employees work from 9a – 5p.

Contactless payment system will also help speed up the boarding process too. They could install two readers at the entrance (one on each side) and keep the flow going.

Michael549 June 12, 2016 - 2:22 pm

Let’s agree that bus speeds in certain sections of Manhattan, and some of the other boroughs is indeed a problem. Some even describe the problem as “being able to walk faster than the bus”.

That is true for those particular streets or situations.

Please however do not let “planning by anecdote” become the rule.

Often times when it comes to improving bus transit there are suggestions to limit or remove bus stops, make bus stop distances longer, eliminate bus routes, only have bus routes that directly serve Manhattan, etc. Of course, these were not the only suggestions – but often plenty of folks come down on one side or another for a particular set of problem solutions – crying for SBS – everywhere, or only “pure” SBS, etc.

The bus transit problems of NYC as a whole, and in its individual parts and places is simply too diverse to answer with simple suggestions, or by as I call it – “planning by anecdote.”

Some suggestions and responses while surely appropriate for some places – just might not be appropriate for other places and in fact could make transit WORSE for those local riders. A “one-size solution” can in fact be no solution at all – making the problems worse for the many.

The planning process for improving bus transit has to – indeed must look closely at local conditions and situations.

Do I have an answer for slow bus speeds along certain streets or sections of Manhattan?

No! I do not have ONE answer. I just would not start from a birds-eye view of Manhattan, and then start to make suggestions from only that viewpoint. Or for any other borough, neighborhood, or section of the city. I’d tailor suggestions and improvements to the particular sections, areas or neighborhoods where real local improvements on the ground can be made. This is one of those times when there is more than one answer to a problem.


BrooklynBus June 13, 2016 - 5:57 pm

You are correct.

Alon Levy June 14, 2016 - 6:55 am

I think you’re conflating two very different things in this sentence:

Often times when it comes to improving bus transit there are suggestions to limit or remove bus stops, make bus stop distances longer, eliminate bus routes, only have bus routes that directly serve Manhattan, etc.

To wit, yes, there are people who support bus stop consolidation. We will tell you that this side of the Atlantic, bus stops already come consolidated – average interstations are around 400-500 meters, twice the standard in North America. In Zurich, intriguingly, there appear to be exactly half as many bus stops per km^2 as in New York (same number per capita, as the city is less dense).

However, I have never seen any suggestion that buses not serving Manhattan be eliminated. Such a suggestion would be laughable. To get to Manhattan, you use the subway. There are few strong bus routes that have any reason to enter Manhattan from the rest of the city; a few connect to Upper Manhattan, such as the Bx12, providing east-west service complementing the subway’s north-south orientation. Furthermore, in other North American cities, bus reform proposals specifically reject the idea that buses must feed the CBD, and instead try to build up frequent grids. In Toronto, where this grid already exists, the most heavily trafficked buses are mainly east-west crosstown routes, well north of the CBD, feeding the Yonge subway.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 1:36 am

I totally agree with your statement. City Hall thinks the outer boroughs are like the inner borough. We need more buses, trains, ferries and open and shared roadways. We don’t need empty bus or bike lanes that create more gridlock for everyone.

Christopher June 13, 2016 - 8:17 am

I was in Chicago recently for work and to see my family. The buses were so delightful to use: new buses with nice seating, contactless payment, bus shelters with next bus information, internal signage with next street information. It reminded me of using the bus in DC and SF years ago. But with small tweaks and a better designed bus network, including buses that make use of Lake Shore Drive to skip large portions of the city. The MTA buses which I frequently use feel like buses out of 1990s. I don’t understand why they are so far behind. Maybe because we aren’t as bus dependent as other cities, we’ve just stopped caring about the bus system?

smotri June 13, 2016 - 11:22 am

Christopher, just look at how far behind the subways are too! We’re far behind all other cities of our size – the ‘world cities’ – on all aspects of mass transit.

Stephen June 13, 2016 - 8:41 pm

I’m curious about those new buses in Chicago. Are they like the new ones here in NYC (our new ones have those yellow poles), in that they have the annoying / noise-polluting male electronic voice that says “Touch yellow tape to open doors”, “Doors Opening”, “Doors Closing”, and my real favorite, “MOVE AWAY FROM THE DOORS!” What idiot designed this cacophony? I can barely read my book and listen to my music when I end up on these buses.

BrooklynBus June 14, 2016 - 2:34 pm

Yes how are you supposed to touch the tape and not be near the doors when doing it? Maybe the MTA expects us to use selfie sticks to touch the tape. It is very annoying when you are asked to step away from the doors when you are trying to get off.

Tower18 June 14, 2016 - 3:19 pm

They are similar to those buses, and yes there are sometimes problems with the back doors, same way.

However, the buses in Chicago have had GPS tracking technology for 7-8 years, and the buses have had automated stop announcements for like 10+ years.

Philip McManus June 29, 2016 - 1:24 am

The Queens Public Transit Committee told you so. Lol. Taking away traffic lanes, left turns, bus stops, parking lots and spots, narrowing traffic lanes, adding speeding cameras and lowering the speed limit to 25 and 20 mph everywhere is the number one reason people are stuck in traffic today. Notice I said people, your family, friends, and neighbors, not motorists or cyclist or pedestrians. We are all stuck in traffic because the Mayor and his ideologues want to punish people who drive. It’s suicidal and causes everyone to be stuck in gridlock which creates more pollution, stress, road rage, accidents, poverty, disease and crime. Vision Zero and Select Bus Service is a major reason buses are slower. Use some common sense. We need more buses, trains and ferries that are not overcrowded. We need open roadways that are shared by everyone. We need smart traffic lights that change faster. We need the QueensRail, Triboro RX passenger and freight, Second Avenue Subway, etc. We need the Freedom Ticket. We need a balanced approach for faster and safer transportation. People need cars if there’s no transportation alternatives. Let’s be honest, Transportation Alternatives promotes cycling over all other modes of transportation including people who walk or take the train. T/A supports the QueensWay over the QueensRail. Have you seen how reckless people who rides bikes are getting? How many people are getting tickets who walk and ride bikes? Very few. It’s a recipe for disaster. We need to share the road and encourage bus and train ridership with more faster options. Buses are getting worse with more stress and delays. Try to stand for 90 minutes on a crowded bus going to Rockaway Beach. Stop and go in traffic is a killer. It stinks. Remember most of those bus riders on the Q 53 bus also took at least one other bus or train to get to the Q 53 bus. It took me 2 hours and 11 minutes to get from Long Island City to Rockaway Park. I was exhausted. I had to walk to the 7 train, transfer to the Q 53 bus and then walk home. It took me less than 45 minutes to get home by a comfortable car in the past. I suggest more buses and trains that cross the entire borough and City that would eliminate unnecessary transfer delays. That’s why people drive. No transportation alternatives. Let’s also have a bus that travels throughout the five boroughs that uses all our highways, bridges and tunnels. Why is it that very few buses travel across our bridges and tunnels? Why must a commuter have to take the Q 22 bus to the Q 53 bus to the 7 train to the Q 16 Bus to crossover Queens. How many minutes are wasted waiting for a transfer?
Why does a commuter have to take the Q 22 bus to the Q 53 bus to the 7 train to the Q 50 bus to the Bx40 bus to SUNY Maritime College?
It’s intentionally made that way to collect more fares and keep people separated and poor. The Queens Public Transit Committee unites commuters while Mayor Chaos divides and separates commuters.


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