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The New Bus Campaigners

Half of transit trips in America are made on buses.

But over the past several years, nearly every major US city has witnessed dramatic declines in bus ridership.

Some blame may go to low gas prices and new services like Uber. But transit advocates think bus service is declining because of longstanding policy neglect, and that something can and ought to be done about it. They’re pushing elected officials and transit agencies to apply changes like bus lanes, all-door boarding and traffic signal priority.

These kinds of policy changes require political attention and will, which will only be obtained through a groundswell of public support. To give voice to bus riders, a new generation of bus campaigners are now canvassing buses, bus stops, and transit hubs to hear from and organize riders. We were able to spend some time with organizations in New York City (Riders Alliance), Boston (LivableStreets) and Chicago (Active Transportation Alliance) to find out what is new there and how they are encouraging volunteers and city leaders to make improvements to their systems.

Buses are a relatively inexpensive and flexible form of transit that American cities could be making much better use of. Thanks to many new advocacy campaigns, we think we’ll see buses turning around.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Jack Jellybean

    Wow these advocates and groups are really getting into it!
    How can they convince the city, bus operators to do 2 weeks free? Is is because the bus operators are private and suffering from falls in ridership, so they are inclined to try new methods which could improve things?

    I'm just thinking in Australia how hard or how rare it is to have these "trials" for the public to actually test. I think by just talking about the issue you'll always get negatives until you actually showcase the solution and people can for themselves feel the benefits.

  • AMH

    When I was growing up our local transit agency had a free day every year. I don't know how well it served to attract new riders. My mom would take us on the bus, using a shopping center as a park-and-ride, so we could see how other people got around, but it was more to make us feel fortunate that we had a car than to actually look at it as a viable form of transport (not that the routes and hourly frequency made it great service anyway).

  • Susan Pantell

    This is a great video. Wish we could get something like this started in Austin (I have been trying for years).