Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/select-bus-service 2018-07-20T03:06:54+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com The Great Select Bus Service Conspiracy: Part III 2018-04-23T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7629:the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-iii Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mta-select-bus-service-route.jpg" alt="mta select bus service route" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part three of a three-part series</em></p> <p><em>Previously discussed: the promises and the reality, the difference between bus travel time and passenger travel time, who benefits and who is hurt by SBS, how the mayor, MTA and DOT mislead, the true costs of SBS (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part one</a>); the denigration of local bus service, problems with enforcement, other SBS problems, negative effects on traffic and local businesses and how public participation is inadequate (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part two</a>).</em></p> <p><strong>Not a Cure-All</strong><br />SBS is not the cure-all for local bus service problems as purported to be. Some SBS routes do not even make sense. In one case, there is a <a href="http://queensrail.org/portfolio/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nearby unused rail line</a> that could be reactivated at a fraction of the cost of constructing a new subway line without disrupting traffic and local businesses as SBS does. Yet it was never considered as an alternative to the Woodhaven Boulevard SBS.</p> <p>The MTA and DOT want to spend $2 billion on SBS over the next ten years, but will not alter, add or extend existing bus routes to fill transit deserts. Some have been <a href="http://brooklynbus.tripod.com/id34.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indirect</a> or <a href="https://bklyner.com/today-marks-the-35th-anniversary-of-the-southwest-brooklyn-bus-changes-plus-more-about-b1-service-update-part-2-of-2-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outdated</a> for over 70 years. The MTA claims it would cost too much to increase service because they refuse to consider the resulting additional ridership from better service. They have rejected route improvements with increased annual operating costs of only $50,000.</p> <p>Instead, they make foolhardy proposals to eliminate bus stops, such as on the Q22 where there is a high elderly population. <a href="http://rockawaytimes.com/index.php/news/3006-fireworks-at-cb-14-meeting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The MTA suggested those riders use Access-A-Ride instead.</a> Each one of those trips costs the MTA over $50. New bus routes are scheduled only at 30-minute intervals, which the MTA insists is sufficient. The actual wait for a bus is often longer. Is it any wonder that these routes are among the most lightly-utilized routes in the system?</p> <p>Important transfer points are missing from SBS routes. For example, there is no way to transfer between the Q52/53 and the B15 Kennedy Airport route, which is also slated for the SBS treatment. “Dollar vans” continue to illegally compete with MTA buses, draining revenue from the MTA.</p> <p>There is no desire by the MTA to connect new neighborhoods, thereby really improving mass transit. In most cases, SBS is merely replacing existing Limited Stop routes.&nbsp;The <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/html/routes/south-brooklyn.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Southern Brooklyn SBS</a> needs to connect Bay Ridge with Gateway Mall and Kennedy Airport, not just replace the B82. Potential economic benefits of such new routings are ignored. SBS construction costs (if applicable), operating costs, and ridership are the only variables considered.</p> <p>How does the mayor know that <a href="https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/new-york/new-york-city-announces-decade-long-sbs-expansion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">21 additional routes will be needed</a> in the next ten years even before any SBS meetings are held? Why aren’t other solutions being discussed or analyzed? Perhaps routes need to be altered or added, more short services need to be provided or a zone express would make more sense than SBS. A short service does not operate for the entire length of the route. A zone express is a bus that picks up passengers bound for a single destination such as a major subway stop until it is full and then operates non-stop the rest of the way.</p> <p><strong>Can SBS Work?</strong><br />Yes, if it is done correctly.</p> <p>By imposing a deadline on DOT for 20 routes by the end of 2017, the mayor rushed the planning process so that some routes were not properly designed. It is now difficult or impossible for trucks to turn onto the Woodhaven Boulevard service roads, necessitating lengthy detours. SBS is most beneficial on very long routes where the average trip length is much greater than 2.3 miles. On the S79, for example, many riders travel a considerable portion of the route, at least five miles, and some travel ten or more, so many do save time. However, the S79 only includes three SBS features (two is the minimum number required to qualify as an SBS route), exclusive bus lanes (rush hours only), and longer distances between some stops than Limiteds; and more recently, TSM. There is no off-board fare collection, hence no additional enforcement costs, and standard 40-foot buses are used so there are no extra labor or fuel costs.</p> <p>The effect on other traffic resulting from the bus lanes must also be considered to determine if the benefits afforded bus riders are greater than the harm done to motorists. The <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/docs/Hylan_Boulevard_Final_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S79 Progress Report</a> showed that traffic volumes declined on both Hylan Boulevard and parallel roadways. That is understandable when traffic congestion increases, which it did. That does not indicate a lower demand, but a lengthening of the peak period. We know congestion increased because in one instance the time it took to travel between two points increased by 50 percent from 10 to 15 minutes, but declined to a lesser extent in other instances. DOT explained away the time increase by attributing it to “daily roadway fluctuations.”</p> <p>Responsible traffic studies do not draw conclusions from just two days, and Mondays and Fridays usually are not studied because they are atypical of weekday travel. If DOT averaged three midweek days before and after implementation and allowed at least a month for drivers to become accustomed to the elimination of traffic lanes, perhaps then it would be clear if the increased travel times were really a result of daily fluctuations or not. &nbsp;DOT, however, is really only interested in the effects on bus riders, not on other traffic.</p> <p>Other routes may also work fairly well like the Bx6, the Bx12, and the Q70. The M15 works well in the late evenings, providing a quicker alternative than the subway from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper East Side.</p> <p>Proposed routes such as the B82 could work if they connect new neighborhoods. The B44 could have been designed better so that Kingsborough College students were better served and employees of Kings County and Downstate Medical Centers were not so inconvenienced. That, however, would have involved creating or rerouting other bus routes in the area to fill a needed service gap, something the MTA is hesitant to do. It also would have required public hearings. The MTA usually prefers the easy way over the correct way.</p> <p>B44 SBS ridership south of Avenue X would greatly increase to at least a seated load per bus if a branch to serve Kingsborough Community College were instituted as was first proposed in <a href="https://bklyner.com/b44-sbs-update-initial-reviews-are-in-part-3-of-3-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013</a>. No increase in service would be necessary because new riders would ride in the off-peak direction. Presently the 60-foot buses south of Avenue X only carry <a href="https://bklyner.com/mta-incompetently-operating-b44-b36-part-2-2-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">six or fewer passengers</a> even during rush hours, except for a handful of trips when health care workers are changing shifts. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Both proposals were made to the MTA or DOT and have been dismissed or ignored.</p> <p><strong>Is SBS worth it?</strong><br /> Consider that a simple state law requiring all non-emergency motor vehicles to give the right of way to buses pulling out of bus stops would save bus passengers more time than SBS because it would apply to all 326 bus routes, not only 17 or 38 SBS routes. It would also save the MTA money by shortening bus travel times. Best of all, it would cost virtually nothing, and would disrupt traffic less than exclusive bus lanes. &nbsp;</p> <p>The first SBS route began in 2008. Using 2011 as a base year and adding up the riders in the 12 SBS corridors we get 101,455,632 passengers. For 2016, the number is 98,800,534 passengers, or a 2.6% decline, while all local routes (NYCT and MTA Bus) declined by 3.3%. (It should be noted that the Q70 became an SBS route in 2015.)</p> <p>Ridership on SBS routes declined by 0.86% from 2015 to 2016 while the system in general declined by 1.5%. SBS routes performed slightly better than all local/limited routes but did not reverse the declining trend in bus patronage, one of its goals. The M15 First and Second Avenue route alone lost over <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/ridership_bus_annual.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3 million annual passengers</a> between 2012 and 2016, more than the total bus ridership in many cities, and that does not consider the opening of the Second Avenue subway.&nbsp;Many local riders could have just decided that walking is now quicker with less frequent service. &nbsp;</p> <p>Another possibility is that patronage didn't actually decline on SBS routes but fare evasion on those routes is higher than on routes where you pay on board. The MTA insisted for a long time that a fare-evasion rate of three percent was acceptable and within industry standards. After a newspaper expose, it finally admitted fare evasion on local bus routes was 14 percent and took temporary mitigating actions to reduce it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fare evasion rates for SBS are unavailable. The MTA admits that each SBS inspector costs $100,000 per year in salaries and accounts for the biggest ongoing cost.&nbsp;But how much enforcement is there? One daily SBS rider claimed to have seen the Eagle team on the bus only once in the past year. We need to know if fare evasion rates for SBS are higher than on traditional bus routes.</p> <p>What will happen to all the fare machines, which cost $50,000 each, when they become obsolete in a few years as the MetroCard is replaced with a tap and go system? Is additional investment in these machines worthwhile or should we place a moratorium on creating new SBS routes at least until MetroCard is replaced?</p> <p>Mayor Bloomberg had suggested that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/nyregion/04bloomberg.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Manhattan’s crosstown routes be free</a> due to the high percentage of those transferring from other buses and subways who have already paid their fare. This would allow all-door entry without the expense of SBS machines and enforcement. The Riders Alliance questioned if it was worth the cost to convert and operate the Q70 (LaGuardia Airport route) to SBS since 80 percent of riders are already paying their fare on the subway and <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/riders-alliance-proposes-free-shuttle-bus-to-laguardia-airport-1.11157585" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recommended the route be free</a>. A cost-benefit analysis should have been performed in both cases regarding how high the percentage of passengers paying for their trip elsewhere needs to be before it becomes more cost effective to run SBS rather than operate the route for free. Those analyses were not done.</p> <p>SBS costs are not transparent; benefits are marginal. Passenger travel-time savings, which should be the key metric of SBS improvement, are unavailable. Yet we are asked to embrace SBS without adequate proof it is a success and ignore all negative effects.</p> <p>What is the driving force behind SBS for state and local officials? Is it that the federal government is paying a portion of the costs and this is regarded as “free money”? And that if New York City doesn’t apply for these funds, another city will? If so, that source may soon dry up. Is the mayor more interested in raising revenue from levying heavy fines while the MTA shoulders most of the enforcement costs? Is the real goal to improve transit or is it just the perception of improved transit?</p> <p><strong>Summary and Conclusions</strong><br /> SBS is not low-cost and has not been a massive improvement. Don't let the unconditional support by so many groups and officials fool you. SBS may be an appropriate solution in some cases. It is not the solution in every case. Don’t believe the SBS hype. Concentrate on results and actual numbers, not promises and percentages. Look for data other than what is easily accessible from DOT and the MTA. Ask questions and arrive at your own conclusions. Don’t believe 95 percent of bus riders are satisfied with SBS. If that is true, why is ridership on SBS routes generally down? There are reasons why so many are unhappy with SBS and why so many communities vigorously opposed SBS and are opposing planned routes.</p> <p>According to reliable sources, the proposed B82 SBS was in danger of being scrapped altogether due to heavy opposition and Flatbush Avenue merchants are prepared to lay down in the street when the proposed B41 SBS becomes a serious threat.</p> <p>To date <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/south/select-bus-skepticism-along-woodhaven-blvd/article_35e01c28-c104-5973-ad2b-134d0a387fca.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only the proposed Merrick Boulevard SBS was dropped</a>, and that was early on in the process. It is not as if communities do not want better transit. They just want transit done right without wasting funds unnecessarily and causing unnecessary inconvenience, economic hardship or decreasing safety.&nbsp;</p> <p>Is it worth spending $2 billion over the next ten years just to save an average SBS passenger only three or four minutes of bus travel time, despite DOT claims of travel time savings up to 20 or 30 percent? True passenger travel-time savings are unknown because of inadequate data. The negatives of SBS must not be ignored. We must insist on adequate public input and data. SBS problems must be corrected; other solutions must be considered. Poorly planned SBS routes are increasing the cost of bus operations without much benefit to the public. There needs to be a moratorium on new SBS routes now.</p> <p><em>This is part three of a three-part series. Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part one here</a> and read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part two here</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br /> Allan Rosen received his Master’s in Urban Planning from Columbia University (with a transportation concentration), planned the massive southwest Brooklyn bus route changes in 1978, was a Director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit, now retired, and wrote a <a href="https://bklyner.com/tag/the-commute/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">weekly column</a> on transit issues for five years for the blog now called Bklyner.com.&nbsp;</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mta-select-bus-service-route.jpg" alt="mta select bus service route" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part three of a three-part series</em></p> <p><em>Previously discussed: the promises and the reality, the difference between bus travel time and passenger travel time, who benefits and who is hurt by SBS, how the mayor, MTA and DOT mislead, the true costs of SBS (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part one</a>); the denigration of local bus service, problems with enforcement, other SBS problems, negative effects on traffic and local businesses and how public participation is inadequate (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part two</a>).</em></p> <p><strong>Not a Cure-All</strong><br />SBS is not the cure-all for local bus service problems as purported to be. Some SBS routes do not even make sense. In one case, there is a <a href="http://queensrail.org/portfolio/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nearby unused rail line</a> that could be reactivated at a fraction of the cost of constructing a new subway line without disrupting traffic and local businesses as SBS does. Yet it was never considered as an alternative to the Woodhaven Boulevard SBS.</p> <p>The MTA and DOT want to spend $2 billion on SBS over the next ten years, but will not alter, add or extend existing bus routes to fill transit deserts. Some have been <a href="http://brooklynbus.tripod.com/id34.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">indirect</a> or <a href="https://bklyner.com/today-marks-the-35th-anniversary-of-the-southwest-brooklyn-bus-changes-plus-more-about-b1-service-update-part-2-of-2-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outdated</a> for over 70 years. The MTA claims it would cost too much to increase service because they refuse to consider the resulting additional ridership from better service. They have rejected route improvements with increased annual operating costs of only $50,000.