Staten Islanders are getting a wave of new express and local buses as the MTA touts that it’s turning a page on the notoriously traffic-clogged borough.
NYC Transit President Andy Byford said there was a “huge opportunity” to improve the abysmal transportation for Staten Islanders, who deal with some of the longest commutes in the country from far out in the city’s fifth borough.
“It’s not all about shiny new vehicles,” Byford said. “It’s about delivering better customer service to Staten Island, and relentlessly.”
But Byford was on Staten Island alongside Rep. Max Rose to in part to tout shiny new local buses — 77 of them — arriving on the island this year. So far 41 of those buses have been delivered, distinguishable by their blue and gold paint job evoking the state flag. The buses are complete with niceties like USB charging ports and Wi-Fi. But they also are equipped with digital route screens and technology that can speed up bus service by reducing the time vehicles spend stopped at intersections.
In additional to the 77 buses heading to local and express service, the MTA is also in the process of buying 50 new coach buses to help replace some of the borough’s express buses in 2021.
Rose and Byford said they hadn’t forgotten about two long-sought mass transit projects that have finally started seeing some early movement: the North Shore Bus rapid Transit proposal, which is going through its preliminary environmental process, and the exploration to potentially bring a light rail line to the island’s west shore. The MTA in May announced it would be studying options like express, local or rail service to the area.
Rose has also led the push to reinstate two-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge, with support from the city and the MTA. Supporters believe reversing the one-way toll will help reduce congestion on Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan by ending the practice of truck drivers currently traveling through Staten Island and into Brooklyn free-of-charge.
“What we’re seeing here is that Staten Island is the focus of infrastructure investment,” Rose said. "Staten Island is the focus for easing commute times.”
Each new bus will have what’s known as Transit Signal Priority, which allows buses to communicate with traffic lights to reduce time spent at signalized intersection. If a bus is approaching a red light, the signal could more quickly turn green. Conversely, if a bus is heading toward a green light, that signal could be held longer.
Though utilizing that feature will require cooperation from the New York City Department of Transportation. The department did not respond to a request to comment on plans for the technology in the borough.