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 yesterday afternoon. Former speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, sided against the bill, but it mustered only a few votes more than the minimum needed to pass and now goes to the State Senate.

Shelly Silver lets us know what he really thinks about bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube
The face of the opposition to bus lane enforcement. Image: NYSAssemblyMinority/YouTube

The bill, sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Nily Rozic, would extend camera enforcement of bus lanes in New York City for another five years and expand the program from a maximum of six routes to as many as 16. In the Assembly, 76 votes are needed for a bill to pass, and Rozic’s bill garnered 79 votes to 60 against.

The Senate version is sponsored by Brooklyn Republican Martin Golden. Without action from the Senate, the enforcement program will expire on September 20.

Silver, whose district is served by the camera-enforced M15 bus, urged members to vote against the bill. “I think this clearly is a revenue enhancer for the City of New York and nothing else,” he said on the floor of the Assembly. “It is a trap for motorists.”

Silver led the Assembly when it first rejected bus lane cameras in 2008 and when it finally approved a limited program for New York City in 2010. Yesterday, he objected to the expansion of the program under Rozic’s bill, which would allow the city to use the cameras on 10 additional bus routes of its choosing.

With any NYC bus lane eligible for camera enforcement, bus riders on some of the busiest routes in the city could get faster trips. The Fifth Avenue bus lane, for instance, carries 90 buses per hour during the morning rush and transports 78,000 people each day, according to stats Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg cited on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning.

Silver was also not pleased that cameras would be allowed on streets with fewer than two car lanes, claiming that drivers going around double-parked cars would have no choice but to enter the bus lane and get a ticket. (Silver didn’t mention that bus lanes, which are almost always along the curbside or offset from the parking lane, are where people would illegally park if not for camera enforcement.)

Also opposing the bill was Republican Nicole Malliotakis, who has worked with other Staten Island officials to oppose bus lane enforcement. “I’m one of the ones who has complained most about the cameras, and we have been successful in getting some of them removed,” she said. “I think that the City of New York has utilized this program to set up these traps for people.”

In fact, bus lanes have played a key role in speeding bus trips: On 125th Street, local buses — which don’t benefit from off-board fare collection and limited stops like Select Bus Service — are moving up to 20 percent faster on camera-enforced bus lanes.

Staten Island Democrat Matthew Titone, who also opposes bus lane enforcement, followed Malliotakis and Silver. “I can’t believe I have to speak after Mr. Silver and Ms. Malliotakis agreed with each other,” he said to laughs from the chamber. “Where the heck am I?”

  • snobum

    I seriously don’t understand how people can say bus lane cameras are a trap. Stay out of the bright red bus lanes. How hard is that? I used to get aggravated as a driver seeing cars in the bus only lanes on the SIE. They deserve it.

  • BridgeTroll

    Only bus he’ll ever ride in:

  • djx

    I literally saw the headline and thought “Isn’t he doing time?”

  • djx

    Yeah. Though I have some sympathy on the issue of driving around double-parked cars.

  • stairbob

    We all know how concerned TWU drivers are with making their schedules. I assume they have been lobbying hard and this will have no problem passing with the help of their friends in the Senate.

  • snobum

    How would you have to drive into a bus lane to get around a double parked car?

  • ahwr

    How about on Nostrand/Rogers?

  • ahwr

    I’d expect almost all bus lane violations to be intentional, but there might be some room to improve signage:

    http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Lead-picture-for-Part-5-702×527.jpg

  • kevd

    Soon…. Soon.

  • Bolwerk

    1) Fine double parkers near bus lanes some exorbinant sum on top of what the city already charges for double parking. Something like thousands of dollars per violation should be lenient enough. That might work out to a few dollars per person injured.

    2) Enforce it.

    3) Watch the problem almost solve itself.

  • kevd

    people frequently use the bus lane on Nostrand and Rogers to get a head of slow and stopped traffic on the general traffic lane.
    Basically a driver wishing to turn checks to see no buses are coming, then moves into the bus lane for 1/2 or 3/4s of a block and then makes a turn.
    It slows no-one and they don’t get a ticket.

    Someone getting around a double parked vehicle can do the same.
    No bus coming? Go around the double parked car with no chance of being ticketed (as cameras are on buses). Bus coming? Then wait for the bus to pass.

    Maybe buses should have cameras to ticket people double parked in the other lane, too….

  • kevd

    I can’t wait till that jerk is in prison.

  • Reader

    82% of households in Sheldon Silver’s district do not own a car.

    http://www.tstc.org/reports/cpsheets/NYCassembly_factsheet_district%2064.pdf

  • kevd

    But HE does. And that’s who he is most concerned with.

  • Matthias

    Put him in a bus stuck behind cars blocking the bus lane–now there’s a trap thousands of people experience daily.

  • HamTech87

    I’m confused as to how this works. On the M60 bus, it seems the driver is the one taking the photo, and the driver is very very reluctant to actually do that. So any pictures are for the most egregious violations.

  • snobum

    I wasn’t familiar with that design but just looked into it. If that’s the case, they should be in the bus lane for no more than a car length to get around the double parked car. It would be clear from the picture/video that the person had no other choice. There are times that cars are allowed to enter the bus lane (such as preparing to park or right turns), so it’s not like everyone who ever enters a bus lane is getting ticketed.

    If anything, the law should be extended to be able to ticket someone by camera who causes someone else to enter the bus lane by obstructing the road.

