SMILE! M14 Ridership Is Up As More Camera Enforcement Comes to the Busway

More please, says the Council. File photo: Dave Colon
More please, says the Council. File photo: Dave Colon

The Busway just keeps rolling, and car owners are staying on the run.

The MTA’s latest data shows another 3-percent increase in ridership in November and another 2-percent reduction in bus trip times for the select bus service on 14th Street — small improvements that come on top of the huge gains in ridership (up 17 percent) and travel times (percent faster) that occurred in the first few weeks after the 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. bus-only hours on 14th Street began on Oct. 2.

Weekday ridership is now an average of 32,536 riders a day (up 22 percent), and those long-suffering transit users now make the trip from one end of the busway to the others in 10.3 minutes, an improvement of more than 38 percent.

It’s all proof that there’s an easy fix for what ails the city’s bus system.

“It proves that if we give our buses priority, we can move our buses along and people will come back to the bus system,” Craig Cipriano, the acting MTA bus division president, told reporters.

And it’s only going to get better, MTA officials said on Wednesday, as they announced the beginning of automated enforcement against Busway violators in the form of cameras on the buses themselves.

Starting today, drivers will get warning notices if they violate busway rules — car drivers are required to get off the busway at the first available right turn. That grace period will end in 60 days, but once enforcement starts in earnest, a driver captured on camera by two consecutive buses will get a $50 ticket, with repeat offenders fined $50 more until the tickets cap at $250, Cipriano said.

In addition, stationary cameras along 14th Street will switch from issuing warnings to issuing the same incremental $50 violations, starting on Dec. 2. Automated enforcement will be a necessary piece of the equation to deter drivers from trying to claw back their reign on 14th Street, as one Twitter user noticed this past weekend when traffic police weren’t on the scene to force drivers to side streets.

Cipriano said that the MTA and DOT were aware of the photos from the weekend, but that the NYPD said it was looking into the situation. In the meantime, the department still has 16 traffic agents per day out in force along the bus-only street. City DOT Deputy Commissioner Eric Beaton said there’s no end date for the police deployment, only that it will continue “as long as it’s needed.”

“We’re working with the NYPD, monitoring what’s going on and making adjustments as needed,” Beaton said.

Cipriano even said that as the M14 keeps moving faster, there could be more service for the 30,000-plus daily riders of the line.

“In the future, as these buses continue to speed up, we can add more trips with the existing equipment and bus operators today,” Cipriano said.

The data on Busway speeds is the latest in a series of data points that shows, contrary to the traffic-strewn nightmare world that Busway NIMBYs conjured up, the Busway is working. If you’re a bus rider or a pizza place on 14th Street, life is looking up, and if you live on adjacent street, data from an independent firm says traffic is moving through without turning into awful snarls. If you used to waste money on daily Uber rides to bring your child across town on 14th Street, the Busway is working especially well.

The announcement also comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio taking his first ride on the new and improved M14, a bus ride the mayor called “an extraordinary experience.” The mayor, unlike City Council Speaker and Busway agnostic-turned-believer Corey Johnson, said transit riders must wait until next year before he creates more bus-only streets.