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Clear the way for better bus service in New York City

An MTA bus outside Jamaica Station on Sutphin

An MTA bus outside Jamaica Station on Sutphin Boulevard in Queens on June 28, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Some of the best news out of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent State of the City message had to with buses.

You know, those vehicles that provide 2 million rides around the city every weekday despite being oh-so-often stuck behind six empty Ubers.

The MTA’s bus service has plenty of problems, pushing ridership into a long, dismal descent in recent years.

Too often, buses “bunch,” so you wait for long stretches and then two arrive at the same time. Their routes are imperfect, they move forward slower than walking, and they get stuck in traffic. This hurts some of the most struggling New Yorkers who can’t afford higher rents right near subway stations and have punishing, multistage commutes.

But there is a glimmer of hope in de Blasio’s promised juicing of the wheels. The smart updates include more bus lanes to give buses the right of way, plus technology to add “traffic-signal priority” to give buses green lights.

New NYPD tow truck teams will be on the lookout for parked vehicles blocking the lanes. This is key. When de Blasio vowed more towing during his speech last week, murmurs spread through the room at Symphony Space — particularly at stage-right, where local elected officials sat, perhaps pondering their much-abused parking placards.

Don’t park in the bus lane, folks. You’re allowed to ease into the lane briefly to turn right, for example, but don’t go joy riding for block upon block, and definitely don’t block the lanes. It slows everyone down.

De Blasio’s speech had other transit nuggets, including a needed expansion of the NYC Ferry service in Staten Island and the Bronx. Hopefully, those routes and stops will make commuters’ lives easier and more enjoyable.

But each weekday the new ferry system in total tends to carry as many people as a single bus route. That’s why the city and the MTA must work together on their shared responsibility to improve buses and streets, as they’re doing here. Let’s keep the good vibes going with more Select Bus Service in the future.

Better buses are vital. They can be an efficient and climate-friendly way to travel. Let’s keep them moving.


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