Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
The missive urges the governor to direct the MTA to commit to two-low cost solutions to fix ailing bus service.
By Michael V. Cusenza
A cohort of dozens of elected State officials recently released a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to direct the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to commit to two low-cost solutions to improve the agency’s ailing bus service, according to the transit advocacy group the Bus Turnaround Coalition, which also signed the missive.
Sixty-seven members of the State Senate and Assembly last Thursday joined the Coalition, which is composed of the Straphangers Campaign, the Riders Alliance, the TransitCenter transportation reform foundation, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, in urging Cuomo to implement the two fixes: In order to help speed up buses and reduce bus bunching, the MTA should deploy a robust transit signal priority network by 2018; and ensure that all-door boarding is a prominent part of the agency’s plans for implementation of the MetroCard replacement payment system.
Transit signal priority, according to the BTC, reduces bus “dwell time” at traffic lights by holding them green at intersections for a few extra seconds as buses approach to allow them to cross the intersection and maintain a constant speed. Now, advocates and elected officials are calling on the MTA to expand transit signal priority, currently operating on small handful of select bus routes, citywide.
“Reliable bus service is important because it makes it easier for my family to commute to school and work,” said Riders Alliance member Suman Ganguli. “Reliable service doesn’t only make getting around easier for riders, but encourages people to use the buses and leave their cars, making our streets calmer and safer.”
The missive also asks for all-door boarding to be instituted as part of the plan to replace the MetroCard, allowing riders to board buses at any door and reducing dwell time at bus stops. The MTA’s Select Bus Service has demonstrated how much more quickly buses can move when riders pay before boarding: With the introduction of off-board payment collection, dwell time reduced 40 percent on the M15, Bx12, and B44, according to the Coalition.
“In a transportation desert like my district, every little improvement helps – and these are big little improvements,” said Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach). “I’m proud to join the Riders Alliance in pushing for these commonsense adjustments to make bus transportation faster and better. The Bus Turnaround Campaign isn’t just smart, it’s crucial. I would urge Gov. Cuomo and all other parties to respond to these engaged citizens and take these cheap and effective steps to help everyone get from A to B faster and easier.”
As for the governor, on Tuesday he launched “The MTA Genius Transit Challenge,” an international competition seeking groundbreaking and innovative solutions to increase the capacity and improve the reliability of the city’s subway service. During a conference in late June, all participants in the competition will be given comprehensive briefings on the transit system and will be challenged to find solutions that can be implemented with speed and efficiency. Competitors will be presented with the issues, current solutions and best practices. The competition will be judged by an expert panel of technology and transportation experts and a $1 million “Genius” award will be provided to the best ideas in three categories: to address the aging signal system in a faster and more efficient way to enable the MTA to expand the number of trains per hour during peak periods; to address the subway system’s aging cars. Strategies can include the refurbishment of current subway cars, upgrading existing systems, better maintenance programs/protocols, and faster delivery of new cars; and to design communications technology for cellular and WiFi connectivity that can be installed throughout the entire subway system including tunnels.
“We will draw some of the greatest minds from across the globe to the Empire State to help inspire forward-thinking, innovative ideas that will usher in a new era of mass transit for New York that ensures the safety and efficiency of travelers today and tomorrow,” Cuomo said.