The MTA asks, ‘Are you a bus?’ in new awarenesses campaign

Craig Cipriano, the MTA’s head of buses, discusses new automated enforcement coming to the M15 route in Manhattan on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.

If you’re not a bus, kindly step aside.

The MTA on Friday launched a new awareness campaign around its bus lane enforcement program, facetiously asking drivers, “Are you a bus?” 

“Say ‘cheese’ if you’re driving in the bus lane. We’ll mail you the pic,” reads one of a series of ads rolling out Friday. The posters that will be plastered on the back of buses equipped with new cameras mounted in front of the vehicles that can catch drivers blocking the lane.

The campaign was announced Friday as the MTA began ticketing drivers with the cameras on the M15 route across First and Second avenues.

“This program is not about collecting violations as much as it’s about improving bus speeds, improving bus service and bringing customers back to the system,” said Craig Cipirano, the head of buses at the MTA.

One of the MTA’s new “Are you a bus?” posters that will grace the backs of buses featuring automated enforcement cameras.

The bus-mounted cameras are a new program that complements the city’s fixed bus lane cameras, bringing more enforcement to dedicated lanes that are otherwise blocked by parked cars or drivers using the lanes to get around traffic.

The cameras first began clicking along the new 14th Street busway in November and the MTA plans to continue rolling them out along routes through its next, still-unfunded capital plan spanning the next five years.

The cameras work by collecting multiple photos of the same driver via successive buses. Motorists photographed in the bus lane and not turning off the street are considered to be violating traffic laws and will be ticketed. 

Cameras attached to buses along the M15 have caught 15,000 vehicles blocking the dedicated lanes since they were first turned on Oct. 7, though no tickets were issued before Friday during a mandated 60-day “grace period” for drivers, according to the MTA.

Advocates have praised the bus-mounted cameras as a critical way to improve speeds and reliability along what is the slowest bus system in the nation—the average citywide bus speed was 7.44 mph in 2017—and halt a sharp decrease in ridership over the years.

“We know this is a moment where we can say, ‘we’re starting to get our bus lanes working again,’” said Nick Sifuentes, the executive director fo the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “We look forward to seeing the MTA rolling this out…citywide. Everybody who rides the bus deserves the opportunity to have a bus that works for them.”