</p> <p>Instead, they make foolhardy proposals to eliminate bus stops, such as on the Q22 where there is a high elderly population. <a href="http://rockawaytimes.com/index.php/news/3006-fireworks-at-cb-14-meeting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The MTA suggested those riders use Access-A-Ride instead.</a> Each one of those trips costs the MTA over $50. New bus routes are scheduled only at 30-minute intervals, which the MTA insists is sufficient. The actual wait for a bus is often longer. Is it any wonder that these routes are among the most lightly-utilized routes in the system?</p> <p>Important transfer points are missing from SBS routes. For example, there is no way to transfer between the Q52/53 and the B15 Kennedy Airport route, which is also slated for the SBS treatment. “Dollar vans” continue to illegally compete with MTA buses, draining revenue from the MTA.</p> <p>There is no desire by the MTA to connect new neighborhoods, thereby really improving mass transit. In most cases, SBS is merely replacing existing Limited Stop routes.&nbsp;The <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/html/routes/south-brooklyn.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Southern Brooklyn SBS</a> needs to connect Bay Ridge with Gateway Mall and Kennedy Airport, not just replace the B82. Potential economic benefits of such new routings are ignored. SBS construction costs (if applicable), operating costs, and ridership are the only variables considered.</p> <p>How does the mayor know that <a href="https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/new-york/new-york-city-announces-decade-long-sbs-expansion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">21 additional routes will be needed</a> in the next ten years even before any SBS meetings are held? Why aren’t other solutions being discussed or analyzed? Perhaps routes need to be altered or added, more short services need to be provided or a zone express would make more sense than SBS. A short service does not operate for the entire length of the route. A zone express is a bus that picks up passengers bound for a single destination such as a major subway stop until it is full and then operates non-stop the rest of the way.</p> <p><strong>Can SBS Work?</strong><br />Yes, if it is done correctly.</p> <p>By imposing a deadline on DOT for 20 routes by the end of 2017, the mayor rushed the planning process so that some routes were not properly designed. It is now difficult or impossible for trucks to turn onto the Woodhaven Boulevard service roads, necessitating lengthy detours. SBS is most beneficial on very long routes where the average trip length is much greater than 2.3 miles. On the S79, for example, many riders travel a considerable portion of the route, at least five miles, and some travel ten or more, so many do save time. However, the S79 only includes three SBS features (two is the minimum number required to qualify as an SBS route), exclusive bus lanes (rush hours only), and longer distances between some stops than Limiteds; and more recently, TSM. There is no off-board fare collection, hence no additional enforcement costs, and standard 40-foot buses are used so there are no extra labor or fuel costs.</p> <p>The effect on other traffic resulting from the bus lanes must also be considered to determine if the benefits afforded bus riders are greater than the harm done to motorists. The <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/docs/Hylan_Boulevard_Final_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">S79 Progress Report</a> showed that traffic volumes declined on both Hylan Boulevard and parallel roadways. That is understandable when traffic congestion increases, which it did. That does not indicate a lower demand, but a lengthening of the peak period. We know congestion increased because in one instance the time it took to travel between two points increased by 50 percent from 10 to 15 minutes, but declined to a lesser extent in other instances. DOT explained away the time increase by attributing it to “daily roadway fluctuations.”</p> <p>Responsible traffic studies do not draw conclusions from just two days, and Mondays and Fridays usually are not studied because they are atypical of weekday travel. If DOT averaged three midweek days before and after implementation and allowed at least a month for drivers to become accustomed to the elimination of traffic lanes, perhaps then it would be clear if the increased travel times were really a result of daily fluctuations or not. &nbsp;DOT, however, is really only interested in the effects on bus riders, not on other traffic.</p> <p>Other routes may also work fairly well like the Bx6, the Bx12, and the Q70. The M15 works well in the late evenings, providing a quicker alternative than the subway from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper East Side.</p> <p>Proposed routes such as the B82 could work if they connect new neighborhoods. The B44 could have been designed better so that Kingsborough College students were better served and employees of Kings County and Downstate Medical Centers were not so inconvenienced. That, however, would have involved creating or rerouting other bus routes in the area to fill a needed service gap, something the MTA is hesitant to do. It also would have required public hearings. The MTA usually prefers the easy way over the correct way.</p> <p>B44 SBS ridership south of Avenue X would greatly increase to at least a seated load per bus if a branch to serve Kingsborough Community College were instituted as was first proposed in <a href="https://bklyner.com/b44-sbs-update-initial-reviews-are-in-part-3-of-3-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013</a>. No increase in service would be necessary because new riders would ride in the off-peak direction. Presently the 60-foot buses south of Avenue X only carry <a href="https://bklyner.com/mta-incompetently-operating-b44-b36-part-2-2-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">six or fewer passengers</a> even during rush hours, except for a handful of trips when health care workers are changing shifts. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Both proposals were made to the MTA or DOT and have been dismissed or ignored.</p> <p><strong>Is SBS worth it?</strong><br /> Consider that a simple state law requiring all non-emergency motor vehicles to give the right of way to buses pulling out of bus stops would save bus passengers more time than SBS because it would apply to all 326 bus routes, not only 17 or 38 SBS routes. It would also save the MTA money by shortening bus travel times. Best of all, it would cost virtually nothing, and would disrupt traffic less than exclusive bus lanes. &nbsp;</p> <p>The first SBS route began in 2008. Using 2011 as a base year and adding up the riders in the 12 SBS corridors we get 101,455,632 passengers. For 2016, the number is 98,800,534 passengers, or a 2.6% decline, while all local routes (NYCT and MTA Bus) declined by 3.3%. (It should be noted that the Q70 became an SBS route in 2015.)</p> <p>Ridership on SBS routes declined by 0.86% from 2015 to 2016 while the system in general declined by 1.5%. SBS routes performed slightly better than all local/limited routes but did not reverse the declining trend in bus patronage, one of its goals. The M15 First and Second Avenue route alone lost over <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/ridership_bus_annual.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3 million annual passengers</a> between 2012 and 2016, more than the total bus ridership in many cities, and that does not consider the opening of the Second Avenue subway.&nbsp;Many local riders could have just decided that walking is now quicker with less frequent service. &nbsp;</p> <p>Another possibility is that patronage didn't actually decline on SBS routes but fare evasion on those routes is higher than on routes where you pay on board. The MTA insisted for a long time that a fare-evasion rate of three percent was acceptable and within industry standards. After a newspaper expose, it finally admitted fare evasion on local bus routes was 14 percent and took temporary mitigating actions to reduce it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fare evasion rates for SBS are unavailable. The MTA admits that each SBS inspector costs $100,000 per year in salaries and accounts for the biggest ongoing cost.&nbsp;But how much enforcement is there? One daily SBS rider claimed to have seen the Eagle team on the bus only once in the past year. We need to know if fare evasion rates for SBS are higher than on traditional bus routes.</p> <p>What will happen to all the fare machines, which cost $50,000 each, when they become obsolete in a few years as the MetroCard is replaced with a tap and go system? Is additional investment in these machines worthwhile or should we place a moratorium on creating new SBS routes at least until MetroCard is replaced?</p> <p>Mayor Bloomberg had suggested that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/nyregion/04bloomberg.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Manhattan’s crosstown routes be free</a> due to the high percentage of those transferring from other buses and subways who have already paid their fare. This would allow all-door entry without the expense of SBS machines and enforcement. The Riders Alliance questioned if it was worth the cost to convert and operate the Q70 (LaGuardia Airport route) to SBS since 80 percent of riders are already paying their fare on the subway and <a href="https://www.amny.com/transit/riders-alliance-proposes-free-shuttle-bus-to-laguardia-airport-1.11157585" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recommended the route be free</a>. A cost-benefit analysis should have been performed in both cases regarding how high the percentage of passengers paying for their trip elsewhere needs to be before it becomes more cost effective to run SBS rather than operate the route for free. Those analyses were not done.</p> <p>SBS costs are not transparent; benefits are marginal. Passenger travel-time savings, which should be the key metric of SBS improvement, are unavailable. Yet we are asked to embrace SBS without adequate proof it is a success and ignore all negative effects.</p> <p>What is the driving force behind SBS for state and local officials? Is it that the federal government is paying a portion of the costs and this is regarded as “free money”? And that if New York City doesn’t apply for these funds, another city will? If so, that source may soon dry up. Is the mayor more interested in raising revenue from levying heavy fines while the MTA shoulders most of the enforcement costs? Is the real goal to improve transit or is it just the perception of improved transit?</p> <p><strong>Summary and Conclusions</strong><br /> SBS is not low-cost and has not been a massive improvement. Don't let the unconditional support by so many groups and officials fool you. SBS may be an appropriate solution in some cases. It is not the solution in every case. Don’t believe the SBS hype. Concentrate on results and actual numbers, not promises and percentages. Look for data other than what is easily accessible from DOT and the MTA. Ask questions and arrive at your own conclusions. Don’t believe 95 percent of bus riders are satisfied with SBS. If that is true, why is ridership on SBS routes generally down? There are reasons why so many are unhappy with SBS and why so many communities vigorously opposed SBS and are opposing planned routes.</p> <p>According to reliable sources, the proposed B82 SBS was in danger of being scrapped altogether due to heavy opposition and Flatbush Avenue merchants are prepared to lay down in the street when the proposed B41 SBS becomes a serious threat.</p> <p>To date <a href="http://www.qchron.com/editions/south/select-bus-skepticism-along-woodhaven-blvd/article_35e01c28-c104-5973-ad2b-134d0a387fca.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only the proposed Merrick Boulevard SBS was dropped</a>, and that was early on in the process. It is not as if communities do not want better transit. They just want transit done right without wasting funds unnecessarily and causing unnecessary inconvenience, economic hardship or decreasing safety.&nbsp;</p> <p>Is it worth spending $2 billion over the next ten years just to save an average SBS passenger only three or four minutes of bus travel time, despite DOT claims of travel time savings up to 20 or 30 percent? True passenger travel-time savings are unknown because of inadequate data. The negatives of SBS must not be ignored. We must insist on adequate public input and data. SBS problems must be corrected; other solutions must be considered. Poorly planned SBS routes are increasing the cost of bus operations without much benefit to the public. There needs to be a moratorium on new SBS routes now.</p> <p><em>This is part three of a three-part series. Read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part one here</a> and read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">part two here</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br /> Allan Rosen received his Master’s in Urban Planning from Columbia University (with a transportation concentration), planned the massive southwest Brooklyn bus route changes in 1978, was a Director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit, now retired, and wrote a <a href="https://bklyner.com/tag/the-commute/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">weekly column</a> on transit issues for five years for the blog now called Bklyner.com.&nbsp;</p> <p>

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</p>
The Great Select Bus Service Conspiracy: Part II 2018-04-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7609:the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayor-select-bus.jpg" alt="mayor select bus" width="640" height="426" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part two of a three-part series</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Part one discussed: the promises and the reality, the difference between bus travel time and passenger travel time, who benefits and who is hurt by SBS, how the mayor, MTA and DOT mislead, and the true costs of SBS.</em></a></p> <p><strong>Denigration of Local Bus Service</strong><br />In many cases, the introduction of SBS has resulted in a denigration of local bus service -- though this does not apply to Manhattan crosstown routes. Most notably this has occurred on the M15 First and Second Avenue routes in Manhattan and on the B44 and B46 routes in Brooklyn. Many riders who prefer the local are now forced to walk further to an SBS stop after waiting a half-hour for a local and seeing three SBS buses bypass their stop.</p> <p>After implementation of the B44 SBS, <a href="http://brooklynreporter.com/story/b44-select-bus-service-is-too-selective-say-residents/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">complaints of long waits up to 45-minutes for the local</a> forced the MTA to add additional local service, after three months and <a href="https://bklyner.com/the-mta-concedes-to-changes-for-the-b44-select-bus-service-sbs-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new SBS stop at Avenue L</a>. Although the B44 SBS uses the longer buses with a 50 percent greater capacity while the local uses standard length buses, local buses are more crowded since ridership is equally split between SBS and local. Riders complain of <a href="https://www.kingscountypolitics.com/deutsch-blasts-mta-dot-b44-select-bus-service-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">near empty SBS buses passing them by</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Problems with Enforcement</strong><br />Passengers and cars are sometimes <a href="https://bklyner.com/transportation-related-updates-and-more-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">summonsed unfairly</a> and a kangaroo court system exists where innocent people often are found guilty. Just a few examples: convicted for theft of services, a fine of $150, when it is proven at the hearing that there was a valid transfer on the MetroCard; cameras ticketing cars for crossing the bus lane when pulling out of or entering legal parking spaces; being summonsed during hours that a bus lane is not in effect, or a minute after it goes into effect or one minute before it is no longer in effect. Should someone be penalized with a fine exceeding $100 because his watch is a minute early or late? There should be a grace period of five minutes, as with muni-parking meters. And summonses mailed three months later make it difficult to mount a court defense.&nbsp;</p> <p>There was at least one instance in 2014, <a href="https://youtu.be/y3x2YCC6sB8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">captured on video</a>, of police shoving, harassing and kicking a passenger for five minutes after getting off the bus, although he produces ID and an SBS receipt as requested. &nbsp;We do not know what interactions preceded the video but it appears from the video that the individual is doing nothing wrong.</p> <p>There have been instances where bus operators have told passengers to board the bus because all fare machines at a bus stop were broken and to get off at the next stop to obtain a receipt. However, before they could comply, the Eagle Team boarded the bus and summonsed them. This would not leave a favorable opinion about New York City if it happened to a tourist. The MTA has since clarified its fare payment policy when all machines at a bus stop are inoperable.</p> <table border="0" style="float: left; margin-right: 3px;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-1.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 1" width="162" height="132" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-2.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 2" width="162" height="97" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-3.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 3" width="162" height="103" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-5.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 5" width="162" height="101" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-7.