Bus riders’ injuries on the rise as drivers swerve around NYC traffic, MTA says

The MTA says that "customer accidents" are up on city buses as operators try to maneuver through traffic. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

The transit authority attributed a jump in customer accidents to bus operators’ jerky movements as they try to navigate clogged streets.

The MTA says that "customer accidents" are up on city buses as operators try to maneuver through traffic.
The MTA says that "customer accidents" are up on city buses as operators try to maneuver through traffic. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Frazer Harrison

The city’s chaotic streets are hurting bus riders. 

Commuters are being thrown about as MTA bus operators swerve around cars, pedestrians and cyclists, leading to an increase in “customer accidents” within the last year, according to the transit authority. 

Accidents per 1 million customers have increased from a rate of 1.26 to 1.45, when comparing the last 12 months of MTA data to the previous 12 months. Robert Diehl, the MTA’s senior vice president of the Safety and Security Department, attributed that rise to jerky movements as operators try to navigate clogged streets.

“We’ve seen our largest increase … in a category that we have as ‘thrown by movement’ and that seems to be mostly due to operators trying to avoid cars, pedestrians and bicyclists,” Diehl said. 

Bus collisions and injuries stemming from those impacts are also trending slightly up over the last 12 months, according to MTA data. Collisions per 1 million miles are up from 53.99 to 54.62. Injuries per 1 million miles have increased from 6 to 6.11.

Diehl said the MTA’s bus department has launched a safety poster campaign in depots where the trends are most pronounced and conducted undercover rides to monitor service.  

“Bus operations are trying multiple approaches in order to reduce these accidents,” he said. There were about 500 undercover rides in August and roughly 4,400 total this year, Diehl said.

After several years when traffic deaths were at historic lows, the city has experienced a particularly dangerous 2019 on city streets. There has been a surge in cycling deaths, as well as year-to-date increases in pedestrian fatalities and overall traffic deaths, according to Police Department data.

There have been 153 traffic deaths through the first half of September, compared to 128 deaths at that point last year — a 19.5% rise. 

Advocates have responded by calling for the mayor to more aggressively redesign streets to protect people biking and walking and hold reckless drivers more accountable.

Vincent Barone