Advocates Release New Interactive Bus Report Cards As City Council Holds Hearing on Dramatic Declines in Bus Ridership

10/06/2016

Bus Turnaround Coalition Launches Website with Bus Report Cards at BusTurnaround.nyc, Testifies on Bus Data and How to Improve Service

 

New York – On Thursday, the Bus Turnaround coalition held a rally at City Hall to call on the MTA and DOT to undertake sweeping changes to fix bus service, where ridership has been in free-fall for a number of years. At the rally, the coalition released a new website, BusTurnaround.nyc, which features new route-level “report cards” with speed and reliability data for local buses and interactive “ride-along” stories where users can compare the buses NYC has today with the buses we could have if the Turnaround campaign’s practical strategies are implemented.

 

Riders can also visit the site to share their own stories about the bus, watch our recent short film on improving NYC buses, and join the campaign. “Riders can use the site to compare their experience on the bus with new quantitative analysis on the routes they use, and learn what they can do to support changes that would make their bus trips quicker and more reliable,” said Tabitha Decker, Director of the NYC program at TransitCenter.

 

At today’s press conference, transit advocates also invited bus riders to share their “Woes On the Bus” in an effort to demonstrate the hardships bus riders face on their daily commutes. Stories can be submitted at ridersny.org/buswoes and will be compiled on BusTurnaround.nyc. “Bus service is getting worse, but there are still 2.5 million riders on our buses every day—that’s 2.5 million reasons to fix the bus,” said Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes. “We’re collecting riders’ tales of woe to make a point about just how bad service has become—and we’ll share those stories with our elected officials.”

 

After the rally, members of the Bus Turnaround coalition testified before the New York City Council Transportation Committee, where they noted that they hoped the MTA and DOT would take concrete steps in the next year to improve service, including developing a list of possible changes to routes that would speed service; service adjustments to redeploy resources to routes with heavy ridership; guaranteeing at least 25 routes with transit signal priority by the end of 2017; and developing a list of top bus delay hot-spots on which the MTA and DOT can collaborate to improve service in 2017.

 

“When it comes to improving bus service in New York City, thankfully we don't have to reinvent the wheel,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “Thanks to a strong coalition of advocates, we have a clear roadmap in place, with innovative ideas and strategies to really turnaround flagging bus service that so many New Yorkers rely upon. I'm proud to join this call and I look forward to making real strides going forward.”

 

Advocates also noted that fixing bus service would reduce economic and geographic inequality, as bus riders are frequently from the outer boroughs and are more likely to be from neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income residents and people of color.

 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, as the saying goes,” said Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney for NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “But as New York City riders know from painful daily experience, often far shorter bus trips here take an eternity, plagued with long waits and long lines. There’re lots of steps that traffic and transit officials can take to make our lives better. It's time they came to our rescue.”

 

The Bus Turnaround coalition is composed of Riders Alliance, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign. In light of plummeting ridership and declining quality of bus service, the coalition is calling for City and State agencies to reshape the NYC bus system by rethinking bus service from the ground up, working with community leaders, bus riders and public officials to analyze, rethink and potentially redesign our streets, routes and bus operating system.

 

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) and Department of Transportation’s (DOT) own data support the groups’ contention that buses are failing New Yorkers: according to the DOT’s “Mobility Report 2016,” New York City has seen increases in population, tourism, and employment, adding more than 500,000 jobs since 2010. However, this rapid growth has led to more congested roads, playing a major factor in declining average bus speeds: citywide bus speeds have fallen by more than 2% since 2010; Manhattan south of 60th Street has the worst year-on-year declines in speed, dropping 6% in 2014 and an additional 5% in 2015. As a result, MTA data shows that ridership is down nearly 20% from 2002 to 2015.