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 7" width="162" height="94" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-4b.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 4b" width="162" height="159" /></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>Other SBS Problems</strong><br />Fare machines on the first route (Bx12) had to be replaced after three years because no one thought of providing weather protection, wasting millions. There are many SBS problems that the city and MTA have not resolved. These are: worn out pavement markings; poor and confusing signage for motorists; broken countdown time clocks and <a href="http://pix11.com/2015/04/28/are-select-bus-routes-the-solution-to-traffic-and-crowded-commutes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fare machines</a> sometimes not repaired for months; inadequate exclusive bus lane enforcement; and riders who need an additional bus transfer due to SBS and are therefore required to pay extra fares to utilize SBS. (The governor recently vetoed legislation permitting an extra bus transfer for a single fare.)</p> <p>The picture of the Nostrand Avenue bus lane in Sheepshead Bay was taken a year after implementation in 2014. It still has not been repainted.</p> <p>Drivers are supposed to know that right turns must be made from the bus lane even on blocks where a “Buses Only” sign is posted on the prior block, although there is no additional signage to indicate that. Actually, right turns must be made from the bus lane about 50 feet after the “Buses Only” sign (pictured). Where signs do indicate right turns <br style="clear: right;" />are allowed (pictured) the words “&amp; Right Turns” are too small to be easily read at speeds over 20 MPH. They should be the same size as the words “Buses Only.”</p> <p>Machines are not always placed where they are easily seen, making them easy to miss if you are running for a bus and are not aware beforehand that the route is SBS. Occasionally, non-SBS wrapped buses are used in SBS service which accept fares subjecting you to a summons if you board not realizing you are on an SBS bus. The signage at bus stops also could be clearer. The print stating "Get Ticket Here" and in much smaller print "Before You Board Bus" could be interpreted as paying before you board is an option. “Get Ticket Here” should be preceded with "YOU MUST" in large capital letters. To make matters worse, bus operators may not inform confused passengers who they see boarding without a receipt that one is necessary.&nbsp;</p> <p>The 60-foot buses used on many SBS routes are more difficult to maneuver, do not work well in snow storms, have higher labor and fuel costs, and are more inefficient than 40-footers when the bus is lightly loaded. Yet the MTA does not substitute them with regular-length buses during times of light usage, such as during evening and overnight hours.&nbsp;</p> <p>All SBS problems need to be addressed before the system is expanded further.</p> <p><strong>Negative Effects on Traffic and Local Businesses</strong><br />There have also been negative effects on traffic caused by exclusive bus lanes that are being ignored or explained away. The Woodhaven Boulevard SBS <a href="http://www.qchron.com/opinion/editorial/reducing-lanes-does-not-reduce-traffic-duh/article_0178351d-14c7-5626-bbe8-3726d24eb076.html?mode=story" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has helped increase automobile travel times during peak hours by as much as 45 minutes</a>. This is significant because about 80 percent of motor vehicle traffic is not bus riders and SBS is not attractive enough for people to switch to the bus. Bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard do not result in faster buses in the off-peak, but are mostly in effect 24/7 anyway. Curbside bus lanes on Saturdays were not necessary and have hurt businesses. The longer bus stops required for 60-foot buses reduce available parking.</p> <p>DOT is proposing exclusive bus lanes on the wide portion of Kings Highway for the B82 where buses are already traveling near the 25 MPH speed limit except for three hours a day. This will also negatively affect traffic and will not benefit bus passengers.&nbsp;Merchants and elected officials are <a href="https://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2018/13/bn-kings-highway-bus-lane-controversy-2018-03-30-bk.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opposing bus lanes on the narrow portion</a> of the road.</p> <p><strong>Public Participation is Inadequate</strong><br />The “democratic process” used to create SBS routes is an illusion. There is no specific outreach to alert motorists; public meetings are not adequately publicized, and there have been complaints of some of them being held at inconvenient hours; SBS information for proposed routes and SBS progress reports are difficult to find on the internet; no public hearings (different from meetings) are held; many community concerns and negatives, such as reduced parking, are ignored; half-truths are presented with many omissions; DOT and the <a href="http://www.qptc.org/rebutal.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA only respond to questions they want to answer</a>.</p> <p>Community groups are allowed only one representative at Community Advisory Committee meetings. However, DOT stacked at least one of the 2015 Woodhaven Boulevard meetings with three supporters from Transportation Alternatives.</p> <p>When actual traffic data was questioned, it was substituted with modeling data not presented at that meeting. The presentation was then revised and backdated to make it appear the modeling data was presented at the meeting rather than the actual traffic data. Modeling assumptions were not revealed.</p> <p>After initially stating to the communities that there was no relation between SBS and Vision Zero, DOT made SBS and Vision Zero part of the Complete Streets Program in order to use funding earmarked for Vision Zero to expand SBS. Underhanded tactics such as these have been a hallmark of the SBS program.&nbsp;</p> <p>The process is dragged out to give the illusion of democracy when many meetings are not even necessary. Combined meetings could be held with more than one merchants’ association at a time in a given corridor cutting years off the SBS implementation process.</p> <p>Instead, the divide and conquer strategy is used to prevent many negative opinions at the same time. It also affords the agencies the opportunity to provide different and conflicting responses to each group. The same strategy was used at the presentations to the general public. Plans are presented in bits and pieces so that communities do not see the complete plan. The promises and positives of SBS were presented as a sales pitch. The public was then divided into workshops of six people each with the discussions led by DOT employees, ensuring that everyone heard all the positives but not the negatives in coherent form. That resulted in no negative being heard by more than five other individuals instead of 30.</p> <p>At the initial meetings, at least along Woodhaven Boulevard, problems and suggestions from communities were discussed with SBS presented as one possible solution. At subsequent meetings SBS was proposed as the only solution for all bus problems and community support was requested. At one Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting where DOT was summoned to attend, <a href="http://news.woodhaven-nyc.org/2016/07/rally-protesting-sbs-plan-to-be-held.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an informal vote of SBS support was taken</a> in which 100 opposed the SBS plan and only one was in favor. DOT’s response was that SBS would still be implemented. Since SBS was now a given, curbside bus lanes were proposed by the community, but DOT chose center roadway lanes instead, over community fears of decreased safety.</p> <p>Any suggestion other than SBS is summarily dismissed. Only massive and organized protests can alter the pre-existing SBS solution. It took a major effort to reverse most of DOT’s 26 additional proposed left turn restrictions on Woodhaven Boulevard; DOT admitted to only 19 on the last page of their <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-woodhaven-faq.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FAQ document</a>, implementing a northbound restriction at Rockaway Blvd, while proposing a southbound restriction. Still, there are no signs to alert drivers where the next left turn is allowed, while they are only about once a mile, despite DOT promises of advance signage. That causes unfamiliar drivers to go far out of their way since right turns are also not allowed from the center roadway except for a few slip lanes.</p> <p>Just recently, <a href="http://queenstribune.com/addabbo-helps-nix-saturday-bus-lanes-cross-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">DOT agreed to eliminate Saturday bus lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard</a>. Repeated suggestions for a <a href="https://bklyner.com/commute-local-pols-fight-addition-avenue-r-select-bus-service-sbs-bus-stop-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">B44 SBS stop at Avenue R</a> were ignored prior to implementation. Residents and elected officials have now been fighting for five years for this needed bus stop.</p> <p>Community involvement is far from adequate.</p> <p><em>This is part two of a three-part series. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read part one here.</a> The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7629-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-iii" target="_blank" rel="noopener">final part discusses why SBS is not a cure all, if it can work, and whether it is worth it</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br />Allan Rosen is a former director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynBus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BrooklynBus</a>.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayor-select-bus.jpg" alt="mayor select bus" width="640" height="426" /></p> <p>(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part two of a three-part series</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Part one discussed: the promises and the reality, the difference between bus travel time and passenger travel time, who benefits and who is hurt by SBS, how the mayor, MTA and DOT mislead, and the true costs of SBS.</em></a></p> <p><strong>Denigration of Local Bus Service</strong><br />In many cases, the introduction of SBS has resulted in a denigration of local bus service -- though this does not apply to Manhattan crosstown routes. Most notably this has occurred on the M15 First and Second Avenue routes in Manhattan and on the B44 and B46 routes in Brooklyn. Many riders who prefer the local are now forced to walk further to an SBS stop after waiting a half-hour for a local and seeing three SBS buses bypass their stop.</p> <p>After implementation of the B44 SBS, <a href="http://brooklynreporter.com/story/b44-select-bus-service-is-too-selective-say-residents/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">complaints of long waits up to 45-minutes for the local</a> forced the MTA to add additional local service, after three months and <a href="https://bklyner.com/the-mta-concedes-to-changes-for-the-b44-select-bus-service-sbs-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new SBS stop at Avenue L</a>. Although the B44 SBS uses the longer buses with a 50 percent greater capacity while the local uses standard length buses, local buses are more crowded since ridership is equally split between SBS and local. Riders complain of <a href="https://www.kingscountypolitics.com/deutsch-blasts-mta-dot-b44-select-bus-service-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">near empty SBS buses passing them by</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Problems with Enforcement</strong><br />Passengers and cars are sometimes <a href="https://bklyner.com/transportation-related-updates-and-more-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">summonsed unfairly</a> and a kangaroo court system exists where innocent people often are found guilty. Just a few examples: convicted for theft of services, a fine of $150, when it is proven at the hearing that there was a valid transfer on the MetroCard; cameras ticketing cars for crossing the bus lane when pulling out of or entering legal parking spaces; being summonsed during hours that a bus lane is not in effect, or a minute after it goes into effect or one minute before it is no longer in effect. Should someone be penalized with a fine exceeding $100 because his watch is a minute early or late? There should be a grace period of five minutes, as with muni-parking meters. And summonses mailed three months later make it difficult to mount a court defense.&nbsp;</p> <p>There was at least one instance in 2014, <a href="https://youtu.be/y3x2YCC6sB8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">captured on video</a>, of police shoving, harassing and kicking a passenger for five minutes after getting off the bus, although he produces ID and an SBS receipt as requested. &nbsp;We do not know what interactions preceded the video but it appears from the video that the individual is doing nothing wrong.</p> <p>There have been instances where bus operators have told passengers to board the bus because all fare machines at a bus stop were broken and to get off at the next stop to obtain a receipt. However, before they could comply, the Eagle Team boarded the bus and summonsed them. This would not leave a favorable opinion about New York City if it happened to a tourist. The MTA has since clarified its fare payment policy when all machines at a bus stop are inoperable.</p> <table border="0" style="float: left; margin-right: 3px;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-1.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 1" width="162" height="132" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-2.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 2" width="162" height="97" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-3.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 3" width="162" height="103" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-5.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 5" width="162" height="101" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-7.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 7" width="162" height="94" /></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/select-bus/the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy---part-2-4b.jpg" alt="the great select bus service conspiracy part 2 4b" width="162" height="159" /></p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><strong>Other SBS Problems</strong><br />Fare machines on the first route (Bx12) had to be replaced after three years because no one thought of providing weather protection, wasting millions. There are many SBS problems that the city and MTA have not resolved. These are: worn out pavement markings; poor and confusing signage for motorists; broken countdown time clocks and <a href="http://pix11.com/2015/04/28/are-select-bus-routes-the-solution-to-traffic-and-crowded-commutes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fare machines</a> sometimes not repaired for months; inadequate exclusive bus lane enforcement; and riders who need an additional bus transfer due to SBS and are therefore required to pay extra fares to utilize SBS. (The governor recently vetoed legislation permitting an extra bus transfer for a single fare.)</p> <p>The picture of the Nostrand Avenue bus lane in Sheepshead Bay was taken a year after implementation in 2014. It still has not been repainted.</p> <p>Drivers are supposed to know that right turns must be made from the bus lane even on blocks where a “Buses Only” sign is posted on the prior block, although there is no additional signage to indicate that. Actually, right turns must be made from the bus lane about 50 feet after the “Buses Only” sign (pictured). Where signs do indicate right turns <br style="clear: right;" />are allowed (pictured) the words “&amp; Right Turns” are too small to be easily read at speeds over 20 MPH. They should be the same size as the words “Buses Only.”</p> <p>Machines are not always placed where they are easily seen, making them easy to miss if you are running for a bus and are not aware beforehand that the route is SBS. Occasionally, non-SBS wrapped buses are used in SBS service which accept fares subjecting you to a summons if you board not realizing you are on an SBS bus. The signage at bus stops also could be clearer. The print stating "Get Ticket Here" and in much smaller print "Before You Board Bus" could be interpreted as paying before you board is an option. “Get Ticket Here” should be preceded with "YOU MUST" in large capital letters. To make matters worse, bus operators may not inform confused passengers who they see boarding without a receipt that one is necessary.&nbsp;</p> <p>The 60-foot buses used on many SBS routes are more difficult to maneuver, do not work well in snow storms, have higher labor and fuel costs, and are more inefficient than 40-footers when the bus is lightly loaded. Yet the MTA does not substitute them with regular-length buses during times of light usage, such as during evening and overnight hours.&nbsp;</p> <p>All SBS problems need to be addressed before the system is expanded further.</p> <p><strong>Negative Effects on Traffic and Local Businesses</strong><br />There have also been negative effects on traffic caused by exclusive bus lanes that are being ignored or explained away. The Woodhaven Boulevard SBS <a href="http://www.qchron.com/opinion/editorial/reducing-lanes-does-not-reduce-traffic-duh/article_0178351d-14c7-5626-bbe8-3726d24eb076.html?mode=story" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has helped increase automobile travel times during peak hours by as much as 45 minutes</a>. This is significant because about 80 percent of motor vehicle traffic is not bus riders and SBS is not attractive enough for people to switch to the bus. Bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard do not result in faster buses in the off-peak, but are mostly in effect 24/7 anyway. Curbside bus lanes on Saturdays were not necessary and have hurt businesses. The longer bus stops required for 60-foot buses reduce available parking.