After two years, the Staten Island express bus redesign shows improved travel times

Staten Island commuters board the new Sim1c express bus from the Eltingville Transit Center on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 19, 2018. Sunday marked the first day of service for a completely redesigned express bus network in the borough. MTA leadership promises similar redesigns for each borough in the coming years.
Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

In the two years since the Staten Island bus network was redesigned, the MTA says that service overall improved, especially for express bus routes which are faster by 10%, according to the agency.

Since ditching the X network, MTA Bus Company President Craig Cipriano released the data the represented commute times reduced by an average of 10 minutes and a 12 minute gain in the morning hours for straphangers traveling from Eltingville Transit Center to Midtown Manhattan.

“We’re giving our customers back vital minutes every single day that equate to more time for them rather than spending more time on the bus. What’s also very rewarding for us is that almost what we saw pre-pandemic is that customers were coming back to the SIM network,” Cipriano said. “Reliability was up to 82% on the SIM network. That’s from a low of 62% from the old X network. What that means is that customers can plan their day.”

Streamlining routes and balancing out the spacing between stops is what Cipriano attributed to the success of the SIM route, adding that well-enforced bus priority can improve headways and bus speeds across the city as seen in Brooklyn and Manhattan where the MTA’s pilot program to issue camera violations to motorists blocking bus lanes has been expanded in recent weeks.

While the SIM network only applies to express bus routes, the MTA’s prior commitment to improve local routes across the city by 2021 has been shelved for the time-being due the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication with riders in order to fine-tune service is not “possible” during a pandemic, Cipriano said.

According to the MTA, the bus ridership has bounced back by about 30% since, equating to about 8,000 to 9,000 customers in Staten Island compared to the 35,000 daily average before the pandemic began in March.

“If you are a Staten Islander – and I am a native Staten Islander – it’s reflexive, it’s a birthright to criticize the MTA… My god, I’ve got some colleagues who basically they’ve made their career out of turning the MTA into a piñata,” Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo said. “For a long time I’ve been talking about how the public doesn’t care about the process, they care about the finished product.”