CAR CLOTURE: After Improving During Pandemic, Bus Speeds Are Dropping Again

It's time for more of this. Photo: DOT
It's time for more of this. Photo: DOT

The city’s buses are stuck in neutral.

The latest data shows that bus speeds have flattened out since an early-pandemic improvement, dropping back down to a citywide average of 8.4 miles per hour since July, down from more than 9 miles per hour in April and May, 2020, early in the pandemic, when buses were free and roads were largely unclogged by cars.

The current speed is a 5-percent improvement over the 8 miles an hour that buses were moving at prior to the end of the world, but still short of the 10 miles per hour envisioned by Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses Action Plan.

Asked what steps were being taken to get bus speeds on an upswing, New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg suggested it was time for more bus lanes and more tickets.

“We’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut, it’s frustrating to all of us,” she said on Wednesday. “One of the things we’ve been talking about is doing everything we can to keep the bus lanes clear, and so I wrote a note to myself to check in on the ticketing happening in bus lanes and where we are on that. We continue to try to work with the city to get additional bus lanes and busways and miles of bus lanes, so we’ll continue to do that often.”

For its part, a DOT spokesperson said there was no news to share about bus lanes in 2021, but cryptically revealed that the de Blasio administration would “have more to say soon.”

It’s no secret that busways and dedicated bus lanes speed up buses, as the results have shown on Jay Street and Main Street, the only two busways installed as part of last year’s Better Buses Restart push. The DOT also recently announced that bus lane cameras were giving fines on 28 corridors that served 33 bus lines, and that the cameras on the Main Street corridor serving 11 more bus lines in Flushing will start spitting out tickets after its warning period is over.

Bus riders though, have taken it to the tweets to ask the mayor what he’s planning to do

Transportation activists also noted that there’s more the MTA can do right now than say the city is doing a poor job. The recently released Big Bus Comeback report offered a number of solutions that are firmly in the MTA control, such as getting bus redesigns in the Bronx and Queens back on track, installing bus-mounted cameras on eligible bus routes and bringing all-door boarding to the whole system.

“It’s exciting that the MTA is on the cusp of all these breakthroughs like systemwide all-door boarding and bus-mounted enforcement cameras for the whole bus lane network,” said Ben Fried, the communications director at the TransitCenter, one of the organizations that released the report. “But it’s concerning that agency leadership hasn’t put forward specific goals or timetables to make it all happen. Now that the specter of total fiscal collapse is gone, it’s time to act.”