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Bus Rapid Transit

State Senate Undermines Better Enforcement for New Bus Lanes

The New York State Senate has proposed diluting the bus lane enforcement provisions in the governor's draft budget, a maneuver that threatens the effectiveness of new corridors in the city's fledgling rapid bus network.

potential_nostrand_sbs.jpgBus lanes planned for the B44 corridor in Brooklyn would miss out on camera enforcement under the Senate's budget resolution. Image: NYCDOT

New York City's strategy to enhance bus service depends on camera enforcement -- which can't be enacted without Albany's approval -- to keep exclusive bus lanes clear of traffic. Governor Paterson's draft budget included a robust program for bus cams. The State Senate's budget proposal, released this week, alters the governor's plan and would lead to a more restricted, less effective program, Streetsblog has learned.

The Senate version limits camera enforcement to existing bus lanes. That could slow down riders on new Select Bus Service routes, including parts of First and Second Avenues and upgrades slated to improve trips for tens of thousands of riders in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

While the Senate passed its budget resolution Monday night, there's still a window to restore better bus cam provisions. The governor, the Senate, and the Assembly must all reach a budget agreement, and the bus cam language won't be final until they do.

Dilan2007NEWHEADSHOTBIO.jpgState Senate transportation chair Martin Malave Dilan.

"Select Bus Service is the most important and promising project for bus
riders in years," said Lindsey Lusher Shute, director of environmental
campaigns at Transportation Alternatives. "The New York State Senate needs to revise their bus camera language and give
SBS their full support. We expect the Assembly to do the same."

If
the Senate language were to emerge from the budget process, riders on the B44 route in
Brooklyn, which currently has no bus lane, would lose out. The B44 serves 42,000 riders daily and received the Straphangers Campaign
2009 Schleppie Award as the city's most unreliable bus route
. SBS upgrades on the B44 recently received a $28 million federal funding commitment and could go into effect as soon as 2012.

Some of
the route falls within the district of Martin Malave Dilan, chair of
the Senate Transportation Committee.

Graham Parker, a spokesperson for Dilan's office, described the Senate
bus cam language as an attempt to establish a "pilot program"
that would be monitored and evaluated before being expanded. (New York's red light camera program is also designated as a pilot, which must be renewed and expanded with Albany's approval, even though it's been around for the better part of two decades.) He indicated that the Senate would consider amending its resolution to enable camera enforcement on new SBS routes. "We'll take a look at it, if it's something that needs to be included in this pilot program," he said.

On the East Side of Manhattan, long sections of First and Second Avenues already have designated bus
lanes, but significant stretches do not, leaving parts of the Select
Bus Service route slated to debut later this year vulnerable under the
Senate language. Select Bus Service planned for Hylan Boulevard in
Staten Island would also be compromised.

State Senator Liz Krueger, who has advocated for strong bus enhancements for her East Side constituents, is "very concerned" about the Senate bus cam provisions, said a spokesperson, and will work to change the language in the budget.

Over in the Assembly, where transportation chair David Gantt killed bus cams two years ago, Sheldon Silver's house is expected to pass a budget resolution this afternoon.

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