  • HamTech87

    As was said many times before, this is a problem because politicians are ALWAYS driving in cars, even in the most urban districts. The only time politicians ride transit, or walk or bike, is for a photo op.

  • stairbob

    The cameras are installed at fixed locations along the bus lanes.

  • snobum

    I do think, in general, the DOT needs to find better paint. It wears out very quickly.

  • djx

    OK, but how does that help me or any driver in the near- or medium-term? Do I just have to wait behind the double parker till he/she returns? Call the police myself and wait? What?

  • Bolwerk

    I doubt there is any way to make double parking completely nonexistent, but making it just about nonexistent would help you or any other driver, no?

  • kevd

    But HE does. And that’s who he is most concerned with.

  • ahwr

    Oh please. He has a driver.

  • AnoNYC

    Why would you enter a curbside bus lane to pass a double parked car? A double parked car would be in the bus lane.

  • AnoNYC

    This is so ridiculous. All buses in NYC should have cameras.

    What a stupid game these politicians play, at the expense of the constituency.

  • ahwr

    You’re still not offering anything to a driver on Nostrand or Rogers who isn’t sure if he is allowed to go in the bus lane to pass a double parked car without turning at the next intersection, or if he isn’t turning if he has to sit there waiting who knows how long for the double parked car to move, presumably honking the whole time pissing off everyone in the area. A rule that says you’re allowed to go into the bus lane to pass a double parked car if it doesn’t delay a bus, or if there isn’t a bus within XXX feet/car lengths, or on that block etc…or whatever standard allows drivers to pass an illegally stopped vehicle without delaying a bus, and one that is clear enough for a typical driver to recognize when it’s permitted is probably what djx is looking for, and it seems reasonable to offer.

    http://web.mta.info/mta/planning/sbs/faqs.htm

    This doesn’t say. It says how to turn right, pick up/drop off passengers, and that you can’t wait for a parking spot or load/unload goods in the bus lane. It should offer guidance on what is permitted if the only general traffic lane is blocked by a double parked car/loading truck etc…

  • stairbob

    Here’s Nostrand, which is 2 lanes, one of those for buses. Drivers are happy to double park on either side.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.656327,-73.950193,3a,75y,0.09h,80.9t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sV4k1tObuutascyuxJTMUbw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

  • stairbob

    So taxpayers pay for his driver, and then we pay again with the crap laws he makes from his backseat windshield perspective?

  • Bolwerk

    Why don’t you write to the MTA or DOT and ask? However, unless the law explicitly states otherwise, it’s safe to assume it’s a violation.

    I don’t even see why it shouldn’t be. Should drivers on narrow Lower Manhattan streets be allowed to drive on the sidewalk to get around double parked (or in some cases, simply parked) vehicles?

  • I suppose the hidden good news in here is that companies that make bus lane cameras are clearly not splurging lots of money on “lobbying”, in the way that so many other companies are tempted to do when dealing with state legislators.

  • Joe R.

    I agree. Drivers make their own mess by double parking. Let them deal with the consequences of it.

  • AnoNYC

    Alternatively, drivers could yield to oncoming buses along that stretch and not get ticketed.

    If the city implemented physically protected bus only lanes this would not even be an issue.

    Unfortunately.

  • djx

    We’re asking you because you’re pushing back against a reasonable need/question.

    But yeah, my question leads to our being able to drive over sidewalks, Asking to go in a bus lane to pass a double-parked car without being ticketed is such a slippery slope. Sure.

  • djx

    What total BS. Lumping the whole group together. If you drive, then stuff worse drivers do is your problem.

    It’s like when pedestrians get mad at some cyclists for crap other cyclist pulled.

    PS – I double park sometimes. Never in a way that blocks traffic. Would never do it in a bus lane.

  • Its a trap for motorists. If only there was some sort of signage and manual which told the how to avoid these traps. So sneaky, laws and all. I mean, how are you supposed to know stop signs mean stop, speed limits mean limit your speed, bus lanes are for buses. Crazy! Cannot believe the government is pulling this sneak attack. Its an all out assault on motorists. K, I’m done.

  • Likely not just him, but his donors.

  • Joe R.

    My point here is double parked cars shouldn’t delay buses because other cars go in the bus lane to get around them. I’m not lumping everyone together. I’m simply saying only cars should have to deal with the mess other cars create, not buses. Sure, if you’re a wonderful driver who never does anything inconsiderate I feel for you when you’re delayed waiting ten minutes for some double-parked jerk to move but I’m not seeing why the city needs to do anything to keep cars moving when some drivers congest the streets by double-parking. Let the delayed drivers keep getting on cases of people who double-park and maybe we’ll see a lot less double parking. I think of it as peer pressure. That’s sort of the theory behind group punishment in school where the teacher punishes the entire class. Eventually the kids who behave get tired of being punished and start making life hard for the troublemakers.

    The city should have more loading zones so you don’t need to double park while you’re loading or unloading.

  • Bolwerk

    I didn’t “push back.” I mentioned the solution to the problem, probably the only one that could be effective to all stakeholders involved.

    And no, there is no slippery slope fallacy in my example. As it stands, traffic law specifies when you can enter a bus lane and how. You can’t, as a single-occupant vehicle driver, enter HOV/carpool lanes on highways just because there’s a traffic jam either. Conveniently being able to physically do something doesn’t make it legal.

  • AnoNYC

    And how does not ticketing drivers along this stretch help bus riders?

  • walks bikes drives

    I don’t think he has a tax payer funded driver any longer. Not since stepping down as speaker.

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