You soon won’t be ‘ABLE’ to avoid tickets for blocking bus lanes on M15 route between Harlem and Lower Manhattan

Buses running on the M15 Select Bus Service line in Manhattan will soon be equipped with cameras to catch drivers who illegally block bus lanes. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

BY ROBERT POZARYCKI | Starting next month, the MTA and New York City will be more ‘ABLE’ to make drivers pay fines for getting in the way of their buses on Manhattan’s M15 route.

The MTA announced on Sept. 23 that all 51 buses on the M15 Select Bus Service route will be equipped with the Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) system beginning on Oct. 7. The buses will be fitted with camera systems designed to capture license plate information of all vehicles obstructing bus lanes along the route, which primarily uses First and Second Avenues.

Simply put, if you’re driving or stopped in a bus lane and an M15 bus goes by, the bus’s camera system will capture timestamped images of the offense. Soon after, you’ll get a ticket from the city’s Department of Finance notifying you of the violation and $50 fine.

“Automated bus lane enforcement is a critical part of our plan to increase bus speeds, because transit priority improvements do not work if motorists do not respect their purpose or abide by traffic laws,” MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford said. “We need to give our buses every fighting chance to get through the city’s congested streets.”

The ABLE program will be launched with a 60-day grace period, meaning that any driver caught for a bus lane infraction between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7 will receive a written warning. Once the grace period ends, motorists who block the bus lanes will be subject to a fine of $50 per violation, and a $25 late fee if they fail to pay the fine in a timely manner.

Drivers who make legal turns from bus lanes, however, should not have to worry. The MTA indicated that the ABLE system will collect “multiple pieces of evidence to ensure that vehicles making permitted turns from bus lanes are not ticketed.”

“For years, we have had overhead cameras along routes like the M15, but adding enforcement cameras to the buses themselves will now help us further keep bus lanes clear — allowing tens of thousands of commuters to keep moving,” city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg added. “And we know that improvement in bus travel times consistently lead to ridership increases.”

As noted, the ABLE system is part of the Better Buses Action Plan that the de Blasio administration launched earlier this year to speed up bus service. Trottenberg said the plan’s goal is to achieve a 25 percent increase in average citywide bus speed by the end of 2020.

The MTA plans to expand the ABLE system in November to include the M14 bus route along 14th Street, but that’s dependent upon ongoing litigation regarding the fate of the proposed M14 busway.

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