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De Blasio’s bus improvement plan calls for 25% increase in speeds by 2020

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“In 2019 alone, we’ll help 600,000 New Yorkers actually get to work on time”

As part of his expansive State of the City address yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio made several announcements that aim to improve how New Yorkers get around the city, including the expansion of NYC Ferry service to Staten Island and other outer-borough neighborhoods. Another proposal could be transformative for the nearly 2 million people who take the bus on a daily basis.

“In 2019 alone, we’ll help 600,000 New Yorkers actually get to work on time,” de Blasio said during his address. To accomplish that, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and the MTA will work together to get buses moving faster—by as much as 25 percent—by the end of next year.

The de Blasio administration hopes to accomplish that in a few key ways. The installation of bus lanes will be sped up—from seven miles per year to 10-15 miles per year—and buses will also get signal priority at more intersections throughout the city. Street redesigns to make bus service better and more efficient are also on the docket. They’re also hoping to improve Select Bus Service by pressing the MTA to add 20 more routes (last summer, the MTA said it would halt the program), and rolling out a pilot program this year that would bring “extended hours, restricted turns, and piloting up to 2 miles of physically separated lanes” to the existing routes.

To combat the all-too-frequent problem of vehicles parked or idling in bus lanes, the de Blasio administration says it will work with the NYPD on more stringent enforcement, including rolling out dedicated teams of tow trucks to keep lanes clear. They’ll also press Albany for camera enforcement of bus lane rules. (How this will disincentivize NYPD officials and other city agencies from parking in bus lanes remains to be seen.)

In a statement, the Bus Turnaround Coalition, comprising representatives from four of the city’s biggest transit advocacy groups, called the plan “exactly what bus riders need for fair access to opportunity in the city.” Last summer, the coalition released its own proposal for improving bus service that had both an “action plan” and an ambitious timeline to improve outcomes quickly for the city’s two million daily bus riders.

“From the ambitious goal of increasing bus speeds by 25% within two years and the commitment to practical means of doing so like expanding and strengthening the city’s bus lane network with proactive enforcement, this new vision for bus improvements signals that the City is serious about solving the real challenges that bus riders face,” their statement continues. “Elected officials committed to transit improvements for New Yorkers should support these ambitious plans.”

DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg also called the goals “ambitious” to AMNY, but said the proposal from de Blasio represents a “big commitment” to seeing them through. “We know the city has a big role to play in trying to get buses moving faster and trying to turn around the decline in ridership,” she said.