Anyone who rides the bus in New York City knows that car congestion or a single double-parked vehicle can slow down an otherwise timely and efficient bus trip.
There are 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, among many others. To keep these bus priority treatments effective, we can also enforce them using automated technology.
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 DOT's Better Buses project and share your support here.
Proof is in the performance
With less car congestion on city streets earlier in 2020, bus speeds improved by 20 percent, and made bus trips themselves more reliable. During this period, more customers were riding the bus than the subway. See the data.
Across the entire city, new bus lanes added in 2019 helped improve travel speeds by 8.4 percent. On Select Bus Service (SBS) routes, which use a combination of Bus Priority Treatments, customer travel times typically improve 10-20 percent along corridors with priority treatments. SBS routes also typically see a 10-percent increase in ridership. In 2019 the M14 became an SBS route and began operating along a busway. From 2018 to 2019 travel times improved 24 percent and weekday ridership increased 14 percent.
A look at the 181 St busway at work
How we can prioritize buses on city streets
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.
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.
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
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 and B46 routes, where speeds have also increased.
37,518 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.
Where we're working with the City to prioritize buses
- Jamaica Avenue, from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street, benefitting 139,000 daily riders on 14 routes
- Archer Avenue, from Stuphin Boulevard to 150th St benefitting 189,000 riders on 19 routes
- Main Street from Sanford Ave to Northern Boulevard, including parts of Kissena Blvd, benefitting 155,000 daily riders on 10 routes
- Merrick Boulevard from Hillside Avenue to Springfield Boulevard , benefitting 72,000 daily riders on 9 routes
- 149th Street from Southern Boulevard to River Avenue, benefitting 55,000 daily riders on 4 routes
- E. L. Grant Highway, from 167 St to the Washington Bridge, benefitting 12,000 daily riders
- University Avenue, from Kingsbridge Road to the Washington Bridge, benefitting 34,000 daily riders
- 5th Avenue from 57th Street to 34th Street, benefitting 107,000 daily riders on 38 routes
- 181st Street from Amsterdam Avenue to Broadway, benefitting 67,000 daily riders on 5 routes
- 14th Street from 1st Avenue to Avenue C, benefitting 32,000 daily riders on 2 routes
- Jay Street from Tillary Street to Livingston Street, benefitting 47,000 daily riders on 7 routes
- Hylan Boulevard from Lincoln Avenue to Nelson Avenue, benefitting 33,000 daily riders on 11 routes