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 and State Senate in the days ahead.

34thst_truck.jpgA 2009 survey by Borough President Scott Stringer’s office documented rampant bus lane blocking in Manhattan. Photo of 34th Street bus lane: Brad Aaron

Millions of New York City bus riders currently endure the slowest average travel speeds in the nation. The MTA and NYCDOT are counting on camera enforcement to help move buses faster on Select Bus Service lines and the city’s existing bus lane network. A similar enforcement regimen in London started saving bus riders time all the way back in 1997. With two SBS lines already operational and the high-profile East Side route slated to debut in a matter of months, the need to enact a bus camera program here has never been greater.

In Albany, the bill has cleared the Senate transportation committee but has yet to make any progress in Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Assembly. The home rule message should precipitate a committee vote in the Assembly early next week, and council members are calling on Albany not to let the opportunity go to waste. "Today’s home rule message sends a clear signal to the state legislature that expedient public transportation in bus lanes is a top priority for the city of New York," said Council Member Gale Brewer, who sponsored the resolution.

Brooklyn council members Charles Barron and Erik Dilan, and Queens council members Dan Halloran and James Sanders were the only ones to vote against bus cams.

If you feel a twinge of deja vu, that’s because we’ve reached this point before. In 2008, the City Council approved a home rule message for bus cams. But the Assembly failed to bring the bill to the full floor despite the fact that most members of the transportation committee were co-sponsors.

Rochester Democrat David Gantt, who chairs the transportation committee, was the public face of that debacle. But the fact remains that the Speaker, who represents a downtown Manhattan district directly served by the new East Side SBS line, can move legislation in the Assembly at will. So far, Silver and the Assembly leadership have not sent signals that they intend to let bus cams pass.

  • Ian Turner

    What was the rationale for the city council members who voted against?

  • It’s not too bad on 34th St nowadays. Aside from 1 NYPD van parked partially on the curb by Macy’s, the bus lanes were surprisingly clear of non-buses – a rarity! Perhaps this is due to an even rarer recent NYPD crackdown?

  • Paul

    Good question, Ian. What do you think about giving an annual award to the city pol who most consistently opposes bus, walk and bike legislation? The time may be ripe.

  • If the reason was to “have the back” of their car-owning constituency, that makes Erik Martin Dilan and Charles Barron’s votes even more inexcusable – the majority of their constituents commute via mass transit and do not own a car.

  • Ooh yeah, fight the power, Charles Barron!

  • In other “Charles Barron is a hypocrite on transportation issues” news, he is willing to shut down the subways to save free student Metrocards, but not to toll the bridges.

  • Bolwerk

    There really needs to be a movement to change this silly “home rule request” system. At the very least, such requests should be granted automatically if Albany ignores them.

  • Einztine

    To #2

    I work on 34th St between 7th and 8th Ave and the bus lanes are always blocked by either police vehicles or taxis dropping off passengers.

    I can confidentially say that not one day has gone by where at least one vehicle wasn’t blocking the lane. This is especially true on 34th between 8th and 9th Ave where for some reason there are always police cars parked there for hours upon hours.

    Enforcement cameras can make bus lanes work as long as fines are applied not only to private and commercial vehicles but also to government vehicles like police cars. Along with taxis, the police have been the biggest offenders of bus lanes and they should have to pay the price like everyone else.

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