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Op-Ed: Renewing a commitment to city buses

Photo by Todd Maisel

BY PAT FOYE

I know as well as any New Yorker that buses are a lifeline in the outer boroughs — after all, I grew up in Jackson Heights. That’s why the MTA is committed to giving this city the modern bus network it deserves through comprehensive, holistic redesigns — with more direct routes and increased service in the busiest areas where residents live, work and play. 

Some existing bus lines haven’t been changed in nearly a century. This is unacceptable — we need a system that works for customers now, and for the future.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine how buses can best serve the riding public by taking a blank slate approach to the current map.

The Staten Island redesign completed last fall is already paying major dividends for customers. It’s led to improvements in bus speeds and reliability.

The Proposed Final Plan for the Bronx redesign was just released, and we’ve begun the process in Queens and in Brooklyn. We know there have been concerns with the Queens draft plan, and we’ve been listening to everyone’s input carefully.

You can trust that community input is a major factor in the redesign process. We’re looking to hear from riders at every step to make sure we get this right, holding more than 60 outreach events in Queens so far, including dozens more in the coming weeks. 

When a recent event in Corona drew long lines of customers, Buses Chief Officer Mark Holmes immediately met them and started talking to every rider in line. Our staff stayed late to make sure everyone had an opportunity to be heard, because we believe that every voice counts in this process.

Change can be challenging, but we’ve seen how it can pay off in the long run. After some initial concerns, the 14th Street Busway proved to be one of our biggest successes of 2019. Coupled with the use of Automated Bus Lane Enforcement and the addition of Select Bus Service, we’ve seen travel times drop by 36 percent on the M14, which in turn led to a 19 percent increase in weekday ridership. 

To truly bring the MTA into the 21st century, we need to think big. A better bus system better serves riders, the environment and everyone who uses city streets. We need your help to design a system that works for New Yorkers in 2020 and beyond.

Pat Foye is chairman and CEO of the MTA.

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