 

“The bus network faces large challenges, but these challenges have clear, proven solutions. By transforming fare technology and bus design to get riders on the bus faster, designing streets to prioritize buses, adopting better methods to keep buses on schedule, and redesigning the bus network and routes, NYC's transit leaders can turnaround the decline of the city's buses and attract riders back to the system,” said Vincent Pellecchia, the Associate Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

 

In July, the Bus Turnaround coalition released its report, “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses.” The report highlights cities like London and Seoul that have managed to transform their bus networks, leading to increased ridership system-wide, and identifies key steps to fix our city’s bus network:

 

  • More frequent service on routes with high ridership or high ridership potential
  • Redesign of routes with obsolete or indirect routing
  • Use the post-Metrocard fare payment system to allow all-door bus boarding
  • Overhaul bus dispatching and on-street control
  • Create more bus lanes and widespread traffic signal priority for buses
  • Report bus performance in ways riders can easily understand and institute a comprehensive open data policy

 

“New Yorkers deserve better bus service, and there are actions we can take now to transform our streets and provide relief to bus riders who are forced to spend too much of their commutes stuck in traffic,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “By adding dedicated lanes and signal priority for buses, and by prioritizing bus rapid transit on ‘PeopleWays’ like the one we've proposed during the L Train shutdown and beyond, we can cut commute times and keep the city moving. Investments in great bus service are an investment in transportation equity.”

 

Elected officials also offered their support for Bus Turnaround’s goal of fixing New York City’s ailing bus system:

 

“For too long, bus riders have been treated like second class citizens—enduring long wait times, and last-minute changes to routes and schedules that at any time can leave them stranded with no accessible transit options. Bus riders, particularly those living in transit deserts in the outer boroughs and in many parts of my Council District in Lower Manhattan, are tired of being left out in the cold. We urge NYCDOT and the MTA to work together to keep buses moving and to improve service for thousands of riders who depend on surface transit to get to work, school, visit family, or see the doctor. A 21st century City deserves a modern and reliable transportation system, which must include a resilient bus network that can connect all of our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin.

 

“The outer boroughs are extremely dependent on bus service, and I’ve been strongly advocating for improvement of the system for years,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “I’ve made requests to the MTA to improve bus service, and funded $260,000 for the installation of real-time passenger information clocks along bus routes.  I look forward to partnering with the MTA and other elected officials to see improvements on all our bus routes, particularly those that are most heavily used.”

 

“As New York City continues to grow, we deserve to have a transportation system that allows our people to go about their daily lives without hindrance. Currently, we have not collectively made the investment necessary to bring the MTA into the 21st century. Our bus transit system is vital to moving our families, seniors and disabled community. They are often forgotten when upgrading our transit station without elevators, leaving many in our city with only surface transit as their only affordable option, but how long will that last. It is time our local, state, and federal government agree on what is necessary to keep our city moving forward by improving ridership, time schedules, and access,” said Council Member Inez E. Dickens.

 

“Our city's bus service is in dire need of an upgrade,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst).  “The Big Apple is experiencing unprecedented growth—yet our bus service fails to meet the needs of the many New Yorkers who rely on mass transit for their daily commutes.  The time to act is now.  I stand with Council Member Rodriguez and transportation advocates in calling for comprehensive improvements to bus service in NYC,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm.

 

“My East Side neighbors will be some of the first to tell you that our buses are too slow and unreliable for a 21st century city. Thanks to Transit Center and their partners for setting forth a variety of concrete and achievable ways to ensure that our buses are faster, more efficient, and easier to use. I look forward to working together to put these long overdue improvements into action,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, member of the NYC Council Committee on Transportation

 

“The Bus Turnaround Campaign is certainly on the right track towards improving our local bus service. Representing a district with a large population of seniors and college students who mainly rely on bus service for transportation, I have seen firsthand how local bus service is simply not up to par with what our riders deserve. This launch is a great start to get the wheels rolling towards efficient and timely bus service. I thank TransitCenter, Riders Alliance, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign for laying this foundation of ideas that would greatly benefit bus riders citywide,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile.

 

“Thousands of my constituents rely on bus service to get to and from work, school, and medical appointments every single day. When that service is not reliable, families suffer, as the families of my district learned firsthand when B23 bus service was unfairly eliminated by the MTA. We can and must improve bus service for riders all across the city. I commend Councilman Rodriguez for leading the discussion about how we can best achieve that goal,” said Council Member David Greenfield.

