Bus Riders Share Their Tales of Woeful Service. Are Cuomo and de Blasio Listening?

Their stories go beyond time lost to delays and show how bad service exacts a heavy toll on fundamental aspects of daily life

Members of the Bus Turnaround Coalition shared their "Woes on the Bus" this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Members of the Bus Turnaround Coalition shared their "Woes on the Bus" this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Ramona Ferreyra suffers from a chronic illness that necessitates weekly trips to the doctor. She prefers to ride the bus, because going up and down stairs to take the subway is so uncomfortable. But the bus is so unreliable she often misses her doctor’s appointments.

“Any time that I’m more than 15 minutes late, I get bumped,” she said, and it might be another month before she can reschedule. “As someone that’s on public assistance as I wait for Social Security disability to be approved, I can’t afford to take a cab, I can’t afford to ride an Uber or take a Lyft. It’s just not an option.”

Ferreyra is one of the 1,000 bus riders the Riders Alliance interviewed over the last year for its “Woes on the Bus” campaign, which compiles first-hand accounts of how bad bus service affects the lives of New Yorkers. This morning the Riders Alliance released a booklet with 50 of their most compelling stories [PDF].

“We are living through a crisis,” said Riders Alliance organizer Stephanie Burgos-Veras. New York City bus service is the slowest in the nation and getting slower. Riders depend on buses that get bogged down in traffic and needlessly slowed down by antiquated traffic signals and fare systems.

Riders Alliance and the Bus Turnaround Coalition collected these stories to show why Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio should move fast to adopt proven measures to speed up bus service: more transit-only lanes, traffic signals that prioritize buses, tap-and-go payment and all-door boarding, and better dispatching to keep buses on schedule.

The stories in the book go beyond time lost to delays — they show how bad bus service can exact a heavy toll on fundamental aspects of daily life. Riders recount losing jobs, dealing with higher child care expenses, putting up the extra money for a car after giving up on transit, and missing medical appointments as a result of unreliable and slow buses.

One parent, Kemisha W. in Queens, said the Q3 often passes by without stopping when she’s with her kids at the bus stop. Then the kids face penalties for being late to school. “I’m a college student myself and I started taking night classes,” she said. “I can’t leave until all my kids have safely made it home. I have missed classes waiting on them to get home on the bus.”

“For me, really, the only option sometimes becomes a bus,” said Ferreyra, who lives in the South Bronx. “I really wish that the service would be more dependable, cleaner, more consistent, and that the routes, especially in the Bronx, would be updated to reflect where our community is shifting to and where we’re going.”