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THE COMMUTE: This was a busy week in MTA-related news.

Former MTA Chairman Jay Walder’s push for new technology will be felt for quite some time. A few days ago, New York 1 reported that the MTA intends to provide every subway station with a new emergency intercom system. The pilot cost is $300,000 per underground station. While currently there is no money for the program, the cost has been figured into the MTA’s Capital Plan.

The day before, the MTA also announced that it wants to install 47-inch interactive touch screen tablets in all stations to provide customers with directions and service status updates. The cost as of yet is unknown as the MTA is first exploring having corporate sponsors pick up the tab in exchange for receiving a portion of advertising revenue.

Proposed Fare Hike

Both of these announcements come on the heels of another MTA announcement, in which they plan to raise the fare and tolls to increase revenue by 7.5 percent not only in 2013, but in 2015 and 2017 as well. That 7.5 percent is a little misleading because the base fare itself is proposed to actually increase by 50 cents or 11.1 percent. The Queens Chronicle has a nice summary of the fare history here.

But it gets worse folks. These fare and toll hikes, at least for 2013 and 2015, will not go toward any restoration of services that were cut back in 2010, or to any service increases. Instead, most of the anticipated $900 million in additional revenue will go toward funding pension and retirees’ health care costs, according to Capital New York: “It’s hard for me to believe that we’re going to have that type of an increase and we’re going to have no restoration and no improvements in services,” said Council transportation chair James Vacca.

No More Service Cutbacks

The silver lining is that the MTA is not planning any more service cutbacks (at least not on the scale of 2010), according to a recent statement made by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota to the MTA’s Permanent Citizen’s Advisory Committee (PCAC). The words within the parentheses are mine because every three months, the MTA makes what they call routine service adjustments to reflect ridership changes.

As I warned the Plumb Beach Civic Association at their last meeting, if even a few current B4 riders decide to switch to the B44 Select Bus Service when it commences operation next winter, continued operation of the B4 in Sheepshead Bay could be in jeopardy. The temptation to switch from the B4 to Sheepshead Bay Station (for the B/Q) to the B44 to the Junction (for the #2/5) will be great with B44s arriving every five minutes and B4s every 15 or 20 minutes, although both routes will only carry a handful of riders in Plumb Beach. The MTA is looking for any reason to discontinue the B4 in Sheepshead Bay at all times, and a 10 percent decrease in patronage would provide the perfect excuse.

More Trains Needed But Not Planned

Yet in other news, the MTA announced that subway ridership is at its highest levels since 1950, and we also know that bus ridership is on a steady decline. What is the MTA planning to do about that?

Lhota told the PCAC that we need more trains, more frequently, to handle more riders. Yet, according to Hilary Ring, the MTA’s director of Government Affairs, the MTA isn’t planning any for at least the next three years. This is not the way for the MTA to begin restoring its credibility.

They plan to add additional station entrances in areas such as Williamsburg, where conversion of industrial areas to residential has caused ridership to swell. Regarding buses, they propose to expand Bus Time, another new technology, system-wide as well as Select Bus Service (SBS). But are those measures enough?

Commentary

Since the MTA has the power to change its crowding guidelines (officially known as planning and service guidelines) at will, all they have to do is alter them to allow for additional crowding on the trains. They are already experimenting with taking some seats out of service during rush hours by having them fold up to allow for additional standees. More crowded trains also mean slower trips since the trains will take longer to load and unload.

Regarding buses, I have written prolifically how SBS has its place in speeding up service. It is no panacea to improving the bus system, since it will never be expanded to more than a dozen of the hundreds of bus routes the MTA operates, and certainly is no replacement for subway expansion. It also makes it more difficult for seniors and the handicapped to navigate the system, with bus stop spacing up to three quarters of a mile apart. The proposed B44 SBS eliminates two thirds of the current limited stops and does not allow for additional free transfers to a third bus or a subway if the local is used to access the SBS. This means that if you do not want to, or cannot walk to the closest SBS stop, you are stuck with the local for your entire trip, when you previously took the Limited, and your trips will now be slower.

When you can barely afford to keep the system operating, and have to increase the fare every two years without having a positive impact on service levels, does it make sense to invest in new technologies and replace subway benches that do not need replacing, rather than restoring some of the service cutbacks that have left some communities virtually isolated, such as Plumb Beach, which now relies on only one north/south bus route on weekends and evenings?

I am not saying we must not look toward the future, but let us look more closely and realistically at the MTA’s probable motives for their proposed innovations and what we can expect from them.

