Queue Jumps for Buses — The Ethical Way to Cut in Line

A new queue jump is speeding up service on the M96.

This short bus lane segment on East 97th Street lets M96 bus bypass the bottleneck preceding the traffic light.
This short bus lane segment on East 97th Street lets M96 bus bypass the bottleneck preceding the traffic light.

Cutting in line is pretty much unacceptable behavior among decent human beings, but there’s one exception to the rule: A bus carrying dozens people should go to the front of the line at traffic lights.

A “queue jump” is a simple street engineering tool to let buses bypass the queue of private vehicles at signalized intersections. They’re quicker to install than full-on bus lanes but can still make a big difference by giving buses a way around the worst traffic bottlenecks on a route.

NYC DOT and the MTA are just beginning to install queue jumps on city streets. In this video, TransitCenter cheers on the new queue jump for the M96 at 97th and Madison, which was recently installed by DOT:

The M96 isn’t one of the city’s Select Bus Service routes, which typically have a basket of features like off-board fare payment to speed up service — but that doesn’t preclude smaller interventions at key locations, which is what DOT has done here. Citywide application of these targeted improvements is one of the recommendations in transit advocates’ Bus Turnaround Campaign.

More please.

  • HamTech87

    SBS and queue jumps not only increase trip speeds, but enable the same bus to make more trips, right? If this is so, and it is a good objective, why are there M60 SBS buses sitting at 106th Street between WEA and Broadway in Manhattan not going anywhere? This small intersection has turned into an ad hoc bus depot with 2 or more buses going nowhere for much of the day. Why aren’t the buses turning around and making another trip as soon as one trip is finished, facilitating even more ridership? Speed is important, but so is frequency.

  • AnoNYC

    Any word on the BX6 SBS? It was supposed to launch last fall.

  • sbauman

    What benefits do a full bus lane provide?

    If traffic is moving, then a dedicated full length bus lane provides no advantage to the bus than a lane shared with other vehicles. Bus and other vehicles are freely moving at the same speed. It’s the same speed a bus would have driven in a dedicated bus lane.

    If traffic isn’t moving, then a dedicated bus lane provides a distinct advantage. It permits buses to move while single occupancy vehicles are not. What would prevent vehicles from moving? The most frequent reason is that the vehicles are waiting for a traffic signal to turn green. In this instance, a full length bus lane is providing the same advantage as a queue jumping lane and no more.

  • Jesse

    I can see problems with this implementation in NYC, mostly because the queue-jumping lane is on the side of the road. First, it would need very clear signage which drivers respect indicating that turning drivers may not use the lane. Second, even if drivers did not use the lane for turning, they would also have to be cleared from waiting to turn in the middle of the intersection in front of the queue-jumping lane. Third, even if you solve the problem of turning drivers you still have the drivers who try to beat the red and end up in the intersection (usually halfway over the crosswalk) while the cross street turns green.
    Given that NYC is phenomenally bad at enforcement and that NYC drivers are phenomenally rude and selfish (try walking through midtown during the day without having to squeeze between two bumpers on a sidewalk), I would be very surprised if all three of these issues didn’t completely undermine the benefits of these lanes.

  • Joe R.

    Besides all the other things you mentioned, with traffic signals on every single block the queue jumping lane would practically end up being continuous. That being the case, you might as well just put in a bus lane.

  • Jesse

    Honestly, I don’t think anything less than center-running bus lanes with physical barriers at least near the intersections would work in NYC. In Bogota, the holy grail of BRT, the buses have two lanes (local and express) which are bounded by concrete barriers. But that’s in a city with like 20% car ownership. Would NYC be willing to drive that bargain with the motoring classes here? Doubtful.

  • Joe R.

    I’d like to see that, complete with railroad-style crossing gates at intersections so buses can safely move at highway speeds without being delayed by traffic signals. The problem is as you said—the dominance of the 1% who use cars to get around.

  • 19cibaoman75

    the first bus queue in the city was installed at 30st & Hoyt ave in astoria queens about 3-4yrs ago. it allows the m60 to go from the far right bus lane to the far left lane to get on the triboro bridge(rfk bridge). it gives the bus a 6 second headstart. it’s a good idea.

  • pfrishauf

    So much experimentation, uneven results. Janette Sadik-Kahn correctly states, “it’s all about a dedicated right of way.” But even she had to settle for the crumbs. Like this one that someone should take a look at– http://www.govtech.com/e-government/NYC-Transit-Signal-Priority-Program-Speeds-Bus_Service_to_Ferry_Terminals.html

  • c2check

    Bus lanes (especially if painted red) have been shown to deter double parking in the lane. They could also keep other drivers from shifting in/out of the lane, which could gum up buses.

  • 19cibaoman75


Queue Jumps: A Simple Fix to Speed Up NYC’s Buses

With the City Council set to take on NYC’s declining bus service tomorrow morning, here’s a look at one of the many strategies DOT and the MTA can employ to speed up the city’s slowest-in-the-nation buses: queue jumps. Queue jumps give buses a green light before other vehicles at an intersection, often via a dedicated “queue jump lane” that allows buses to skip […]
There are three queue jumps on the M86 route, including this one at Fifth Avenue and 84th Street. Photo: DOT

The M86 Moves Faster and More People Are Riding Thanks to Queue Jumps

While bus ridership is down citywide -- and especially in Manhattan -- there are some routes that are bucking the trend. One that's gaining riders is the M86, which got a package of upgrades from DOT and the MTA in 2015. The improvements included off-board fare collection and queue jumps -- short bus lane segments that enable buses to cut ahead of other traffic at signals.