Home Buses In big victory for transit advocates, Byford unveils comprehensive bus turnaround plan

In big victory for transit advocates, Byford unveils comprehensive bus turnaround plan

by Benjamin Kabak

Reducing dwell time and modernizing the boarding process, as Andy Byford’s bus plan proposes, will lead to markedly faster bus service.

It has been a two-year battle for transit advocates fighting for better bus service, but a coalition of bus champions secured a major victory on Monday as New York City Transit President Andy Byford unveiled a comprehensive 28-point plan to turnaround the city’s declining bus service. The plan is an impressive first step for Byford as he looks to manage the MTA out of various transit crises, and it involves implementing many international best practices — including all-door boarding and signal prioritization — to improve bus operations and combat steadily declining service. And it can’t come soon enough as average bus ridership in 2017 declined by over 5% against 2016 numbers.

“We’ve listened to our riders’ concerns and are working tirelessly to create a world-class bus system that New Yorkers deserve,” Byford said in a statement. “We’re targeting challenges like traffic congestion and enforcement, undertaking bold initiatives like redesigning the entire route network, and pursuing advancements such as the latest computer-aided management, double-decker and electric buses, all-door boarding, and improved customer service with more real-time data. Our customers will start to see changes this year and we will never stop improving this critical component of New York City’s transportation landscape.”

The plan — available here as a PDF — aims to tackle bus reliability, dwell time due to a slow fare payment process, real-time information regarding bus arrival times and overall service patterns. It will require cooperation from DOT and a new mentality from the NYPD on both enforcing bus lanes and not using them as parking spots for police cars and cops’ personal vehicles. And after years of MTA foot-dragging, the agency committed to all-door boarding as part of the new fare payment system. This ain’t, in other words, cosmetic; it’s the real deal.

This initiative is the culmination of nearly two years of advocacy work that began with a report issued in 2016 and tireless work by Transit Center, Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and Tri-State Transportation Campaign. In fact. Byford credited these activists’ work in an interview with amNew York on Monday morning. Someone is listening.

The report though is a first step. Many of the improvements — a streamlined bus map, more real-time information signs — will arrive this year, but others — including the all-door boarding via the new fare payment systems — won’t be in place for a few years. The bus network redesigned to improve connections and usefulness may not be ready until 2021. So patience will still be key, and small improvements should lead to bigger ones.

I’ll have a full post with my analysis and thoughts tomorrow night, but as Byford’s first major operations announcement goes, this is a very promising one.

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Guest April 24, 2018 - 6:27 am

“Seek exclusive busways on priority corridors to give buses full access in major congested

Work with DOT to aggressively increase TSP activated routes in 2018 and beyond
Identify opportunities for new bus lanes and queue jumps in 2018
Corridor study in 2018”

Fordham Road (Between Washington Avenue and the Major Deegan Expressway) and 125th Street (between 2nd Avenue and Morningside Avenue) are worth a try.

Guest April 24, 2018 - 6:29 am

^-for exclusive busways.

wiseinfrastructure April 24, 2018 - 7:46 am

bus shelters:

at major transfer points between buses and between buses and the subways, roof’s/awnings should cover the sidewalk for the entire block, not just 6 square foot “shelters” which hold maybe 10 people. Ques to get on buses in these location can be 50+ people long, there is no excuse for them having to get wet every time it rains. Consider 71ave/continental/qns blvd, Union tpk/kew gardens, 179th Street to name a few.

On lines where 90+% of the users switch to/from the subway (Jewel Avenue in Queens is one such case) fare collection should be abandoned as most revenue will be captured at the subway, thus the cost of infrastructure and enforcement for on street fare payment is not worth it.

Walt Gekko April 24, 2018 - 8:14 am

Or find a way to have it where subway-to-bus transfers at certain points are within fare control to shorten timeframes wherever possible.

tacony April 24, 2018 - 9:55 am

This is an interesting idea. I believe there were once a bunch of these all over the city back when the buses were trolleys, right? The bus-to-subway transfer within fare control that still exists at the end of the L at Rockaway Parkway is a remnant from the trolley you could take out to Canarsie Pier. There likely would have been many more if the trolleys and subways were owned by the same companies, and it’s kind of absurd that we don’t have much of this today considering that it’s all a part of the MTA now. When private for-profit transit companies were more cooperative than different agencies within the public state-controlled transit agency you know something is wrong.

When we bustituted all the streetcars in NYC we lost a lot of the off-street surface transit infrastructure: the trolley bridge terminals, ALL transit service on the Brooklyn Bridge. If we were more forward-thinking maybe the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal could have been somehow repurposed for use by buses during the L train shutdown? Way too late for that, but there are also examples in the Bronx where the crosstown trolleys used to connect with the subway stations in underpasses below the Grand Concourse. In most cases the connections were closed and the busses no longer use the underpasses because of crime concerns. In an ever-safer city, these are ripe for reevaluation and the connections could be restored with transfers within fare control.

SEAN April 24, 2018 - 3:57 pm

What you describe is common practice between the TTC busses, subway, streetcars & Go transit busses in several key transfer points around the city.

