Bus Riders Warm to Select Bus Service, Drivers Love Red Parking Lane

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New York City Transit staff introduce passengers to Bx12 Select Bus Service at Broadway and Isham in Inwood

New York City Transit’s Select Bus Service made its prime time debut this morning on the Bx12 line, which connects Co-op City in the Bronx with Inwood in Upper Manhattan via Fordham Road and 207th Street. As we reported in March, NYCT’s brand of Bus Rapid Transit lets riders prepay the fare at bus stops, resulting in quicker boarding times once the aqua blue SBS bus arrives. (Fare collection is limited to MetroCards and coins; credit card functionality still to come.) Contrary to reports that the fledgling service is universally despised, the attendant we spoke with said that, aside from some confusion over how to handle transfers, customers were adjusting well.

Changing motorists’ behavior is another matter. In spite of the fresh terracotta paint and new signage, the lanes on 207th Street were full of parked vehicles. As pictured after the jump, even transit supervisors were helping themselves, to the point that the NYCT employee mentioned it as a hindrance.

Thank you, David Gantt.

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Drivers, including NYCT supervisors, pack the bus lanes on Manhattan’s 207th Street

Photos: Brad Aaron

  • Send in the tow

    Tow trucks and lots of towing until motorists get it. Tow not ticket. If driver is in car they move or get towed. No waiting around for the friend buying Lotto tickets in the deli.

  • Bertrand Baupin

    David Gantt doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the private motor vehicles blocking the “Select Bus” lane in the Bronx today.

    Bus camera enforcement wouldn’t actually cause these cars to have moved out of the way. Camera enforcement would merely cause a summons to be sent to these drivers at some point in the future. This does nothing to help the 50+ commuters stuck in traffic because of these bozo drivers. Cameras only provide after-the-fact punishment. Cameras are not meaningfully preventative.

    Let’s place the blame where it really belongs: New York City DOT traffic engineers’ unwillingness to create physically-separated bus lanes on routes like this. Physical separation is the only thing that will keep NYC drivers out of bus lanes. Camera-enforcement is controlled by Albany and hasn’t proven to work all that well anywhere anyhow.

    Mike Primeggia still runs the show at DOT. He is unwilling to set aside street space to MTA buses on Fordham Road. And that’s why we have this problem.

  • Bob

    I agree – send in an army of tow trucks, people will change their behaviour very quickly. In Vancouver BC the curbside parking on many streets is banned during rush hour and at 4pm sharp when parking is no longer allowed there is a line of tow trucks ready and waiting to take the cars away. It’s very effective.

  • I don’t want to be rude, but the headline “bus riders warm to select bus service” seems to be pretty unsubstantiated other than the attendant saying that people are figuring out how the system works.

  • Jacob

    Yes Josh, but neither is the claim that bus riders on the new system were “baffled”, which NYDN based on 2 quotes instead on one. However, I do agree that Streetblog should aim for a higher standard of journalistic credibility than the Daily News.

  • When they ran the story this morning on “Good Day New York,” they showed a nice aerial shot of one of the nice new red “BUS ONLY” lanes. Of course right in the center of the shot was a white van sitting on its ass, totally blocking the lane, and two buses were driving around it.

  • I’m quite surprised the NYC DOT hasn’t given permission to tow companies to tow at will for this. They could really have a field day. In Boston, the tow truck drivers are ruthless. If you’re parked illegally, don’t expect to find your car when you come back.

  • How exciting to see some livable streets coverage of Inwood! I sometimes feel on Streetsblog that Manhattan’s uptown neighborhoods and the Bronx get very little mention (as opposed to midtown, downtown, and brownstone Brooklyn).

  • Imagine how we feel, you forgot to mention Queens often gets forgotten. We’re working hard out here to make things happen too.

  • Although I was as angry about camera enforcement being torpedoed by Albany, I agree with the previous posts that it wouldn’t provide immediate relief from unauthorized vehicles driving and parking in bus lanes. There are only two solutions to get bus (and bike) lanes respected: (1) physically separate the lane from automobile traffic so that it is difficult for cars and trucks to enter it, and (2) step up enforcement so that offending vehicles are immediately ticketed and towed. Very few people will want to make that mistake twice.

  • Hi Heffron #8, I didn’t mean to slight Queens. Actually, your group has been doing such a fabulous job getting Queens on the map and discussed (witness the recent and splendid Tour de Queens) that I considered yours to be a success story. But you’re right: livable streets issues in Queens certainly don’t get the same amount of coverage here as they do in Manhattan south of 96th Street and brownstone Brooklyn.

  • Richard Miles

    Curbside BRT is fundamentally problematic. The rest of the world puts BRT in the middle of the street to avoid trucks loading and unloading, taxis, police, ambulances, utility work and turning movements.

