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Driver restrictions, bus cameras led to ridership surge on Manhattan’s 14th Street Busway

The 14th Street busway during its launch on Oct. 3. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

The 14th Street Busway in Manhattan has sped things up for commuters in a big way, according to the MTA.

Data that the authority released Monday suggests that more people are riding the M14 Select Bus Service line since Oct. 3, when the city and MTA imposed made the roadway between Third and Ninth Avenues open exclusively to buses. That dropped the commute time on the route substantially, 36%, and the MTA says that encouraged more people to use the bus line.

With ridership up by an average of 19% on weekdays, and 25% during morning peak hours, the M14 appears to be a preference among commuters. On top of that, the MTA is attributing much of this progress to bus-mounted camera enforcement of cars.

The announcement came at the twilight of the 60-day grace period for drivers ticketed by bus-mounted cameras. Drivers who violate the bus-only restriction on 14th Street will be subject to fines.

“We know [the busway is] working because buses are faster and more customers come back to the bus system where these improvements have been implemented,” said Craig Cipriano, acting MTA Bus Company President. “We are changing everything that New Yorkers thought they knew about our buses, from new zero emission all-electric buses to more customer amenities and better service.”

The bus-mounted cameras were installed in late November and began issuing warnings to drivers as part of a 60-day grace period before fines were scheduled to go into affect.

But the 14th Street busway is not the only thoroughfare where the MTA will be ticketing drivers.

Fines also took effect on the B44 route on in Brooklyn on Dec. 30, with continued violations within the same 12-month period costing drivers up to $100 for a second offense, $150 for a third offense, $200 for a fourth offense, and $250 for a fifth violation, according to the MTA.

The same will be true for drivers who enter the 14th Street busway during restricted hours starting with $50 fines.

And the Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) cameras are raking in the violations: On the M15 SBS route between Oct. 7 and Dec. 6, the MTA said, 6,910 violations were sent to drivers during the grace period. The B44’s camera enforcement had snapped photos and videos of up to 2,090 drivers in the bus lane.

On the 14th Street busway, 110 drivers have been delivered warnings since the ABLE system was implemented on Nov. 21.

Though the number of violations issued on a route do not seem to be linked directly increased bus speeds as data points to the M14 to having the highest average speed increase over the other two lines: a 55 percent increase to 5.8 MPH.

The M15 route saw a 1.5% increase to 7.3 mph and the B44 got a 2.8% boost to 7.3 mph, according to MTA data.

In two years, the MTA plans to make take the ABLE equipment citywide, with $85 million set aside in the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Plan for 1000 buses.

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