Jim Brennan on Bus Cam Rejection: NYC “Irrationally Expanding” Bus Lanes

Thanks to reader Geck for sending along this email from Brooklyn Assembly member Jim Brennan, who was replying to a question about the rejection of bus lane cameras in the Assembly’s draft budget. The district that Brennan represents doesn’t include any bus lanes, existing or proposed. That didn’t stop him from offering this excuse:

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There are a variety of concerns with the proposal you write about. The Legislature has tended to consider many New York City specific traffic control measures outside of the budget process. Last year, for instance, we authorized an increase in red light cameras but the matter was considered separately. Usually we focus on New York City specific measures toward the end of the session but prior to the beginning of the New York City fiscal year which begins
on July 1.

One concern is that the proposal would cost the MTA $4 million for
installing the cameras but all the revenue would go to the City of New
York. The MTA does not benefit from the proposal. Another is that the
New York City Department of Transportation is irrationally expanding the
number of bus lanes in the City and creating excessive restrictions on
vehicles. Motorists would be overly penalized under such circumstances
from the use of these cameras.

I share you interest in the use of these devices to enable buses to move
more rapidly but these concerns need to be addressed. Thanks for writing.

Yours truly,
Jim Brennan
Member of Assembly

Brennan must not be aware that New York City’s 2.7 million daily bus riders currently endure the slowest average bus speeds in the nation. Nor that many routes in line for camera enforcement have been around for years. The handful of streets selected for new bus lanes were singled out for good reason. Select Bus Service on Brooklyn’s B44 corridor would help tens of thousands of riders who currently have to put up with the most unreliable bus route in the city. SBS on First and Second Avenues would serve one of the densest areas of the city and improve speeds on the bus route with the highest ridership in America. It will enhance service mainly on existing bus lanes that lack adequate enforcement.

As for those concerns about cost, a bus lane enforcement program with 40 cameras is projected to provide a net revenue gain of about half a million dollars each year, according to NYCDOT. The cost of installing and operating the program would come to $2.4 million annually, with the city handling adjudication and administration.

It should be pretty obvious that these figures are trivial compared to factors that actually shape the MTA budget, like the state’s theft of $118 million in dedicated transit taxes. But if the Assembly is concerned about where the revenue goes, why not amend the budget proposal, instead of completely rejecting a critical transit enhancement that stands to benefit millions?

  • unbelievable. simply unbelievable. Brennan is unabashedly prioritizing the needs of the polluting few over the needs of the green many. Bus lanes designed to work with cameras impose less capacity restrictions on mixed traffic than more intrusive lane self-enforcing lane designs! also, in terms of saving the MTA money the cams will return operating efficiencies to these routes that decrease the bus subsidy per passenger, as evinced on Fordham Road.

  • Sounds like someone’s mind is irrationally expanding

    Is this guy a Democrat? Is this guy for real? This guy just doesn’t get it. That is okay, we have plenty of fresh blood ready to replace people like this.

  • the most worrisome part for me is the notion that bus lane expansion has been irrational and the implicit idea that cars must receive priority over all else. When will people understand that cars should not receive the priority in all planning/traffic decisions? It is one mode (a minority mode for this city) that people take to move themselves about. I’m not clear why the car seems to be the trump card, but maybe Brennan needs to attend a multi-modal transportation 101 class to understand the diverse needs of PEOPLE in the city, not just the needs of cars.

  • Shemp

    When you get elected by a total of 5,000 total votes you don’t really give a shit about the actual majority of people or the issues they face.

  • Im a little bit confused about the proposed bus cameras.

    Will they be mounted on the street, by the bus lanes, such as red light cameras, or will they be on the BUS?

    Mounted on the street is pretty useless, so I really hope they plan on having them on the bus.

    Systems Im aware of work like this:
    Bus is always recording video. When the bus lane is blocked, driver pushed a button, which creates a time stamp. At the end of the day, someone reviews the time stamps to see if theyre valid. Because it’s video, it’s perfectly clear if the car is legally turning or illegally idling.

    I hope this is the system.

    If this is the system, why will it cost so much? Dont NYC buses already record video?

  • Keep in mind, also, that 53% of the households in Jim Brennan’s district don’t own cars (PDF). Some of them might take a bus east and transfer to the B44 Select. Many will have occasion to use the First/Second Avenue lanes in Manhattan.

  • Also keep in mind that the MTA-to-city money transfer issue is legitimate. There are plenty of ways to answer it, but it’s not something to be brushed off just because Brennan’s making stupid arguments elsewhere.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So, when I go to vote in November, will I have a real alternative to voting against Brennan? The last time that happened was in 2004, when I gave up a job and a lot of income to run against him myself.

    Everything I was objecting to has come to pass, more or less, although a couple of things did get briefly better. He isn’t the worst in Albany, but as Ed Koch said, the good ones aren’t good enough, and the evil ones are really evil. Why make distinctions when every decision that sells out our future (increasingly the present) passes with zero no votes.

    I put up or shut up. Anyone else, anywhere else?

  • Sounds like someone’s mind is irrationally expanding

    Sounds like might have to vote Republican. Worth a shot.

  • Think twice

    Readers, if you’re in his district—and I have a feeling many of you are—please calmly and collectively contact his office to enlighten him on the need for better traffic enforcement and bus lanes.

  • JK

    Jim Brennan ran on the Democratic and Working Families Line in 2008. On it’s website, WFP says “We need a transit system that’s affordable and reliable.” The party includes Public Transportation as one of it’s key issues. WFP’s “affiliates” include TWU 100 and ATU bus drivers. So, does WFP have anything to say to Brennan and other assembly members about bus enforcement cameras? Do the transit unions? The WFP has bashed the MTA hard for cutting student transit passes and is running a campaign calling on the mayor to save the MTA. Does the WFP have anything to say to the Assembly about bus cams? Anything?

  • Does anyone know the extent to which widespread use of bus lane cameras would be expected to improve bus speeds? Is 1% a reasonable estimate, e.g., from 8 mph (if that’s the current average) to 8.08?

    Based on well-established “time-elasticities” for transit ridership, a mere 1% improvement in bus speeds citywide would be expected to raise ridership by 5/10 to 6/10 of 1 percent (i.e., by 0.5-0.6%). This modest boost in ridership would increase NYC Transit bus revenues by $4 million, paying for the claimed $4 million in costs that Brennan identified in his letter as a “concern” and which, he argued, demonstrated that “The MTA does not benefit from the proposal.”

    I don’t know if 1% is a reasonable estimate of the likely gain in average bus speeds from bus lane cameras, though it seems plausible to me. If someone knows of an analysis, please share it here. Thanks.

  • Whoa I have to calm down before I contact his office.

    I second the the remark above from Think Twice: be calm when contacting Brennan. But do contact him. Not even necessarily about cameras in the budget specifically, but to school him, politely, on the important point that Aaron Smith refers to: policy makers must, at long mother@#$%@%$ last, start prioritizing numbers of people more than numbers of vehicles.

    Larry Littlefield. I hardly know anything about your run in 2004, but I do know that back then, there was no Livable Streets Network full of people who knew your name and wisdom. There is now. Just sayin.

  • JK

    Incidentally, in 2008, Brooklyn voters were really excited about Brennan, who didn’t face a primary.

    Brennan 26,490 votes
    Blank/Nobody 9,480
    GOP lady 4,919

    The Blank/Nobody/Apathy/”WTF is Brennan? I’m voting for Obama” line beat Working Families line which provided 2,779 of Brennan’s total.

  • Emily Litella

    Kill all ideas and let the market sort them out!

  • Felix

    Further proof the CBID is nearly useless.

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