Guest April 26, 2018 - 7:53 am

Heat lamps for the winter too would be amazing.

J Adlai April 24, 2018 - 8:23 am

The redesign of the bus network and the acknowledgement that there are bus lines losing ridership to the subways is a move that is long overdue. The existence of the B25 (as an example) never made sense to me. Every bus operated on a corridor duplicated by Subway service is a bus not operated somewhere else.

The other item on this list that I think really deserves attention is the “Provide Proactive Service Management” category. Bus management is horribly poor. I’ve been documenting exceptionally bad gapping in buses during the evening rush hour period. I’ve seen gaps as bad as 50 minutes (according to Bus time) during the evening rush, with 3 buses bunched ahead of and behind the gap. Actually managing the service would be a great way to provide substantially better bus service.

ChrisC April 24, 2018 - 9:08 am

You need to remember that there can be a considerable distance between subway stops and you can’t expect people to walk long (whether actual or perceived) distances – especially when it’s raining or snowing. And what about people that can’t use the subway because of access issues – they need the bus to get around. And some people need to travel from a point in between a station to another intermediate point. And on some routes you really don’t want people using the subway just to travel one stop because the subway is already at capacity.

That’s not to say you can’t look at bus services to improve things but you can’t simply say ‘that bus follows the same route let’s can it’.

For example there may be some long routes that could be split into shorter ones to improve overall reliability.

One issue is does the MTA have actual data on where people get on and off to be able to do that?

Alon Levy April 24, 2018 - 5:44 pm

Can people stop making assumptions about people with disabilities? Not all disabilities mean “can’t walk more than 2 blocks to the bus stop.” Some mean “gets excruciating pain from sitting on a bumpy bus but can walk to the subway just fine,” or “can’t sit on a slow bus for too long.”

Steve April 24, 2018 - 11:08 pm

I don’t see where ChrisC is making assumptions about people living with disabilities. Different people are differently abled, and the fact remains that many people due to age, disability, temporary injury, general health/fitness or other issues have difficulty with stairs or with walking more than a couple of blocks, and yes conversely some can’t manage buses. When I broke my kneecap and was confined to a leg brace, I was very thankful that the M14 duplicates the L train in Manhattan – subway stairs were slow and arduous, and it was plenty difficult to navigate the ones I couldn’t avoid, so having the option to avoid those I could was a big help. It’s all about providing options whenever possible.

Alon Levy April 25, 2018 - 6:55 pm

I think it matters that the M14 (and the Bx1/2, another subway duplicator) is incredibly popular and the B25 really isn’t.

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 10:36 am

Anecdotal experience indicates a large portion of the ridership of the M14 buses comes from areas not well served by the L (Alphabet City and parts of the Lower East Side, who would otherwise have exceedingly long walks to other transit options).

Alon Levy April 26, 2018 - 11:38 am

Does the M14 tend to empty at First Avenue, then?

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 3:03 pm

Not in my experience, because most L riders are also transferring elsewhere, so they just stay on the M14 to the appropriate avenue (or their destination).

ChrisC April 27, 2018 - 4:41 am

I specifically said access not disability, they are not the same. You and others have made the assumption that they are the same not me. So think on.

A parent with a stroller has access issues. Ditto someone with luggage or shopping. For them the bus might just make their trips easier to get to a station and is no reason to stop a service merely because it duplicates a subway route.

Someone who can’t walk long distances isn’t automatically disabled. I broke a bone in my foot a couple of years ago which meant I found it hard to walk long distances for a period but I wasn’t disabled. I just needed to take the bus for a couple of stops to get to a station rather than walk. A pregnant woman may be in the same situation. But she isn’t disabled.

J Adlai April 24, 2018 - 11:22 pm

Distance between Subway stops is not really a valid reason to have a bus route that duplicates the Subway’s route. There are neighborhoods that have longer distances to walk to a bus line than the gap between Subway entrances. A 4 block walk on either end of a subway ride is not a problem, and certainly not a reason to take finite resources to make this ride more convenient at the expense of better service in areas that do not have a subway.

There is also only one line in the entire city that doesn’t have capacity for added short rides, and that line is parallelled by a local subway line already.

If you took the money currently spent operating lines like the B25 and expended it on lines like the B47 and 49, maybe they wouldn’t have to run at 12 and 9 minute headways during the PM rush hour.

David April 25, 2018 - 2:37 am

I don’t see that serving the disabled is any reason for a bus line to mirror a subway line. It could just as well run along a parallel corridor that may be dying for service. It will serve disabled customers just as well there as it would mirroring the subway (who we are stipulating can’t use the subway, as it is, so why mirror it?), and plenty of those who are are not, and alleviate congestion on the subway line. Perhaps it should intersect a subway line at certain strategic hubs, and lesser spots with elevators, but complete duplication seems silly to hold onto.

tacony April 24, 2018 - 10:03 am

The MTA inherited a transit system once made up of a long list of competing private operators, so duplicative services have survived where they may not make sense from a holistic point of view. But even if every subway station had elevators, which most don’t and won’t have for a long time, I don’t think you can argue that it never makes sense to run a bus along a subway line. For people who have some difficulty with walking or climbing stairs, which is a huge portion of the population, using a bus can be much quicker and easier than using the subway for shorter trips. The elevators in the MTA system are intentionally designed to be inconvenient and to work very slowly (they admitted this when Hudson Yards opened!) to prevent too many people from using them. Even if you can manage stairs, it’s easier to just hop on a bus if you’re going 10 blocks, and if the bus is running frequently (which they should!)

