In order to improve MTA bus service, the city must improve traffic enforcement of bus lanes, the authority’s board members said Monday.
NYC Transit president Andy Byford unveiled an expansive bus action plan to improve bus service at a board meeting on Monday, and the plan was met with general praise from board members and transit advocates. While Byford’s plan does call for more bus lane cameras and increased enforcement on the ground, several board members stressed the need for the NYPD to step up enforcement when it comes to vehicles — including their own — illegally parking or idling in bus lanes and bus stops.
“First and foremost New York City has to address congestion in a concerted way,” said board member Veronica Vanterpool. “NYPD has to really step up enforcement. It’s been talked about repeatedly. There is no excuse to have some of the most egregious violations be from the own fleet of NYPD vehicles. So that needs to be resolved.”
In addition to traffic cops, the MTA and the city have relied on pole-mounted cameras to enforce against drivers blocking bus lanes. Through the recently approved state budget, the MTA can now install bus-mounted cameras on 16 routes, and Byford’s plan outlines the need for state lawmakers to approve more of those on-board cameras.
“What [the MTA] really needs is technology to assist us,” Byford said, reasoning that cops can’t be everywhere to police bus lanes. “So we do need that camera enforcement to both act as a deterrent, so people don’t even think about parking there, but also as a management tool.”
Board member James Vitiello warned that it could take time to gain support in Albany and then actually get the cameras up and running. He suggested that the MTA meet with city police chiefs to hash out a better strategy and even explore deploying MTA cops to enforce bus lane infractions.
“It would seem to me that effective enforcement of the bus lanes in the interim is really pivotal to all the other things that follow on that we’re trying to do,” Vitiello said.
The bus plan also calls for the creation of “dedicated transit-priority enforcement teams” — a measure the MTA wants to coordinate with the NYPD to begin rolling out next year. Details on those teams are not yet clear.
“The optimum solution is to really engage NYPD,” said Darryl Irick, the head of the MTA’s bus division, on the enforcement teams. “However, it’s a very conceptual thing at this point. So it could be populated with NYPD, MTA personnel — so we’re looking at that. That’s not fully baked. But what we do know there is a need to focus in on traffic, traffic congestion and enforcement. So we’re looking to partner with other stakeholders to get that done.”
The police department did not respond to a request for comment.
MTA board member Polly Trottenberg, the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner, said that both city police and her department would be willing to come together to work on it.
“I think this is a great plan and we have a lot of good consultation on it,” said Trottenberg, addressing MTA officials at the meeting. “I think from the city’s point of view, [we’re] particularly excited to work together with you on some of the things that call on DOT and NYPD.”