New York City’s buses flunked their annual review.
Nearly three quarters of the city’s bus routes scored a D or F grade on The Bus Turnaround Coalition’s yearly report cards. Of the 248 routes, 50 percent of city bus lines landed a D with just over 23 percent outright failing the assessment based on speed and reliability, according to the new report by the cadre of transit groups.
“In 2018, the average local bus traveled at 6.4 miles per hour—that’s even more sluggish than last year’s average speed and considerably slower than another New York City transit fixture: the rats running through our subway system, who can sprint faster than 8 miles per hour,” said Mary Buchanan, a researcher at TransitCenter—a coalition members—during a Wednesday rally on the steps of City Hall.
Nonetheless, the coalition’s data did show incremental improvements with 30 fewer bus lines receiving failing grades in 2018 compared to the year prior. Though just one bus snagged an A: the Q52 Select Bus Service that rolls on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards.
Transportation advocates say the route is top of its class because the city has added bus lanes and implemented all-door boarding, which has reduced bus bunching and improved ridership. An organizer with the Straphangers Campaign called the bus “our sort of beacon of hope” to improve routes across the city.
“We know how this bus got this great grade—the simple answer is that it uses solutions that we know could work across the city,” said Jaqi Cohen with the Straphangers Campaign. “And there’s no reason that every bus route across our city couldn’t use solutions like [were used for the Q52] to get that A grade and improve service.”
City bus service continued its ridership decline in 2018 with a 4.7 percent drop—still, some two million riders rely on the city’s buses—with a dismal average bus speed of 6.6 mph compared to 6.8 mph in 2017. On frequent routes, where buses are scheduled to arrive every 15 minutes, 1 in 9 buses arrived bunched for “frustrating, unpredictable gaps in service,” according to the coalition.
For the first time this year, the group assigned bus grades to all of the city’s 51 City Council district. The results were equally grim as rankings on individual lines with 46 D or F grades, said Buchanan.
Changes are on the horizon with the MTA and city both committing to improve bus service. Mayor Bill de Blasio administration’s is working to boost Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology at intersections to help give buses priority through traffic—the effort aims to increase bus speeds 25 percent by 2020. Additionally, New York City Transit President Andy Byford said he aims to redraw each borough’s bus lines in five years as part of his Fast Forward modernization plan.
But the Bus Turnaround Coalition says those improvements are sorely needed now and call for a swifter roll out of the mayor’s bus lane plan and other known service improvements such as all-door boarding, TSP technology, and bus route redesigns.
“Riders need [de Blasio and Byford] to live up to their promises, because if they do, New Yorkers will finally have the kind of bus service they can rely on for work, school, and opportunity,” said Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.