The Help Point Intercom

Is the MTA going ahead with this project because it is concerned with the safety of its customers, or is the MTA’s primary goal to save money in the long term by eliminating every station agent from the system? Would the MTA be spending in the neighborhood of $140 million for customer safety? Think about it. Why would you need any station agents if machines are dispensing MetroCards and you could go to a terminal to seek emergency help and directions instead of to a station agent? The MTA could at least be up front about its intentions if they really want to improve their image. I would be in favor of these machines, but not if it means the elimination of all human presence in the system for assistance. Just think of the first lawsuit if someone is mugged or raped and cannot get help because a machine is not functioning and there is no station agent to hear the person’s cries for help. The MTA never calculates the cost of potential lawsuits in its forecasts when it is projecting its monetary savings.

Interactive Touch Screen Tablets

Also, sounds like a great idea at first, but if the MTA cannot control ‘scratchiti’ and already has to spend money on removing graffiti, how useful will these machines be after a few years when the technology will already be outdated and the MTA is first installing them? Not to mention, it will take additional funding to maintain these units even if the MTA were to work out a deal whereby they would not have to pay for the machines.

If that were to be the case, those tablets probably would look more like bus shelter advertisements than information centers, with the useful information most likely delegated to a small section of the screen, or there might be annoying pop-up ads from neighboring restaurants blocking the directions you are trying to obtain. Instead of all the service disruptions being displayed at once, customers would have to press icons for additional information. They would also have to wait on line to use the machine if all the service information is not displayed at once, as is the case with the present paper notices, which the MTA recently spent money to redesign. How efficient is that?

Also, if the fare keeps going up, the trains get more crowded, service is not improved, and human presence is reduced, what do you think will be the targets for vandalism in low income neighborhoods when the public wants to express its displeasure with the MTA? If that happens, the MTA will most probably abandon its plans to install these tablets in all stations, and only install them at major stations.

What is the MTA’s real motive here? Do they really want to install these tablets to improve information? Or, such as with the Help Point Intercoms, is the MTA’s real motive to reduce the amount of human labor needed to post all those weekly service update notices, enabling them to further reduce its workforce? Is serving the customer their primary goal, or is monetary savings, disguised as improved customer service, still their primary mission?

MTA’s Boondoggle Costs Riders $6 Million

While the MTA has no money to restore any service cuts, amazingly they can find an additional $6 million to rip out granite barricades, just installed in 2010 at the renovated Atlantic Terminal, and replace them with less intrusive metal bollards.

Conclusion

The MTA continues to speak out of both sides of its mouth, saying more trains are needed but none will be provided. They find the money when they want to do something like remove granite barriers, or implement new technology, but not when they do not want to do something such as restore badly-needed services. They still do not recognize the need to update New York’s antiquated bus routing system, a major reason why bus ridership is decreasing and the reason why the use of car services keeps increasing. I counted more than 20 car services illegally parked, some even double-parked, outside of the Sheepshead Bay Road train station the other night. These cars would not be there if they were not profitable.

Yet, the MTA shows no interest in trying to recoup lost bus ridership, or even estimate it. Once it is lost, the MTA just responds by further reducing bus service. Yes, it is nice to know when the next bus is coming, but it is more important for buses to arrive on time. The MTA considers that to be largely out of their control. What do you think? Where should the MTA be concentrating its limited resources? In new technology, or in providing basic, reliable service? Bus Time may be able to do both, but that remains to be seen.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

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  • Sheila

    Here’s what I don’t understand–I regularly see bus bunching, not towards the end of the line (I see that also!), but at the start of the B36 at Ave. U. Why cant buses leave Ave. U at properly spaced intervals so that people get served more fairly along the route? This get me very angry.

    • Allan Rosen

      The only reason I can think of is that there is not enough time allowed in the schedule so both buses arrived late and therefore left at the same time. While it would have been nice for the second bus to wait ten minutes to space out the buses, that might mean the MTA would have to pay him 10 minutes of overtime at the end of the day.

      • Andrew

        If that’s really what happened, then trying to space out the buses is probably a very bad idea. Doing so would only make it harder for the two buses to be on time for their next trips, and if the first bus is carrying a double load, a second bus close behind can come in handy.