</p> <p>DOT is proposing exclusive bus lanes on the wide portion of Kings Highway for the B82 where buses are already traveling near the 25 MPH speed limit except for three hours a day. This will also negatively affect traffic and will not benefit bus passengers.&nbsp;Merchants and elected officials are <a href="https://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2018/13/bn-kings-highway-bus-lane-controversy-2018-03-30-bk.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opposing bus lanes on the narrow portion</a> of the road.</p> <p><strong>Public Participation is Inadequate</strong><br />The “democratic process” used to create SBS routes is an illusion. There is no specific outreach to alert motorists; public meetings are not adequately publicized, and there have been complaints of some of them being held at inconvenient hours; SBS information for proposed routes and SBS progress reports are difficult to find on the internet; no public hearings (different from meetings) are held; many community concerns and negatives, such as reduced parking, are ignored; half-truths are presented with many omissions; DOT and the <a href="http://www.qptc.org/rebutal.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA only respond to questions they want to answer</a>.</p> <p>Community groups are allowed only one representative at Community Advisory Committee meetings. However, DOT stacked at least one of the 2015 Woodhaven Boulevard meetings with three supporters from Transportation Alternatives.</p> <p>When actual traffic data was questioned, it was substituted with modeling data not presented at that meeting. The presentation was then revised and backdated to make it appear the modeling data was presented at the meeting rather than the actual traffic data. Modeling assumptions were not revealed.</p> <p>After initially stating to the communities that there was no relation between SBS and Vision Zero, DOT made SBS and Vision Zero part of the Complete Streets Program in order to use funding earmarked for Vision Zero to expand SBS. Underhanded tactics such as these have been a hallmark of the SBS program.&nbsp;</p> <p>The process is dragged out to give the illusion of democracy when many meetings are not even necessary. Combined meetings could be held with more than one merchants’ association at a time in a given corridor cutting years off the SBS implementation process.</p> <p>Instead, the divide and conquer strategy is used to prevent many negative opinions at the same time. It also affords the agencies the opportunity to provide different and conflicting responses to each group. The same strategy was used at the presentations to the general public. Plans are presented in bits and pieces so that communities do not see the complete plan. The promises and positives of SBS were presented as a sales pitch. The public was then divided into workshops of six people each with the discussions led by DOT employees, ensuring that everyone heard all the positives but not the negatives in coherent form. That resulted in no negative being heard by more than five other individuals instead of 30.</p> <p>At the initial meetings, at least along Woodhaven Boulevard, problems and suggestions from communities were discussed with SBS presented as one possible solution. At subsequent meetings SBS was proposed as the only solution for all bus problems and community support was requested. At one Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting where DOT was summoned to attend, <a href="http://news.woodhaven-nyc.org/2016/07/rally-protesting-sbs-plan-to-be-held.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an informal vote of SBS support was taken</a> in which 100 opposed the SBS plan and only one was in favor. DOT’s response was that SBS would still be implemented. Since SBS was now a given, curbside bus lanes were proposed by the community, but DOT chose center roadway lanes instead, over community fears of decreased safety.</p> <p>Any suggestion other than SBS is summarily dismissed. Only massive and organized protests can alter the pre-existing SBS solution. It took a major effort to reverse most of DOT’s 26 additional proposed left turn restrictions on Woodhaven Boulevard; DOT admitted to only 19 on the last page of their <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-woodhaven-faq.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">FAQ document</a>, implementing a northbound restriction at Rockaway Blvd, while proposing a southbound restriction. Still, there are no signs to alert drivers where the next left turn is allowed, while they are only about once a mile, despite DOT promises of advance signage. That causes unfamiliar drivers to go far out of their way since right turns are also not allowed from the center roadway except for a few slip lanes.</p> <p>Just recently, <a href="http://queenstribune.com/addabbo-helps-nix-saturday-bus-lanes-cross-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">DOT agreed to eliminate Saturday bus lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard</a>. Repeated suggestions for a <a href="https://bklyner.com/commute-local-pols-fight-addition-avenue-r-select-bus-service-sbs-bus-stop-sheepshead-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">B44 SBS stop at Avenue R</a> were ignored prior to implementation. Residents and elected officials have now been fighting for five years for this needed bus stop.</p> <p>Community involvement is far from adequate.</p> <p><em>This is part two of a three-part series. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7599-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read part one here.</a> The <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7629-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-iii" target="_blank" rel="noopener">final part discusses why SBS is not a cure all, if it can work, and whether it is worth it</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br />Allan Rosen is a former director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynBus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BrooklynBus</a>.</p> <p>

***
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The Great Select Bus Service Conspiracy: Part I 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7599:the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-i Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/department-of-transportation.jpg" alt="department of transportation" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>(photo via DOT)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part one of a three-part series</em></p> <p>Select Bus Service (SBS), New York City's version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), has been embraced by the media as well as by many organizations. This is in addition to the city Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) -- SBS is a joint project of the two agencies with DOT being the lead agency. Supporters include: Bus Turnaround Coalition, Move&nbsp;NY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Pratt Center for Community Development, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, Riders Alliance,&nbsp;Rockefeller Foundation, Streetsblog, Transit Center, Transportation Alternatives, Tristate Transportation Campaign, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and the entire New York City Council.</p> <p>Could they all possibly be wrong? Yes.</p> <p><strong>The Promises and The Reality</strong><br />Supporters consider SBS to be a panacea for many of New York City’s bus problems. Whenever asked how the city is improving bus service, the response most often is that more SBS routes are being created. Yet SBS has not solved the problems that it promised to solve, such as stemming the loss of ridership, making buses more reliable, or significantly shortening passenger trip times.</p> <p>A report from city Comptroller Scott Stringer, <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-other-transit-crisis-how-to-improve-the-nyc-bus-system/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“The Other Transit Crisis: How to Improve the NYC Bus System,”</a> highlights dozens of problems with local buses that SBS does not address or does not significantly reduce. Some of the problems mentioned are: buses are slow, ridership is declining, and service is unreliable. Yet SBS does not significantly improve bus speeds or reliability. Nor has it increased ridership in many cases.</p> <p>The comptroller states, “Of the nine SBS routes introduced prior to 2016, five have experienced a ridership decline...SBS routes travel at an average speed of 8.7 miles per hour, or just slightly better than the seven miles per hour achieved by local buses...City-wide, SBS routes fail to maintain steady, evenly spaced service 19 percent of the time, while local buses fail 22 percent of the time.”</p> <p>Transit Signal Priority (TSP) for buses, promised a decade ago, extends a green light for buses approaching an intersection or shortens a red light to speed buses. It is a promised feature for SBS, but according to the comptroller it is in effect on only five of the 326 bus routes and at only 260 intersections. (The routes are the B46, BX41, the S79, and the southern portions of the M15 and B44.)</p> <p>SBS was originally proposed in New York City in 2004 with the first five corridors promised by 2009. However, only one corridor was implemented by then. Instead it took until 2013 for the first five corridors, which were the Bx12, M15, M34/M34A, S79, and Bx41. By 2016, there were 12 SBS corridors, with the addition of the B44, M60, M86, Q44, B46, Q70, and M23. The program was then about five years behind schedule. Last year the M79, Bx6, and Q52/Q53 were also converted to SBS routes, bringing the total number of SBS corridors to 15 (or 17 routes). Mayor de Blasio promised 20 routes by the end of 2017.</p> <p>The unproven premise by DOT and the MTA is that SBS is a major improvement. The comptroller shows with data that the improvements have been marginal at best.</p> <p><strong>The Difference Between Bus Travel Time and Passenger Travel Time</strong><br />SBS supporters confuse bus travel time with passenger travel time. They are different. SBS buses save time primarily because of fewer bus stops and exclusive lanes, if honored. In some cases, it is not because passengers pay their fares before boarding. The 86th Street bus saves only about two minutes, as shown in Figure 2 of the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-m86sbs-progress-report-april2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">progress report</a> for the entire crosstown trip because of passengers pre-paying their fares. The passenger saves even less time.&nbsp;</p> <p>The need to pre-pay your fare increases the likelihood of missing a bus and waiting up to an additional 20 minutes for one. That could double your travel time. Conversion of many SBS routes to the longer 60-foot articulated buses further increases wait times. Typically, four articulated buses replace five standard 40-foot buses. Articulated buses seat 60 passengers each, 50 percent more than standard buses. However, when compared to buses of the 1950s that seated 53 and PCC trolleys that also seated about 60, are they that much of an improvement?</p> <p>The Eagle Team is in charge of fare enforcement on SBS routes. If the Eagle Team enters the bus to check SBS receipts, the bus is held for five minutes rather than proceeding with the check while the bus is in motion, delaying the bus five minutes. This could easily wipe out the time you saved using SBS. Also, completing your trip on a subway or another bus(es) is a component of passenger travel time but not included in the SBS bus travel time statistic. A savings in passenger travel time, the time it takes to complete your entire journey, is the real indicator of SBS improvement for passengers. No statistics for this are available.</p> <p><strong>Who Benefits from and Who is Hurt by SBS?</strong><br /> Passengers making bus trips exceeding five miles do save significant time, perhaps up to 20 minutes. However, the average local/limited/SBS trip is only 2.3 miles. Therefore, for the vast majority of bus passengers the three to five minutes they save on the bus is spent walking extra to and from the wider spaced bus stops which could be considered as a service cutback. Is that an improvement, especially during bad weather when someone would prefer to ride than walk?</p> <p>Additional walking is especially inconvenient for the elderly, handicapped, infirm, and those lugging gear. Separate SBS and local bus stops are also inconvenient. This requires passengers to cross the street if they just want to take the first bus that comes.</p> <p>Some passengers even have longer trip times due to SBS because some former limited riders have switched to the local rather than walk up to three-quarters of a mile to reach an SBS bus stop. Others would have to pay an extra fare for SBS where it or the local does not cover the entire route if a third bus is required. The B44 and B46 are examples.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the city’s policy for over 50 years that no new service or service cutback should result in additional fares. This policy has not been strictly adhered to since MetroCard was instituted and the MTA eliminated numerous multiple-bus transfers that were instituted as a result of trolley and elevated cutbacks. When additional free transfers are created, they are not publicized anywhere, so you just have to know where they exist.</p> <p>The MTA benefits with shortened bus trip times, but it still costs more to operate SBS routes because of the enforcement element, and if 60-foot buses are used, labor and fuel costs are higher. The current labor agreement provides premium pay for operators of articulated buses.</p> <p>The negative effects of SBS on other traffic are ignored, dismissed, or attributed to other factors in the MTA SBS progress reports, which are only released to the public once for each route. Traffic on avenues parallel to Nostrand Avenue were shown to have increased when exclusive lanes were installed there (see pages 32 and 33 of the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-nostrand-progress-report-june2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Progress Report</a>.)</p> <p>On Woodhaven Boulevard, the traffic increases were most apparent after exclusive bus lanes were introduced. A DOT report showed that traffic increased by 38 percent on one portion of the roadway if one did the arithmetic. The data was removed from DOT’s website after it was made aware of that.</p> <p>Increased traffic means more congestion, generating greater air pollution with long-term health consequences and costs, slower trips for non-bus users, increases in trucking costs, which are passed on to the consumer, as well as other negative effects, such as impeding emergency services. None of this has been estimated or measured because there have been no environmental impact statements.</p> <p>A transit improvement means that more benefit from a change than are harmed by it. Proper traffic analyses conducted by licensed professional traffic engineers should be undertaken and the economic impacts on businesses need to be studied. But according to the MTA’s <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/faqs.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">SBS FAQ’s</a>, everyone benefits.</p> <p><strong>How the Mayor, MTA and DOT Mislead</strong><br />Let's review the claims made by Mayor de Blasio late last year when he announced <a href="https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/new-york/new-york-city-announces-decade-long-sbs-expansion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">21 new routes</a> over the next ten years. He touted reduced travel time and increased bus reliability with SBS, but confused bus travel time savings with passenger travel time savings. The comptroller’s data showed only marginal improvements to bus travel times and bus speeds, as already explained.</p> <p>SBS buses, even with exclusive bus lanes, still bunch up to three buses at a time with long waits for the next bus, which the comptroller attributes to inadequate enforcement of exclusive bus lanes.</p> <p>The mayor stated local buses are notoriously slow and unreliable. True, but examine the average speeds on some of the SBS crosstown routes: M34/34A: 4.6/4.4 MPH; M86: 5.0 MPH. Even the M15 with its exclusive bus lanes has an average speed of only 6.5 MPH, not exactly fast, when you consider bikes average about 9 MPH.</p> <p>The MTA and DOT are using BRT <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc-dot-select-bus-service-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">successes in other cities and countries</a> to justify SBS here, which really isn’t <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRT_Standard" target="_blank" rel="noopener">true BRT</a>. They confuse and oversell by using the terms interchangeably. They selectively use data and manipulate statistics to give false and misleading impressions.</p> <p>They claim SBS has increased ridership by 10 percent. Where ridership rose during the first year of SBS, that statistic is used and future year ridership declines are ignored as they did with the M15. Where ridership declined during the first year of operation, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-nostrand-progress-report-june2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">they cite second year increases as they did with the B44</a>. Where SBS ridership rose, but local ridership declined, they cite only the SBS ridership numbers.