SEAN April 24, 2018 - 10:45 am

There are several places where a bus route operates along a subway line. The M104 along Broadway, M101/2/3 on Lexington, Q60 on Queens Boulevard, Bx 39 on White Plains Road & services along 4th Avenue in Brooklyn come to mind.

A bus can feed numerous subway stations by following a given line & can aid if that line is impacted by delays or detours.

ajedrez April 27, 2018 - 8:11 pm

There’s bus routes along 3rd & 5th Avenue in Brooklyn but not along 4th Avenue.

J Adlai April 24, 2018 - 11:40 pm

Accessibility is frequently raised as the reason why a bus route should duplicate a subway route, but this honestly doesn’t hold any water. The 25 ends at the Junction, and nothing serves the A/C lines east of there. There’s no McDonald Avenue bus duplicating the F line. Nothing approximates the Canarsie line. Should we cancel other bus lines that don’t duplicate subway lines to create these routes? Do these routes actually serve disabled customers better than other services would? Does it make sense to duplicate this subway service in the name of accessibility when on demand accessibility service can fill that gap?

It’s not as though there is an infinite money pool for bus service. Duplicating the Subway’s means you don’t serve customers, INCLUDING THE DISABLED, in neighborhoods that don’t have subway service.

SEAN April 25, 2018 - 12:25 pm

Unfortunately on demand transit service is the worst when it comes to expenditures for the disabled. This is why transit agencies have become far more restrictive on who qualifies for para transit & why you see more wheelchair passengers on busses today.

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 3:01 pm

It’s been discussed on here before (I think) that the per-rider cost of Access-A-Ride is so high that we’d be better off giving car service vouchers to those so disabled they needed rides, and doing NOTHING ELSE w/r/t qualifications or restrictions, ie. if you could just get a voucher for car service (on demand or otherwise), you could easily require that a ride, say, East Flatbush to Upper East Side, will receive a car from home to Prospect Park Q, and a car from 86 St Q to destination. AAR users probably get to their destination faster this way too, and cheaper for society.

Bonus, far fewer dangerous AAR drivers clogging the roads on long journeys.

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Sorry to clarify, the latter half of my message related to possible restrictions on said service. You could still implement car service vouchers with no such restrictions.

SEAN April 26, 2018 - 4:48 pm

Correct me if I am wrong, the federal government forces transit agencies to provide para transit as an unfunded mandate. No doubt those who require such services really do need it, but there needs to be a better way to provide it & not shut out a portion of society do to disability.

Tower18 April 27, 2018 - 9:25 am

I don’t know what the law requires specifically and so when I say “you could do this” I am speaking outside the constraints of what current law provides for and only thinking about options. That said, I would argue that vouchers for private transportation accomplishes goals desirable for both political sides: those on the left improve transportation service and accessibility for underserved populations without additional costs, and those on the right get to shrink bureaucracy and support the private sector, and possibly see cost savings as well.

It would be up to legislators to either change the law (if required) or if the law is vague enough that it doesn’t specify exactly in what form the government must provide “service” then it may be something that’s just open for trying.

John A. Noble April 24, 2018 - 10:36 am

Agree 100% on bus management. That’s a point I left out of my post below. While I was waiting 20 minutes for an R train to arrive last night, during rush hour, I could only watch Bus Time helplessly as I watched buses due to arrive at my stop further down the line in 9 minutes, 16 minutes, 17 minutes… and 58 minutes.

John A. Noble April 24, 2018 - 9:54 am

I may be being cynical here, but I don’t a huge victory here… at least not yet.

There are a lot of things that have been said before — and not implemented. A big part of this plan hinges on cooperation from DOT and NYPD. Good luck with that.

It doesn’t sound like loading buses through multiple doors will be a sure thing on every route at all time. Of course, this would be a great thing if it becomes universal.

The comprehensive re-design of the bus networks could be good or bad. Look out for a trick. This could be an opportunity for a stealth service cut. In case you missed it, the MTA is doing a sort of pilot project version of this with the Staten Island express buses — completely redesigning the express bus network, to launch sometimes this summer. It may have some benefits for some riders, but overall the plan looks like a real loser. It consolidates routes, runs the vast majority of buses along the same avenues in Manhattan while taking away service on others, and barely improves off-hour service.

That said, it’s definitely a positive thing that we’re having this conversation, vs. just sticking with the status quo altogether.

I hope the report addresses the excessive number of bus stops and the exceedingly old equipment that persists on many lines (at least where I live in Brooklyn) — no matter how many new buses the MTA purchases, my B41 line still runs those horrible, junky RTS buses from the 1980s with hit-or-miss air conditioning, zero acceleration, and more leaks than an old British convertible. I may be wrong, and I understand *why* the MTA puts bus stops virtually every other block — but I think the bus would be a more appealing option for the masses if it didn’t make a zillion stops and it didn’t leak whenever there’s a slight rain.

