Queens Pol’s Bill Would End Bus Lane Enforcement on Holidays — An ‘Attack’ on Riders

Council Member Holden's bill would not affect the NYPD, which parks in bus lanes with impunity already.
Council Member Holden's bill would not affect the NYPD, which parks in bus lanes with impunity already.

Justice takes a holiday.

A car-loving Queens politician wants to end enforcement of bus-only lanes on legal holidays to give drivers an easier time — a move that would hurt other residents who happen to take transit to holiday festivities, activists said.

Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) says his one-page bill — introduced on Thursday — would simply make life better for drivers when they are likely to be experiencing that holiday stress.

“On holidays, people are driving more to see their family members. while people are commuting by bus less because they have off from work,” said the Council member’s spokesman Kevin Ryan. “Many families rely on cars to travel to their families and bring the kids, etc. So, it makes sense for the city to forgo enforcement of this rule on holidays.”

It certainly does not make sense, activists said.

“Perhaps CM Holden has never traveled to a holiday observance by bus, but many New Yorkers face extreme time pressure on holidays to reach religious services or family gatherings,” said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the Riders Alliance. “The notion that buses should be slower or less reliable on legal holidays totally disregards the value of bus riders’ time.”

Transportation Alternatives called Holden’s bill “an attack on lower-income people immigrants and people of color — the New Yorkers most likely to rely on the bus including on holidays.”

“Suspending bus lane enforcement on holidays will slow down commutes for essential workers and make it harder for people to visit each other” said Elizabeth Adams, the group’s senior director of advocacy and organizing. “New York already has the slowest buses in the nation. We should be exploring ways to reclaim space from cars to improve bus service not trapping those buses in car traffic.”

We love this story so much that we made multiple versions of the lead art featuring Holden and a blocked bus lane. Here are the ones that did not make the cut:

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The MTA declined to comment on the bill, claiming it does not comment on pending legislation. But agency spokesperson Joana Flores said, more generally, “The bus lane enforcement cameras have been incredibly successful in clearing the way for buses and riders to get where they’re going at faster speeds in shorter times.”

The agency said it will have 300 cameras on buses on seven routes by the end of this year.

The Department of Transportation, which has 379 fixed bus lane cameras at 192 locations, said it would review the bill, but spokesman Vin Barone suggested that a review would yield a thumbs-down.

“Our bus lanes and busways significantly speed up commutes for riders — and automated enforcement is part of that success,” Barone said. The agency has long pointed out that dedicated, properly enforced bus lanes and busways speed up buses by 7 to 71 percent.

Holden’s bus lane congestion bill was part of a package of 10 bills aimed that he calls the “Quality of Life Restoration Package.” In addition to the aforementioned bus lane congestion bill, the package includes:

  • A bill to require a study on utility pole ownership and how to improve utility pole maintenance.
  • A bill that would require the Sanitation Commissioner to issue a report on sidewalk obstruction.
  • Two bills related to movie production: One would require the Mayor’s Office to create an online map of upcoming set  locations; and another that would require at least two weeks of notice before a film crew seizes curbside space.
  • Two bills related to car noise: One would increase the penalty to up to $2,100 for unreasonable noise emanating from a personal audio device on or in a motor vehicle. The other bill would prohibit a motor vehicle owner from affixing a speaker to the exterior of a vehicle — and require the NYPD to tow away a vehicle for any repeat offenses.
  • A bill to require the city to create a new 311 complaint function to report tow trucks illegally towing vehicles immobilized due to an accident (it is unclear how often this is a problem).
  • Another 311-related bill that would require the mobile app to allow complainants to submit a service request “with no more than four steps.”
  • A bill amending the definition of “unreasonable noise” from commercial establishments.

“I am proud to introduce a package of bills today,” Holden said. “All New Yorkers are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their homes.”

The busy Holden also put forward a bill on Thursday that highlights how amazing it is that this is not already a city law. The bill would require the city to create a webpage providing information about the members of community boards, such as their name, their occupation, their attendance record, their recommending Council Member and the date on which they were appointed, plus demographic information about community boards in the aggregate.

Council Member Bob Holden I… by Gersh Kuntzman

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