Council To Mayor: Bus Service Needs Improvements, Not Cuts

The bus. Photo: Dave Colon
The bus. Photo: Dave Colon

City lawmakers are demanding Mayor de Blasio rethink his decision to nix funding for his own better bus initiative — a move that will hurt the thousands of frontline workers now relying on buses to get to work.

Hizzoner last month revealed that he would cut $2.7 million through June of this year, and an additional $5.7 million through June 2021 from the Department of Transportation’s budget for funding dedicated to improving the beleaguered bus network.

Advocates initially slammed the mayor, warning that the cuts would negatively impact bus riders — especially essential workers in low-income communities and communities of color, during the coronavirus crisis, now and in the future.

And on Monday, 13 pols joined them — specifically calling on de Blasio to restore funding for the Better Bus Initiative, install temporary bus lanes during the pandemic to improve bus speeds and ensure frequent service, and ensure that bus improvement projects slated for 2020 and 2021 remain on schedule.

“While the city is in a challenging fiscal crisis caused by the coronavirus … bus service has powered the city’s emergency response, providing critical service to frontline workers — brave doctors and nurses, EMTs, grocery workers, transit employees, and delivery drivers — 75 percent of whom are people of color,” the Council Members wrote in a May 11 letter to the mayor.  “We cannot shortchange the New Yorkers who helped save this city nor overlook the role public transit plays in our economy.”

The 13 pols include Manhattan Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Ben Kallos, Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin, and Keith Powers; Brooklyn Council Members Carlos Menchaca, and Alan Maisel; Queens Council Members Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Costa Constantinides, and Barry Grodenchik; and Bronx Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

The bus service cuts are part of a total $61.5 million in reduced funding for DOT, including for a team to crack down on placard abuse — in addition to a $3-million cut to the mayor’s signature Vision Zero public awareness campaign, $4 million from Vision Zero street improvements, $3 million from Green Wave bicycle infrastructure, and $6 million in cuts to Staten Island ferry service.

But DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the agncy remains committed to improving bus service, despite the cuts, adding that $12 million allocated for improving and expanding Select Bus Service remains untouched. And DOT still plans to roll out improved bus service, including along one crucial car-clogged line in the Bronx that serves a public hospital.

“We still plan to move forward with bus priority projects planned for 2020, including on 149th Street in the Bronx, which serves Lincoln Hospital. And we are open to adding additional projects as resources and community support permit,” Trottenberg said during a Council hearing on Tuesday.

Trottenberg says her team is also following through on installing at least seven miles of new bus lanes per year, and is on target to upgrade 1,000 intersections with transit signal priority by the end of the year — a technology that holds green lights and shortens red lights for approaching buses.

“Specifically, DOT still expects to install an average of 7.5 miles of new bus lanes per year and will meet our previous transit signal priority goal of 1,000 intersections by the end of 2020,” Trottenberg said.

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