Bus Tracking Sabotage: NYPD Clogs 34th Street Lane After Displays Go Live


We’ve got two dispatches from the opening day of real-time bus arrival displays on 34th Street. First, the good photo: A reader sent the above shot of the display inside the shelter at Third Avenue. That’s a nice crisp presentation. Are the times accurate? None of the dailies ran blaring headlines about haywire displays today, so you’ve got to assume the tracking system performed decently.

A report in AMNY did say that the displays sometimes announced arrivals before any bus pulled up to the shelter. We have a theory about one factor behind the glitches: Maybe the bus riders who encountered overly optimistic countdown times were stationed at the eastbound stop on Park Avenue. Before buses could reach that shelter during the evening rush, they had to contend with a convoy of 12 police cruisers hogging the bus lane on the south side of 34th between Fifth and Sixth:

bus_lane_blockers.jpgThe 34th Street bus lane, yesterday at approximately 5:45 p.m.

Not only are these parked squad cars slowing buses down by forcing them into the other traffic lane, I’m guessing they’re also throwing the whole predictive bus tracking algorithm for a big loop.

The alert reader who sent the photo, recalling the last time bus-blocking police cruisers were sighted, noted that the squad cars came from several different precincts in a contiguous area of Brooklyn (the 61, 62, 66, 67, 70, 71, 72, and 78, to be specific). The NYPD has yet to respond to Streetsblog’s request for an explanation.

The mayor, who appeared personally at yesterday’s bus tracking presser, seems to be banking pretty heavily on a visible transit improvement to score points with voters this election season. Maybe this time someone at Bloomberg 2009 will ask the NYPD to stop using a heavily trafficked exclusive bus lane as their exclusive parking lot.

  • David_K

    Why does the NYPD do this? Is there some police-work related reason for lining up cars this way? I see this every so often, and I don’t get it (I work on 42nd between Park and Lex, and every couple of months or so, cop cars line up along the block. They don’t seem to be doing anything though — just sort of hanging out, chewing gum).

  • nygrump

    this looks like the regular “atlas” squad patrol, also known as the overtime trough, or welfare for the soft fascists

  • But there was a sale at le chateau! They have to look nice for their awards dinner!

  • fdr

    “Someone at Bloomberg 2009” better not tell the NYPD what to do. That’s the job of people in City Hall. There is supposed to be a difference between the government people and the political people, Kevin Sheekey notwithstanding.

  • The other side of 34th St. has two car lanes. If they’re going to continue to do this, why don’t they park the cruisers in one of the car lanes?

    By parking in the bus lane they’re inconveniencing many more PEOPLE–if fewer vehicles–than if they just left their cars sitting in one of the car lanes. They’re also perpetuating the infuriating notion that busriders are less important than everyone else.

    Leaving their cars parked in either lane is illegal, but leaving them in one of the car lanes in the 2-lane north side of 34th is less unethical.

  • se

    Haha, like the NYPD gives a damn about ‘illegal’ — I live near 34th, and they’re CONSTANTLY blocking the bus lanes — not just in huge groups, but single cars, especially around MSG where single cars get dumped between 7th and 8th.

  • Red Army

    The PD has decided to use 34th as the staging area /parking for anti-terrorism surges. The rationale for these surges seems highly dubious, though any load of crap with “anti-terrorism” attached to it seems to trump public transit or anything else. And no, I’m not an anti-terrorism expert but they don’t do this crap in Israel or London, both of which have dealt with a terrorist threat for many decades. And yes, the mayor should directly tell PD to park elsewhere. That’s why we elect mayors, to tell the cops to stop doing stupid things. Key word: elect.

  • c1rootz

    I see cops lined up like this all the time at 125th and Park around the Metro North station. It is a major bus corridor and the buses can’t get to the stop. I’ve been almost skipped more than once because of this. I want an explanation as to why they travel and park in packs like this.

  • James

    The NYPD really is like a “state within the state”, if you will. If they can be brought into line with the livable streets/pro-transit agenda, then so much of what we want to see happen will just fall into place. As it is now, they’re just an obstacle at best and an adversary at worst.

  • I think the chances of Bloomberg or anyone else twisting the PD’s arms to get them to stop this nonsense are approximately zero. They’re “New York’s Finest”, after all. One of the unspoken perks is immunity to any sort of traffic law.

  • Red Army

    Rhywun, this isn’t a parking perk. These cops are parked there because some police commander decided the bus lane is the best place for the cops doing the surges to hang out between convoys. Nor is it parking for a police precinct. These are cops from all over the city pulled off regular duty to drive around with their flashers on scaring terrorists out of Midtown. It’s clearly worked. There has been no terrorism in the 34th street bus lane since they started doing this.

  • ddartley

    There seems to be a consensus emerging among commenters that this is definitely the result of some terrorism drill.

    I’m not entirely convinced that’s what it is. Does someone here know for sure that’s what it is?

  • I don’t know for sure, Dave, but the NYPD does things like this with the stated goal of deterring and preparing for terrorist activity.

  • I \v/ NY

    this is exactly why i have been advocating for bus lanes to have moats around them with alligators and barbed wire.

    but seriously even just a small curb between the bus lane and the travel lane would prevent people from parallel parking in the lane as is the case here. this seperates it from the roadway and requires you to actually enter and exit the seperated bus lane. the police cars wouldnt do this if it was seperated because the police cars in the rear would be stuck until the ones in front pulled out.

    print out this image and either mail it to bloomberg or hand deliever it to the office of the mayor and demand an explanation.

  • Cap’n, I’m familiar with the surge or swarm exercises (I like to fancy myself the coiner of the phrase “critical mass for cops” (which has since been improved upon by others), and that’s why I doubt that this is one of those.

    The two instances of this bus lane thing that I’ve witnessed do NOT much resemble a surge exercise, aside from there being a handful of cop cars in a row.

    Surges (the “terrorism deterrent” exercises), from my own narrow experience as a witness, have dozens of moving cop cars, rather than one dozen parked and unattended cop cars.

    My (wild) guess is there’s some ceremony or function that goes on at some nearby hotel or something.

    Of course I have little to base this on; the only reason I’m speculating “out loud” like this is in case someone really is looking into it, I’m hoping I might help them avoid barking up the wrong tree.

    Streetsblog, I’d love to hear what NYPD says if they do reply to your request for an explanation.

  • I get it, Dave. Maybe it is something unrelated to these “surges,” but it could also be that a dozen or so of the cops decide to go grab a burger or something.

    If it’s not a “surge” or something where there’s a real justification for all these cops driving one or two to a vehicle, they could pick them all up in a van. But that wouldn’t be NYPD procedure.

    It’s not always the same block of 34th Street, right? This time it’s between Fifth and Sixth, but in one of the earlier incidents it was between Eighth and Ninth.

    You have to wonder what they would have done before the bus lane: park a dozen cruisers in the middle of the street? And you also have to wonder what will happen in Phase 2, when two adjacent lanes will become a “Transitway,” will they take up half the transitway?

    It’s like JSK baked a nice cake for the city’s bus riders, and Ray Kelly came along and took a big shit in it.

  • Of the two times I’m aware Streetsblog featured this activity, it’s been in the exact same spot: south side of 34th between 5th and 6th Aves.

    And parking a dozen cruisers “in the middle of the street” is exactly what I suggest they do. They’d screw fewer people that way: there are more people on a bus than people in a few cars, but of course busriders are sub-human.

    If they parked their cruisers in the same east/west spot, but on the north side of 34th where there are two car lanes. This way they’d leave the bus lane completely clear and one car lane completely clear. Why not?


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