The MTA unveiled a plan Monday to revolutionize the city’s struggling bus system, vowing to improve service and speed up rides by re-evaluating all 326 bus routes for potential changes, implementing things like all-door boarding and even testing out the use of double-decker buses.
The MTA’s “Bus Action Plan” is the first step in the “full-scale modernization” of the city’s transit system, and looks to specifically address declining bus ridership numbers, New York City Transit President Andy Byford said.
While city buses still serve about 2 million riders a day, system ridership has dropped by 14 percent since 2007, officials said.
“This is the first piece in the jigsaw,” Byford said at the MTA’s board meeting Monday morning, where he described the Bus Action Plan as a way “to get people back to riding our bus network.”
“We really are proposing the complete top-to-bottom transformation of our bus network, ultimately to give New Yorkers the transit system they deserve,” he said.
The plan includes a redesign of the system which will re-evaluate all 326 bus routes for improvements, including the removal of some closely-spaced, underused stops, officials said.
It aims to speed up service with the addition of more bus lanes, expand the use of Transit Signal Priority to reduce the amount of time buses have to wait at traffic lights, increase enforcement against bus lane violators, and explore the potential for creating more “busways” – roads used exclusively by buses.
The plan also calls for the installation of tap readers on buses to speed up the payment process as customers are boarding, and allowing for “all door boarding” so customers can get on the bus through any door.
“We are currently the slowest among major bus systems in the world,” said MTA Bus President Darryl Irick. “The bottom line is that we have to find ways to move our system faster.”
Other changes will include new bus maps to be released as early as this year – including neighborhood-specific and interactive maps – as well as the installation of more bus shelters and real-time signs at stops that tell riders when the next bus will come, Irick said.
The MTA will also consider new designs for its buses, with the goal of increasing capacity on the vehicles. The agency will even test out the use of double-decker buses, with one set to launch on an express route on Staten Island this year, according to Irick.
“This plan is also time-bound – most of the initiatives are short to medium-term,” Irick said. “Our customers will begin to see the results and outcomes of our hard work really soon.”
Transportation advocates Monday praised the plan, saying the changes outlined by the MTA are what’s needed to get the city’s bus network back on track.
Stephanie Burgos-Veras, a senior organizer with the group Riders Alliance, called the Bus Action Plan “ambitious.”
“This is a plan that will modernize our bus system and it will change the way that we move around this city,” she testified before the MTA board on Monday. “This is something that bus riders have been calling for [for] years.”
For more coverage of the MTA’s bus system, see City Limits’ series here.