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Better Buses advisory group formed as part of mayor's improvement plans

The goal: Improve bus speeds 25% by the close of 2020.

A new Better Buses advisory group is meant

A new Better Buses advisory group is meant to help Mayor Bill de Blasio and the MTA achieve the goal of increasing bus speeds by 25 percent. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced a new advisory group to speed up MTA bus service on critical streets.

The Better Buses advisory group, comprising elected officials, transportation advocates, community groups and others, will help advance the mayor’s push to improve bus speeds by 25 percent by the end of 2020.

“We are taking action to get New Yorkers moving, and saving them time for the things that matter,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “With guidance from riders, our new Better Buses advisory group will come up with innovative solutions to get our bus routes up to speed.”

As de Blasio headed into his second term, MTA bus service reached a crisis point of slow speeds, unreliability and sharply declining ridership. To advocates, the trends were a matter of equity — bus service tends to more often serve lower-income communities of color. And while the MTA is a state authority, the mayor fielded sharp criticism for failing to do enough to prioritize bus movements on city streets.

In his 2019 State of the City Address, de Blasio made his 2020 commitment and this spring announced that changes would be coming to 24 streets that carry busy bus routes. On Monday, NYC Transit President Andy Byford and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg rode the B35 along one of those streets: Church Avenue, from Flatbush to Kensington, where the city is eyeing new red bus lanes alongside new and adjusted loading zones and metered parking.

Currently, there are about 111 miles of bus lanes through the five boroughs. The city plans to install 10 to 15 miles of new bus lanes each year, while also improving five miles of existing bus lanes. It also aims to conduct a two-mile pilot of physically separated bus lanes.

Even with the new advisory group, the city already has ample data showing how features like bus lanes, automated enforcement and adjusted traffic lights — through a technology known as Transit Signal Priority — can improve bus speeds.

But Jaqi Cohen, campaign coordinator for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, one of the members of the committee, said the group can help muster the political courage to make those street changes a reality.

“To win better bus service, we’re not dealing with the infrastructure problems that we’re dealing with when it comes to the subway. We’re dealing with the political will to redesign our streets to better accommodate buses,” Cohen said. “To win that, we need everyone at the table in conversation and on the same page working collaboratively.”

Cohen said a 25 percent increase in bus speeds is “aggressive” but very doable considering that bus speeds citywide average 7.44 miles per hour — the worst average in the nation, according to a city comptroller report.

“Buses are so incredibly slow,” she continued, “the bar is set pretty low, unfortunately.”

The Better Buses Advisory Committee members:

Elected officials:

  • Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
  • Senator Alessandra Biaggi
  • State Sen. Leroy Comrie
  • State Sen. Andrew Gounardes
  • State Sen. Brad Hoylman
  • State Sen. James Sanders Jr.
  • Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley
  • Assembly Member Nily Rozic
  • Council Member Diana Ayala
  • Council Member Joseph Borelli
  • Council Member Fernando Cabrera
  • Council Member Laurie Cumbo
  • Council Member I. Daneek Miller
  • Council Member Donovan Richards
  • Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez

Organizations, institutions:

  • NYC BID Association
  • Association for a Better New York
  • 1199 SEIU
  • Transport Workers Union
  • Amalgamated Transit Union
  • Rudin Center
  • Center for an Urban Future
  • The Rider's Alliance
  • TransitCenter
  • Straphangers Campaign
  • New York League of Conservation Voters
  • Community Service Society of New York
  • AARP

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