Bus lane violators the target of pilot MTA camera program

The MTA is testing a new tool to nab bus lane blockers.

The authority’s board is set to move forward with a pilot of forward-facing bus cameras that can automatically ticket a driver’s vehicles for standing or parking in dedicated bus lanes, and issue a $115 summons.

Darryl Irick, MTA Bus Operations president, called the test a “big step towards enforcement of bus lanes” in a city with the slowest bus speeds in the nation.

“Over the course of the pilot we will evaluate the system’s ability to identify violators and improve bus speeds,” Irick said at meeting of the MTA’s board on Monday.

The cameras, the first of their kind, are coming to a small number of buses — 123 to be exact — on the B44 Select Bus Service route in Brooklyn and the M15 SBS route in Manhattan. The technology would also make its way to some buses on the anticipated M14 SBS service. It was not immediately clear when the $6.2 million pilot would begin, though the MTA has stated new buses equipped with the cameras would be delivered beginning in 2019 through early 2020.

Other cities, including San Francisco, have utilized the bus cameras in an attempt to keep bus lanes clear. That effort is imperative for MTA Transit President Andy Byford, who has described the common practice of blocking the lanes as “selfish and unacceptable.”

The city currently has about 111 miles of dedicated bus lanes for the state-operated bus network. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had been criticized for not giving bus service enough attention, pledged during his recent State of the City address that the city would do its part to help keep bus lanes clear. He promised increased enforcement and a small, dedicated towing team to remove vehicles in bus lanes.

“We are excited that the MTA is undertaking this critical effort to help keep bus lanes clear,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, an MTA board member, in a statement. “Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced a plan to speed buses by 25 percent over the next two years, and automated enforcement — where we hope to see every bus on every route equipped — will be one more step to reach that ambitious goal.”

Through March 10, the NYPD issued more than 14,000 bus lane parking and moving violations in 2019 — more than double the violations doled out during the same period last year, according to Irick. Police also issued more than 63,000 bus stop parking violations through that date, which represents a 9 percent increase over the same period last year, he added.

That ramped up enforcement has led to a 17 percent increase in bus speeds on a portion of Fifth Avenue and 30 percent increase near the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel’s Manhattan approach, according to the MTA.

MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool praised the measures to keep streets clear for buses, and said a rollout of cameras will hopefully lead to a “huge improvement” in service, though she hasn’t noticed broader changes just yet.

“I’m hopeful that in the months to come we’ll see better bus speeds as a result of these efforts,” Vanterpool said.