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Pressure Mounts on ‘Incompetent’ Mayor Adams To Build Some Freakin’ Bus Lanes

Imagine how bad it's gotten when a TV reporter wonders aloud why Mayor Adams is so bad at buses.

12:00 AM EST on February 9, 2024

Photo: Dave Colon|

The specter of Eric Adams hovered over MTA CEO Janno Lieber on Thursday.

Pressure's gonna drop on him.

A press conference on a proposal in Albany to increase bus service before congestion pricing begins turned into a moment where legislators, the head of the MTA and even TV reporters, usually the most car-friendly bunch, wondered why the mayor has abandoned bus riders.

On Thursday morning, state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens) revealed a $90-million proposal to fund expanded bus service and expand the MTA's free bus pilot.

But with Adams notoriously leaving bus riders out in the cold by canceling or delaying bus lane projects and not laying out a comprehensive vision for bus priority, the mainstream press decided to show they're noticing.

"Why should they authorize that funding," asked NBC's Andrew Siff, referring to Gianaris and Mamdani's Albany colleagues, "if you're aware that pumping millions of dollars won't speed up the buses because there aren't enough bus lanes?"

CBS's Marcia Kramer got into the act as well, asking if the legislation could require the mayor to follow the Streets Master Plan law and install more bus lanes.

"Will this include a campaign to try to get the mayor to make fast bus lanes and as you say, obey the laws?" asked Kramer. "Because if you don't get the mayor to make express bus lanes and move the buses faster, you can add 82 new buses, but they're not going to move anytime soon. So what are you going to do to get the mayor to comply to make the buses able to move faster?"

Mamdani, who only a few days ago asked the mayor why he's ignored the requirement that the city install 30 miles of bus lanes per year, was blunt in his response.

"This is a figure that we came to with the MTA, given the incompetence of Adams's mayoral administration with regards to bus lanes how much money could actually be absorbed," he said.

The Astoria legislator's answer also touched on the MTA's previously reported reticence to pump money into more bus service that could end up simply being stuck in city traffic.

"What we don't want is to spend money that will just lead to buses being bunched in traffic. This is the amount of money that they said will get us to the maximum point of service given the mayor's violation of the law," said Mamdani.

Kramer and Siff also pressed MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber on the mayor's ability to make way for buses, after Lieber made a surprise appearance at the press conference. Lieber was diplomatic, calling Adams "a great partner" but admitted he preferred a previous version of the Get Stuff Done mayor.

"The mayor has been a great partner, but I love the 2022 Eric Adams who said he wanted to be the bus mayor and starting to push forward with bus lanes," said Lieber.

The feeding frenzy around Adams's inability to manage the streets comes as the mayor continues to distance himself from congestion pricing. Adams has spoken about his desire for "more control" over how congestion pricing gets instituted, but that talking point has been more focused on his desire to control who's exempt from the toll.

Given the capability to control what the streets look like before congestion pricing starts, Adams has so far not put forward a plan that would prioritize buses, bikes or walking, even outside Manhattan where the congestion pricing environmental assessment has projected there may be a drop in private cars.

Buses are moving as slowly as they did when Bill de Blasio was mayor, but a spokesperson for Adams did not say whether the mayor had a plan to get bus lanes or other bus priority projects in place before congestion pricing is set to begin this summer.

"In two years, the Adams administration has made our streets safer and improved commutes for nearly 700,000 daily bus riders by building and enhancing bus lanes from the North Bronx to southern Brooklyn," said mayoral spokesperson Charles Lutvak. "We continue to work with our partners in the MTA and with communities across the city to build on this record of success."

Last month, the average daytime local bus speed was 7.4 miles per hour, down from 7.7 miles per hour when the mayor took office.

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