Assembly Member Nick Perry Tried to Weaken Bus Lanes All Over NYC

Riders board the B46 SBS at the bus stop where the route connects to the 3 and 4 trains. Photo: David Meyer
Perry bill’s aimed to weaken bus lane enforcement on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route — the B46, where Select Bus Service debuted last week — as well as bus lanes throughout the city. Photo: David Meyer

Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry
Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.

The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.

All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”

In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.

Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].

But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.

Perry held that bus lane enforcement is “intended to make money for the city” and framed his bill as an effort to address “neighborhood concerns” in his district and prevent putting “commuters in an adversarial position with residents.”

East Flatbush residents, however, are “the commuters” on the B46. About half the households in Perry’s district don’t own cars, and 61 percent of workers along the B46 route get to work on transit, according to DOT and the MTA. At the same time, the neighborhoods Perry represents are among the densest in the city without convenient subway access — that’s why no bus route in Brooklyn has more riders than the B46.

Faster bus service for those 44,000 passengers is not Perry’s priority. While his bill did not pass this legislative session, Perry is still trying to water down the bus lanes on Utica Avenue. He has asked DOT to consider peak-only enforcement and to allow commercial vehicles to park in the bus lane mid-day.

Perry’s bill would have made bus lane enforcement unworkable during midday hours on routes all over the city. Select Bus Service map: NYC DOT

Perry says merchants have complained to him about delivery access with the bus lanes. In response, DOT said it added commercial loading zones on Utica.

During the planning process, DOT and the MTA scaled back bus lane enforcement on Utica from 24 hours per day to weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but the agencies have not compromised service further in response to pressure from Perry. When B46 SBS debuted, the bus lane hours and extent of the bus lanes — between St. John’s Place and Fillmore Avenue — matched the project description in public presentations going back to last year.

DOT sent the following statement regarding Perry’s bill.

DOT and the NYPD both opposed Assembly Member Perry’s bill and think it would be a step back for bus riders in New York City, as it would undermine SBS’ underlying goal of ensuring that the majority of people who travel Utica Avenue by bus — 44,000 per day — keep moving. Simply put, it would be difficult and potentially dangerous for drivers to try to judge their distance from buses in front or behind them.

DOT has been committed to a thorough public engagement around SBS. DOT and NYCT conducted extensive outreach and worked closely with the community and local officials in planning this route, including holding over 25 meetings, open houses and workshops. As a result of this outreach and collaboration, we have created commercial loading zones along Utica Avenue to accommodate deliveries and have limited bus-lane hours to be only 7am-7pm to parallel the bus-lane restrictions along the nearby B44 Nostrand Avenue SBS corridor.

Regarding enforcement, a 60-day warning period to motorists began last week following the July 3rd launch. Motorists will not receive camera violations during that period, which will end approximately September 6.

When done properly, organizing busy streets with bus lanes can be a win-win, improving bus travel times without causing slowdowns or diversions of other traffic, and at the same time increasing the safety of busy streets like Utica, which is a Vision Zero priority corridor based on past crash data.

  • Come to NYC: We have the worst politicians.

  • Larry Littlefield

    And who is running against him, and telling the bus riders that Perry is their enemy?

    No one. Running against an incumbent is illegal in New York. And the serfs living in his district are not reading Streetsblog.

  • snobum

    If cars could get out the way of buses that easily, it would mean traffic is free-flowing. If traffic is free-flowing, there should be no reason for the cars to be in the bus lane in the first place.

  • Andres Dee

    How would motorists know that a bus was approaching? Blinking lights, perhaps?

  • Joe R.

    This quote is priceless: “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].”

    This is the same mentality which causes people to say bike lanes are a waste of road space if they’re not packed with bikes. I think due to the horrific traffic levels we have in this city drivers are so conditioned to seeing every inch of space packed with vehicles that they consider a road underutilized if that isn’t the case.

    If we’re so concerned with efficient use of resources, then we should include time. Emptier streets mean less wasted time. While we’re at it, if Perry is so concerned about car trips taking longer because a bus lane supposed hogs needed street space, how about putting traffic signals on sensors? It’s an even bigger waste on many levels forcing drivers to stop when nothing is coming. Why isn’t Perry concerned about that? Sensors might even speed up buses, even if we don’t give them signal priority, by just ending the frequent sitting at red lights when there’s no cross traffic.

  • neroden

    What is *wrong* with these legislators?

  • vbtwo31984

    “DOT and the MTA scaled back bus lane enforcement on Utica from 24 hours per day to weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

    You sure it’s only weekdays? All the signs say 7am to 7pm without mentioning the days, thus I assumed it’s every day – including weekends.

  • Jeremiah Clemente

    This is a stupid idea. If this B.S bill is enacted, I would be saying goodbye to a 25 minute ride from Flatlands To Bedford-Stuyvesant. Also, if cars have to merge in and out of lanes, the motorists will also be delayed. This bill would result in delays for not only bus passengers, but those driving cars as well. Is Nick Perry trying to turn Utica Avenue into one of the Manhattan crosstown bus routes (the M79 was one of the slowest routes in the city)?

  • Jeremiah Clemente

    I’m not sure about the days as well, but the 7 A.M to 7 P.M enforcement rule should be standard on all bus lanes. Have you seen plans for Woodhaven Blvd SBS? They will take one traffic lane in each direction at ALL TIMES. This is insane. Why couldn’t the DOT scale the enforcement back to 7 A.M to 7 P.M, like the other SBS bus lanes in the city?

  • Andrew

    How is it insane to provide speedy and reliable bus service to weekend and evening riders?

    There is no one standard rule for bus lane hours, nor should there be one, since bus rider needs and traffic impacts vary from location to location. Some bus lanes are already in effect 24/7 (e.g., Webster Avenue); some are only in effect during rush hours.

  • Jeremiah Clemente

    The concept of providing speedy weekend and evening service is fine. The only problem with these lanes is the late night service. Usually buses operate hourly at night and all but 3 SBS routes don’t even operate at night. On the buses themselves, there could be barely any passengers on them and traffic volumes are usually low and fast. It makes no sense to enforce a bus lane from violators during the day but not at night when we have low traffic volumes.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

City Council to Albany: NYC Wants Bus Lanes That Work

|
Yesterday the New York City Council voted 46-4 to keep dedicated bus lanes free of traffic using camera enforcement. The measure, known as a home rule message, is a necessary step before state legislation can authorize a bus cam program. Attention now turns to Albany, where the bill faces critical votes in both the Assembly […]

Silver Fails to Stop Bus Lane Camera Bill in Assembly [Updated]

|
Update 10:06 p.m.: The story has been updated to reflect the final official vote tally in the Assembly of 79-60. Tonight, the Senate passed its companion bill with an unofficial vote tally of 51 in favor and 8 opposed. The bill to preserve and expand the use of NYC’s bus lane enforcement cameras squeaked by in a rare contested vote in the Assembly […]