</p> <p>A 20 or 30 percent reduction in travel time is claimed but that is bus travel time, not passenger travel time. A bus travel time savings of 15 minutes for a ten-mile long route does not mean passengers save anywhere near that amount of time because, generally, no one rides an entire route. The average bus travel time savings is usually only three or four minutes.</p> <p>Faulty methodology is used to claim about a 95 percent satisfaction for SBS passengers. Survey results for local riders who are dissatisfied with SBS are hidden. DOT claimed that B44 local passengers were never surveyed after SBS was instituted. A first year B46 SBS Progress Report was not issued although service began in July 2016. Ridership declined on that route by 400,000 annual riders in 2016, the year it was implemented. Statistics for 2017 are not yet available.</p> <p>In the MTA's world, a rating of six out of ten, or 60 percent, from all passengers would translate into a 100 percent customer satisfaction rating.</p> <p>DOT and the MTA are also very careful with language using statements such as all buses are equipped for TSP and it will be in effect, omitting it is in effect only at a miniscule percentage of intersections where bus routes operate and has been promised for a decade, as Comptroller Stringer stated.</p> <p>They use percentages to their advantage rather than actual numbers. For example, they promise “up to a 30 percent travel time savings.” That may translate into an actual savings of only three or four minutes for an average passenger making a typical 45-minute trip.</p> <p>Potential is stressed over reality in discussing SBS advantages. They state that a bus can carry 80 passengers while a car often carries one, or mention motorists potentially switching from cars to buses. They do not state how many actually did switch or how often the bus is nearly empty.</p> <p><strong>The True Costs of SBS</strong><br /> SBS is heralded as a low-cost alternative to rail. It is not low-cost, nor does it have similar benefits to rail. It is not "subway on the surface" as advocates claim. It might be if it were true BRT.</p> <p>The mayor spoke only about DOT's annual SBS budget of $9.4 million. He conveniently neglected to mention the MTA and federal contributions. Each SBS route costs the MTA between $2 million and $5 million per year extra to operate according to <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/archive/130722_1030_transit-bus.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA Staff Summary requests</a>. That's $40 million per year the mayor is omitting.</p> <p>Fifty million dollars per year over ten years is $500 million. Twenty-one promised new routes add another $500 million for the MTA and $130 million for DOT. That's $1.13 billion over ten years just for increased operating costs, if all routes were operating on day one. Then there are the initial construction costs where the numbers conflict. Sometimes the cost of acquiring new buses is included and other times it is not or the federal portion is omitted. Costs for a short crosstown route are cited for as little as $6 million, with longer routes costing as much as $40 million. If we assume an average construction cost of only $25 million, 36 corridors would cost $920 million. &nbsp;</p> <p>DOT estimated that the construction cost alone for the BRT full treatment for Woodhaven Boulevard would cost between $200 and $300 million. If $40 million was already spent, what could possibly be accomplished by spending more than an additional $200 million? That was never explained.</p> <p>Constructing and operating 36 SBS bus corridors over a ten-year period would cost over $2 billion, without accounting for inflation. That is not “low cost.”</p> <p><strong><em>This is part one of a three-part series. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Part two discusses the denigration of local bus service, problems with enforcement, other SBS problems, negative effects on traffic and local businesses, inadequate <strong><em>public participation</em></strong>, and why SBS is not a cure all.</a></em></strong></p> <p>***<br /> Allan Rosen is a former director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit.&nbsp;On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynBus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BrooklynBus</a>.</p> <p>

***
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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/department-of-transportation.jpg" alt="department of transportation" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>(photo via DOT)</p> <hr /> <p><em>This is part one of a three-part series</em></p> <p>Select Bus Service (SBS), New York City's version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), has been embraced by the media as well as by many organizations. This is in addition to the city Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) -- SBS is a joint project of the two agencies with DOT being the lead agency. Supporters include: Bus Turnaround Coalition, Move&nbsp;NY, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Pratt Center for Community Development, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, Riders Alliance,&nbsp;Rockefeller Foundation, Streetsblog, Transit Center, Transportation Alternatives, Tristate Transportation Campaign, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and the entire New York City Council.</p> <p>Could they all possibly be wrong? Yes.</p> <p><strong>The Promises and The Reality</strong><br />Supporters consider SBS to be a panacea for many of New York City’s bus problems. Whenever asked how the city is improving bus service, the response most often is that more SBS routes are being created. Yet SBS has not solved the problems that it promised to solve, such as stemming the loss of ridership, making buses more reliable, or significantly shortening passenger trip times.</p> <p>A report from city Comptroller Scott Stringer, <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-other-transit-crisis-how-to-improve-the-nyc-bus-system/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“The Other Transit Crisis: How to Improve the NYC Bus System,”</a> highlights dozens of problems with local buses that SBS does not address or does not significantly reduce. Some of the problems mentioned are: buses are slow, ridership is declining, and service is unreliable. Yet SBS does not significantly improve bus speeds or reliability. Nor has it increased ridership in many cases.</p> <p>The comptroller states, “Of the nine SBS routes introduced prior to 2016, five have experienced a ridership decline...SBS routes travel at an average speed of 8.7 miles per hour, or just slightly better than the seven miles per hour achieved by local buses...City-wide, SBS routes fail to maintain steady, evenly spaced service 19 percent of the time, while local buses fail 22 percent of the time.”</p> <p>Transit Signal Priority (TSP) for buses, promised a decade ago, extends a green light for buses approaching an intersection or shortens a red light to speed buses. It is a promised feature for SBS, but according to the comptroller it is in effect on only five of the 326 bus routes and at only 260 intersections. (The routes are the B46, BX41, the S79, and the southern portions of the M15 and B44.)</p> <p>SBS was originally proposed in New York City in 2004 with the first five corridors promised by 2009. However, only one corridor was implemented by then. Instead it took until 2013 for the first five corridors, which were the Bx12, M15, M34/M34A, S79, and Bx41. By 2016, there were 12 SBS corridors, with the addition of the B44, M60, M86, Q44, B46, Q70, and M23. The program was then about five years behind schedule. Last year the M79, Bx6, and Q52/Q53 were also converted to SBS routes, bringing the total number of SBS corridors to 15 (or 17 routes). Mayor de Blasio promised 20 routes by the end of 2017.</p> <p>The unproven premise by DOT and the MTA is that SBS is a major improvement. The comptroller shows with data that the improvements have been marginal at best.</p> <p><strong>The Difference Between Bus Travel Time and Passenger Travel Time</strong><br />SBS supporters confuse bus travel time with passenger travel time. They are different. SBS buses save time primarily because of fewer bus stops and exclusive lanes, if honored. In some cases, it is not because passengers pay their fares before boarding. The 86th Street bus saves only about two minutes, as shown in Figure 2 of the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-m86sbs-progress-report-april2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">progress report</a> for the entire crosstown trip because of passengers pre-paying their fares. The passenger saves even less time.&nbsp;</p> <p>The need to pre-pay your fare increases the likelihood of missing a bus and waiting up to an additional 20 minutes for one. That could double your travel time. Conversion of many SBS routes to the longer 60-foot articulated buses further increases wait times. Typically, four articulated buses replace five standard 40-foot buses. Articulated buses seat 60 passengers each, 50 percent more than standard buses. However, when compared to buses of the 1950s that seated 53 and PCC trolleys that also seated about 60, are they that much of an improvement?</p> <p>The Eagle Team is in charge of fare enforcement on SBS routes. If the Eagle Team enters the bus to check SBS receipts, the bus is held for five minutes rather than proceeding with the check while the bus is in motion, delaying the bus five minutes. This could easily wipe out the time you saved using SBS. Also, completing your trip on a subway or another bus(es) is a component of passenger travel time but not included in the SBS bus travel time statistic. A savings in passenger travel time, the time it takes to complete your entire journey, is the real indicator of SBS improvement for passengers. No statistics for this are available.</p> <p><strong>Who Benefits from and Who is Hurt by SBS?</strong><br /> Passengers making bus trips exceeding five miles do save significant time, perhaps up to 20 minutes. However, the average local/limited/SBS trip is only 2.3 miles. Therefore, for the vast majority of bus passengers the three to five minutes they save on the bus is spent walking extra to and from the wider spaced bus stops which could be considered as a service cutback. Is that an improvement, especially during bad weather when someone would prefer to ride than walk?</p> <p>Additional walking is especially inconvenient for the elderly, handicapped, infirm, and those lugging gear. Separate SBS and local bus stops are also inconvenient. This requires passengers to cross the street if they just want to take the first bus that comes.</p> <p>Some passengers even have longer trip times due to SBS because some former limited riders have switched to the local rather than walk up to three-quarters of a mile to reach an SBS bus stop. Others would have to pay an extra fare for SBS where it or the local does not cover the entire route if a third bus is required. The B44 and B46 are examples.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the city’s policy for over 50 years that no new service or service cutback should result in additional fares. This policy has not been strictly adhered to since MetroCard was instituted and the MTA eliminated numerous multiple-bus transfers that were instituted as a result of trolley and elevated cutbacks. When additional free transfers are created, they are not publicized anywhere, so you just have to know where they exist.</p> <p>The MTA benefits with shortened bus trip times, but it still costs more to operate SBS routes because of the enforcement element, and if 60-foot buses are used, labor and fuel costs are higher. The current labor agreement provides premium pay for operators of articulated buses.</p> <p>The negative effects of SBS on other traffic are ignored, dismissed, or attributed to other factors in the MTA SBS progress reports, which are only released to the public once for each route. Traffic on avenues parallel to Nostrand Avenue were shown to have increased when exclusive lanes were installed there (see pages 32 and 33 of the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-nostrand-progress-report-june2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Progress Report</a>.)</p> <p>On Woodhaven Boulevard, the traffic increases were most apparent after exclusive bus lanes were introduced. A DOT report showed that traffic increased by 38 percent on one portion of the roadway if one did the arithmetic. The data was removed from DOT’s website after it was made aware of that.</p> <p>Increased traffic means more congestion, generating greater air pollution with long-term health consequences and costs, slower trips for non-bus users, increases in trucking costs, which are passed on to the consumer, as well as other negative effects, such as impeding emergency services. None of this has been estimated or measured because there have been no environmental impact statements.</p> <p>A transit improvement means that more benefit from a change than are harmed by it. Proper traffic analyses conducted by licensed professional traffic engineers should be undertaken and the economic impacts on businesses need to be studied. But according to the MTA’s <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/faqs.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">SBS FAQ’s</a>, everyone benefits.</p> <p><strong>How the Mayor, MTA and DOT Mislead</strong><br />Let's review the claims made by Mayor de Blasio late last year when he announced <a href="https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/new-york/new-york-city-announces-decade-long-sbs-expansion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">21 new routes</a> over the next ten years. He touted reduced travel time and increased bus reliability with SBS, but confused bus travel time savings with passenger travel time savings. The comptroller’s data showed only marginal improvements to bus travel times and bus speeds, as already explained.</p> <p>SBS buses, even with exclusive bus lanes, still bunch up to three buses at a time with long waits for the next bus, which the comptroller attributes to inadequate enforcement of exclusive bus lanes.</p> <p>The mayor stated local buses are notoriously slow and unreliable. True, but examine the average speeds on some of the SBS crosstown routes: M34/34A: 4.6/4.4 MPH; M86: 5.0 MPH. Even the M15 with its exclusive bus lanes has an average speed of only 6.5 MPH, not exactly fast, when you consider bikes average about 9 MPH.</p> <p>The MTA and DOT are using BRT <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc-dot-select-bus-service-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">successes in other cities and countries</a> to justify SBS here, which really isn’t <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRT_Standard" target="_blank" rel="noopener">true BRT</a>. They confuse and oversell by using the terms interchangeably. They selectively use data and manipulate statistics to give false and misleading impressions.</p> <p>They claim SBS has increased ridership by 10 percent. Where ridership rose during the first year of SBS, that statistic is used and future year ridership declines are ignored as they did with the M15. Where ridership declined during the first year of operation, <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-nostrand-progress-report-june2016.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">they cite second year increases as they did with the B44</a>. Where SBS ridership rose, but local ridership declined, they cite only the SBS ridership numbers.</p> <p>A 20 or 30 percent reduction in travel time is claimed but that is bus travel time, not passenger travel time. A bus travel time savings of 15 minutes for a ten-mile long route does not mean passengers save anywhere near that amount of time because, generally, no one rides an entire route. The average bus travel time savings is usually only three or four minutes.</p> <p>Faulty methodology is used to claim about a 95 percent satisfaction for SBS passengers. Survey results for local riders who are dissatisfied with SBS are hidden. DOT claimed that B44 local passengers were never surveyed after SBS was instituted. A first year B46 SBS Progress Report was not issued although service began in July 2016. Ridership declined on that route by 400,000 annual riders in 2016, the year it was implemented. Statistics for 2017 are not yet available.</p> <p>In the MTA's world, a rating of six out of ten, or 60 percent, from all passengers would translate into a 100 percent customer satisfaction rating.</p> <p>DOT and the MTA are also very careful with language using statements such as all buses are equipped for TSP and it will be in effect, omitting it is in effect only at a miniscule percentage of intersections where bus routes operate and has been promised for a decade, as Comptroller Stringer stated.</p> <p>They use percentages to their advantage rather than actual numbers. For example, they promise “up to a 30 percent travel time savings.” That may translate into an actual savings of only three or four minutes for an average passenger making a typical 45-minute trip.</p> <p>Potential is stressed over reality in discussing SBS advantages. They state that a bus can carry 80 passengers while a car often carries one, or mention motorists potentially switching from cars to buses. They do not state how many actually did switch or how often the bus is nearly empty.</p> <p><strong>The True Costs of SBS</strong><br /> SBS is heralded as a low-cost alternative to rail. It is not low-cost, nor does it have similar benefits to rail. It is not "subway on the surface" as advocates claim. It might be if it were true BRT.</p> <p>The mayor spoke only about DOT's annual SBS budget of $9.4 million. He conveniently neglected to mention the MTA and federal contributions. Each SBS route costs the MTA between $2 million and $5 million per year extra to operate according to <a href="http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/archive/130722_1030_transit-bus.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MTA Staff Summary requests</a>. That's $40 million per year the mayor is omitting.</p> <p>Fifty million dollars per year over ten years is $500 million. Twenty-one promised new routes add another $500 million for the MTA and $130 million for DOT. That's $1.13 billion over ten years just for increased operating costs, if all routes were operating on day one. Then there are the initial construction costs where the numbers conflict. Sometimes the cost of acquiring new buses is included and other times it is not or the federal portion is omitted. Costs for a short crosstown route are cited for as little as $6 million, with longer routes costing as much as $40 million. If we assume an average construction cost of only $25 million, 36 corridors would cost $920 million. &nbsp;</p> <p>DOT estimated that the construction cost alone for the BRT full treatment for Woodhaven Boulevard would cost between $200 and $300 million. If $40 million was already spent, what could possibly be accomplished by spending more than an additional $200 million? That was never explained.</p> <p>Constructing and operating 36 SBS bus corridors over a ten-year period would cost over $2 billion, without accounting for inflation. That is not “low cost.”</p> <p><strong><em>This is part one of a three-part series. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7609-the-great-select-bus-service-conspiracy-part-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Part two discusses the denigration of local bus service, problems with enforcement, other SBS problems, negative effects on traffic and local businesses, inadequate <strong><em>public participation</em></strong>, and why SBS is not a cure all.</a></em></strong></p> <p>***<br /> Allan Rosen is a former director of Bus Planning for MTA New York City Transit.&nbsp;On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynBus" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BrooklynBus</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
