Transportation officials are ramping up enforcement of the 14th Street busway as ridership and travel times steadily improve on the once-sluggish corridor.
Bus-mounted cameras will launch on M14 buses starting Thursday, November 21 at 6 a.m., the MTA announced Wednesday. Motorists who remain in a bus lane without exiting at the first possible right turn, or who are caught blocking a bus lane in the same location by two successive buses, will be ticketed. For the first 60 days, drivers will only be issued a warning, but afterward, they’ll be slapped with a $50 fine that will increase by $50 for each violation, and cap out at $250.
MTA officials point to increased ridership numbers along the M14—more than 32,000 commuters this month so far (among them Mayor Bill de Blasio), up from 26,000 when the busway launched—since the street redesign rolled out. Enforcement will be a crucial component to keeping those improvements alive and luring more riders back to the city’s embattled bus system, according to the authority.
“It proves that if we give our buses priority we can move our buses along and people will come back to the bus system,” Craig Cipriano, the head of the MTA’s bus system, told reporters at a Wednesday news conference. “Looking ahead, we know we have to enforce our bus lanes.”
The MTA has installed the new cameras on 123 MTA buses across three routes, and the authority’s proposed 2020-2040 capital plans includes $85 million to expand the program.
The new enforcement tool is joining the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) fixed street cameras, which began issuing warnings to would-be busway violators when the new system kicked off on October 3. Those cameras will start issuing fines on December 2, almost two months before the MTA will issue fines to violators caught on the bus-mounted cameras.
“We want to be clear to anyone driving on the street, even if you don’t see a police officer or you don’t see a blue bus, you need to turn right at the next available opportunity and you can’t stop and block the bus lanes,” DOT Deputy Commissioner Eric Beaton said Tuesday.
After the busway’s October launch, anecdotes quickly emerged of the pilot program’s early success, with speedier service the new norm on the notoriously congested thoroughfare. Critics’ predictions of apocalyptic levels of congestion on neighboring side streets has largely yet to materialize; a preliminary study conducted by Inrix, a firm that analyzes traffic data, found that speeds have not changed significantly changed on 12th, 13th, 15th, or 16th streets.
The MTA is in the midst of moving into its next phase of the bus and truck priority with the installation of pedestrian-friendly bus boarding platforms.
Likewise, service on the M14 SBS, which launched in July, has increased weekday ridership on the line by 32 percent and travel times have dropped from an average of 17 minutes to just over 10 minutes compared to this time last year. Currently, the MTA doesn’t plan to boost service on the thoroughfare, but Cipriano says the authority is closely monitoring ridership and is open to adding more buses.
“As we continue to look at the data we will refine schedules moving ahead,” said Cipriano. “On any route where service is needed based on customer demand we will look to increase service there.”