John A. Noble April 24, 2018 - 9:55 am

Don’t *see* a huge victory here… apologies for the typo.

tacony April 24, 2018 - 10:21 am

It’s great to hear the MTA finally promising to do the simple things transit advocates have been telling them that they hadn’t confirmed they would do, but I agree that the devil is in the details. There is a real danger that the primary result of a comprehensive bus network review will be for the MTA to conclude that they’re just providing too much bus service in a lot of areas. Even routes that have become SBS today (like the M34) see less service than they did 10 years ago, and I don’t think the MTA recognizes that being a major cause of the drop in ridership. It seems like tautology, but remember that the biggest predictor of transit ridership is the amount of transit provided. It’s not just the MTA. We’re so scared of ever running an empty bus in this country that we think leaving people on the curb every day is less offensive.

The timetables for all these goals will undoubtedly be pushed back. Does anyone really think we’re getting the New Fare Payment System within the next 5 years? If all-door boarding is hinging on that, I’m not holding my breath.

SEAN April 24, 2018 - 10:55 am

If Toronto, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta & Miami can update there fare collection systems – why cant NYC do it. Just stop blabbering & get the job done & don’t start with but but but, this is New York.

tacony April 24, 2018 - 1:20 pm

Right. In a perfect world, it could be done incredibly easily, and the answer is even closer than any of those cities. PATH has had its “SmartLink” RFID tap cards since 2007, and the PATH also accepts (non-unlimited) Metrocards. I’m pretty sure it’d only require a very minor software update to add unlimited Metrocards, which other non-MTA transit operators such as Bee-Line Bus, NICE Bus, and the Roosevelt Island tram already accept.

Then we could simply install the PATH’s faregates at all the NYCT stations and then tap readers for them on the buses. We could start updating the faregates this year using the same contractors PATH has used. Start with Herald Square, where we could easily extend fare control to give everyone a free transfer between the two systems.

But of course not, because the MTA is a special flower who requires their own proprietary technology to reinvent the wheel for everything, and the lowly two-bit PATH train has nothing to teach them…

SEAN April 25, 2018 - 12:31 pm

I think you ment special snowflake? Oops didn’t mean to bring republicans into the conversation. LOL

t-bo April 25, 2018 - 11:56 am

Yes, I would like to see the “better fare enforcement” in 2019 fleshed out.

BrooklynBus April 24, 2018 - 11:14 am

It’s good that they have finally acknowledged the need to completely revamp outdated bus routes. But I agree the devil is in the details. Will their bus reorganization really improve service by connecting new areas with one or two bus access or will it just be an excuse to cut service and eliminate and combine underutilized routes, while continuing to fill transit deserts with 30 minute shuttle routes that will attract few new passengers?

I believe it will be the latter, judging from what else is in the report which emphasizes cost cutting, not investment in additional bus service. Double deckers mean fewer buses. Eliminating bus stops means longer bus trips for some. It must be done on a case by case basis. When bus stops are very lightly used or very heavily used, it makes no sense to eliminate them regardless of how close they are to each other. If they are lightly used, most buses skip the stop anyway, so little time is gained but your chances of just missing a bus greatly increases by having to walk further to the closest bus stop.

All they say about bus lane enforcement is they will advocate for it. That will just mean more cameras, but nothing about improving the judicial process so that it is fair. Nothing is specifically said about reducing bus bunching. Nothing is said about improving efficiency by combining MTA Bus and NYCT Bus so they can use each other’s depots. Nothing is said about providing more reliable data and having passenger travel time be the true metric to determine service improvements, rather than bus or subway travel time. When no data is kept on passengers being flagged by buses, how can wait assessment numbers be accurate? Their faulty methodology showed that 95 percent of bus passengers are satisfied with SBS, while the NYC comptroller’s report on SBS


which was totally ignored by the media showed the number is 64 percent.

If the MTA really wants public opinion regarding new bus routes, why is the MTA website totally devoid of any information regarding proposed SBS routes?

SBS thus far has largely been a failure. Before more money is invested in creating new routes, its many problems must first be corrected. Why was the Comptroller’s report ignored by the media? It’s because there really is a Select Bus Service Conspiracy.


Curious Minds April 24, 2018 - 11:40 am

Why were you fired from the MTA?

BrooklynBus April 24, 2018 - 12:44 pm

Please stop spreading outright lies.

I worked for the MTA for nearly 25 years and was never fired from the agency or from a single position I held. I ceased to be director of Bus Planning because I could no longer work in an unhealthy environment with diesel fumes in the offices. After I presented affidavits from twenty other employees who were also getting sick, I was transferred from East NY to Jay Street where I continued to be the chief planner for Brooklyn bus routes because the MTA feared a law suit if they let me remain there. Fixing the unhealthy conditions was obviously not an option for them.