7 Transit Commitments Advocates Want From Candidates This Year 2017-07-06T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7052:seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img_7012.jpg" alt="img 7012" width="600" height="482" /></p> <p>Transit advocates rally near City Hall (photo: Sam Raskin/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Activists from eight transportation advocacy groups gathered near the City Hall R train subway station on Thursday calling on candidates running for elected office in the city to adopt a seven-point plan to improve New York’s crumbling transit infrastructure.</p> <p>“We’ve put together the steps that New York City can take to make transportation work in New York,” said John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, who led the news conference. The coalition released a four-page document titled, “<a href="http://tstc.org/transportation-equity-agenda-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates</a>” which included seven proposed solutions -- increasing funding for public transportation, improving bus service, reducing the cost of mass-transit, increasing bicycle usage, reducing traffic fatalities under the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/visionzero/index.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vision Zero</a> campaign, improving how street space is divided, and providing alternatives for the L train riders who will soon see an expected disruption of service.</p> <p>The advocates believe that the time is ripe to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on transit issues, ahead of the upcoming city elections. “Transportation is now a top-tier issue in our city,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “There's never been a better time for our city to make progress on streets and transportation. So if you’re running for office, ignore our issues at your own peril. New Yorkers are hungry for solutions and we have them.”</p> <p>The coalition of advocates did acknowledge that much of the city’s transportation management is the responsibility of the state. The subway system is managed by the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor recently declared a state of emergency for the MTA to ease procurement rules and speed up improvements to the subway system but critics believe the measure was too little, too late. “We’re not here to let the governor in Albany off the hook,” insisted StreetsPac Executive Director Eric McClure, noting that city dwellers are “unfortunately trapped” in a situation in which city matters are determined by representatives from outside the city. But the activists believe the city can take certain matters into its own hands. “In a world where the governor controls the MTA, we are answering the question: what can the mayor do? What can the city council do? What can other city level elected officials do to help New Yorkers get around town, access jobs and build a fair and sustainable city for the future,” said Raskin.</p> <p>The organizations coalesced around popular transit fixes such as increasing capital funding to the MTA, adding and improving bike lanes, funding the Fair Fares proposal to provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, committing to improving safety on the street through the Vision Zero campaign, augmenting the express Select Bus Service and enhancing bus lane enforcement.</p> <p>“We’re not here promote flying cars or monorails, or new tunneling for autonomous vehicles,” White said. “These are all proven solutions that simply need to be expanded.”</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly touted expansion of the Select Bus Service, Citi Bike additions, and ferry service expansions as transportation accomplishments under his tenure. These received tepid support from White. “The mayor deserves credit for trying a multitude of solutions that are under his control, ferries included,” White said. “If you look at the subsidies per ride, investments in bus service, improving bus service, investments in walking and biking provide much more bang for your investment buck if you’re the mayor of New York. Ferries are important, but there is more to be had with investments in bus service in particular.”</p> <p>The coalition, notably, did not take a collective stance on the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar, which would run between Sunset Park and Astoria. Certain activists have expressed doubts about investing in a costly new streetcar as opposed to improving existing transit options. The proposal has&nbsp;few strong supporters among transit advocates and there are doubts about whether it can be <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-hall-memo-debunks-de-blasio-bqx-streetcar-funding-promises-article-1.3055601" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">adequately funded</a>. There are a variety of business and other organizations supporting BQX.</p> <p>Along with policies with consensus among activists and electeds, the transit groups also pushed for more ambitious, imaginative proposals such as a Brooklyn-Manhattan Bus Rapid Transit route over the Williamsburg Bridge to deal with the planned 15-month shutdown of the L train beginning in 2019.</p> <p>Additionally, the advocates called on the administration to further its current use of a portion of real estate value added by upzoning to fund transportation projects. “[T]he city is in a position to make sure that part of that value goes to build and rebuild the infrastructure that the real estate relies on,” Raskin said. “That’s something we’re asking the city to do in a widespread way.” The groups also expressed support for the <a href="http://nyc.smartparticipation.com/learn/whats-move-ny-fair-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Move NY Fair Plan</a>, which would reform bridge toll prices to simultaneously raise revenue and reduce traffic congestion.</p> <p>Confident in the achievability and efficacy of their suggestions, the advocates believe the next step is to spread awareness and apply pressure on current and potential New York lawmakers. “The agenda that this group has put together for New York City is doable,” said Marcia Bystyrn, executive director of New York League of Conservation Voters. “The real challenge for all of us is making it clear to every elected official in New York that we expect them to deliver.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this article has been adjusted to more carefully characterize support for the BQX.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img_7012.jpg" alt="img 7012" width="600" height="482" /></p> <p>Transit advocates rally near City Hall (photo: Sam Raskin/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Activists from eight transportation advocacy groups gathered near the City Hall R train subway station on Thursday calling on candidates running for elected office in the city to adopt a seven-point plan to improve New York’s crumbling transit infrastructure.</p> <p>“We’ve put together the steps that New York City can take to make transportation work in New York,” said John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, who led the news conference. The coalition released a four-page document titled, “<a href="http://tstc.org/transportation-equity-agenda-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates</a>” which included seven proposed solutions -- increasing funding for public transportation, improving bus service, reducing the cost of mass-transit, increasing bicycle usage, reducing traffic fatalities under the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/visionzero/index.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vision Zero</a> campaign, improving how street space is divided, and providing alternatives for the L train riders who will soon see an expected disruption of service.</p> <p>The advocates believe that the time is ripe to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on transit issues, ahead of the upcoming city elections. “Transportation is now a top-tier issue in our city,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “There's never been a better time for our city to make progress on streets and transportation. So if you’re running for office, ignore our issues at your own peril. New Yorkers are hungry for solutions and we have them.”</p> <p>The coalition of advocates did acknowledge that much of the city’s transportation management is the responsibility of the state. The subway system is managed by the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor recently declared a state of emergency for the MTA to ease procurement rules and speed up improvements to the subway system but critics believe the measure was too little, too late. “We’re not here to let the governor in Albany off the hook,” insisted StreetsPac Executive Director Eric McClure, noting that city dwellers are “unfortunately trapped” in a situation in which city matters are determined by representatives from outside the city. But the activists believe the city can take certain matters into its own hands. “In a world where the governor controls the MTA, we are answering the question: what can the mayor do? What can the city council do? What can other city level elected officials do to help New Yorkers get around town, access jobs and build a fair and sustainable city for the future,” said Raskin.</p> <p>The organizations coalesced around popular transit fixes such as increasing capital funding to the MTA, adding and improving bike lanes, funding the Fair Fares proposal to provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers, committing to improving safety on the street through the Vision Zero campaign, augmenting the express Select Bus Service and enhancing bus lane enforcement.</p> <p>“We’re not here promote flying cars or monorails, or new tunneling for autonomous vehicles,” White said. “These are all proven solutions that simply need to be expanded.”</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly touted expansion of the Select Bus Service, Citi Bike additions, and ferry service expansions as transportation accomplishments under his tenure. These received tepid support from White. “The mayor deserves credit for trying a multitude of solutions that are under his control, ferries included,” White said. “If you look at the subsidies per ride, investments in bus service, improving bus service, investments in walking and biking provide much more bang for your investment buck if you’re the mayor of New York. Ferries are important, but there is more to be had with investments in bus service in particular.”</p> <p>The coalition, notably, did not take a collective stance on the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar, which would run between Sunset Park and Astoria. Certain activists have expressed doubts about investing in a costly new streetcar as opposed to improving existing transit options. The proposal has&nbsp;few strong supporters among transit advocates and there are doubts about whether it can be <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-hall-memo-debunks-de-blasio-bqx-streetcar-funding-promises-article-1.3055601" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">adequately funded</a>. There are a variety of business and other organizations supporting BQX.</p> <p>Along with policies with consensus among activists and electeds, the transit groups also pushed for more ambitious, imaginative proposals such as a Brooklyn-Manhattan Bus Rapid Transit route over the Williamsburg Bridge to deal with the planned 15-month shutdown of the L train beginning in 2019.</p> <p>Additionally, the advocates called on the administration to further its current use of a portion of real estate value added by upzoning to fund transportation projects. “[T]he city is in a position to make sure that part of that value goes to build and rebuild the infrastructure that the real estate relies on,” Raskin said. “That’s something we’re asking the city to do in a widespread way.” The groups also expressed support for the <a href="http://nyc.smartparticipation.com/learn/whats-move-ny-fair-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Move NY Fair Plan</a>, which would reform bridge toll prices to simultaneously raise revenue and reduce traffic congestion.</p> <p>Confident in the achievability and efficacy of their suggestions, the advocates believe the next step is to spread awareness and apply pressure on current and potential New York lawmakers. “The agenda that this group has put together for New York City is doable,” said Marcia Bystyrn, executive director of New York League of Conservation Voters. “The real challenge for all of us is making it clear to every elected official in New York that we expect them to deliver.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Note: this article has been adjusted to more carefully characterize support for the BQX.</p> All Aboard the BRT Express? 2015-11-16T19:06:12+00:00 2015-11-16T19:06:12+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5991:all-aboard-the-brt-express Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19667315725_424a50b309_z.jpg" alt="bus mta photo m86" width="600" height="421" /></p> <p>(photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)</p> <hr /> <p>Google Maps estimated an hour-and-a-half for a trip from near City Hall to a location in Southeast Queens, leaving at 5:30 p.m. on a recent Tuesday. On the E train to its final stop and a bus crawling along jam-packed Merrick Boulevard, the trip took about an hour longer, two-and-a-half hours from door to door.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now you know what we go through every day,“ City Council Member I. Daneek Miller told Gotham Gazette following that night’s event, which he co-hosted with Council Member Donovan Richards and focused on, what else, transportation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The commute to and from downtown Manhattan that the Council members and some of their constituents face was part of the motivation behind the town hall, set in the outer reaches of the city and called to examine the challenging state of public transit in St. Albans, Laurelton, and surrounding neighborhoods - often referred to as a “transportation desert.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151104/OPINION/151029806/how-to-end-those-endless-commutes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for Crain’s New York Business, Miller laid out the extent of the problem: people from Southeast Queens spend roughly 15 hours a week commuting, 238 percent more time than the average New Yorker.</p> <p dir="ltr">The residents of the area share this plight with several other neighborhoods considered transportation deserts because of their lack of public transit options - places including the Rockaways, the North Bronx, and the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the subway map sure to stay mostly as it is, communities in greatest need of good transportation options that can get residents to the city’s main jobs centers are reliant on a bus system lacking in capacity and dependability. Even though 97 percent of the city‘s population lives within a quarter mile of a bus stop, the collective problems with the service--it is one of the slowest systems in the nation and the slowest among big <a href="http://www.straphangers.org/buscams/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cities</a>--render residents far removed from subway lines and feeling helpless.</p> <p dir="ltr">With increased scrutiny of transportation deserts and lengthy New York City commutes come increasing calls for creative bus solutions: with more selective bus service (SBS) and bus rapid transit (BRT) at the forefront.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Screen_Shot_2015-11-04_at_21.04.49.jpg" alt="transpo deserts" width="400" height="307" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[NYC "subway deserts" - <a href="https://team.cartodb.com/u/chriswhong/viz/e60e7660-3982-11e5-9997-0e853d047bba/public_map" target="_blank" rel="noopener">map by Chris Whong</a>)</p> <p dir="ltr">According to an <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-audit-reveals-nearly-one-third-of-mta-express-buses-not-on-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> released by Comptroller Scott Stringer in April, buses are not just slow, they are also often late: Stringer‘s study revealed that more than 30 percent of the city’s express buses do not run on schedule. Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are hit the hardest, the comptroller said. The report also found that the MTA had inconsistent inspection standards for wheelchair lifts across their bus fleet, which, in addition to failing disabled riders, also slows bus time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is more than just a statistic,“ Stringer <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOTCewSGawk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a> at the press conference unveiling his audit, “a late bus could mean a missed job opportunity, missed wages, or missed time with children.“</p> <p dir="ltr">One possible antidote for lagging buses and transit hungry commuters is Bus Rapid Transit, and the idea is gaining momentum, as the Miller-Richards town hall showed. The questions ahead are about political will and community buy-in toward expanding BRT in New York City. BRT was a piece of a recent City Council hearing on transportation deserts, but the city’s Department of Transportation has already been made to study BRT through a law passed in the Council and signed by Mayor de Blasio that will lead to a report on areas where BRT should be implemented.</p> <p dir="ltr">Started in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, BRT was originally formulated as a cheaper alternative for a city that didn‘t have the money to build a subway. In its fullest form BRT combines a variety of features to make it operate at a speed comparable to light rail (an option also talked about for Queens and Staten Island). Long accordion style buses--in Curitiba they hold up to 250 people--shoot up and down bus-only lanes of large streets, stopping at intervals akin to a subway line (rather than the shorter ones of typical bus service).</p> <p dir="ltr">Traffic signals have sensors in order to hold green lights for buses approaching intersections. People pay their fare before they board the bus and stations often feature elevated platforms or curbsides that coincide with the floor of the bus, making it quick and easy for elderly or disabled people to board. All this amounts to more on time, reliable, and efficient bus service.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the turn of the century cities across the globe including Paris, Istanbul, Bogata, and Los Angeles have all adopted BRT to curb car use and improve public transit overall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to bring BRT to New York as part of his efforts to help the city’s lower and middle classes. The argument also goes, of course, that if workers have shorter and easier commutes they are more productive when they’re at work.</p> <p dir="ltr">”Bus riders are the most neglected part of our transportation system,” de Blasio’s <a href="http://b.3cdn.net/deblasio/d193f478cdba70ac0e_2jm6bkaxk.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">policy book</a> from his 2013 mayoral campaign reads. “Bus Rapid Transit has the potential to save outer-borough commuters hours off their commute times every week and stimulate economic activity in neighborhoods the subway system doesn’t reach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While it’s been somewhat slow to materialize, de Blasio’s pledge to bring New York City a “world-class bus rapid transit system” has been gaining steam. When signing the BRT study bill in May, de Blasio <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya8d5_TmViI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reminded</a> that, “We all know that mass transit is particularly critical for those New Yorkers for whom resources are very tight, whose incomes are very tight - mass transit is their lifeline. It connects them to jobs, schools, everything.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In March the state-run MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the official plan for the city‘s first full-scale BRT route on Woodhaven Boulevard, in Queens. The project will stretch 14.4 miles, cost around $200 million, and be fully operational by 2017. (By contrast, the Second Avenue subway is supposed to cover 8.5 miles, cost upwards of $17 billion, and be done at a to-be-determined date.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Previously the two organizations’ efforts to speed up bus time came in the form of Select Bus Service, a paired down version of BRT that also utilizes off-board fare collection, along with traffic signal priority, semi-exclusive bus lanes, and longer distances between stations. The first SBS route was launched in 2008 on the Bx12 on Fordham Road in the Bronx, and has enjoyed relative success. According to statistics collected by the MTA one year after the launch, running times increased up to 19 percent, ridership by 8 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the past seven years the MTA and the DOT have added seven other SBS routes, including ones going up First Avenue and down Second Avenue in Manhattan. All routes have enjoyed faster service and a 2013 DOT <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-routes-fullreport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> claimed that SBS had saved eight million hours of travel time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, SBS is not BRT. The former appears more suited for the busier sections for the city, the latter for moving people from the city’s outer reaches to its transit and business hubs.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the Woodhaven route, which will have exclusive lanes and robust, fully-outfitted stations with shelters, seats, and real-time information on bus arrivals (along with off-board fare collection and transit signal priority) the city is setting a new standard for its above-ground transportation. The fully exclusive bus lanes, which will also allow traffic signal priority to be more effective, are particularly exciting given that Kevin Ortiz, spokesperson for the MTA, told Gotham Gazette that traffic congestion and red lights are the top two causes for bus delays.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/woodhaven2_int.jpg" alt="woodhaven2 int" width="500" height="332" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[Woodhaven BRT rendering, via NYC DOT]</p> <p dir="ltr">The line, which will run north-south, perpendicular to the A, E, F, J, M, R, and 7 trains, is indicative of the type of improvements BRT could offer in the so-called “outer boroughs.” Joan Byron, Director of Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development and a member of the advocacy group BRT for NYC, sees this improvement as imperative to the economic empowerment of New York’s outer-borough residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a problem right now of people not being able to get to their jobs and employers not being able to get to their workforce. Work locations are shifting. Job growth is much faster in the boroughs than it is in Manhattan…and the subway system isn‘t set up to serve them. You can do things with BRT that would take decades to do with rail,“ Byron told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">As it stands, she explains, “if you live some place like Far Rockaway…the number of jobs that are within a reasonable commute range for you are much smaller than if you live someplace like Park Slope.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Woodhaven line plans to change that for its service area. BRT lines along the North Shore of Staten Island (something City Council Member Debbie Rose <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CouncilwomanDebiRose/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> “a necessity, not an amenity”) and Southern Brooklyn—two possible routes the MTA and DOT are investigating—would also serve similar purposes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Donovan Richards, who represents part of the area the new BRT route will serve, sees this project as only the beginning. Ultimately, he wants a full-scale BRT network throughout the city, viewing the issue as one that is also key to environmental justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[BRT] needs to become as natural as breathing air,“ he said to Gotham Gazette after the town hall. “We have got to remember that if we don’t get cars off the road, climate change is going to wipe out communities in New York City. Overall the city needs to adopt it,” he said, referring to BRT.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Car_Ownership_blog.jpg" alt="Car Ownership blog" width="450" height="450" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[Rates of car ownership, via NYC EDC]</p> <p dir="ltr">Richards, along with city DOT officials, recently had lunch with and gave a tour of the planned Woodhaven route to a federal transportation secretary. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has promised to push for federal funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The excitement continued into May when the mayor signed into law the new BRT-related <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">bill</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1687958&amp;GUID=C4CBC081-829F-4A83-9036-1F942F6A91EF&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=211-A" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to</a> the City Council website, “Under the bill, DOT would work with the MTA and gather input with the public to develop a citywide BRT plan, due to the Council no later than September 1, 2017. The plan would consider areas of the City in need of additional rapid transit options, strategies for serving growing neighborhoods, potential intra-borough and inter-borough BRT corridors DOT plans to establish by 2027, strategies for integrating BRT with other transit routes, and the anticipated operating costs of additional BRT lines.”</p> <p dir="ltr">SBS may continue to expand, and many note that it is a version of BRT, but the extent to which a strong BRT system will be implemented is unclear. In several other cities where the system has achieved success, says Joan Byron of Pratt, the build of these cities naturally accommodated the necessary BRT infrastructure.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The places where that has been done, places like Bogota, Columbia, that model was implemented exactly in the parts of the city that have kind of a post-World War II physical fabric and development pattern. The street there for the main bus line, the Transmillenial, is twelve lanes wide. Pedestrians cross that street on over-passes. It wasn’t a big jump to put dedicated lanes in the center region and to have physical stations that are actually enclosed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Woodhaven Boulevard, eight lanes wide and notoriously hazardous for pedestrians (the station islands to be installed in the middle of the avenue also act as a <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/10/09/bus-rapid-transit-advocates-release-woodhaven-boulevard-crash-study-numbers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">safety measure</a>), is at least somewhat similar.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Brad Lander, the lead sponsor of the BRT bill, sees Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues as streets also appropriate for the full BRT service, especially given the MTA‘s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/nyregion/mayor-de-blasiojoins-in-criticism-of-2nd-avenue-subway-cuts.html?_r=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent announcement</a> to forgo $1 billion in funding for the Second Avenue Subway project.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most buses, though, don‘t operate on streets the width of a small highway (even dedicating a full lane of First or Second Avenue could prove quite contentious). For these routes Lander and Byron see smaller BRT-like features being incorporated into bus operation citywide on a case-by-case basis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The simple idea of off-board fare payment, that’s something we want to get to on every city bus,” Lander told Gotham Gazette. After that, he said, what is doable will depend on infrastructure features and funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander cited the SBS M86 route, the MTA‘s latest SBS addition, as a prime example. Even though there is not enough room for a dedicated bus lane (the bus runs crosstown on 86th Street in Manhattan), the MTA has already installed off-board fare collection and plans to add bus bulbs - protruding, bulges of sidewalk in front of bus stops, constructed so that the bus doesn‘t have to pull over when it picks up passengers. Stations are also equipped with real-time bus arrival information. A similar approach could be effective on smaller streets in the outer boroughs as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/imgres.jpg" alt="imgres" width="328" height="153" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[A bus bulb, via Streetsblog.org]</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Daneek Miller is impatient, saying that his transit-starved constituents can’t wait a decade for BRT lines.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There are 300,000 people in Southeast Queens who it’s talking an hour-and-a-half, an hour-and-forty-five minutes to get to their job in the city, who can’t wait 20 years for a change,” Miller said after his town hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Miller, who ran a transportation workers union before joining the Council, takes a slightly more cynical view of SBS. He says the recent buzz around BRT has led the city to overlook basic adaptations that could yield considerable results, like those he outlined in his op-ed, such as <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2271101&amp;GUID=C0E2BACA-89E7-47EE-8684-8DD0495D4E1A&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fare reform</a> on the LIRR. For his constituents, Miller said, “BRT might be the second best answer. I can get to City Hall in 50 [minutes] on the LIRR; it takes me an hour-and-40-minutes using public transportation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Miller certainly wants to see extended express bus service to Downtown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. He acknowledges infrastructure challenges of implementing BRT in some places, saying “We don‘t want to put square pegs in a round hole,” and that it is essential to have all the components, otherwise it won’t be BRT, but a “glorified express bus service.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With an eye toward communities like those represented by his colleagues Miller and Richards, Lander points to the need for more options for commuters. Citing “low-income New Yorkers and communities of color” that “have disproportionately long commute times,” Lander said at the May bill-signing that “New Yorkers across the city – especially in transit-starved, outer-borough neighborhoods – need more mass-transit options. This law, and subsequent exploration of a Bus Rapid Transit network, will significantly improve public transportation access in the parts of NYC that need it most, at a cost we can afford, and help insure a more sustainable future.”</p> <p dir="ltr">BRT and SBS advocates, like Lander, stand confident that their plan will deliver, and sooner than projected.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s going to accelerate,“ said Byron. “For every elected official that will stand up and say ‘I want BRT in my district now,’ which all the Council members along the Q52, Q53 routes have said, you’ll get others that say, ‘Forget it, my constituents ride the bus,‘” Byron said, referring to hesitant Council members who she thinks will acquiesce.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the twelve year timeline in his BRT bill, a charged Lander replied, “the city - the DOT with the MTA - is already rolling out BRT at a pretty rapid rate...we are not waiting.“</p> <p dir="ltr">****<br />by Colin O’Connor<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/colinqoconnor93" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@colinqoconnor93</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19667315725_424a50b309_z.jpg" alt="bus mta photo m86" width="600" height="421" /></p> <p>(photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)</p> <hr /> <p>Google Maps estimated an hour-and-a-half for a trip from near City Hall to a location in Southeast Queens, leaving at 5:30 p.m. on a recent Tuesday. On the E train to its final stop and a bus crawling along jam-packed Merrick Boulevard, the trip took about an hour longer, two-and-a-half hours from door to door.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now you know what we go through every day,“ City Council Member I. Daneek Miller told Gotham Gazette following that night’s event, which he co-hosted with Council Member Donovan Richards and focused on, what else, transportation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The commute to and from downtown Manhattan that the Council members and some of their constituents face was part of the motivation behind the town hall, set in the outer reaches of the city and called to examine the challenging state of public transit in St. Albans, Laurelton, and surrounding neighborhoods - often referred to as a “transportation desert.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151104/OPINION/151029806/how-to-end-those-endless-commutes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for Crain’s New York Business, Miller laid out the extent of the problem: people from Southeast Queens spend roughly 15 hours a week commuting, 238 percent more time than the average New Yorker.