Adams Administration Has Just Three Bus Lane Projects as Painting Season Starts

Mayor Eric Adams is all-in on free buses, but needs to get more red paint on the ground.
Mayor Eric Adams is all-in on free buses, but needs to get more red paint on the ground.

Three and out?

Mayor Adams is leaving bus riders stuck in neutral as his administration has presented only three bus lane projects of roughly 14.6 miles, leaving advocates to wonder how much red paint is going to get put down in the first year of the Streets Master Plan, which requires 20 bus lane miles.

“We don’t know what projects they’re setting out to do, or if they’re the projects that are identified in the Streets Plan, we don’t know how much mileage each of those projects are expected to produce,” said Riders Alliance Director of Policy and Communications Danny Pearlstein. “So at this point, we’re still not able to judge how they’re going to beat their benchmark.”

The Streets Master Plan requires the city to build 150 miles of bus lanes by the end of 2026, an average of 30 lane miles per years. When the DOT released the plan at the end of 2021, the agency said that its capacity for 2022 was 20 miles of bus lanes. Money for the entire plan was also a concern when it was first released, but Mayor Adams announced he was putting $904 million over five years towards the goal of finishing the many goals the plan set out. The DOT also included a list of 22 “2022 project locations” when it released the Streets Master Plan, though the map with the locations also had a note on the bottom that read, “Maps serve as a vision for proposed projects and improvements to be implemented during the five-year plan.”

The many projects and corridors of the Streets Master Plan. Graphic: DOT
The many projects and corridors of the Streets Master Plan. Graphic: DOT

Buses remain mired at 8.1 miles per hour an average across the city, according to the latest data shared by the MTA, leading advocates to wonder why the Adams team has not made bus speeds an urgent priority given that slow buses were a key anti-legacy of the previous administration.

“We are concerned that they haven’t put out anything concrete, so we’re just watching to see,” said TransitCenter Senior Advocacy Associate Ashley Pryce. “There’s some potential … for them to put out a great plan of things. But we haven’t heard any updates on where they are thus far.”

At the moment, only three out of the 22 project locations for this year have implementation timelines, although none has an exact implementation date: a 4.6-mile bus improvement project on Gun Hill Road that’s supposed to be implemented in the late summer or the fall; a 3.8-miles bus lane between Queens Plaza North and Hoyt Avenue North that’s supposed to be installed in the spring or summer; and one of three potential improvements (an eastbound bus lane, a bi-directional bus lane or a bi-directional busway) along 5.8 miles of East Fordham Road. That list adds up to 14.6 miles of bus lanes, which still leaves the city 3.4 miles (or 27 percent) short of its benchmark for the year.

How we covered Mayor de Busisslow.
How we covered Mayor de Busisslow.

It’s also well off the pace that Mayor Adams himself promised when he said his administration would put in 150 miles of bus lanes by the end of his current term in 2025 instead of the mandated end of 2026.

A spokesperson for the DOT reiterated the administration’s support of busways and bus lanes, but didn’t provide a list of any additional projects that the administration is planning or presenting to community boards beyond those three.

“The data speaks for itself: busways and bus lanes significantly improve bus speeds and reduce the time riders have to wait,” said spokesperson Tomas Garita. “DOT is committed to continuing to improve and expand bus-priority projects, focusing on those communities that rely on buses the most.”

The lack of additional plans doesn’t guarantee that the city won’t hit its 20 mile target this year, but recent mid-year announcements have come up short of their goals. In June, 2020, then-Mayor de Blasio announced 20 miles of bus lanes and busways would be installed by the end of that year, but wound up finishing the year at about 17 miles. In May 2021, de Blasio used Streets Week! to announce 28 miles of either new or upgraded bus lane projects. Some of those, like the Fifth Avenue busway, Gun Hill Road bus lane and proposals for bus lanes on Avenue A and Avenue D in Manhattan have still not been completed.

With the weather ripe for throwing paint down, Pearlstein said riders wanted to know what they could look forward to this year.

“I’m sure that they have something internal at DOT, but we’d love to know what’s on the menu for 2022. We’re getting into painting season and we’re not seeing any painting yet,” he said.

Riders Alliance spent most of Thursday with a Brooklyn-focused day of action that included street organizing and a Twitter campaign to encourage Mayor Adams to get moving on buses.

“Mayor Adams promised 150 miles of new bus lanes. So far, he’s at 0,” the group said online.