A Very Small NYPD Bus Lane Enforcement Effort Is, Apparently, About to Start

What's wrong with this picture? THERE'S A TRUCK IN THE BUS LANE! Photo: TransitCenter
What's wrong with this picture? THERE'S A TRUCK IN THE BUS LANE! Photo: TransitCenter

Updated | Did you hear the news? No, of course you didn’t. And we’re not sure it’s news anyway.

Buried in the advance notes for Tuesday’s MTA board meeting is a little gem to quicken the hearts of all bus advocates: “This month the NYPD is launching a new citywide ‘clear bus route’ initiative targeting two high-priority corridors per borough for traffic enforcement,” MTA Bus Company President Darryl Irick said on page 54. “The results of these ongoing efforts will be shared over the next several months.”

An initiative? Coordination?

We asked the NYPD for information — none was provided. (Update! See bottom of the story.)

We asked the MTA for more information — none was provided.

So we asked the experts — they were underwhelmed.

“This is the first time we’re hearing of a new NYPD initiative with transit,” said Tabitha Decker, deputy executive director of TransitCenter. “Two ‘high-priority corridors per borough’ is pretty low. But it’s better than the current initiative: zero.”

Bus speeds are flat. Photo: MTA
Bus speeds are flat. Photo: MTA

Stephanie Burgos-Veras, senior organizer for Riders Alliance, was equally unimpressed.

“Two corridors are not substantial at all,” she said, musing on the dozens of important bus corridors in each borough. “We need enforcement of all bus lanes, not just two corridors per borough. There are two million riders who rely on buses. They’re not just on 10 corridors in New York.”
The decline in bus ridership speaks for itself. Photo: MTA
The decline in bus ridership speaks for itself. Photo: MTA
Bergos-Veras didn’t blame the MTA for the continuing decline in ridership.
“Bus service has not improved,” she said. “There is work coming from the MTA, like route redesigns, and how they monitor buses, but we haven’t seen that same level of engagement from the city, which could add more bus lanes, more enforcement of bus lanes or more signal priority.”
The suggestion that the NYPD is about to launch an “initiative” isn’t the first time bus riders have gotten a glimmer of good news. Last month, Streetsblog reported that cops had written 16 percent more tickets to bus lane blockers this year compared to the same period last year — but bus speeds did not measurably improve.
“They claim bus lane enforcement is going up, and maybe it is, but it’s infinitesimally small” compared to what is needed, said Jon Orcutt, executive director of TransitCenter. “The biggest question with the cops is whether they get their own vehicles, other government vehicles and post office trucks out of the bus lanes. This remains the biggest observable problem.”

The MTA and DOT have been vexed by bus lane blockers for years. Comptroller Scott Stringer said earlier this year that the city and state need to provide physical barriers for some bus lane segments and install enforcement cameras on every bus. The cameras would require support from the state legislature, now controlled by Democrats.
A survey of bus drivers earlier this year said that nearly 50 percent of drivers blamed cars for their troubles.
Update: Several days after publication of this story, the NYPD issued a statement to Streetsblog to provide more information about what turns out to be a weeklong initiative: “The Chief of Patrol is coordinating a citywide traffic initiative focused on the enforcement of all bus lane violations on all tours beginning on November 12 and ending on November 18. Officers will enforce moving and parking violations at all bus stops and bus lanes.”