It’s Up to Albany to Give Select Bus Service Its Flashing Lights Back

Photo: ## Bus/Flickr##

The elimination of flashing blue lights on the MTA’s Select Bus Service vehicles is probably the most absurd transit setback of the past year. Since New York state law limits the use of flashing blues to volunteer firefighters, the MTA caved in to pressure from Staten Island pols and took them off SBS buses this January.

The flashing SBS lights are important for a few reasons. At the top of the list is that they help riders distinguish between local buses and SBS buses. Without an easy way to tell the buses apart, boarding takes longer and buses get delayed.

While it may seem equally absurd that this issue needs a legislative fix in Albany, that does seem to be the case. A bill sponsored by Assembly Member Micah Kellner and State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein would enable SBS buses to use flashing purple lights. The Assembly bill has 12 co-sponsors, and while the Senate version has none, it should benefit from Klein’s leadership position. Along with speed camera legislation and the transit lockbox bill, this one of three bills in Albany that livable streets advocates have their eyes on as the end of the current legislative session approaches this Thursday.

  • Jeff

    When you look around the world and see the bold, innovative things various cities are doing with BRT and transportation in general, it speaks volumes about NYS that we’re holding our breath over a bill to allow flashing lights on busses.

  • Mark

    The MTA brought this on themselves. The lights they used on the S79 on Staten Island were different from the ones on the other routes and were MUCH brighter and more distracting. They could legitimately be confused for emergency vehicle lights and were blinding at night.

    The ones used on every other route were much dimmer and flashed on and off more like turn signals, instead of strobing like the S79 lights. They should bring back the lights as they were on the M34, assuming they get legislative approval since it is technically illegal.

  • Guest

    “Technically”, it’s up to Albany. (No doubt, City legislators will have to vote in support of some upstatePractically speaking, all it takes is for Ray Kelly to issue a memorandum that no MTA bus in NYC will be pulled over for flashing blue lights. An injunction on enforcing the “flashing light” law from a friendly judge can add a legal imprimatur. Do Bloomberg, Sadik-Khan or Prendergast have the cojones?

  • Andrew

    Until the M34 got articulated buses a few months ago, the M34 and S79 ran the exact same type of bus, with the exact same type of flashing light.

    It’s been a while, but I don’t recall strobes on the S79. I do remember strobes on the initial SBS buses on the Bx12, though – and I frankly didn’t see the problem.

  • Mark

    I’m not going to say you’re wrong, as it has been a while, and I’m typically a pedestrian by the M34 and a driver by the S79, but I definitely think the S79 lights were an order of magnitude brighter and more distracting. Additionally, the S79 doesn’t have a dedicated lane for the majority of its route, and doesn’t have any special priority over other traffic the way the M34 does, so the use of the lights in that situation didn’t make as much sense as they do in a dedicated bus lane.

  • Andrew

    The point of the lights is to be visible to people waiting for the bus, not to indicate anything in particular to other motor vehicles. Of course, if drivers illegally using the bus lanes and bus stops take it as their cue to move, I won’t object.


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