Op-ed | Making MTA buses work for you across New York City

MTA New York City Transit President Richard Davey
NYCT President Richard Davey
Marc A. Hermann/MTA

When most people think of New York City Transit, they probably are thinking about the subway. But it’s our vast bus network that has the greater reach.

Buses go where trains cannot. They are engines of equity, stretching into neighborhoods underserved by the subway system. They are vitally important, although as riders are well aware, buses are subject to the challenges of operating on New York City streets. 

That’s why I asked my team to identify the 29 worst-performing bus routes, focusing on lines with above-average ridership, so we could develop tactical action plans to improve performance while benefitting the most customers. We poured over the service map, in some cases reviewing sections block by block, to locate choke points and find out where and why buses might be getting to stops too early or too late. 

We quickly realized it takes a village to make an impact. While there is much NYC Transit can do on our end, like deploying additional dispatchers, our success also hinges on the strength of our partnerships with City agencies – working closely with NYPD to target routes for illegal driver behavior, or NYCDOT to prioritize street-level changes, and DSNY to keep bus stops clear of trash.

Additionally, some of the problems on these routes require larger fixes like new or augmented bus lanes. 

While those collaborative improvements will take time to get up and running, we’ve been making incremental changes to improve service and the preliminary results are promising. Compared to April 2022, over 70% of the underperforming routes showed improvement last month in three or more performance categories, while over 50% showed an increase in both ridership and Customer Journey Time Performance.

We are determined to build on these gains, which will benefit not only the hundreds of thousands of customers who ride those 29 selected bus routes, but also many other daily commuters who ride other routes that travel though these same corridors.

As readers of this column know, Customer Satisfaction is my North Star. My goal is to increase that metric by 10% by next June, exactly one year from now. This targeted, data-driven initiative, which will hopefully expand to another tranche of routes next year, combined with our systematic borough-by-borough Bus Network Redesigns, is going to help get us there.  

Richard Davey is president of MTA New York City Transit.