Improving bus service across New York City

As the city continues to reopen, riders are returning to buses. But traffic levels are also returning. Prioritizing buses on city streets is the key to keeping buses, and our customers, moving. With our partners at New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), there are tools we can use to get that done.

Updated June 30, 2021

Anyone who rides the bus in New York City knows that car congestion, or even a single double-parked vehicle, can slow down an otherwise timely bus trip. 

There are different tools we can use to keep buses moving through traffic. We call these Bus Priority Treatments. Some are already in use on local and Select Bus Service routes, like the B44, Bx12, M15, M14, Q44, and Q53. We can also use automated technology to enforce these bus priority treatments, to keep them effective. 

 

Proof is in the performance

Two new busways have already launched in 2021, on Main St in Queens and 181 St in Manhattan. That makes five busways in New York City, benefitting over 340,000 daily bus customers across 29 routes. Preliminary results show bus speeds improved up to 30%.

Bus Priority Treatments prove successful year after year. New bus lanes added in 2019 helped improve travel speeds by 8.4%.

Launched in 2008, the Select Bus Service (SBS) program implements a combination of Bus Priority Treatments on bus routes. Customer travel times typically improve 10-20% along corridors with priority treatments. SBS routes also typically see a 10% increase in ridership. In 2019, the M14 became an SBS route and began operating along a busway. Travel times improved by 24% and weekday ridership increased 14 %.

With support from riders like you, we can work with NYC DOT to add more bus priority and expand those that exist. Learn more about the Better Buses Restart program.

Projects completed since the Better Buses Restart launched in June 2020:

In 2020, the Better Buses Restart initiative resulted in over 16 miles of new dedicated bus lanes, the largest one-year effort in New York City history. This included the Jay St busway and several bus lane projects.

Queens 

  • Main Street Busway from Sanford Ave to Northern Boulevard including parts of Kissena Blvd (0.6 miles), benefitting 155,000 daily riders on 10 routes
  • Merrick Boulevard bus lanes from Hillside Avenue to Springfield Boulevard (5.9 miles), benefitting 89,000 daily riders on 10 routes

Bronx 

  • 149th Street bus lanes from Southern Boulevard to River Avenue (2.7 miles), benefitting 55,000 daily riders on 4 routes
  • E. L. Grant Highway bus lanes, from 167 St to the Washington Bridge (1.2 miles), benefitting 12,000 daily riders
  • University Avenue bus lane, from Kingsbridge Road to the Washington Bridge (0.1 miles), benefitting 34,000 daily riders
     

Manhattan 

  • 181st Street Busway from Amsterdam Avenue to Broadway (0.5 miles), benefitting 68,000 daily riders on 5 routes
  • 14th Street bus lane extension from 1st Avenue to Avenue C (0.8 miles), benefitting 32,000 daily riders on 2 routes

Brooklyn 

  • Jay Street Busway from Tillary Street to Livingston Street (0.8 miles), benefitting 47,000 daily riders on 7 routes
  • Malcolm X Blvd Bus Lane (0.1 miles) further improving the B46 SBS corridor

Staten Island 

  • Hylan Boulevard bus lane extension from Lincoln Avenue to Nelson Avenue (4.7 miles), benefitting 33,000 daily riders on 11 routes

A look at the 181 St busway at work

Where we're continuing to work with the City to prioritize buses

Queens 

  • Jamaica Avenue, from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street, benefitting 139,000 daily riders on 14 routes
  • Archer Avenue, from 150 St to 160 St  benefitting 189,000 riders on 19 routes
  • Merrick Blvd bus lane improvement project (2021) - Adding 0.3 more miles of bus lane and adding red paint to bus lanes installed last year
  • 21 St Bus Priority, from Queens Plaza North to Hoyt Avenue North (TBD)

Bronx 

  • University Avenue from Washington Bridge to Kingsbridge Road bus lane improvement project (3.4 miles) benefitting 34,000 daily riders (2021) 
  • Story Avenue and White Plains Rd bus lanes benefitting 45,000 daily riders (2021)
  • Gun Hill Road bus lanes benefitting 40,000 (2021) 
  • Pelham Bay Park subway station bus circulation improvements (2021) 
  • Fordham Road bus lane improvement project (TBD).