Alon Levy April 24, 2018 - 1:27 pm

I don’t know what the MTA’s going to say, but I’m working on a bus redesign in Brooklyn as we speak, and so far one of the centerpieces is higher off-peak frequency. Few routes run more frequently than every 10 minutes off-peak, whereas the core grid routes of Barcelona (i.e. the actually successful grid redesign) run every 5 minutes or so. So far the main recommendations look like:

1. All-door boarding on every route, with random civilian inspections (not cops).
2. Aggressive stop consolidation, and elimination of local vs. limited distinctions.
3. Bus lanes and signal preemption, at locations to be determined.
4. Two-way running on major throughfares like Nostrand.
5. Some route changes, like killing the B25, pruning the B41 branch to Bergen Beach, and making the Southern Brooklyn network a bit neater.
6. All of the above is saving a lot of service hours: points 1-3 are likely to raise speeds by 25%, give or take, and point 5 can cut some service. This should free up resources to boost frequency on all the major routes to a bus every 5 minutes.

BrooklynBus April 24, 2018 - 4:12 pm

With all due respect, I know you know numbers, but it takes much more than that to know what is good for Brooklyn and what is not and I seriously doubt you can make a good plan without an intimate knowledge of the needs of Brooklynites which you do not have. That is obvious just from your point four. If you want exclusive bus lanes on Nostrand to continue, which I assume is the case, you would either be banning all cars or all parking from most of the street, neither of which is feasible.

Alon Levy April 24, 2018 - 5:14 pm

I’m working with someone who interviewed a lot of bus drivers about their needs (they are screaming for off-board fare collection – they don’t want to confront non-paying customers, who might respond with violence).

And yes, Nostrand needs parking removal. It’s painful, but the alternative right now is that you have a one-way pair in which southbound buses get the main street, and northbound buses are split between two side streets. You’re making passengers walk an extra 250 meters, which is almost the same as the average extra walk on SBS vs. local (800-meter interstations vs. 200-meter interstations = 300 extra meters of walk on average), but without the speed benefits. Don’t do this. On a lot of blocks there’s off-street parking, and on a few without it’s fine to do mixed traffic.

BrooklynBus April 24, 2018 - 7:02 pm

The reason the route is split on three streets is because the MTA was wrong in how it created the route. All B44s should have been north on Rogers and south on Nostrand, just like many other routes wither split service due to one-way streets. But for them to do that, a new route would have had to be created for New York / Albany Avenue, but that would have meant filling a service gap and a public hearing which they didn’t want to do because they only want to reduce service not add any.

And with no parking on both sides of Nostrand Avenue, how do you expect any of the many stores to get their deliveries?

Alon Levy April 24, 2018 - 9:26 pm

On cross-streets and parking lots.

Alternatively: contraflow lanes. There are four lanes on Nostrand, so make them one SB parking, one SB moving, one SB bus, one NB bus.

BrooklynBus April 25, 2018 - 8:54 am

The cross streets are mostly narrow residential streets. Exactly where would the trucks load and unload? Would they double park or would you ban even more parking spaces to have loading zones? How do you think the residents would feel about trucks constantly on those residential blocks and losing even more parking where it is already scarce after you have already banned ten parking spaces per block for miles? The sidewalks are also crowded with pedestrians so you would just have people with hand trucks walking up and down the blocks asking pedestrians to watch their backs.

You would also have DOT rip out the bus bulbs they already installed. You really haven’t thought this out very well.

Also, none of this is necessary if you just make Nostrand / Rogers a one-way pair for the B44 and SBS, while making appropriate bus routing changes in the area to fill service gaps. You know Google Maps won’t show you all the car services lined up at Kings County Hospital because that is how those residents get to areas the bus does not serve and the MTA has done zero latent demand studies to service latent demand. When bus riders leave the system for other services, they just reduce bus service to reflect that which encourages further declines in bus service.

Alon Levy April 25, 2018 - 8:27 pm

So, apparently, the merchants actually asked for a clawback in loading zones, preferring parking for cars.

And yeah, trucks would unload at the corner on side streets.

You can avoid all that by using one-way pairs, but then you have a northbound bus that misses the main street in favor of a less important commercial corridor, and east-west buses that have to stop at both streets for the transfer.

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 10:46 am

Didn’t you know that New York is the only city in the world where businesses get deliveries, and thus this is an entirely new problem that we must figure out how to solve, or rather just throw our hands up and say it cannot be solved.

I love the point about merchants asking for removal of loading zones. Really illuminates the issue: merchants want to park their own cars directly in front of their stores all day. It has nothing to do with deliveries or customers.

BrooklynBus April 26, 2018 - 11:26 am

I am not agreeing with everything the merchants ask for. They are the prime reason we don’t have an adequate number of delivery zones. But there is nothing wrong with east-west buses stopping at both streets for the transfer unless you believe that no stops should be closer than a quarter-mile apart which would in effect make every route a limited route. That may be okay if you are younger. But a significant number of older residents cannot be expected to walk a half mile or more to and from a bus stop when you also consider the walking distance from point of origin to the bus route.

Alon Levy April 26, 2018 - 11:52 am

I don’t think bus stops should be closer than 400 meters, no, except in special circumstances (i.e. Manhattan crosstowns, and even that’s mostly because two-waying them is hopeless).