        But I’ve stood at terminals without dispatchers, watching buses arrive, sit around while the operator takes an extended break, and pull out 10 minutes late. So what @6c4bc4e9db3fb41c6013fe4e61159789:disqus is observing might have nothing to do with the schedule but might simply be operators taking advantage of the lack of supervision at many terminals. Hopefully when BusTime rolls out, somebody will be watching for buses lingering at terminals past departure times (or, even better, automating the process).

        • sharon

          Drivers are entitled to break times. What I find strange is that regardless of the length of the line, drivers seem to take a break at the end. You do not want tired drivers behind the wheel. Do some drivers take advantage . Talk to drivers when their bus is packed and ask why? some will tell you one driver who messes everything up. There was a one such driver on the B3(where my dad drove ) who used to do it constantly . All the other driver hatted him

          • Allan Rosen

            They are allowed a minimum of three minutes break at the end of every trip except on shuttle routes.

        • Allan Rosen

          How do you know the bus intentionally pulled out from the terminal 10 minutes late?  You would only know that if you knew the time his run was scheduled to pull out.  Most likely, his leader was missing.  Maybe the run wasn’t filled that day.  It’s hard for me to imagine a driver purposely pulling out ten minutes late because that only makes his job that much harder because he has to carry twice his normal load. I can only seeing it happening at lunch break where perhaps he arrived late and didn’t want to skip his lunch.

          • Andrew

            I just suggested another possibility, that’s all. Deliberately running late means a chance to earn extra overtime. It also sometimes gives a driver a chance to hang out with a fellow driver at the terminal.

            Whatever the reason, I’ve seen it on many occasions.

      • sharon

        A better idea would be to allow the empty bus that is early to pass the packed bus. The second bus could leave in the earlier buses time slot and thus improve overall service. 

        • Allan Rosen

          I believe if they are both late, one can pass the other, but not if the second one is early. Although it would make for a smoother operation, buses are not allowed to arrive early.

      • gustaajedrez

        If both buses bunched when they came into the terminal in the first place, what they could’ve one is that when the on-time bus (or the bus that is less late) catches up to the late bus, they could have the passengers on the late bus switch to the on-time bus. The late bus could deadhead to the terminal and even if it leaves late, it wouldn’t be as late. (Of course, the switch would occur at a point where the on time bus has enough room to accomodate all the passengers)

        Or maybe they could do the reverse: The late bus bypasses the first few stops to try and get back on schedule (obviously this has its downfalls, such as the fact that passengers already waited a while for the bus, and now they’re being bypassed)

    • winson

      had that yesterday with the B68 when I waited like 30 minutes for a bus before three arrived together. so dumb!

      • sharon

        bus 3 must have rode half empty behind bus 1 and 2. When a bus is late it takes riders destined for the bus behind it making the trail bus early. Currently drivers are NOT ALLOWED to pass the bus and arrive earlier then the schedule . If the train bus would simply run drop off only until it reached the spot of the lead(late bus) the line would get back on schedule 

        • Allan Rosen

          They could do a lot of things to help the route get back to schedule, but there are not enough dispatchers for this. Sometimes, the dispatchers give instructions that actually make things worse.  At KCC, I’ve noticed many of the buses at dismissal time leave KCC with their “Next Bus Please” sign even though none of them are really full.  No one else can get on a B1 bus before the subway for a half hour until they send out an empty bus that skips the first stop.

          I was at Coney Island Avenue Station the other day about 1PM and a B1 arrived with a “Next Bus Please” sign and a lady started yelling at the driver that the past three buses did that.  The driver then remembered to put the B1 to 4th Avenue sign back on and invited everyone aboard.  If she didn’t yell at him, who knows when he would have remembered? He would just think no one is getting on because they were waiting for the B68.   

    • sharon

      Hopefully with bus time dispatchers could have a better idea where buses are at all times and make the needed changes. I know officially the mta says that it won’t be used for this but that but we all know that is to placate the union opposition . Remember back to the early 1990′s when the union fought metrocard . They said people would loose money on the cards, people would get robbed because metrocards are credit card sized and people would take out there wallets. The b36 sheepshead bound is always bunched for no good reason. Adjustments could be made to improve this service

  • sharon

    The biggest boondogle is the sky high salary and benefits costs of mta employees. IF you figure in the total cost of a train sweeper it is close to $50 an hour. INSANE. I agree that the touch screens may be a bad idea but if they can get them purchased and maintain by the advertising company then it good idea . these screens can also be used as  a deterrent to fare evasion as they could show pictures of people as they evade the fare. Most fare beaters would not if they knew there was someone watching

    • Allan Rosen

      The MTA said there were no plans at this time to install cameras in the touch screens because of the cost.