  • NY1 has been running favorable coverage of the BRT launch all morning, interviewing riders that shaved significant time off their morning commute. In many of the camera shots, though, you see cars blocking the bus lane.

    And Bertrand, in #2 – I bet if there had been a press campaign about the busses with violation-recording cameras, a large number of people that were in the bus lane this morning would have chosen not to stop there, knowing that the ticket would be soon to follow.

  • No sweat Urbanis, I just always like to work the plug in whenever possible. Part of the reason for the focus is that folks have been working longer in downtown Manhattan and B’land than elsewhere, so yeah they’re seeing the fruits of their labors come to, uh, fruition?

    And we won’t be getting any SBS in Queens anytime soon. Our friends at the Queens Civic Congress helped killed the pilot route along Merrick to Jamaica b/c it would take away parking. Which is a shame b/c we could really use SBS in Eastern Queens where transit is pretty sparse to say the least.

  • anonymouse

    “The rest of the world puts BRT in the middle of the street.”
    False. In Paris, for example, the BRT/bike lanes are curbside. You might be thinking of something like Bogota or Curitiba, but their busways are in the middle of huge boulevards, and you don’t exactly have a Queens Blvd available in Inwood.

  • anonymouse #14, are the curbside BRT/bike lanes in Paris physically separated from the automobile roadbed? How successfully are they enforced?

  • m-o

    You know what would be interesting? if the DOT set up a system allowing independant tow trucks to tow from these lanes, report their towings to the DOT. people with towed cars could check w/ the DOT, figure out where their cars were, and everybody wins! towing companies compete for pulling from the bus lanes, lanes stay cleared, and people who have towed cars can hopefully still track down where their car has been taken. and nobody waits/deals with for the NYPD.

    it’s hastily thought out, but still.

  • I agree with the sentiment that blaming David Gantt is a reach in this case. I also agree with cameras not being the end all saving grace for speeding up bus travel.

    It is quite pathetic when the MTA’s own employees are breaking the law by parking in the bus only lane. What a great way to send a message to the “cars matter & everything else doesn’t” mentality that exists with the majority of drivers.

    How quickly they forget where they came from when they depended on mass transit such as city buses to get from Point A to Point B.

  • MrManhattan

    M-O,

    The BEST part of your plan is that it doesn’t involve the City imposing “fines”, Just the fee to the private tow company.

    Since the city’s not imposing a “fine”, we should be able to implement the change without asking “Mother May I?” from Albany.

    Again, DOT are you listning???

  • I am very happy with the service. I travel from Coop City in the Bronx to 207 Street and the mob of people is a nightmare. It saved me about 20 minutes today. I am worried about what MTA will do when the machines run out of receipts. I would also like to have the City and State of NY stop passengers from riding with open coffee cups and eating on the bus. They should give out violation tickets for littering! These people leave a real mess for other riders. Excellent option this Select Bus!

  • CC

    To Urbanis:

    Yes, most of the new (well, several years old by now) bus lanes in Paris are physically separated. There is a rounded concrete curb to make it an obvious separation, but it’s a curb that can be driven over if need be.

    Enforcement is generally good and overall drivers in Paris have gotten the message. Keep in mind that many of these lanes are actually tri-purpose: bus, taxi, bike, and I think that works well.

    (As a cyclist who lived in Paris for several years, I was just as happy, or happier, riding in the bus/taxi/bike lane as I was the bike-only separated lanes, since those are narrow and more easily blocked/full of crap.)

    Paris does have a few central bus lanes but most are curbside. There are advance greens for buses/bikes at some signals too. The definition of BRT is rather diluted these days. What’s in Paris would qualify although it’s not a full-blown system of BRT elements everywhere you go in the city.

  • The main problem I see is that in several places where it IS avoidable, +SBS buses and local Bx12 buses share the same stop. IMO, for instance, at Pelham Bay Park, the Bx12 WESTBOUND SBS stop should be moved onto Bruckner Boulevard, instead of where it is now. Similarly, the Eastchester Road, Williamsbridge Road, and Fordham Plaza (WB) stops should be moved.

    As for the initial problems, people will learn rather quickly this new (to NYC) concept.

    P.S. I have pictures that can be used here if needed of +SBS buses 5735 and 5765, as well as a stop picture.

  • ItsME

    What time was this picture taken?…remember the bus lane on W 207th St is rush hrs only. Only Fordham Rd is 7am-7pm.
    I agree though that there has to be zero tolerence for bus lane violation. Waiting for a friend, doesnt make it any better than parking and leaving. Your still blocking the lane.
    NYC driver will do what they want, but if you ticket and TOW cars, consistently people will eventually get the message. Giving warnings won’t cut it.

