Archive for the tag 'mta bus time'


THE COMMUTE: The MTA has always denied that bus bunching is a major problem. The party line has been that it is caused by traffic, is unavoidable, and little can be done to prevent it. The truth is that bus bunching occurs even on routes with light traffic that are scheduled to operate every 20 minutes, such as the B4, increasing the wait to 40 minutes. When I designed the B4 loop around Sheepshead Bay station in 1978, it was my hope that when two buses would arrive at once, the bus that was late would transfer passengers bound for the loop to the following bus and go straight along Emmons Avenue, thereby saving 10 minutes. However, I have seen two B4 buses follow each other around the station, with no action taken to help maintain the schedule.

Riding buses in New York City is a crapshoot. When the system works, it works well. When it doesn’t, bus trips take forever. There is no in-between. It has been my experience that between one-third to one-half of the time, a bus trip will involve a major delay. Subway riders, on the other hand, experience major subway delays no more often than once a week (excluding reroutes due to track work). Much more needs to be done to increase bus reliability.

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The Jackie Gleason Bus Depot. Photo by Erica Sherman

THE COMMUTE: Governor Andrew Cuomo, who I once said was “not a friend of public transit“ after he cut MTA funding, now has increased MTA funding by $358 million in the 2013/14 fiscal year budget. The question is what will the MTA do with this money? There are several alternatives. The MTA could:

  1. Return subway service crowding guidelines to what they were prior to the 2010 service cuts, thereby increasing subway service and reducing overcrowding.
  2. Restore all the 2010 bus service cuts. Some cuts may have been justified, but the MTA data presented at the time never conclusively proved that was the case. Routes with low ridership were eliminated, such as the B71 in Park Slope, when there were no suitable alternatives.
  3. Finally restructure the bus system to reflect land use changes made during the past 70 years. In many areas, needed bus route changes were never made because the MTA claimed they could not afford the added operational costs. Changes — such as the ones I mentioned here. I say “claimed,” because the MTA never considered increased revenue that would result from improved services, always assuming that additional service would not result in additional ridership or revenue.
  4. Provide new bus routes or extensions at minimal 30-minute service levels, attracting very new few riders.
  5. Provide managerial increases to managers who have not received a raise in five years and also not insist on a zero wage increase contract for the TWU.

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Chicago’s version of Bus Time on its bus shelters. Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: I previously wrote about the MTA’s bias against buses and their preference for the subways. Legible bus maps for all boroughs were not available until the early 1980s. Buses were harder hit than subways in the 2010 service cutbacks. However, perhaps the most obvious example is that, for 40 years, little has been done to solve the pervasive problem of bus bunching, the bus rider’s chief complaint.

Bus tracking systems have been promised since 1980 to remedy this problem. In fact, a trial system was installed around that time in the then-newly constructed Queens Village depot but was quickly dismantled due to union objections that “Big Brother” was watching. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) was more powerful back then and the MTA didn’t want to antagonize them, fearing a strike.

That system was not GPS-based and was referred to as a bus locator system — and it worked! It let managers know where buses were within a quarter-mile so they could be better regulated. Plans were underway to expand it system-wide to minimize bus bunching.

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Photo by Allan Rosen

Now that the B4 and other bus lines will be restored, you’ll want to ensure you’re not standing at that bus stop forever. To help with that, the city is expanding a GPS-driven program that will keep bus riders posted about real-time arrival estimates.

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