It’s not really about age. Walking 200 meters longer to a bus stop sucks, yes. So does having to sit on a bumpy local bus pulling in and out of stops. So does having to wait 15 minutes at a bus stop with (at best) uncomfortable seats and meh shelter or (at worst) no seats or shelter.

BrooklynBus April 26, 2018 - 6:37 pm

No, its not only about age. It’s mainly about physical condition. What you are talking about is eliminating all local service and replacing it with only Limited service, making everyone walk at least a half mile to and from a bus route. That is absolutely ridiculous for a city with the ridership and density of NYC. Would you feel the same if you were temporarily on crutches? I have had sciatica and I know that even walking one extra block can be torture. And don’t change the subject by bringing up things like bus shelters, and bumpy rides. You don’t know as much as you think you know.

Alon Levy April 26, 2018 - 7:00 pm

I get leg pain from time to time, and yes, I’d still rather walk 200 meters longer to the bus stop than have to stand 15 minutes at a bus stop. I also travel with heavy luggage a lot, and at one point dragged three suitcases nearly a kilometer to the subway stop.

People with chronic pain conditions report to me that their tolerance for sitting inside a bumpy bus ranges from limited to none. The common view of disability overfocuses on people in wheelchairs and tends to ignore people with chronic pain conditions, whose needs aren’t always the same. There’s this weird view common among traditional planners in the US that design for older or disabled users means prioritizing short walks to the bus stop over high frequency or fast trips, and I don’t think it’s necessarily representative of the disability rights community.

BrooklynBus April 27, 2018 - 8:39 am

You are correct that there is too much emphasis about the needs of people in wheelchairs vs those with other physical challenges. Just look at who uses the elevators which are installed specifically for those in wheelchairs. Most have strollers, luggage, or have difficulty walking stairs. A small percentage are actually in wheelchairs. But that is a diversion to the discussion we are having just like bumpy buses or standing 15 minutes at a bus stop is. So by making people walk further to a bus stop they have two minutes less on a bumpy bus. So what? Make the buses less bumpy. They can’t stand 15 minutes at a bus stop. Give them a seat or let them use bus time and improve reliability so the bus comes when it should. None of what you are saying justifies having to walk a half mile to and from a bus stop vs. walking a quarter-mile to and from a bus stop. Yes, a few stops might be unnecessary and are too close. So get rid of them. When I was head of Planning one of the first things I did was to eliminate a bus stop that I knew had no reason to exist and was just an accident of history when a route change was made. That is quite difference from creating a uniform rule of a quarter-mile spacing or more between all bus stops which would have the effect of further eroding bus patronage and whose real purpose is to cut costs, not to provide better service.

Alon Levy April 27, 2018 - 2:14 pm

Bus Time is not a substitute for high frequency. All it does is tell you, with imperfect accuracy, how infrequent and bunched the route is. Were such apps a serious substitute for good service, we’d see big jumps in ridership in cities that rely on these apps in lieu of reliable timetables, like New York. Instead, we see stagnation in ridership in New York and a rise in ridership in cities that have good service (like Zurich) and also big bumps in ridership in cities that transition to very high frequency (like Barcelona).

BrooklynBus April 27, 2018 - 6:06 pm

Did I say that BusTime is a substitute for high frequency? Of course not. I was merely implying that if there is a 15 minute wait, you may be able to avoid some of that wait by using BusTime.

Anyway, you make it appear that if all bus stops were between a quarter mile and a half mile apart, which is what this discussion is about, and if you spaced the bus routes twice as far apart, that would enable you to operate the remaining routes at five minute intervals at all times. First of all, I doubt it if that would be the case, but would passengers end up saving any time in making their trips?

No instead of walking five minutes to the bus, waiting an average of ten minutes, for example, riding for ten minutes and walking five minutes to your destination, for a total trip time of 30 minutes. Under your scenario, you would now walk ten minutes to the bus, wait five minutes for the bus, ride for seven minutes, and walk ten minutes to your destination for a total trip time of 32 minutes. A 30 minute trip that involved ten minutes on the bus would be reduced to seven minutes on the bus with increased walking of ten minutes and reduced waiting of five minutes.

When the weather is inclement, I think most riders would prefer two minutes more in the bus and five minutes more waiting where they may have some shelter to ten minutes more walking (or a total of 20 minutes walk time) in the wind and rain where all they have is an umbrella. Some would even take a cab for their whole trip rather than walk 10 minutes to the bus and ten minutes from the bus. That’s a mile of walking.

Are you sure you thought this through?

Onux April 30, 2018 - 7:33 pm

Brooklyn Bus, although your numbers state that stop consolidation is worse for the rider, they do not reflect reality. You overestimate walking time, and underestimate in-bus time. This makes the penalty for walking farther stop look greater and the savings from fewer stops look less than they are.

You mention going from 5 min to 10 min walking at each end – a total penalty of 10 min. Average walking speed is 3 mph, or 20 minutes per mile. If we assume going from stops every 1/8 mi (200 m) to every 1/4 mi (400 m) then the worse case scenario is walking an extra quarter mile (1/8 mile at the start and 1/8 mile at the end) for a total penalty of only 5 minutes.
And this only for the people who have a bus stop eliminated right in front of the origin and destination.