 

    Manhattan 

    • 5th Avenue from 57th Street to 34th Street, benefitting 110,000 daily riders on 38 routes
    • M14A/D SBS Lower East Side bus priority, benefitting 32,000 daily riders (2021)
    • 1st  Avenue bus lane improvement project benefitting 48,000 daily riders (2021)
    • Battery Place bus lane improvement project benefitting 11,000 daily express bus riders (2021) 

    Staten Island

    • Hylan Blvd bus lane improvement project (2021) - adding red paint to bus lanes installed last year

    How we can prioritize buses on city streets

    Bus Lanes
    Bus Lanes use markings on the pavement to create a lane for buses that is separate from general traffic. They can help your trip take less time by limiting how much your bus has to mingle with general traffic.  

    Protected Bus Lanes 
    Using barriers to protect a bus lane makes it more difficult for vehicles other than buses to use the lane. This can improve the effectiveness of a bus lane where violations are rampant, but must be accompanied by measures that preserve essential access to the curb for emergency vehicles. 

    Busways and Transit and Freight Priority Streets 
    A transit and freight priority street provides dedicated space for buses and trucks to travel through a corridor while limiting other vehicular traffic. Exhibit A: the 14th Street busway where travel times improved 24%. 
     

    Bus Queue Jump Signals and Lanes 
    Dedicated bus signal phases allow a bus to enter an intersection before regular traffic and bypass waiting queues of traffic at a light, giving the bus a head start. Bus queue jump signals are often paired with bus lanes.  

    Transit Signal Priority 

    Transit Signal Priority (TSP) works with the NYC DOT traffic signal system to hold a green signal longer or end a red signal early to reduce bus delays at intersections. NYC DOT calibrates the system to ensure that cross street traffic and pedestrians still have sufficient time. TSP is sometimes paired with bus lanes and/or Bus Queue Jump Lanes. 

    Turn Restrictions 
    Limiting turns can increase safety and sometimes allow buses to move faster and avoid accidents. Turn restrictions also benefit traffic flow and relieve congestion. 

     

    Bus Bulbs and Boarders 
    Bus bulbs are permanent sidewalk extensions that allow buses to pull up to the curb without leaving the travel lane, saving valuable time. Recently, DOT began using durable recycled plastic “bus boarders” that serve the same purpose but are far less labor-intensive. 

    Curb Management 
    Adequate and appropriate truck loading zones, passenger drop-off areas, and parking regulations can benefit bus operations by reducing double parking and the illegal use of bus lanes. Effective enforcement is also critical to ensure curb management success. 

    Keeping bus lanes clear and buses prioritized

    But it's not just about bus lanes and busways. We will continue to work with our partners in New York City to expand on transit signal priority to get more enforcement cameras on the street and onboard our buses. Here are two examples:

    Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) 

    Automated cameras mounted on buses capture video and photo evidence of unauthorized vehicles, like private cars and delivery vehicles, obstructing a bus lane. This evidence is then used to issue fines to the owner of the offending vehicle. Cameras are on the M15, M14, B44, B46, M23, M34, and M86 routes. 

    Over 80,000 violations and warnings have been issued from the MTA's bus-mounted cameras since that program's inception in October 2019.

    We're planning to expand bus-mounted cameras as part of the 2020-2024 Capital Program.
     

    Stationary Bus Lane Enforcement Cameras

    Managed by NYCDOT, pole-mounted bus lane enforcement cameras work in connection with bus enforcement capture video and photo evidence of unauthorized vehicles. These cameras are installed on 21 different street corridors citywide.

    Approximately 1.3 million violations have been issued since the program's inception in 2011.

    Stationary or bus-mounted camera enforcement is already in effect on 21 different street corridors citywide. Additional routes, with stationary and/or bus-mounted cameras will be added over time. NYCDOT also works with NYPD to enforce bus lanes citywide through traditional methods