The size and scope of New York City’s bus system is unparalleled, with 5,700 buses, 330 routes, and 15,000-plus stops serving well over two million passengers each day, which is more than the combined daily ridership of LIRR, MetroNorth, PATH, and New Jersey Transit.
The report found that MTA buses are now the slowest in the nation among large cities. In fact, bus service can often be slower than walking speed, with the average New York City Transit bus traveling a dismal 7.4 miles per hour ons local, SBS, and express routes.
As service deteriorated, the MTA bus system lost 100 million passenger trips in the last eight years. That decline is most prevalent in Manhattan, where ridership is down 16 percent since 2011, and Brooklyn, which has seen a 4 percent decline over the same time period. According to Stringer, the decline is happening at a time when NYC’s economy and commuting patterns are changing, with increased job growth outside of Manhattan that necessitates new routes. From 2006 to 2016, the number of jobs located in Brooklyn jumped by 49 percent, and in Queens by 34 percent.“If we’re going to have a thriving economy tomorrow, we need to rebuild our bus system today,” said Stringer. “Of course we have to focus on our subways, but we need to have a bus system that is the envy of the world,”
In total there are 12 neighborhoods that offer significantly more jobs but remain significantly underserved by bus and subway service. Neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Red Hook, and the two Queens airports remain underserved by the bus system.
To improve the bus system, Stringer’s report calls for a comprehensive review of the bus network to better align with new job centers and changing neighborhood demographics, and enhanced coordination between the MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT).
The comptroller urged the MTA to increase the frequency of buses in “off-peak” hours and overhaul its scheduling guidelines to better service the rapid growth of the health, hospitality, retail, food services, and cultural sectors.
He also called on DOT and MTA to expedite the implementation of Transit Signal Priority along bus routes, as well as improve the maintenance, enforcement and design of bus lanes, and place greater emphasis on bus lanes outside of SBS corridors.
“By unleashing innovative technologies, as well as honing in on strategies that improve reliability and service, we can change the game for New Yorkers,” said Stringer. This cannot be a problem that is swept under the rug. The status quo is unacceptable.”