Using your other figures, total trip time is already down to 27 min (not 32) for the stop consolidated route, 3 min better than the 30 min for the current route.

At an average bus trip of 2.3 miles, and an average speed of 8 mph, then average travel time is 17.25 min, not 10. Using your value of the consolidated bus having a trip time 30% better, the consolidated route would have a trip time of just over 12 min.

Trip time is now 22 min for the consolidated route, 8 min better than the 30 min base case. A 30% improvement is aggressive (over 2.3 mi there should be 8-9 stops skipped, or 4 min saved not 5), but there is no escaping the fact that the consolidated route saves a significant amount of time (up to 25%).

Now consider that this is the worst case scenario for someone who starts at ends right at a stop that is eliminated. For at least a quarter of all riders (those who start and end at at stop that is not eliminated) there is no additional walking penalty, only the trip time savings. Since, ridership is not evenly distributed, but clusters at important stops that would not be consolidated, it is likely that half or more of all riders would never have to walk further for their bus.

Although everyone who will lose “their” bus stop will complain, the fact is that stop consolidation speeds trips and is a net overall benefit.

BrooklynBus May 1, 2018 - 10:21 am

Your calculations are fine, but your assumptions are incorrect. Yes the average walking speed is 3 mph, but that can vary on a great number of factors and assumes no obstacles. On commercial streets you have pedestrian traffic and have to wait for traffic signals to change. There also is the topography that has to be considered that also slows average walk speeds and you are totally ignoring inclement weather which reduces someone’s willingness to walk.

There also is the distance someone has to walk to reach a bus route. Studies show that people are willing to walk a quarter mile to a bus route and a half mile to a rapid transit route. SBS would probably fall somewhere in between. Since bus routes are usually spaced at every half mile, some already have to walk a quarter mile to the bus even if the stop is at that corner. Increasing the distance they have to walk once they reach the bus stop would put some over the distance they would be willing to walk and if the walk is at both ends, they may choose an entirely different mode reducing demand for bus service and consequently reducing service levels.

I don’t see you saying anything about spacing routes closer together to compensate for this. Alon Levy believes they should be spaced further apart in addition to the stops being further apart.

You also over estimate the time saved by assuming bus stops are currently 200 meters apart. Where there are city blocks, the distance is either every 200 or 300 meters, probably averaging at 250 meters. With Avenue Blocks it is 300 meters. If buses continue to stop at intersections, and not mid-block, your choices are to continue 300 meter spacing or doubling that to 600 meters which in excess of one-quarter mile spacing. If you want mid-block bus stops, then you have to also consider increased walking distances for those transferring buses.

So while your calculations may be neat, there are a lot of holes in what you are saying.

Harry S April 25, 2018 - 4:35 pm

A quick defense of the B25! Or I guess, the B25/B26. I live off the Clinton-Washington C stop, and take those all the time – they’re frequently faster than the C to downtown Brooklyn, and have better subway connections.

Even starting at Grand Ave, where we’re only just getting bus lanes now, it’s often faster to get to Midtown East via the B25/B26 to the 4/5 at Nevins than the C to the 4/5 at Fulton. That’s partly a comment on how bad C train service has gotten, but given that it shares tracks with the A and E there’s a limit to how good it’s going to be. The B25/B26 also have great subway transfer options – the stop at Flatbush is half a block from both Nevins and DeKalb which is a better transfer than anything the C has in Brooklyn.

So, if we’re pitching eliminating the B25, it’s important to pick up the slack with the B26 – it might look redundant, but the C is awful. Even out to Franklin the B25 is sometimes going to be the better option for people.

One thing they should fix, though, is the jog the B26 does from Putnam onto Fulton. There’s two traffic lights – Putnam/Grand and Fulton/Grand – and the bus never makes it through both in one go. Drivers also never respect the stop line on Fulton St so the bus can never make the second turn smoothly.

Alon Levy April 25, 2018 - 11:37 pm

Why does the jog exist, may I ask?

And generally the point of cannibalizing duplicative bus routes is to run really high frequency on the remainder of the network; the target Eric and I are aiming for is a bus every 5-6 minutes off-peak. Another good example, in addition to the B25/26, is the B36/74, which split frequency on a high-demand route between two closely parallel streets.

BrooklynBus April 26, 2018 - 11:44 am

That jog was created by the “brilliant” minds at DOT in the name of Vision Zero or should I say Zero Vision. And do you realize that at Saratoga Avenue there is a half mile gap between the B25 and B26? The next east west route is the B12 another half mile away. So without the B25, you would have a mile between east west bus routes which mean over a half mile walk to the closest east west route. The average bus trip is only 2.3 miles long. What you are suggesting really does not make much sense. I can see that wide of a spacing between routes from midnight to six AM in order to have 30 minute headways rather than 60 minute headways. But such spacing would not work at other times. It would only encourage more dollar vans creating additional traffic.

And as far as the B36/74 combo. The MTA tried routing both of them on the same street in 1978, but had to undo that change in three months after 500 people protested in the streets. Or do you propose that the MTA just shove changes down the people’s throats like the ones you propose because that’s what the numbers tell you.

