Op-ed | Getting NYC’s bus network up to speed again

MTA acting Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber was a surprise guest at a Dec. 7, 2021 rally for better bus service.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve been riding the bus since I was a kid. Even today, I’m a frequent user of express buses to Brooklyn. Like everyone else, I get frustrated by slow speeds and heavy traffic – which is why I’m so passionate about our borough-by-borough Bus Network Redesigns.

After a successful rollout on Staten Island in 2019, we’re looking ahead to implementing our Bronx plan this June. The proposal, which was drafted with substantial input from the public, straightens routes and eliminates approximately 400 bus stops to help increase speeds and provide more frequency and, importantly, more choices for our customers.

Next up is Queens. Each redesign is important, but this one seems particularly significant because so many people in Queens depend on the bus network since there’s less access to the subway than in some other boroughs. It’s vital that we get it right this time. The MTA’s first proposal three years ago elicited a passionate response – much of it negative. So, our teams went back to the drawing board – armed with more than 11,000 customer comments – to come up with a New Draft Plan, which will be released later this month.

The end result is a much stronger proposal that better serves Queens riders, and we can’t wait for you to see it. This spring and summer, the MTA will be holding 14 virtual public workshops and other public engagements to make sure we hear from riders, advocates, and other stakeholders.

This work is complemented by our partnership with the City to prioritize buses. Mayor Adams has pledged to build 150 miles of new bus lanes over the next four years. When added to the existing 140 miles of lanes, it will create one of the largest such networks in the world.

The impact to service will be transformational. We’ve seen how bus lanes and busways changed the game on 14th Street, in Flushing and in Upper Manhattan. Now it’s time to think bigger, and Mayor Adams and NYCDOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez are behind us 100%. They’re supportive of plans to install cameras on buses to keep our lanes clear and implement transit signal priority at intersections to give our vehicles the green light.

At every step, we’re committed to being transparent with riders about performance and service delivery – so they can see the improvements for themselves. We have a dashboard on our website that tracks key metrics like speeds, additional travel time and wait assessment. Upgrades to the site are coming later this year.

Buses are the true engines of equity in our City, disproportionately serving seniors, people with disabilities and residents of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color without access to the subway. By investing in the network, we’re advancing equity for all. We’re just getting started.

Janno Lieber is MTA Chair and CEO.