Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing NYC to Expand Bus Lane Camera Program

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Saturday that will speed up bus trips by expanding the number of bus lanes where the city can deploy camera enforcement. The law now enables New York City to use cameras to keep car drivers out of exclusive bus lanes on up to 16 routes, an increase from just six today.

34th Street before cameras were added. Video still: Robin Urban Smith/Streetfilms
34th Street before cameras were added. Video still: Robin Urban Smith/Streetfilms

Under the bill, which passed the Senate and the Assembly in June, the city can choose the 10 additional bus routes that will receive camera enforcement. That’s a change from the state legislation that first authorized bus lane cameras in 2010, which spelled out which routes could get cameras.

The city and the MTA have expanded Select Bus Service — the enhanced routes that usually include dedicated transit lanes — beyond the limitations of the previous bus lane camera legislation. As a result, bus lanes on Webster Avenue operate without camera enforcement. Absent this new legislation, planned bus lanes on Utica Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, and along the Q44 in Flushing and Jamaica would have also gone without cameras.

The new legislation allows the city to install cameras on non-SBS bus lanes, like on Fifth Avenue and Fulton Street, as well. It also enables the city to operate the cameras on weekends, but continues to limit camera enforcement to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., when most bus lanes are in effect. The fine would stay at $115.

While the law is a very basic step to ensure the city’s bus lanes can operate as intended, there was some doubt as to whether Governor Cuomo would go along with a de Blasio administration legislative priority. In a statement, however, the governor enthusiastically endorsed the bus lane camera expansion.

“This is a vitally important program used by hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “I’m proud to sign this legislation that not only continues this very successful program to provide quicker and more reliable bus service throughout the City, but also expands it.”

The bill faced opposition from Assembly Republicans and former Speaker Sheldon Silver. Ultimately, it passed 79-60, before clearing the Senate, 48-11. The bill took effect as soon as Cuomo signed it on Saturday, allowing the city to add bus lane cameras immediately.

“In signing this bill into law we can ensure the effectiveness of the City’s Bus Rapid Transit program that services thousands of riders, particularly from outer boroughs,” said Assembly Member Nily Rozic, who sponsored the legislation. “I thank the Governor for supporting a measure that will improve the way New Yorkers experience mass transit.”

“We’ve fought hard to extend and expand this important program, so we can continue improving bus commutes for straphangers. This is going to be essential as we bring Bus Rapid Transit to corridors like Woodhaven Boulevard,” said de Blasio administration spokesperson Wiley Norvell. “We appreciate the work of our state colleagues, especially our legislative leaders and bill sponsors Assembly Member Rozic and State Senator Golden, for securing this legislation.”