What the people want and need are also important. You won’t learn that or the history behind certain changes from your numbers and theories or from looking at Google Maps.

Alon Levy April 26, 2018 - 12:55 pm

How frequent were the routes in 1978 that people wanted service on two streets? Because today the B36 comes every 12 minutes and the B74 every 15.

As for the B25 and B26: first, there’s a subway on Fulton. Second, the B65 probably should be straightened and go east to Broadway Junction instead of looping at St. John’s and Ralph (why does it even do that?). So you get east-west routes on Halsey, Fulton (i.e. the subway), Dean/Bergen/St. Mark’s, St. John’s, Eastern Parkway (another subway), a long-ish gap to the B12, and then Church.

And as for Vision Zero and the jog: before Vision Zero, what was it like? Halsey -> Bedford/Nostrand -> Fulton?

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 2:50 pm

The jog on Grand/Fulton has been there since before “Vision Zero” which is a DeBlasio initiative. The B26 has gone on Grand/Classon since at least 2012, perhaps the jog stuck after Fulton St was reconstructed a few years earlier (see this 2006 map with bus reroutes, possibly the first example of the “jog”: http://www.brooklynproperty.co.....-bklyn.pdf) but I don’t recall.

I used to live near there and while such a jog is annoying, the old route used to proceed onto Fulton directly from Halsey, which is a really unsafe maneuver with the angle at which those streets intersect, and the fact that the intersection is uncontrolled (unlike at Lafayette and Greene where similar turns are made by the B38 and B52 respectively).

Tower18 April 26, 2018 - 2:54 pm

Correction, directly onto Fulton from PUTNAM.

BrooklynBus April 26, 2018 - 6:40 pm

It still was a result of a dumb DOT decision. If the intersection just needed traffic controls, that is what should have been done.

Tower18 April 27, 2018 - 9:29 am

Hmmm, or, much easier, use the existing signals at Putnam/Grand and Grand/Fulton and time them appropriately, or with bus priority, so the bus can make the move in one shot. Much easier than adding new traffic signals to an intersection that didn’t have them.

ajedrez April 27, 2018 - 8:30 pm

The B26 has run down Putnam for as long as I can remember. Way before Vision Zero (and perhaps as long as the B26 has been in existance). He’s saying the B26 should run straight down Bedford/Nostrand to Fulton instead of looping up to Putnam to reach Fulton.

In any case, from points further out, it makes sense to just take the subway, but perhaps the B25 east of Nostrand can be combined with a north-south route down NY Avenue/Albany Avenue (though personally, I think NY/Albany should be covered by the B49, with the B44 covering Bedford/Nostrand)

BrooklynBus April 27, 2018 - 10:06 pm

Too complicated. The B49 should just continue up Ocean to Empire and turn east on Empire to Utica. A separate route shoukd cover NY/Albany.

Alon Levy April 28, 2018 - 5:38 pm

Albany’s not a continuous grid street unfortunately because of the cemetery, so it’s hard to use it to interpolate the Nostrand-Utica gap.

I’m looking at the possibility of a Washington -> Empire route. The big problem there is that there’s one alignment that’s direct and misses the Q train another alignment that actually hits the Q train but is so hilariously circuitous you might as well just terminate everything at the Prospect Park station.

BrooklynBus April 29, 2018 - 10:03 am

Did you ever check out my proposals for Southern Brooklyn I wrote up in 2006?


Alon Levy April 30, 2018 - 9:25 pm

No, I didn’t see them before. Thanks! I’ll look more carefully in a bit. I like the pruning of the B41 to Bergen Beach (we’re probably going to propose pruning that branch permanently – B41 ridership has decreased especially quickly, so pruning the branch to conserve frequency becomes more important).

BrooklynBus May 1, 2018 - 10:25 am

The MTA is already proposing pruning it as part of their B41 SBS proposal. I first made the proposal to attach it to the B9 in 1972 as part of my Masters thesis at Columbia which the MTA is finally making now. Many other proposals I made in 1972 such as changes to their B43, B47, B57 etc, they independently made many years later.

JJJ April 24, 2018 - 11:58 am

Good plan. Reads to me like “do what Paris did 20 years ago”

Moofie April 24, 2018 - 3:59 pm

Toronto has a number of direct in system transfers between subways, busses and streetcars. The Broadview station is a good example of how Toronto encourages easy transfers. Byford’s past experience with TTC should point him in the direction of how the MTA could implement this.

Christopher Stephens April 25, 2018 - 10:08 pm

But there’s nothing in the plan about adding WiFi and USB ports to the buses! How did this get past the governor’s people? Doesn’t Byford know that the governor already solved declining bus usage by giving everyone WiFi and USB ports?

In all seriousness, though, I would look forward to seeing a restructuring of bus routes that copies the process that seems to have been successful in Houston: i.e., start from scratch. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone at the MTA has the courage to implement this (though I would love to be proved wrong). I also fear that the sort of changes that are needed require the cooperation of both the city (which controls the roads) and the state. Given their track records, I foresee nothing but petty sniping as long as both of the incumbents are in office.


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