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Mayor’s Year-End Self-Praise Neglects the Bus — Because There’s So Little To Praise

Hizzoner fell far short of both legally mandated benchmarks for bus lane mileage and his own promises to bus riders.

12:01 AM EST on December 22, 2023

Photo: Josh Katz|

Mayor Adams doesn’t want to talk about his record on buses. Of course not — they’re super slow.

Well, now he's definitely not the Bus Mayor.

In a year-end celebration of things Mayor Adams said his administration did in 2023, there wasn't a single mention of the humble bus — which moves over two million New Yorkers every weekday — probably because Hizzoner fell so far short of what his administration promised.

The Department of Transportation last year dismissed "claims of anonymous sources" who told Streetsblog the agency would miss legally mandated bus lane mileage goals for 2023 — but the city appears to have done just that: Officials installed just 18 new miles of protected/enhanced bike lanes, according to DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez — well short of the 30 miles per year needed to reach the goal of 150 miles over five years set forth in the city's 2019 "streets master plan" law.

An analysis by Streetsblog found the number of new enhanced bus lanes to be even lower: 13.3 miles.

Adams's celebratory round-up on Thursday mentioned bike lanes and other sustainable transportation efforts the city undertook in 2023, but the bus — itself a sustainable and long-neglected piece of the city's transportation picture — did not make the cut.

"The mayor's silence on buses ... speaks volumes," said Riders Alliance Policy and Communications Director Danny Pearlstein.

A separate email from DOT on Thursday said the city had made "commutes faster and more reliable for more than 290,000 daily bus riders, with new or enhanced bus lanes," but did not provide any additional details.

The downplaying of bus successes by DOT — and downright omission by the mayor — from the end-of-year bravado runs counter to the message of Adams's mayoral campaign in 2021, Pearlstein said. At the time — and early in his term — advocates celebrated Adams as a "bus mayor" who would "paint the town red" with new bus lanes.

Riders Alliance ceremonially revoked the title after the mayor's decision to scrap for a Fordham Road busway.

"He was eager to promise much better service during the 2021 campaign, but lately we've seen high profile projects stalled by the mayor's own political team," Pearlstein said.

"One of the most valuable things the mayor can do for working New Yorkers is save people precious time but America's slowest buses are not helping in that regard."

It would be one thing if bus performance had improved because Mayor Adams did something beyond the legally required 30 miles of enhanced lanes to support surface transportation, but the evidence from the MTA bus speed dashboard suggests he has done little:

Bus speeds in the Adams era are going the wrong way.Chart: MTA

Campaign-era Adams famously promised to install 150 miles of bus lanes in four years — a goal more ambitious than even the Streets Master Plan.

Two years into the job, though, opposition to bus lane projects has been a staple of City Hall politicking, and the mayor himself told Department of Transportation employees that he wouldn't define his legacy by how many miles of bus lanes he installed, legal mandate be damned.

In the most high-profile instance of that disinterest, Adams sided with City Council Member Oswald Feliz and a handful of big money interests in the Bronx to sink a plan to upgrade Fordham Road's bus lane by changing it from a curbside bus lane to an offset bus lane. That move angered Riders Alliance enough that they demanded Adams give back the Bus Mayor jacket that the organization gifted to him at the beginning of his term.

Under the terms of the Streets Master Plan, the DOT must install 150 miles of bus lanes across the city between 2022 and 2026, with a benchmark of 30 miles per year.

Last year, the administration only installed 4.4 miles of new bus lanes according to the 2023 Streets Master Plan update — though the DOT told Streetsblog it built 7.7 miles of new bus lanes and added camera protection to an additional 4.2 miles.

Rodriguez has said at various press conferences in December that the city installed 18 miles of bus lanes this year, but DOT did not respond to multiple requests from Streetsblog for a list of the exact projects that comprise that mileage total.

An official familiar with the issue confirmed to Streetsblog that the city has installed fewer than 20 miles of new or enhanced bus lanes this year.

A review of the projects the agency has finished or almost finished suggests that the number of new bus lane miles is far less than even Rodriguez's claim of 18 miles:

Those projects comprise 13.3 miles.

The 2019 streets plan law allowed for the city to consider a bus lane "enhanced" or "protected" by the addition of on-board bus lane enforcement cameras. The MTA and DOT added automated bus-mounted bus lane enforcement cameras on three sections of the Bx36 (the 181st Street busway, University Avenue between the Washington Bridge and Tremont Avenue and White Plains Road between Bruckner Boulevard and Lafayette Avenue).

The Fordham Road debacle also included the MTA adding ABLE cameras to the Bx12 SBS, but the existing bus lane there was also already covered with 10 fixed-location bus lane cameras — stretching the definition of a newly enhanced bus lane to its breaking point.

Again, DOT declined to respond to questions raised by the press release it put out.

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