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Select Bus Service Debuts on Manhattan’s East Side

This weekend, Select Bus Service debuted on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, bringing a package of improvements to speed trips on one of New York's most-used bus routes. Buses on the M15 route were traveling at a snail-like clip of less than 6 mph before the introduction of SBS.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Transit's Director of Bus Planning Ted Orosz, and MTA Bus Company President Joe Smith spoke to Streetfilms about how SBS will make traveling on the east side of Manhattan faster and easier for transit riders. The major changes include dedicated bus lanes enforced by cameras, priority for buses at traffic lights, and off-board fare collection.

Select Bus Service in the Bronx has produced a 20 percent improvement in travel times and enticed thousands more New Yorkers to ride the bus. Officials project that once people get used to the new system on First and Second Avenues, transit riders on the east side will see similar gains. Have a look and see how it works.


[music] 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [00:02] In 2007 Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC which was the city’s sustainability initiative and it was focused on how we could continue to grow and thrive.  And one of the big findings of PlaNYC is that we have to use our streets differently, we need to prioritise sustainable mobility on the streets of New York.  And so the plan called for five Select Bus Service routes.

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg:  [00:25] We got it working on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, Fordham Road up in the Bronx, both have been phenomenally successful.  Ridership is up 30%.  Commute times are down.  Almost nobody tries to beat the fare.  So it’s a win-win-win for everybody and there’s no reason to think this is not going to work very well on 1st and 2nd Avenue. 

 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [00:44] The new Select Bus Service route on 1st and 2nd Avenue goes from Helston Street to 125th Street and on the street you will see on the right hand side a terracotta bus lane which will be enforced by cameras for the first time, so if a driver goes into the bus lane they will be ticketed automatically.  In addition, on the left side of the street there will be a protected bike lane from Helston Street to 34th Street.  So this is really the largest multimodal transportation corridor in the nation now, 8.5 miles on 1st Avenue and the same down on 2nd Avenue.  It’s really part of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to bring world-class streets and world-class commuting to a world-class city. 

 

Jay Walder:  [01:23] This is the first step in really trying to make bus lanes for buses and I think it really is the most important part of it.

 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [01:30] A Select Bus Service route includes a package of transportation innovations that make it easier for the bus to get through the transportation network.  So what it includes is a dedicated bus lane.  It also includes transit signal prioritisation, which is basically a technology that allows the traffic signals to read where the bus is and hold the green light longer for those buses.  It includes off-board fare collection so that passengers can pay for their fare before they get on the bus. 

 

Ted Orosz:  [01:58] People pay with Metro Cards or use these machines and people who will be paying with coins would use these machines.  And both machines support reduced fare for elderly and disabled riders.  Both machines have audio jacks for the visually impaired and both machines have banish messaging as well. 

 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [02:18] So they would just take your Metro Card, they will put it in the machine and then, quickly, a receipt comes out and this is what we use when we’re on the bus when the eagle team comes through to ensure that people have paid their fare. 

 

Ted Orosz:  [02:32] They accept all the transfers in the regular manner.  If someone started on the subway and they have a transfer on their Metro Card, they insert the Metro Card and it accepts the transfer and issues a receipt.

 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [02:44] So it’s a low cost, quick and easy way to improve travel times on one of the busiest bus routes in New York City. 

 

Joseph Smith:  [02:51] And behind me is one of our new Select Bus Service buses, it’s the first three door bus service in New York City’s history, and it’s also the first bus in a long time that has a rear window.  With these flashing blue LED lights you’re able to see this bus from a great distance and you know that that’s the bus you want to get on if you want a Select Bus Service bus.  This bus is a low floor bus.  This bus also improves our fuel economy 15 to 20% over the prior model, which is great for everyone.

 

Janette Sadik-Khan:  [03:26] So Select Bus Service isn’t quite a full Bus Rapid Transit Service.  The full Bus Rapid Transit Service will have an exclusive and protected right-of-way for buses, but this is a good down payment on our path toward a fully designated Bus Rapid Transit corridor in New York City.   

