‘Stay out of our bus lanes’: MTA moves to next phase of Manhattan enforcement

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (l.) and MTA Bus Company President Craig Cipriano on Aug. 6. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

The long arm of the law is now in the form of camera systems on buses that issue tickets, a program long in the pilot phase that will soon be making its full rollout to three other Manhattan bus lines.

Cars who park in a bus lane for long enough that two buses have to veer around them will now be issued a ticket by the second bus for the violation with fines gradually increasing for each one issued.

With the camera program already introduced on the Select Bus Service lines M14, M15, M44 and M46, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city Department of Transportation will expand photo enforcement to the M23, M34 and M86. First offense is a $50 fine, then $100 and $250 for additional summonses within a single year.

“As we have shown, the key to an effective bus system is well-enforced bus priority, but I must stress it’s about well-enforced bus priority because we need motorists to pay attention and respect those bus lanes,” MTA Bus Company President Craig Cipriano said. “Our objective is not to issue warnings and violations, our objective is to move the buses and keep motorists out of the bus lanes. So I’m here to say that if you’re not a bus, stay out of our bus lanes.”

The cameras have dual lenses to take video and still images during the day and nighttime hours, according to the MTA, who announced the plan on Thursday at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue. A car would need to be spotted in the same place for over five minutes before a summons would be issued.

City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says the Fifth Avenue bus routes are vital to carrying riders throughout the five boroughs, making it a priority for photo enforcement, but while the cameras are a straightforward deployment, expanding bus lanes overall has proven to be a challenge in many parts of the city.

On Fresh Pond Road in Queens and the 14th Street busway on the Village/Chelsea border in Manhattan, business owners have come out in opposition to bus lanes in commercial districts. The proposal for bus lanes in Downtown Flushing was no exception and has been stalled somewhat after business owners pointed out critical issues with the plan in recent weeks, causing DOT to go back to the drawing board on some aspects.

Trottenberg, as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, both stated Thursday that the Flushing bus lanes would be implemented once kinks were worked out with the community.

The MTA is not currently collecting fares on buses due to measures put in place to protect bus drivers and slow the spread of COVID-19, but Cipriano said they are on track to begin front-door boarding with barriers in place to keep their employees healthy.