BY JON CRONIN
City Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the roll out of Select Bus Service across the five boroughs and poor transit available for intra-borough travel at a press conference on Monday at which he unveiled a report on the city’s bus routes.
Stringer said that the city’s bus routes have not adapted to riders’ needs and, as a result, ridership has significantly dropped, with the MTA’s bus system losing 100 million passenger trips during the past eight years.
The city’s transit system has historically been Manhattan-centric, assuming that most commuters travel to that borough for work. But Stringer said that from 2006 to 2016, more residents have been commuting within their home boroughs for work, and he reported a 34-percent bump in jobs in Queens. According to the study, approximately 42 percent of Queens residents commute for work within the borough.
“In the 1980s, the MTA pursued extensive bus route analyses within each of the five boroughs, but ultimately tabled these studies and implemented few of their recommendations,” Stringer said.
According to Stringer’s report, Queens has the second-fastest bus service among the five boroughs. However, its buses only travel at an average speed of 8.1 miles per hour. He called MTA buses “slow, unreliable, long, meandering, confusing, congested and poorly connected.”
Stringer added that low-income residents and immigrants make up the largest share of riders and, therefore, are the most negatively impacted by the city’s bus system.
The comptroller added that Queens’ two airports and Glen Oaks were among the most underserved areas of the city.
Stringer believes that the city’s bus system has a “fractured management structure” that is run by the MTA Bus Company and New York City Transit Bus. He stated in the report that the MTA has “struggled to implement new technologies and core amenities that could improve the speed and reliability of bus service, including Select Bus Service (SBS) and Transit Signal Priority (TSP).”
As part of implementing the Transit Signal Priority, which would limit how long buses wait at lights, he encouraged the MTA to expand the engineering capacity with TSP. In regard to SBS, the report stated that it needs better enforcement and design as well as more emphasis on bus routes outside of SBS.
Stringer recommended that the MTA, DOT and City Planning review the bus network with the new geography of jobs in mind. His report also stated that the MTA needs to increase the off-peak hours and reschedule bus times to accommodate riders who work nontraditional work hours.
The report also recommended reexamining bus-stop spacing. Currently, the minimum is 750 feet between stops, which is among the shortest in the nation. The national average is closer to 1,300 feet.
As a way to expedite stops, Stringer encouraged the MTA to implement a Fair Fares plan, which would offer 50 percent off on MetroCards, and added that the city should help riders without bank accounts by getting the city’s Office of Financial Empowerment to team up with New York City Transit to provide financial counseling.
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota responded to Stringer’s report with a statement.
“The bus system and our riders are the victim of a crisis,” he said. “Traffic congestion and New York City’s consistent inability to manage traffic flow and enforce existing traffic laws on its streets is killing our bus service and hurting riders. The proper and progressive way to deal with the scourge of traffic is for everyone to support a responsible congestion-pricing plan. Traffic congestion is keeping the most reliable and advanced bus fleet in recent history from moving as efficiently as it can and should.”