The MTA and NYCDOT Unveil Plan to Improve Bus Services in New York City

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have unveiled a raft of measures to improve bus services in the city.

These measures include speeding up services by building and upgrading busways and bus lanes, stepping up enforcement in bus lanes with more on-board and fixed cameras, installing more priority signals for buses at intersections, restarting the Bus Network Redesign programme, rolling out the MTA’s contactless fare payment system OMNY to more services, improving accessibility on board buses and at bus stations, and improving bus schedules and real-time passenger information.

The MTA and NYCDOT will work together to improve the bus network in New York City. The main goals are to speed up the buses in the city and improve the passenger experience. New York City’s buses already carry more passengers than the next four largest networks in the US combined.

A double-decker bus in New York City

A double-decker bus in New York City

Speed Improvements

In 2022, the NYCDOT will build or improve 20 miles of bus lanes and bring in up to five new busway pilots, as bus lanes and busways are among the best ways to increase bus speeds. This in turn has shown to increase ridership.

In order to capitalise on the speed improvements that busways and bus lanes bring, the MTA and NYCDOT will also focus camera enforcement, especially for chronic violators such as delivery drivers. By 2023 the MTA and NYCDOT want to expand camera enforcement to cover up to 85 percent of the existing bus lanes.

Two types of cameras will be used: on-board cameras, which will be installed by the MTA, and fixed cameras, fitted on gantries, installed by the NYCDOT. The MTA will add 300 on-board cameras in 2022 and at least another 600 in 2023. The NYCDOT meanwhile will add fixed cameras to up to 15 new bus corridors in 2022.

A final feature that will improve bus speeds is signal priority. Consequently, buses will be given signal priority at up to 750 additional intersections in the city in 2022.

Passenger Experience

As part of its goal to improve the passenger experience, the MTA will restart its Bus Network Redesign programme later in 2021. It will monitor ridership patterns and use that information to redesign its network so that bus services better reflect current and future travel demands. This will take place in collaboration with the NYCDOT.

By December 2020 the MTA had installed around 15,000 OMNY (One Metro New York) contactless fare payment readers on its fleet of 5,800 buses. This allows all-door boarding. The system is modelled on that of the London Underground (UK). Passengers can use bank cards, smart phones and MTA smart cards to tap in and out of journeys. The MTA wants to implement all-door boarding by the end of 2023, when the current magnetic strip MetroCard will be retired.

The MTA’s bus fleet is already in compliance with the ADA. However, it wants to make improvements to accessibility at its bus stops, with the goal of improving 25 stops in 2022.

It will also make other improvements to its fleet with more flexible seating in its priority and courtesy seating areas.

In 2021 the MTA will put 800 new buses into service with more flexible seating. These buses will also feature wider doors and ramps.

Lastly, the MTA will improve bus schedules on at least 15 routes. It will also add more than 1,000 passenger information displays on-board its buses by the end of 2022, meaning that 64 percent of its fleet will be fitted with these screens. The authority is further trialling bus time poles to give passengers real-time information at bus stops.

The pre-pandemic ridership figure on the MTA bus network was 2.1 million per day. With recovering passenger numbers and growing demand, the MTA hopes these efforts will improve the bus network ready for the future.

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