  • M to the I

    As one of the people that were helping customers with the new SBS Bx12 bus service today I can tell you that many customers think that the new service is a great idea. Some told me that, ‘it was about time New York City moved into the 21st century.’ Others don’t care or don’t understand what the benefit will be just yet. Very few are hostile to the idea of pre-paid boarding.

    As for the cars in the bus lanes…NYPD were out like never before. Their cars were patrolling Fordham Road and issued tons of tickets. There were lots of tow trucks driving around ready to tow any cars parked in the bus lane. As I was walking around later I heard people talking about all of the cars in the bus lanes getting tickets. Great job for the NYPD today. I hope they keep it up.

  • m-o

    M to the I, that’s awesome to hear. thanks for sharing that.

  • It must have worked, M. As of 5:15 p.m. the westbound lanes of 207th Street were free of vehicles, from what I could see.

    ItsME, the pic was taken near the end of morning rush. The lanes were basically full all the way down 207. The attendant I talked to said it had been a problem all morning. Maybe Inwood got the brunt of the enforcement in the afternoon.

  • An addendum to my earlier post:

    Here is 5765 at Pelham Parkway and Boston Road, and 5735 eastbound at Fordham Plaza. You can use either of them here as long as my name (Adam Moreira) is credited.

  • uSkyscraper

    Saw six SBS buses sitting at Isham as I got on the subway this morning. I cried a tear as I thought about the suffering those poor passengers would go through as the promised time savings collapsed in a pool of idiot lane blockers. You would think MTA and NYPD would be out in a show of force to train drivers about the red bus lanes, but that would require some intelligence.

    The double parking culture of upper Manhattan will not change overnight. Massive, sustained enforcement (with lots of cops to control burly, angry drivers) will be needed.

  • Bus Man

    False. In Paris, for example, the BRT/bike lanes are curbside. You might be thinking of something like Bogota or Curitiba, but their busways are in the middle of huge boulevards, and you don’t exactly have a Queens Blvd available in Inwood.

    Anonymouse,

    Actually, you are incorrect. Significant portions of Paris’s BRT system, Le Mobilien, runs through the middle of the street rather than running along the curb. In fact, there’s a photo of one such BRT lane here on Streetsblog and you’ll notice that this isn’t a “huge boulevard,” either:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/04/22/paris-is-the-new-london-will-new-york-be-the-new-paris/

    The people who run Le Mobilien say that these segments of BRT running down the middle of the boulevard are the fastest and most efficient and better than the curbside bus lanes.

  • uSkyscraper

    Sorry for my angry post earlier – I wrote it before seeing the comments taht cops were out enforcing the lanes. Good show.

    Some more fuel for the centre-lane fodder:

    Montreal used to run BRT in the centre lanes IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION on a street that had a median. Rather clever, since it allowed them to use regular right-side-door buses and central stations. However, it was confusing for pedestrians and there were fatal accidents, so service was stopped.

    Another parallel is the Toronto streetcar system. Most routes run in completely normal traffic and the busier lines use proof-of-payment. (Not exactly the same as prepaid, but close enough). All tracks are in the middle of the road. A few shelters are on narrow medians where possible, but in most cases the stops are at the curb and traffic halts while people walk to the streetcar. There are still problems on narrow streets at times (especially during big snowfalls) and it does cause delays due to left-turning cars, but there is some logic to avoiding the impossible-to-enforce curb.

  • Xaviera

    I don’t like this…

    If the point is, indeed, to speed up boarding, why is the ticket void after only ONE HOUR? Wouldn’t it be just as fast if the boarding pass expired after a more reasonable time period, like a year?

  • Xaviera, I agree that it’s not obvious at first. But the point is that you’re paying to ride that time, possibly with your metrocard that expires a year later, and if the boarding pass expired a year later, you could ride for a year on the cost of one ride.

  • To Xaviera:

    The reason it is valid for only one hour is likely because the time expected to be on the bus for one trip isn’t expected to be more than one hour. Now, in the rare event of a severe delay that could cause tickets to expire before the destination is reached, the B/O should let enforcement know that the bus is severely delayed.

  • I agree that the select bus service is useless if they do not enforce the bus lane. I ride the 12 bus contantly and it takes me the same amount of time if not more than the older service. The reason is not only because of the bus lane, but because the driver usually has to wait for people to get a receipt. How does that save time? Most people do not get the opportunity to buy the ticket ahead of time, especially if they are coming from the train. There should be a machine at train stations as well, where one can get bus receipts. I do, however, think that if bus lanes are enforced and the process for getting receipts is improved, this could be a way faster bus ride.
    Also, I’ve heard that some people feel discriminated against because those who live on the select bus service stops get better service than those who live on the local stops. However, I do not feel MTA is discriminating. It’s smarter to provide express stops to areas where the most people travel.

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