  • Joefubeetz

    Alan, your confusion between capital and operating costs shows that you will bend facts to suit your message. 

    While the MTA has no money to restore any service cuts, amazingly they can find an additional $6 million to rip out granite barricades, just installed in 2010 at the renovated Atlantic Terminal, and replace them with less intrusive metal bollards.

    Also, your fixation with bashing the MTA due to perceived slights from 30 years ago is very disturbing. 

    • Allan Rosen

      I am not confusing capital and operating costs. You think the tablets although paid from capital costs won’t require operating funds to maintain? You think they won’t need to hire additional maintainers? Have they calculated those costs?

      And where did they get the $6 million from to remove the barriers?  Aren’t they also stating that the capital program is not fully funded?  Those barriers never should have been installed in the first place if they were so intrusive? They deserve to be bashed when they make mistakes and waste money.  It’s nothing personal.

      • Andrew

        I don’t see why metal bollards are any more maintenance intensive than granite barricades.

        The public didn’t like the granite barricades, and the MTA is listening and replacing them with metal bollards.

        When they don’t do what people ask for, you criticize them for not listening to the public. When they do what people ask for, you criticize them for wasting money. Make up your mind!

  • Andrew

    Both of these announcements come on the heels of another MTA announcement, in which they plan to raise the fare and tolls to increase revenue by 7.5 percent not only in 2013, but in 2015 and 2017 as well. That 7.5 percent is a little misleading because the base fare itself is proposed to actually increase by 50 cents or 11.1 percent.

    I think you mean 25 cents, which is the minimum increment that’s practical (without triggering the need to use nickels or dimes on buses). The goal is probably an overall 7.5% increase, which will probably mean a bit more for the base fare but a bit less on unlimiteds. That’s pretty reasonable, since the base fare wasn’t changed in 2010 when the price for an unlimited went up.

    The Queens Chronicle has a nice summary of the fare history here.

    Not really, since until 1997 that was really what everybody had to pay for each ride, bus or subway (bus plus subway was double), while since 1997 there have been free transfers, bulk discounts, and unlimited cards. A large majority of riders pay less than the base fare per ride, so focusing only on the base fare is misleading.Here’s a better timeline of what’s happened to the fare since 1997:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MetroCard_(New_York_City)#History

    But it gets worse folks. These fare and toll hikes, at least for 2013 and 2015, will not go toward any restoration of services that were cut back in 2010, or to any service increases.

    Why would they? When the price of a loaf of bread goes up, does that go toward larger loaves? No, it’s simply what we call inflation.

    As I warned the Plumb Beach Civic Association at their last meeting, if even a few current B4 riders decide to switch to the B44 Select Bus Service when it commences operation next winter, continued operation of the B4 in Sheepshead Bay could be in jeopardy. The temptation to switch from the B4 to Sheepshead Bay Station (for the B/Q) to the B44 to the Junction (for the #2/5) will be great with B44s arriving every five minutes and B4s every 15 or 20 minutes, although both routes will only carry a handful of riders in Plumb Beach. The MTA is looking for any reason to discontinue the B4 in Sheepshead Bay at all times, and a 10 percent decrease in patronage would provide the perfect excuse.

    I am not aware of any such proposal. I have a feeling this is your own speculation. Am I correct?If improved bus service to the IRT helps people in Plumb Beach get where they’re going, despite the longer bus ride to the subway, then they should use that improved bus service to the IRT. And if ridership on the east end of the B4 really does plummet, then perhaps the money now spent on that end of the B4 should be saved so that it can be used somewhere with more riders.

    Lhota told the PCAC that we need more trains, more frequently, to handle more riders. Yet, according to Hilary Ring, the MTA’s director of Government Affairs, the MTA isn’t planning any for at least the next three years. This is not the way for the MTA to begin restoring its credibility.

    Most of the new ridership is off-peak. There’s no need to purchase additional cars for added off-peak service, since car needs are set by rush hour requirements. The only need is to schedule additional off-peak service as loads bump up against loading guidelines.It takes more than three years for newly ordered cars to arrive, anyway. The next A Division and B Division car orders include a small number of cars for increased service. Don’t forget that, on the B Division, there are some extra cars sitting around due to the 2010 cuts (none of the A Division cuts affected rush hour service).

    They plan to add additional station entrances in areas such as Williamsburg, where conversion of industrial areas to residential has caused ridership to swell.