 

“The residents of Queens need access to more reliable transportation. This is an especially serious issue in Eastern Queens, where we have no access to subways and rely heavily on buses. My Queens colleagues and I have been consistently advocating for various transportation improvements—from light rails to expanded select bus service to real-time information at bus stops.  We will continue to fight until the residents of our borough have access to quality public transportation,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik.

 

“From lateness to inefficient routes, our City’s bus service continues to let down many New Yorkers who rely on this transportation option every day. We need to restore faith in bus service, and that begins with implementing clear, effective solutions. This report offers some excellent remedies, and it’s another example of how the Riders Alliance is bringing innovative problem-solving to our transportation system. I want to thank Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez for leading our City forward on many crucial transportation issues, and I’m proud to join him in support the Bus Turnaround Campaign,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.  

 

“Whether the bus showed up doesn't have to be a case of ‘he-said, she-said’ with the MTA when we can use MTA Bus Time data to know where every bus is in the city at every moment," said Council Member Ben Kallos, who began working with civic technologist Nathan Johnson in 2014 to use MTA Bus Time to measure performance. “Thank you to Riders Alliance and TransitCenter for launching www.BusTurnaround.NYC so that 2.5 million daily bus riders in New York City can share their experience and call attention to the need for better bus service.”

 

“New York City buses are unreliable and slow, pushing those who can to choose other modes of transportation. But many people in less affluent neighborhoods still depend on buses every day to get to work and school, and to see family and friends. As NYC continues to grow, we need to invest in improvements to our bus system—both big and small—from real-time information at bus stops to implementing reliable and full featured Bus Rapid Transit across the city. Thanks to Riders Alliance, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, TransitCenter and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign for bringing this important call to action, and to Chair Rodriguez for holding today’s hearing,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

 

“Improving our bus infrastructure is the low-hanging fruit that could drastically improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We need sound investment in best practices to reduce boarding duration, increase average bus speed, and improve fleet efficiency,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

 

MTA Bus service is a critical piece of New York’s mass transit system, and yet countless New Yorkers, predominantly in low income communities, are still underserved by limited transit options, plaguing them with long commutes,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “We must do everything we can to reverse the trend of inadequate bus service in our neighborhoods. I applaud the Riders Alliance for their invaluable leadership on this issue, and I will continue advocating with them tirelessly to get the bus service that our communities deserve.”

 

“I represent the transit-starved areas in Red Hook and Sunset Park that have dismal bus service. The MTA routinely ignores local residents’ demands for common sense, often low-cost solutions. I support the “Bus Turnaround Campaign,” because it could lead to more efficient boarding, better routes, more reliable schedules, and more ridership. Other cities have had success with what this campaign specifies. There’s no reason New York can’t have similar good results,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

 

“With the upcoming shutdowns of the M and L trains, my community needs better bus options more than ever.  The Bus Turnaround campaign presents achievable goals for improving and expanding service, and I look forward to working with them to advocate for improvements in my district and citywide,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

 

“The MTA and DOT must do more to improve our bus system, particularly in the outer boroughs, where subways lack efficiency and are just not convenient to many residents who live on the outskirts of the city,” said Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton). “While there are several projects and route improvements on their way, such as Select Bus Service and the brand new buses that were launched in my district earlier this year, a stronger push is necessary to update our bus system to accommodate the needs of New Yorkers today. I’d like to thank Riders Alliance, Straphangers and Council Member Rodriguez for ensuring that the needs of bus riders are being addressed across the city.”

 

“Buses are an integral component of our public transportation system,” said Council Member James Vacca. “We need to update our transportation infrastructure to support the increased utilization of buses throughout our city. It’s no secret that many of our subways are at, near, or over capacity.  Expanding the bus network is a common sense solution to the overcrowding that so many New Yorkers must deal with on a daily basis. Additionally, bus routes can be expanded to serve transit deserts such as certain parts of my neighborhood in the East Bronx. We must take a comprehensive look at all possible solutions which include improving express bus service, revamping boarding technology, continuing the build out of the bus network, along with other innovative ideas.”

 

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The Bus Turnaround Coalition is a group of diverse New Yorkers determined to turn around the poor service that plagues the city's bus system and the 2.5 million rides taken on it every weekday. We are winning increased attention from our leaders and greater resources for high quality, fast and reliable bus service for all neighborhoods in New York City.