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‘We’ve Done An Amazing Job Building Bus Lanes,’ Says Mayor Who Keeps Killing Bus Lanes

It must be Opposite Day in Albany as Mayor Adams said something that is literally counter to the facts.

FIle photo: MTA|

A revolution stalled: Mayor Adams has barely made a dent in the city’s need for bus lanes.

It must be Opposite Day in Albany.

Mayor Adams claimed on Tuesday that he's done a great job building bus lanes, despite missing legally required mileage targets for both years of his administration as city buses remain the slowest in the nation.

Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens) strafed Adams during a budget hearing in the state capital by asking himself how he could consider himself a "law and order" mayor if he's failed to hit bus lane mileage targets required by city law. The failure to carry out said law resulted in just 12.9 bus lane built out of a required 20 in 2022 and just 13.3 bus lane miles built out of a required 30 in 2023.

The total shortfall is nearly half of the mileage Adams was required by law to build in his first two years.

"We've done an amazing job of building bus lanes," Adams said in response. It was the first time Adams gave any recognition to his efforts on bus lanes in 2023, positive or negative.

Despite that "amazing" job, local daytime buses averaged 7.4 miles per hour in December 2023 — down from the 7.7 miles per hour they were averaging in January 2022, when Adams became mayor.

The mayor also claimed that the shortfall on bus lane mileage construction, which he has previously said are not important to his legacy, was actually a giant leap forward in urban planning.

"What I did that was different from previous administrations, I did something revolutionary, I allowed communities to communicate. We spoke with community residents. We heard from them," said Adams.

Adams's claim that he was the first mayor to do community outreach or kill bus lanes that cause local controversy is entirely counter-factual. The Department of Transportation under Mayor Mike Bloomberg killed a proposal that would have built physically separated bus lanes on 34th Street between the Hudson and East rivers in favor of a less ambitious plan focused on "consensus."

Mayor Bill de Blasio "listened to the community" to cut off a piece of the Hylan Boulevard bus lane in Staten Island, and was the first mayor to punt a proposed Fifth Avenue busway into the purgatory of endless outreach, surveys and non-profit led reimaginings of the street (a place where Adams has left the proposal).

Adams's claim that he's listened to and engaged communities doesn't even pass muster with what he's done as mayor. The DOT has not made a peep about bus priority on Flatbush Avenue since a perfunctory update in January 2023. According to that update, "estimated implementation" of the project was supposed to begin last year.

And on Fordham Road, the DOT's years-long outreach revealed that bus riders wanted aggressive bus priority — but the Adams administration bowed to a small number of institutional and business opponents, which left bus riders where they've been since 2008.

"What's really revolutionary about the way that Mayor Adams has listened to bus riders is that when 70 percent of residents supported the Fordham Road busway, he decided to scrap it after four years of planning," Mamdani said after the hearing. "49 percent of bus riders are dissatisfied with wait times — and he could have ensured that bus lanes were built to speed up travel times — instead he's made 1.4 million daily bus riders take the slowest buses in the country."

The Adams doctrine on bus priority has relied more on backroom politicking than talking to bus riders, with the mayor empowering land-use insider Richard Bearak, Tiffany Raspberry and Menashe "The Chairman" Shapiro to slow down or scuttle bus lane projects.

How Streetsblog covered Mayor Adams's failure on Frdham Road.Click to read

If all of this sounds like a clip show of the mayor's greatest misses, it's because neither Adams nor the DOT has laid out any kind of ambitious agenda for bus priority since June 2022, when Adams and the MTA held their first (and only) "transit improvement summit." Most of the bus lane projects Adams announced following the summit have been finished or killed, leaving New Yorkers in the dark about where the administration is headed to do any additional bus lanes or if Adams will build what he owes the city.

The mayor's performance at the hearing left bus advocates slack-jawed.

"If the mayor actually listened to communities, he would present a detailed plan for how he's going to keep the promise he made to the community of two million bus riders and build the 130 new miles of bus lanes he owes us in the next two years," said Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein.

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