Bus-Mounted Cameras Have Issued 40,000 Tix Since October

Coming soon-ish to Washington Heights. File photo: Dave Colon
Coming soon-ish to Washington Heights. File photo: Dave Colon

Smile, you’re on ABLE camera.

Car and truck drivers who rudely drive in the bus lane have been dinged with almost 40,000 warnings and violations since bus-mounted Automatic Bus Lane Enforcement cameras on four bus routes began picking off violators in mid-October, the MTA and DOT said on Thursday — as the agencies announced that the cameras would be added to the M23 SBS, M34 SBS and M86 SBS on Monday.

The existing bus-mounted cameras — on the M14 SBS, M15 SBS, B44 SBS and B46 SBS routes — ding drivers if two consecutive buses catch a car or truck driver hanging out in the red paint. They have spit out 37,518 warnings and violations so far. The vast majority — 66 percent — were on the M15.

An MTA spokesperson theorized that the M15 put up the big numbers for three reasons: The M15 was the first route to use the cameras, there’s more congestion in Manhattan, and the route runs 12 miles, more bus lane miles than the other camera-carrying routes.

The ABLE cameras have also been credited with speeding up buses in congested areas on their routes. The M15, for example, moves 34 percent faster through parts of its route since in-bus cameras were introduced last year according to the MTA. The agency also credited the cameras on the B44 with helping achieve a 17-percent boost in speed on parts of Nostrand and Rogers avenues, and said that a combination of camera-enforced SBS and busway service helped increase ridership on the M14 by 20 percent in 2019 over one year earlier.

Under state law, drivers are given warnings for the first 60 days a bus uses an automated enforcement camera. After that 60 days, there’s a graduated fine structure, starting at $50 for a first violation and increasing by $50 every subsequent violation in a 12-month period, for a maximum of $250 per ticket.

Those nearly 40,000 bus lane violators are usually not repeat offenders though, according to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who said that one reminder was usually enough to keep driver out of the paint.

“People don’t get a lot of repeat violations,” Trottenberg said at Thursday’s press conference. “They learn the cameras are there and that it makes sense to stay out of the bus lanes.”

So cameras are clearly effective, but NYC Transit bus unit veep Craig Cipriano reiterated that the transit agency would prefer to not write a single ticket because it would mean drivers were staying out of the bus lanes.

“Our objective isn’t to issue warnings and violations, our objective is to move the buses and keep motorists out of the bus lane,” said Cipriano. “I’m here to say: if you’re not a bus, stay out of our bus lanes.”

In addition to in-bus cameras, the MTA and DOT announced that stationary bus lane cameras were getting added to nine bus routes in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, a move that could speed service for riders on 77 lines. The bus routes getting stationary cameras are:

Manhattan

  • Lexington Avenue
  • Fifth Avenue
  • Third Avenue
  • Madison Avenue
  • 42nd Street

Queens:

  • Rockaway Beach Boulevard
  • Broadway

Brooklyn:

  • Rockaway Parkway
  • Fulton Street
The city has to get moving on more of these if it doesn't want bus service to go back to the bad old days. Photo: Dave Colon
Everyone loves the 14th Street busway. File photo: Dave Colon

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