Home Buses Second Ave. Sagas Podcast, Episode 8: Better Buses Better Cities with TransitCenter’s Steven Higashide

Second Ave. Sagas Podcast, Episode 8: Better Buses Better Cities with TransitCenter’s Steven Higashide

by Benjamin Kabak

Buses are certainly having their moment these days. With the launch of the 14th St. Busway, we’ve seen a vision of a better New York City, one that prioritizes transit over private automobiles and makes it easier for people of every stripe to move around.

But the success of 14th Street isn’t the only bus story in America. Across the country, transit advocates are winning the fight for better bus service, either through network redesigns that bolster ridership or investment in new routes dedicated to buses. To that enter, Steven Higashide, the Direct of Research at TransitCenter, recently published a new book entitled Better Buses Better Cities: How to Plan, Run and Win the Fight for Effective Transit. At 142 pages, it’s a quick read, but an insightful and meaningful one for anyone who cares about improving buses. Higashide profiles efforts around the country at fixing buses to make service frequent, useful and popular.

This week, Higashide joined me on the podcast to talk about the lessons from his book gleaned from his travels around the country and the ways they can be applied to New York City. We talked, of course, about the new busway, but we also spoke about the bus network redesign Andy Byford is currently leading and the shortcomings in this project. We discussed fighting against the Arthur Schwartzs of the world and planning a bus network that can lead to faster service and higher ridership. Is this the dawning of the age of buses? Listen on to find out.

You can find my conversation with Higashide at all the popular podcast spots — iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Pocket Casts, to name a few. Or you can listen by clicking the “play” button below. If you like what you hear and have been enjoying the podcasts, please consider leaving a review on your iTunes.

As always, thank you for listening and thanks as well to Joe Jakubowski for sound engineering. I’ve been enjoying producing these podcasts but they take a lot of time and effort. I can keep doing them only through the generous contributions of my listeners so please consider joining the Second Ave. Sagas Patreon. Since this site runs entirely on Patreon contributions, your help keeps the proverbial engine going. And be sure to check out Better Buses, Better Cities. It’s worth any transit advocate’s read.

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Larry Penner November 1, 2019 - 8:02 am

Here are some ways the MTA can ask Washington to help pay for transit improvements as part of the upcoming $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan.

The Federal Transit Administration previously announced on May 15th a Notice of Funding opportunity to apply for approximately $423 million in Fiscal Year 2019 competitive grant funding for bus and bus facility projects nationwide.

The purpose of competitive grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program is to assist in the financing of buses and bus facilities capital projects, including replacing, rehabilitating, purchasing or leasing buses or related equipment, and rehabilitating, purchasing, constructing or leasing bus-related facilities or projects just like the 14th Street Bus Transit Way.
There are other Federal Transit Administration grant programs such as Urban Area Formula 5307, Capital Annual Investment 5309, New Starts, Buses and Bus Facilities 5339 along with Congestion Mitigation Air Quality and several other Federal Highway Administration grant programs which can be transferred over to FTA.

Following the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is necessary to preserve eligibility for potential Federal Transit Administration funding opportunities to pay for any planned transportation improvements. The MTA receives $1.4 billion in annual funding from FTA under various grant programs every federal fiscal year. These funds pay for various capital improvement projects. Riders, taxpayers, transit advocates and elected officials should be concerned if the MTA is preserving eligibility for future federal funding from Washington by following various Federal Transit Administration rules and regulations to preserve pursuing future Federal Transit Administration grant funding.

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit bus and subway, LIRR & Metro North, MTA Bus, New Jersey Transit and one billion for the NYC Department of Transportation Staten Island Ferry.

Benjamin Kabak November 1, 2019 - 10:55 am

Larry: I’m happy to host a open discussion forum here, but I really need you to keep comments on topic and relatively shorter. Copy-and-paste jobs from other sites doesn’t cut it, and if I need to, I’ll have to start moderating these. I hope you understand. I’m not trying to be unreasonable.

ChrisC November 2, 2019 - 11:04 am

Please not just ‘relativly shorter’ just short – a couple of pragraphs at most. If he wants to write essays then he should start his own blog rather than hijack this one.

And thank you for starting to take action on his screeds which are more often that not nothing to do with the topic at hand.

I was on the verge of stoppign reading this blog entirely because of him.

Terry November 1, 2019 - 9:57 am

Blah blah, Penner, save it for the Queens papers. More of the same unrelated cut and paste paragraphs.

SEAN November 1, 2019 - 3:02 pm

Granted I agree with you Terry, but some of us readers aren’t scouting Queens rags & don’t live in the boroughs. That said, Larry you need to “take it down 5000 notches” to quote Melissa Mccarthy from her film Spy.

The Hunkster November 2, 2019 - 9:33 am

Another successful podcast indeed. I took the buses almost everyday. I guess I should pick this book up.

SEAN November 3, 2019 - 11:19 am

I agree. In fact I road the bus in Brooklyn yesterday so I could visit the new Wegmans at the navy yard. It was so easy from Downtown & only a few minutes at that, even when a subway from Grand Central is also taken into account.

They were running new NFI vehicles on the B57 that had automatic stop announcements. I’ve only herd these on a few routes, but as newer busses are added, they will be herd elsewhere & perhaps retrofitted on older busses as well. The voice is computer generated & not from Bloomburg reporters unlike the subway.

For those who are interested, Wegmans is at 21 Flushing Avenue via the B57, http://www.wegmans.com.

Jony Martin April 22, 2024 - 3:24 am

Busses are the root of any city’s transportation. If it is disturbed I do not understand how they are managing the city traffic. if the locals cannot travel this easily then there should be no vehicles on the road.

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