[music] 

Transcript Divas Transcription Canada

Elizabeth Press is a Filmmaker for Streetfilms. She joined Streetfilms in 2007 to focus her video work on advocating for better biking, walking and mass transit.

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  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/meb meb

    Sadly, as much as I think SBS is a step in the right direction, my bike commute on the UES and in midtown east on 1st and 2nd has become more dangerous. They could have at least made an effort and put some of those sharrows on the road for people trying to get around by bike.

  • Charlie

    Love the off-board payment. We have some BRT-like routes in Boston, but riders must board the front of the bus and pay their fare on-board. As expected, this can slow the process significantly.

    meb, Are bikes allowed to use the bus lanes in NYC? In Boston, they put big bike symbols on the dedicated bus lanes, so they are really bus/bike lanes. I know they do this in Paris and other cities as well.

  • http://abstractnonsense.wordpress.com Alon Levy

    No, bike and bus lanes are separate in New York, as they should be.

    Sadly, the proof of payment system on the SBS is a major fail. It has all of the following pathologies:

    1. Buses sit still during fare inspections.

    2. SBS and the local buses have two incompatible fare systems, and do not share stations. So passengers have to decide ahead of time which bus to wait for, halving the effective frequency.

    3. Even people with valid unlimited cards have to swipe at the stations to get a receipt; they can't just board and then show their unlimited cards at inspections.

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-epstein Joel Epstein

    Great looking project and film!  I look forward to riding and blogging about it when I am in NY in November.  By then there should be good data on reduced travel times and customer satisfaction.  Especially like the off-bus fare collection which seems to save time and avoid the backup at the fare box.  Congrats to NYC and DOT!    

  • Bill

    My office is around 42nd and Second so I often walk up or down the avenue. So far, the new terracotta bus lane seems just like another place to park. I would say that there are about two to three trucks parked in it each block. The SBS bus can't use it and stays mostly in the neighboring lane, except to pull in and board/ discharge passengers. I suspected this would happen and with little enforcement, it has. The new boarding methods may improve travel times. I'm not so sure the SBS lane (in its current form) will add much.

  • Emily Litella

    SBS WILL be a smashing success and continuously improved. However NYCT did and continues to do a pathetic job of informing the public and even its own employees on the particulars of how everything works. Fore example, if you buy a receipt and then change your mind and choose to board an M15 local, you CAN do it if you have an unlimited card because the Local is (to the computer) technically a different route from the SBS. The Coin Fare Collector is a horror show and virtually unusable without much trial and error by potential customers. Even so, most people are reacting positively and patiently despite the near total lack of posted information and instruction. We can only pray that the cops keep up the pressure on lane violators and SBS speed rises to the point where people notice a significant cut in travel time. Good video by the way. Compare that with the useless one on MTA.INFO showing a time lapse of the bus wrap process. Really they do insult our intelligence.

  • Greg

    Obvious question, but someone has to ask: Why didn't the city implement a complete real Bus Rapid Transit system on 2nd Avenue instead of wasting billions on the 2nd Ave subway? Real BRT would've cost a tiny fraction of the subway cost, and could've been operating now instead of 2030 or whenever the dig will be done.

  • zach

    Greg:

    1. Cars can still use the bus lane for turning. The possibility of not being able to turn freaks out the drivers, many of whom are politicians.

    2. This infrastructure is less permanent, so that those who see it bound to fail don't feel so invested.

    Yes, of course we should have put in real BRT, and were it that the mayor had absolute power we probably would have. That's the problem with democracy.

  • Jay

    People in The Bronx figured out how to use SBS without much trouble at all.

    How is it that people in Manhattan (with a higher average level of education) seem to be having so much difficulty?

    I think it's really just a lot of complaining about anything that's slightly different...

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/stevevance Steven Vance

    How did NACTO contribute to the production of this Streetfilm?