</p> <p dir="ltr">The residents of the area share this plight with several other neighborhoods considered transportation deserts because of their lack of public transit options - places including the Rockaways, the North Bronx, and the South Shore of Staten Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the subway map sure to stay mostly as it is, communities in greatest need of good transportation options that can get residents to the city’s main jobs centers are reliant on a bus system lacking in capacity and dependability. Even though 97 percent of the city‘s population lives within a quarter mile of a bus stop, the collective problems with the service--it is one of the slowest systems in the nation and the slowest among big <a href="http://www.straphangers.org/buscams/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cities</a>--render residents far removed from subway lines and feeling helpless.</p> <p dir="ltr">With increased scrutiny of transportation deserts and lengthy New York City commutes come increasing calls for creative bus solutions: with more selective bus service (SBS) and bus rapid transit (BRT) at the forefront.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Screen_Shot_2015-11-04_at_21.04.49.jpg" alt="transpo deserts" width="400" height="307" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[NYC "subway deserts" - <a href="https://team.cartodb.com/u/chriswhong/viz/e60e7660-3982-11e5-9997-0e853d047bba/public_map" target="_blank" rel="noopener">map by Chris Whong</a>)</p> <p dir="ltr">According to an <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-audit-reveals-nearly-one-third-of-mta-express-buses-not-on-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> released by Comptroller Scott Stringer in April, buses are not just slow, they are also often late: Stringer‘s study revealed that more than 30 percent of the city’s express buses do not run on schedule. Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are hit the hardest, the comptroller said. The report also found that the MTA had inconsistent inspection standards for wheelchair lifts across their bus fleet, which, in addition to failing disabled riders, also slows bus time.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is more than just a statistic,“ Stringer <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOTCewSGawk" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said</a> at the press conference unveiling his audit, “a late bus could mean a missed job opportunity, missed wages, or missed time with children.“</p> <p dir="ltr">One possible antidote for lagging buses and transit hungry commuters is Bus Rapid Transit, and the idea is gaining momentum, as the Miller-Richards town hall showed. The questions ahead are about political will and community buy-in toward expanding BRT in New York City. BRT was a piece of a recent City Council hearing on transportation deserts, but the city’s Department of Transportation has already been made to study BRT through a law passed in the Council and signed by Mayor de Blasio that will lead to a report on areas where BRT should be implemented.</p> <p dir="ltr">Started in Curitiba, Brazil in 1974, BRT was originally formulated as a cheaper alternative for a city that didn‘t have the money to build a subway. In its fullest form BRT combines a variety of features to make it operate at a speed comparable to light rail (an option also talked about for Queens and Staten Island). Long accordion style buses--in Curitiba they hold up to 250 people--shoot up and down bus-only lanes of large streets, stopping at intervals akin to a subway line (rather than the shorter ones of typical bus service).</p> <p dir="ltr">Traffic signals have sensors in order to hold green lights for buses approaching intersections. People pay their fare before they board the bus and stations often feature elevated platforms or curbsides that coincide with the floor of the bus, making it quick and easy for elderly or disabled people to board. All this amounts to more on time, reliable, and efficient bus service.</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the turn of the century cities across the globe including Paris, Istanbul, Bogata, and Los Angeles have all adopted BRT to curb car use and improve public transit overall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to bring BRT to New York as part of his efforts to help the city’s lower and middle classes. The argument also goes, of course, that if workers have shorter and easier commutes they are more productive when they’re at work.</p> <p dir="ltr">”Bus riders are the most neglected part of our transportation system,” de Blasio’s <a href="http://b.3cdn.net/deblasio/d193f478cdba70ac0e_2jm6bkaxk.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">policy book</a> from his 2013 mayoral campaign reads. “Bus Rapid Transit has the potential to save outer-borough commuters hours off their commute times every week and stimulate economic activity in neighborhoods the subway system doesn’t reach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While it’s been somewhat slow to materialize, de Blasio’s pledge to bring New York City a “world-class bus rapid transit system” has been gaining steam. When signing the BRT study bill in May, de Blasio <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya8d5_TmViI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reminded</a> that, “We all know that mass transit is particularly critical for those New Yorkers for whom resources are very tight, whose incomes are very tight - mass transit is their lifeline. It connects them to jobs, schools, everything.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In March the state-run MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the official plan for the city‘s first full-scale BRT route on Woodhaven Boulevard, in Queens. The project will stretch 14.4 miles, cost around $200 million, and be fully operational by 2017. (By contrast, the Second Avenue subway is supposed to cover 8.5 miles, cost upwards of $17 billion, and be done at a to-be-determined date.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Previously the two organizations’ efforts to speed up bus time came in the form of Select Bus Service, a paired down version of BRT that also utilizes off-board fare collection, along with traffic signal priority, semi-exclusive bus lanes, and longer distances between stations. The first SBS route was launched in 2008 on the Bx12 on Fordham Road in the Bronx, and has enjoyed relative success. According to statistics collected by the MTA one year after the launch, running times increased up to 19 percent, ridership by 8 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the past seven years the MTA and the DOT have added seven other SBS routes, including ones going up First Avenue and down Second Avenue in Manhattan. All routes have enjoyed faster service and a 2013 DOT <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/downloads/pdf/brt-routes-fullreport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> claimed that SBS had saved eight million hours of travel time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, SBS is not BRT. The former appears more suited for the busier sections for the city, the latter for moving people from the city’s outer reaches to its transit and business hubs.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the Woodhaven route, which will have exclusive lanes and robust, fully-outfitted stations with shelters, seats, and real-time information on bus arrivals (along with off-board fare collection and transit signal priority) the city is setting a new standard for its above-ground transportation. The fully exclusive bus lanes, which will also allow traffic signal priority to be more effective, are particularly exciting given that Kevin Ortiz, spokesperson for the MTA, told Gotham Gazette that traffic congestion and red lights are the top two causes for bus delays.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/woodhaven2_int.jpg" alt="woodhaven2 int" width="500" height="332" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[Woodhaven BRT rendering, via NYC DOT]</p> <p dir="ltr">The line, which will run north-south, perpendicular to the A, E, F, J, M, R, and 7 trains, is indicative of the type of improvements BRT could offer in the so-called “outer boroughs.” Joan Byron, Director of Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development and a member of the advocacy group BRT for NYC, sees this improvement as imperative to the economic empowerment of New York’s outer-borough residents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a problem right now of people not being able to get to their jobs and employers not being able to get to their workforce. Work locations are shifting. Job growth is much faster in the boroughs than it is in Manhattan…and the subway system isn‘t set up to serve them. You can do things with BRT that would take decades to do with rail,“ Byron told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">As it stands, she explains, “if you live some place like Far Rockaway…the number of jobs that are within a reasonable commute range for you are much smaller than if you live someplace like Park Slope.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Woodhaven line plans to change that for its service area. BRT lines along the North Shore of Staten Island (something City Council Member Debbie Rose <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CouncilwomanDebiRose/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called</a> “a necessity, not an amenity”) and Southern Brooklyn—two possible routes the MTA and DOT are investigating—would also serve similar purposes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Donovan Richards, who represents part of the area the new BRT route will serve, sees this project as only the beginning. Ultimately, he wants a full-scale BRT network throughout the city, viewing the issue as one that is also key to environmental justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[BRT] needs to become as natural as breathing air,“ he said to Gotham Gazette after the town hall. “We have got to remember that if we don’t get cars off the road, climate change is going to wipe out communities in New York City. Overall the city needs to adopt it,” he said, referring to BRT.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Car_Ownership_blog.jpg" alt="Car Ownership blog" width="450" height="450" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[Rates of car ownership, via NYC EDC]</p> <p dir="ltr">Richards, along with city DOT officials, recently had lunch with and gave a tour of the planned Woodhaven route to a federal transportation secretary. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has promised to push for federal funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The excitement continued into May when the mayor signed into law the new BRT-related <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0" target="_blank">bill</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1687958&amp;GUID=C4CBC081-829F-4A83-9036-1F942F6A91EF&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=211-A" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to</a> the City Council website, “Under the bill, DOT would work with the MTA and gather input with the public to develop a citywide BRT plan, due to the Council no later than September 1, 2017. The plan would consider areas of the City in need of additional rapid transit options, strategies for serving growing neighborhoods, potential intra-borough and inter-borough BRT corridors DOT plans to establish by 2027, strategies for integrating BRT with other transit routes, and the anticipated operating costs of additional BRT lines.”</p> <p dir="ltr">SBS may continue to expand, and many note that it is a version of BRT, but the extent to which a strong BRT system will be implemented is unclear. In several other cities where the system has achieved success, says Joan Byron of Pratt, the build of these cities naturally accommodated the necessary BRT infrastructure.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The places where that has been done, places like Bogota, Columbia, that model was implemented exactly in the parts of the city that have kind of a post-World War II physical fabric and development pattern. The street there for the main bus line, the Transmillenial, is twelve lanes wide. Pedestrians cross that street on over-passes. It wasn’t a big jump to put dedicated lanes in the center region and to have physical stations that are actually enclosed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Woodhaven Boulevard, eight lanes wide and notoriously hazardous for pedestrians (the station islands to be installed in the middle of the avenue also act as a <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/10/09/bus-rapid-transit-advocates-release-woodhaven-boulevard-crash-study-numbers/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">safety measure</a>), is at least somewhat similar.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Brad Lander, the lead sponsor of the BRT bill, sees Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues as streets also appropriate for the full BRT service, especially given the MTA‘s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/nyregion/mayor-de-blasiojoins-in-criticism-of-2nd-avenue-subway-cuts.html?_r=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent announcement</a> to forgo $1 billion in funding for the Second Avenue Subway project.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most buses, though, don‘t operate on streets the width of a small highway (even dedicating a full lane of First or Second Avenue could prove quite contentious). For these routes Lander and Byron see smaller BRT-like features being incorporated into bus operation citywide on a case-by-case basis.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The simple idea of off-board fare payment, that’s something we want to get to on every city bus,” Lander told Gotham Gazette. After that, he said, what is doable will depend on infrastructure features and funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander cited the SBS M86 route, the MTA‘s latest SBS addition, as a prime example. Even though there is not enough room for a dedicated bus lane (the bus runs crosstown on 86th Street in Manhattan), the MTA has already installed off-board fare collection and plans to add bus bulbs - protruding, bulges of sidewalk in front of bus stops, constructed so that the bus doesn‘t have to pull over when it picks up passengers. Stations are also equipped with real-time bus arrival information. A similar approach could be effective on smaller streets in the outer boroughs as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/imgres.jpg" alt="imgres" width="328" height="153" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />[A bus bulb, via Streetsblog.org]</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Daneek Miller is impatient, saying that his transit-starved constituents can’t wait a decade for BRT lines.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There are 300,000 people in Southeast Queens who it’s talking an hour-and-a-half, an hour-and-forty-five minutes to get to their job in the city, who can’t wait 20 years for a change,” Miller said after his town hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Miller, who ran a transportation workers union before joining the Council, takes a slightly more cynical view of SBS. He says the recent buzz around BRT has led the city to overlook basic adaptations that could yield considerable results, like those he outlined in his op-ed, such as <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2271101&amp;GUID=C0E2BACA-89E7-47EE-8684-8DD0495D4E1A&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fare reform</a> on the LIRR. For his constituents, Miller said, “BRT might be the second best answer. I can get to City Hall in 50 [minutes] on the LIRR; it takes me an hour-and-40-minutes using public transportation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Miller certainly wants to see extended express bus service to Downtown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. He acknowledges infrastructure challenges of implementing BRT in some places, saying “We don‘t want to put square pegs in a round hole,” and that it is essential to have all the components, otherwise it won’t be BRT, but a “glorified express bus service.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With an eye toward communities like those represented by his colleagues Miller and Richards, Lander points to the need for more options for commuters. Citing “low-income New Yorkers and communities of color” that “have disproportionately long commute times,” Lander said at the May bill-signing that “New Yorkers across the city – especially in transit-starved, outer-borough neighborhoods – need more mass-transit options. This law, and subsequent exploration of a Bus Rapid Transit network, will significantly improve public transportation access in the parts of NYC that need it most, at a cost we can afford, and help insure a more sustainable future.”</p> <p dir="ltr">BRT and SBS advocates, like Lander, stand confident that their plan will deliver, and sooner than projected.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it’s going to accelerate,“ said Byron. “For every elected official that will stand up and say ‘I want BRT in my district now,’ which all the Council members along the Q52, Q53 routes have said, you’ll get others that say, ‘Forget it, my constituents ride the bus,‘” Byron said, referring to hesitant Council members who she thinks will acquiesce.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the twelve year timeline in his BRT bill, a charged Lander replied, “the city - the DOT with the MTA - is already rolling out BRT at a pretty rapid rate...we are not waiting.“</p> <p dir="ltr">****<br />by Colin O’Connor<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/colinqoconnor93" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@colinqoconnor93</a></p>