De Blasio Announces 10-Year Plan for 21 More Select Bus Service Routes

The map of enhanced bus routes looks good, but the timetable isn't much more ambitious than what the city is doing already.

The city says it will bring Select Bus Service to these 21 routes by 2027. Map: NYC Mayor's Office/DOT
The city says it will bring Select Bus Service to these 21 routes by 2027. Map: NYC Mayor's Office/DOT

The city plans to roll out 21 new Select Bus Service routes over the next decade, as well as bus priority treatments on other routes, Mayor de Blasio announced today. The proposed SBS routes in the “Bus Forward” plan [PDF] would more than double the reach of the city’s enhanced bus network, but the 10-year timetable lacks urgency and ambition.

The first Select Bus Service route launched in 2008 on Fordham Road. At the time it was a breakthrough — the only bus route in the city with off-board fare collection. There are now 14 SBS routes in the city that use a combination of pre-paid boarding, bus lanes, bus bulbs, signal preemption at intersections, and other transit priority measures to speed transit trips.

SBS routes have, in general, bucked the trend of declining bus ridership in NYC. They only account for 13 percent of the city’s bus riders, however. Overall, the city’s bus fleet remains the slowest in the nation.

The 10-year plan from de Blasio would raise the share of bus riders on SBS routes to 30 percent. But the idea that these improvements should be implemented on a route-by-route basis is starting to feel antiquated.

The MTA could go live with all-door boarding system-wide within a few years, and DOT has the power to implement signal priority for buses wherever the agencies choose. Limited stop service and street design treatments like bus lanes and bus bulbs could still distinguish SBS routes, but street improvements don’t have to be limited to a set number of routes either.

To be fair, the city and the MTA aren’t limiting themselves to SBS routes. They’re using real-time GPS data to target areas where elements of the SBS package would be beneficial.

But the pace and scale of the new plan doesn’t sufficiently address the urgent need to improve service. Every year, more riders are abandoning the bus, while a growing number of people opt for street-clogging ride-hail services like Uber and Lyft that slow down surface transit even more. DOT and the MTA need to pick up the pace.

In August, advocates with the Bus Turnaround Campaign graded DOT and the MTA on their rollout of bus improvements. DOT got a “D+” on redesigning streets to prioritize buses because the de Blasio administration hasn’t made progress fast enough. The 21-routes-in-10-years timetable isn’t much of a boost.

The budget numbers in the “Bus Forward” report are revealing. The city says $9.4 million “is dedicated to SBS projects in NYC DOT’s annual expense budget.” (More funds are allocated to the “launch of SBS and bus priority projects” but the city doesn’t specify how much.)

Compare the annual set-aside for SBS to the city’s $30 million annual subsidy for ferry operations. While the whole ferry system moves fewer people than a single well-used bus route, the de Blasio administration is spending more to run ferries than to upgrade streets for bus riders. Bus riders deserve more.

“We’ve learned that SBS works; it’s time to spread the benefits of Select Bus Service far and wide so that bus riders have faster commuters no matter what bus they board,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Nick Sifuentes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good luck with “G.”

    Part of it is one of the few through-truck routes in Brooklyn. And the part on 37th Street? Take a ride on that one some time in the PM rush.

  • What’s up with the two Ls? Those routes aren’t redundant.

  • kevd

    Thats the B35, yeah?
    Walking on Church or Caton many nights I’ve thought that making them alterrnate 1 ways with a parking protected bus lane would be a great idea.
    Church is a mess from about…Argyle to Brooklyn Ave.
    Riding the B35 to JFK one morning (with a transfer to the B15 in East NY) was incredibly depressing. At 7:30-8:15am high school students at nearly every stop could not even board because it was so crowded. Nothing like the city making you take a crappy MTA bus to get to school, then making it completely impossible to do so because service is so far below demand. I guess they’re learning early that as black people in America, they are second or third class citizens…… Sigh…..

    At least the driver wasn’t even trying to collect fares.

  • kevd

    I think they’re alternatives. Like the two Rs and two Hs.
    (how 14th st is an alternative for 96th st., I don’t know)

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Appears to be the SBS category. Referencing page 3 of the pamphlet: H – South Brooklyn East-West (multiple), L – Manhattan Crosstown Routes (multiple, including 14th Street), R – Southeast Queens (multiple).

  • Yeah the two Rs and Hs make more intuitive sense.

  • Some Asshole

    Getting SBS along the B41 and the B6/B82 would be yuge.

  • Vooch

    should be implemented in 10 months

    75% of the gain is simply painting one lane red and adding a few ‚exclusive bus lane‘ signs

    this could take 10 months for all of the routes

    the rest of the improvements can follow over the ten years.

  • Jennifer Del Grande

    That is terrible, but it happens in every neighborhood where kids take the bus to school. (the kids not being able to get on the bus or trains because of overcrowding) please don’t make everything about race. The MTA in NYs outter boroughs sucks in general.

  • bolwerk

    With some community input, a year or two is reasonable. But 10 years would be enough time for a not American city in a developed country to build out a light rail/streetcar network roughly that extensive.

    What the fuck is wrong with these people?

  • Vooch

    BdB is obviously against SBS service

  • Joe R.

    I think they just like to make transit riders suffer to the point that any minor improvements feel like the second coming. The contempt of the MTA for the people who pay their salaries is mind boggling. Anything which takes months elsewhere takes years for the MTA. Things which take years elsewhere take the MTA decades.

    The only bright spot is eventually the poor service will cause a mass exodus from NYC. Housing will finally be affordable again when that happens.

  • qrt145

    There is only room for one palindromic initialism in this town!

  • bolwerk

    I bet he doesn’t care one way or another, and making a stupid timeframe just gives him a chance to not have to worry about it. It becomes his successor’s problem.

  • bolwerk

    BdB is almost a sideshow now anyway. Making this stuff glacial makes it more expensive. Who is benefiting from that?

    He’s moving at such a slow pace that he can’t see any of these projects to completion unless he pulls Bloomberg’s stunt and signs a law giving himself the right to run for a third term. That probably includes the now 2+-year-old BQX, which might conceivably see some track laid for BdB’s successor to tear up.

  • Boris

    BdB is basically Giuliani when it comes to transportation, only 25 years too late. Look at this plan and his “congestion reduction” plan. Hiring extra traffic agents to enforce “do not block the box” and painting some bus lanes is the extent of his vision – the rest is “facts on the ground” he doesn’t care about one way or the other. If SBS wasn’t already here, de Blasio certainly would not have championed it.

    Maybe he thinks he only needs to win the Baby Boomer vote to win re-election. Should we prove him wrong?

  • HamTech87

    How about enforcing SBS lanes now?

  • JarekFA

    Imagine if he exercised some leadership. He’s such a coward though. Anything bold will invariably put some people off and invite some criticism. But damnit, we need something bold to fix our streets and eliminating right turns, some more bus lane paint and failure to do shit on placards ain’t gonna get the buses moving. Like, he’s giving out 50,000 placards for teachers, which means there are now about 6 educator placards for each educator specific parking spot.

  • Juve

    I would really like them to put the Select Bus Service into the B41 in Brooklyn. I know it already has Limited in it but sometimes it is not really as fast as it should be especially with the traffic in Downtown Brooklyn and Central Brooklyn. It would also be good to add the SBS to the B35 route. Although that route already has Limited service in it, it is extremely slow. Sometimes it is so slow that a person walking average speed can keep up to it. PLEASEEE FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE IN CITY HALL OR HAVE A CONNECTION TO IT PLEASE READ THIS!!!!!!


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