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MTA, DOT announce ambitious plan to improve bus service

DOT's Gutman and MTA's Lieber offer hope for better transit

August 16, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) on Monday announced an ambitious plan to improve New York City’s expansive bus network that would expand improvements that have already been made.

Introducing DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman at Fordham Plaza, Acting MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber directly referred to his admiration for Gutman’s work in Brooklyn.

“He’s one of the people responsible for Brooklyn Bridge Park, and he’s been the chair of the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” said Lieber. “When I was appointed to this position, one of the first things I did was to reach out to my old-time friend and partner Hank Gutman, and I’m happy to be working with him again.” Both are Brooklyn residents.

Lieber pointed out that the New York City bus system is the second-largest transit system in the United States, second only to the MTA’s own NYC subway system. Furthermore, it was the most-used system in the U.S. during the early days of the pandemic, when few people rode the trains.

One of the two agencies’ biggest priorities is faster bus service. To this end, the MTA has committed to more than tripling the number of cameras onboard buses in 2022, adding 300 cameras, with the plan to add at least 600 more in 2023. The DOT will complement this effort by adding fixed cameras on up to 15 new corridors in 2022.

Interim MTA New York City Transit President Craig Cipriano, left, looks on as Darlene Jackson, a member of the Riders Alliance, speaks. MTA photo by Marc Hermann

The fixed cameras will work in concert with the bus cameras to identify violators, and thus reduce the number of illegal cars and other vehicles in bus lanes that slow down bus service.

In addition, the MTA and DOT plan to expand Transit Signal Priority (TSP) to as many as 750 additional intersections throughout the city in 2022. This measure helps buses spend less time at red lights by allowing buses approaching an intersection to get a shortened red light or an extended green light in real-time.

“When the buses have to wait at red lights, this sort of defeats the purpose [of improving the system],” said Gutman.

The MTA partnered with NYCDOT to install this modern technology at more than 1,700 intersections throughout the city since 2012, and the pace of installation has grown substantially despite the pandemic.

Iup n addition, starting in 2022, DOT will embark on major projects to add or improve 20 miles of dedicated bus lanes, including up to five new busway pilots. As an example of how these measures have been effective, Lieber said, on the 14th Street (Manhattan) busway, travel times have improved by 36 percent in the last year from pre-busway travel times.

In 2020, the MTA installed busways on parts of Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn and Malcolm X Boulevard in Bed-Stuy.

Lieber also added that while all MTA buses nowadays are disabled-accessible, not all bus stops are, and pledged to accelerate this process. Twenty-two bus stops across the city have been earmarked for accessibility improvements this year.

The 800 new buses that the MTA is expecting also will have more space for customers with walkers, folded strollers and other belongings, as well as wheelchairs. These buses also will have wider doors designed to make it easier to enter and exit.

Gutman said, “DOT is proud of the strong working partnership we have developed with the MTA, especially around buses, where we have already worked cooperatively and productively on dozens of routes, improving trips for a majority of the system’s two million daily bus commuters.

“MTA’s commitment to redesigning the bus network, piloting all-door boarding on local bus routes and boldly expanding bus lane enforcement are transformative changes that complement our own planned expansion of bus lanes and busways,” Gutman added.

“Buses have always been an integral part of getting around the city, going where subways can’t and don’t, and offering access where subways may not,” said Andrew Albert, MTA board member and chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council.

“The downside is that buses have been notoriously slow: the Straphangers Campaign showed us that a chicken could run faster. The good news is that’s changing and 2022 may well be the year of the bus,” he added.

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