NYPD Is Finally Writing Up More Drivers Who Block Bus Lanes

The city is cutting funding for placard enforcement and improving bus service. Photo: Dave Colon
The city is cutting funding for placard enforcement and improving bus service. Photo: Dave Colon

Life is continuing to slowly get better for the city’s bus riders, as even the NYPD appears to care about them these days.

So far this year, cops have written up 6 percent more bus lane blockers than over the same period last year, the kind of enforcement necessary to actually get the city’s bus system moving, the MTA said on Monday.

In 2019, cops have given out 285,070 tickets to people who drove in or parked in bus lanes and parked at bus stops, up from 269,040 last year. In addition, cops have towed 5,000 vehicles from bus lanes and bus stops this year according to Acting MTA Bus President Craig Cipriano.

The police department, he added, has targeted 16 priority corridors, which serve 750,000 riders per day on 85 routes. though cops are obviously able to write tickets anywhere there’s an infraction. Cipriano called that a “really robust partnership” with the NYPD.

The stepped-up enforcement, which the de Blasio administration promised in January, has helped … albeit only marginally. So far this year, the average bus speed across the entire system is 8 miles per hour, up from 7.9 miles per hour over the same period last year (an increase of 1.3 percent, which is not likely enough for Andy Byford to write home about).

As part of the mayor’s focus on enforcement, the NYPD hired 116 additional traffic enforcement agents, thanks to funding from the City Council, bringing the total number of positions to 2,882 (although at the end of June there were 2,768 agents on the force).

The good news: more agents, more tickets, slightly higher bus speeds, happy advocates.

“With more than two million New Yorkers relying on buses every single day, lanes must be kept clear,” said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance. “More enforcement is proof that riders deserve priority and drivers should stay out of riders’ way.”

The bad news? Cops still do a horrifically bad job of bus lane enforcement compared to the new automated enforcement cameras that the MTA showed off in a spiffy video at Monday’s regular board meeting.

After the MTA debuted those bus lane cameras on the M15 route on Oct. 7, the cameras caught 1,529 bus lane blockers in just 10 days, which would be over 555,000 violators in a single year. On a single route. Without a single cop.

And even with the uptick in NYPD enforcement, board member Sarah Feinberg noted that police are among the most notorious bus lane blockers on the road today. She admitted that officers may have to block a lane if they are responding to an actual emergency, but Feinberg suggested that the MTA should reform its policy of not giving cops tickets for blocking bus lanes.

“If they’re not responding to an emergency and the lights aren’t on, let’s figure out what’s going on there,” Feinberg said, encouraging a count of which types of vehicles are most often parked in bus lanes.

Pilot program on Jay Street, anyone?