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The real key to speeding up MTA’s buses

The MTA is testing double-decker buses on Staten

The MTA is testing double-decker buses on Staten Island. Photo Credit: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

While subways — and their problems — get most of the attention from NYC commuters, nearly 2.5 million passengers depend on the MTA’s bus network every weekday. And they, too, often have every reason to complain.

Buses across NYC travel at an average of less than 8 mph. Some, a recent study found, move as slow as 3.5 mph, barely faster than the average human and slower than pizza rat with a newfound slice.

So, the MTA’s new bus action plan is most welcome. Officials will evaluate and redesign bus routes to meet demand and improve spacing between stops, so that you don’t wait forever and then see three arrive right in a row. They’ll also look to expand all-door boarding and improve communication with customers. And the MTA hopes to partner with city and NYPD officials to add bus lanes, increase traffic enforcement and allow traffic lights to prioritize buses. Meanwhile, the MTA is testing a double-decker bus in Staten Island, and 10 electric buses across the city.

The spotlight on buses is vital, especially for outer-borough riders who take express buses to Manhattan or live too far from subway stations; those in Manhattan who travel crosstown or around the borough; and riders who require accessibility, which the buses have and many subway stations don’t. The attention also will become more crucial with 2019’s maintenance shutdown of the L train.

The MTA needs the City Council and City Hall to help. Their approval will be necessary to enable many of the proposals. State officials, too, should expand their commitment to allowing the city to add traffic cameras.

But even if all of the MTA’s ideas move forward, they won’t be enough to solve slow-moving Manhattan bus rides. For hundreds of thousands of riders, only a comprehensive congestion-pricing plan that creates a fee to enter Manhattan’s central business district will really get the traffic, including buses, moving. To help the city’s millions of bus riders, state officials have to make congestion-pricing a reality.

Then, perhaps, bus passengers can enjoy quicker rides.


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