Brooklyn Boro

New bus-mounted cameras in Brooklyn aim to keep cars in their own lane

October 21, 2019 Alex Williamson
Brooklyn's B35 bus. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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The MTA is instituting a citywide crackdown on cars illegally blocking bus lanes — and if the Manhattan test run is any indication, the agency’s new bus-mounted camera system could result in quite a few citations. The same cameras are coming to Brooklyn next month and have already been implemented along one route in Queens.

The 51 bus-mounted cameras installed Oct. 7 along Manhattan’s M15 SBS route, which runs from East Harlem to lower Manhattan, have already caught 1,529 vehicles illegally blocking the bus lane.

Those divers got off with a warning thanks to the 60-day grace period. After that period ends, however, they’ll be fined at a rate that will increase with each offense, starting at $50 and topping out at $250 for the fifth violation within a 12-month period. The MTA has said the fines will be used for subway improvements.

The cameras are coming to Brooklyn’s B44 SBS route, which runs from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg, by the end of November.

Only drivers who are caught on camera by two buses in a row, or who remain in a bus lane for more than five minutes, will be ticketed. Drivers making a quick turn from the bus lane are not supposed to be fined.

“We expect the MTA’s bus-mounted cameras will improve bus speeds and reliability,” said Ben Fried, a spokesperson from the TransitCenter, adding that having the cameras mounted on the buses will keep drivers from cheating the system by parking in parts of the lane that stationary cameras don’t cover.

New York City’s buses crawl along at an average of 8 miles per hour, making them the slowest in the country. Between 2016 and 2018, ridership declined by more than 4 million trips, according to MTA data.

“Automated enforcement is absolutely essential to keeping bus lanes unblocked,” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the Riders Alliance. “Riders fought hard for these cameras and they are proving themselves on every single trip.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will aim to make the city’s buses 25 percent faster by 2020 with a package of policies including restricted delivery hours and transit signal priority intersections that hold green lights for buses.

NYPD has also ramped up bus lane enforcement, deploying a team of seven tow trucks to remove illegally parked cars and issuing significantly more summonses to cars illegally parked in bus lanes than in recent years.

State law limited enforcement cameras to only 16 bus routes around the city until June, when the New York State Senate passed a bill that did away with the cap, allowing the city to move forward with the bus-mounted cameras.

The mayor’s “Better Bus Action Plan” also calls for installing the lanes at a faster rate, from about 7 miles per year on average to between 10 and 15 miles per year.

Fried said that more lanes and more enforcement are just a part of what’s needed to speed up buses. He called for citywide all-door boarding, a crackdown on police and other government employees parking in bus lanes and for loading zones for delivery vehicles.

“The key is Mayor de Blasio — he has to give DOT the resources and political support to implement more projects like what the city is doing on Church Avenue for the B35,” said Fried.

Incoming bus lanes are often met with resistance from local businesses and institutions. Last year in Fort Greene, roughly 80 business owners along Fulton Street went to battle with their own Business Improvement District over the bus lanes, which they said would take away parking in front of their stores.

When the city proposed over the summer a bus-lane project on Church Avenue that would have wiped out parking spots in front of a local synagogue, neighborhood opposition was so strong that the Department of Transportation amended the plan to leave the synagogue’s block untouched entirely.

But Pearlstein says despite the pushback, the city should press forward with more of the same.

“Bus lane cameras only improve service where the city stripes bus lanes,” he said. “The city needs to stick to the plan and keep bus lanes rolling out, speeding New Yorkers through heavily congested areas with high bus ridership.”

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