    It’s about time! I hope the funding is available to do this in more than just Williamsburg – I can think of a lot of stations that would benefit tremendously from additional entrances.

    Regarding buses, they propose to expand Bus Time, another new technology, system-wide as well as Select Bus Service (SBS). But are those measures enough?

    Whether or not they’re enough, they’re certainly a step in the right direction.

    Since the MTA has the power to change its crowding guidelines (officially known as planning and service guidelines) at will, all they have to do is alter them to allow for additional crowding on the trains.

    They’re officially known as loading guidelines.At the very least, the MTA Board has to approve all changes to loading guidelines. I don’t know if they need to go through the public hearing process. However, since the subway loading guidelines were adopted in the 1980′s, they’ve only been changed once – in 2010, with the change from 100% to 125% of a seated load for off-peak trains – and the change was included in the public hearing process for the service cuts. (The bus guidelines, obviously, have been amended as new types of buses have been introduced to New York since the 80′s, like 60-foot articulated buses and 45-foot over the road coaches. But I’m not aware of any changes for existing bus types.)

    They are already experimenting with taking some seats out of service during rush hours by having them fold up to allow for additional standees.

    No they are not. That was a Howard Roberts proposal from 2008, and he even had one train retrofitted with folding seats. But by the time that train was ready, Prendergast was president, and he had no interest in pursuing his predecessor’s proposal. The seats were never folded up, and by now the train has gotten its standard seats back.

    More crowded trains also mean slower trips since the trains will take longer to load and unload.

    Which is why the rush hour loading guidelines are highly unlikely to change.

    Regarding buses, I have written prolifically how SBS has its place in speeding up service. It is no panacea to improving the bus system, since it will never be expanded to more than a dozen of the hundreds of bus routes the MTA operates, and certainly is no replacement for subway expansion.

    Of course it’s not. But SBS features like bus lanes and signal priority can be instituted on non-SBS lines where they’d be particularly helpful, and smartcards, if instituted right, will reduce dwell times on all buses.

    It also makes it more difficult for seniors and the handicapped to navigate the system, with bus stop spacing up to three quarters of a mile apart.

    The local isn’t going away. If SBS isn’t suited for their trips, they can ride the local.

    The proposed B44 SBS eliminates two thirds of the current limited stops

    No it doesn’t. The current limited makes 18 stops between Avenue U and Flushing; SBS cuts that down to 11. The other eliminated stops are north of Flushing and south of U, where limiteds now make local stops.

    When you can barely afford to keep the system operating, and have to increase the fare every two years without having a positive impact on service levels,

    In real dollars, the average fare paid is still lower than it was in the 90′s. For people who transfer from bus to subway, it is MUCH lower.

    does it make sense to invest in new technologies

    If those new technologies help to provide better or less expensive service, then it certainly does.

    and replace subway benches that do not need replacing,

    Nobody’s replacing subway benches that do not need replacing. No bench lasts forever.

    rather than restoring some of the service cutbacks that have left some communities virtually isolated, such as Plumb Beach, which now relies on only one north/south bus route on weekends and evenings?

    Only in New York would anyone consider that “virtually isolated.” For a community with such low ridership, having even one full-time bus route is quite unusual.

    I am not saying we must not look toward the future, but let us look more closely and realistically at the MTA’s probable motives for their proposed innovations and what we can expect from them.

    Yes, let’s see what sneaky conspiracies we can uncover. Because it’s inconceivable that such simple objectives as improving service or reducing costs could possibly be on their minds.

    Is the MTA going ahead with this project because it is concerned with the safety of its customers, or is the MTA’s primary goal to save money in the long term by eliminating every station agent from the system?

    Considering that station agents don’t perform much of a safety function at all, I’m afraid that I see this as nothing other than a security and customer service initiative (the HPI’s have both “emergency” and “information” buttons).I’m not aware of any plan to eliminate all station agents, but even if that is the plan, I don’t see why it would have an appreciable impact on safety. 

    Just think of the first lawsuit if someone is mugged or raped and cannot get help because a machine is not functioning and there is no station agent to hear the person’s cries for help.

    You mean like the rape victim in Long Island City in 2005?The station agent is not a security guard. If the station agent witnesses a crime, he or she can press a button. If he does not witness a crime, either because the crime took place somewhere else in the station (which is obviously the case for most crimes!) or because he or she is busy with something else (helping another customer, talking on the phone, doing the crossword, napping), he obviously won’t do anything at all, unless somebody else goes up to the booth to inform him.Having publicly accessible emergency buttons is a vast improvement.

