‘The Woes on the Bus’ book details city riders’ frustration ‘all through the town’

A new book,
A new book, “The Woes On the Bus,” aims to remind city and state officials of much-needed updates to the MTA bus system. Photo Credit: amNY / Mark Chiusano

The most compelling tales of suffering and time lost could be riding along the city bus.

Transit advocates on Tuesday announced a new book: “The Woes on the Bus,” which features stories of commuters’ “frustration and suffering, all through the town.”

The book features a selection of anecdotes from nearly 1,000 commuter interviews, according to its authors, the nonprofit Riders Alliance. Copies will be sent to those responsible for what’s described as failing bus service — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation — to inspire improvements. Every day riders can empathize through an online edition.

“Guess what we’ve heard? (Riders) are frustrated from poor bus service; they’re tired of suffering and they’re tired of waiting outside for the bus,” said Stephanie Burgos-Veras, a community organizer at Riders Alliance. “We need better buses that can get us to our destination. We need buses that we can rely on.”

The book features vignettes from riders who have lost wages, missed appointments, or, in the case of Nat P. from the Bronx, given up and bought a car.

MTA city bus ridership has dropped 16 percent since 2002, though buses still serve about 2.5 million people on an average weekday. Advocates believe the decline in ridership — during a time when the city’s population has grown — is directly related to service quality.

They said bus speed and reliability have dropped as the MTA and DOT have been slow to embrace proven strategies to improve service, like well-enforced bus-only lanes, boarding at all bus doors and Transit Signal Priority, a technology that holds green lights and delays red lights for buses approaching intersections.

“These sorts of improvements — they’re not impossible. They’re not even difficult,” said Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “In fact, cities around the world are doing them right now and it’s the greatest city in the world that is failing and falling behind.”

New York’s average bus speed of 7.4 miles per hour ranks below other major American cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston, according to a report from the Bus Turnaround Campaign, which includes Riders Alliance, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Straphangers Campaign and TransitCenter.

Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said the agency is committed to working with the DOT to expand its Select Bus Service program and Transit Signal Priority. Ultimately, he tied worsening service to increased congestion.

“Providing reliable and strong bus service is a key priority for the MTA and is an incredibly complex challenge due to worsening congestion on city streets, especially in the heart of Manhattan,” said Ortiz in a statement.

The city’s DOT has also embraced those measures, though de Blasio has voiced opposition to congestion pricing, calling it a “regressive tax” on outer-borough car owners. Experts believe implementing such a policy could also help open streets for better bus service.

“Buses are stuck in traffic and there are a couple of ways we can solve that problem. One is more bus lanes,” said Sifuentes. “But also reducing traffic on our streets and having congestion pricing — Move New York, one of those proposals — would help in that regard.”

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