    The MTA never calculates the cost of potential lawsuits in its forecasts when it is projecting its monetary savings.

    On the contrary, the litigation over the 2005 rape may have played a part in the decision to find a better way to deal with crime on the subway.The other function of the system is to provide information. Asking a station agent, outside the turnstiles, is one of the worst ways of getting information – they are almost never aware of service disruptions and they often give bad directions even when service is normal. I don’t know if the people who answer the information calls will be any better, but they can hardly be any worse.

    Also, sounds like a great idea at first, but if the MTA cannot control ‘scratchiti’ and already has to spend money on removing graffiti, how useful will these machines be after a few years when the technology will already be outdated and the MTA is first installing them? Not to mention, it will take additional funding to maintain these units even if the MTA were to work out a deal whereby they would not have to pay for the machines.

    I agree with your concerns regarding maintenance costs.But why would scratchiti be any more of a problem on these machines than on the MetroCard vending machines?

    If that were to be the case, those tablets probably would look more like bus shelter advertisements than information centers, with the useful information most likely delegated to a small section of the screen, or there might be annoying pop-up ads from neighboring restaurants blocking the directions you are trying to obtain.

    Have you been to Atlantic Avenue or Bowling Green to see the existing machines? There’s no need to speculate.If for some reason you can’t make it there in person, here’s an article and video: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2011-09/hands-mtas-go-mobile-station-47-inch-travellers-touchscreen

    Instead of all the service disruptions being displayed at once, customers would have to press icons for additional information.

    The system scrolls through the disruptions, line by line. If you need information about a particular line, you can touch it to jump ahead.

    They would also have to wait on line to use the machine if all the service information is not displayed at once, as is the case with the present paper notices, which the MTA recently spent money to redesign. How efficient is that?

    The service notice system is still very unwieldy. If this system is displaying service notices, it should display the notices that are most directly relevant to the location and time. Most people waiting at Sheepshead Bay probably don’t care that the 2 is running express in the Bronx. And while it may affect their future travels, it’s not immediately pressing that they be informed of a Q outage next week.

    What is the MTA’s real motive here? Do they really want to install these tablets to improve information? Or, such as with the Help Point Intercoms, is the MTA’s real motive to reduce the amount of human labor needed to post all those weekly service update notices, enabling them to further reduce its workforce?

    I’m impressed – somebody actually thinks that sending people around the system to tape up sheets of paper is a good way of informing the public of what’s happening!Never mind that they sometimes post the wrong sheets, or there’s a last-minute service change that they can’t get to in time, or a passenger pulls them down, or there’s a hodgepodge of different sheets covering different dates and different times of day.But none of that matters, since what’s most important is that the MTA pay lots and lots and lots of people to get the task done. They should all get big raises! That would be an excellent use of my fare dollars.

    They still do not recognize the need to update New York’s antiquated bus routing system, a major reason why bus ridership is decreasing and the reason why the use of car services keeps increasing. I counted more than 20 car services illegally parked, some even double-parked, outside of the Sheepshead Bay Road train station the other night. These cars would not be there if they were not profitable.

    I’m sure they’re profitable. Car services are faster than buses and, if they’re waiting outside the station, passengers don’t have to wait for them. They run door-to-door rather than dropping people off at the nearest bus stop. They can also serve destinations that don’t have sufficient ridership to support entire bus lines.

    Yet, the MTA shows no interest in trying to recoup lost bus ridership, or even estimate it. Once it is lost, the MTA just responds by further reducing bus service.

    Except for the MetroCard boost in the late 90′s, bus ridership has been on a steady decline for two decades.In part that’s because the subway has gotten much safer and more reliable since the 80′s. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s no reason to try to attract those former riders back to the bus.In part that’s because the bus has gotten slower. The MTA has been actively addressing some of the causes, especially on the busier lines. Bus lanes, signal priority, prepayment, and increasing stop spacing all help to make buses move faster.

    Yes, it is nice to know when the next bus is coming, but it is more important for buses to arrive on time. The MTA considers that to be largely out of their control. What do you think? Where should the MTA be concentrating its limited resources? In new technology, or in providing basic, reliable service? Bus Time may be able to do both, but that remains to be seen.

    I listed four ways to improve bus performance above. You’ve objected strongly to at least two of them, and now you’re objecting to technology that will help both riders and dispatchers know where buses actually are. So what do you recommend instead to get the buses to arrive on time? Magic?

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