A recent analysis by the New York Times asks whether a plan to install 150 miles of new bus lanes is worth the investment for New Yorkers. The city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, is overseeing an initiative to add to the Big Apple’s 140 miles of bus lanes, which will effectively “create one of the largest such networks in the world.” Though the plan’s proponents believe it will bring needed transit equity to the city, some argue it will create too much of a hassle for residents and businesses.
As the Times notes, commuters have returned to the city’s buses more readily than its trains. Although ridership declined to 20% of its pre-Covid numbers at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s now at 62%. Buses are especially important to the city’s lower income residents, “who do not have cars and often live far from the subway,” per the Times. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chairman said in a statement that the bus lane expansion “is a fundamental equity issue… The bus lanes and busways are the only way we’re going to be able to deliver what New York needs—which is a much faster bus system.”
At the same time, officials and “business leaders” have argued that bus lanes increase congestion “by taking away travel lanes and parking spots,” ultimately failing to achieve their goals, especially in situations where few buses end up traveling on the lanes in question. The lawyer for a property owners association in Queens, New York, told the Times that “The city hasn’t learned from its mistake” in installing previous bus lanes. Similarly, a councilman representing Staten Island told the Times that a major bus lane there gets very little use. “If the goal is to build a number of bus lanes just to meet a goal, that’s not good,” he said.
A spokesperson for an advocacy organization for commuters suggested that the bus lane plan is not enough to make the city’s streets safer and more equitable. In addition to adding bus lanes, he said, the city needs to ramp of traffic enforcement to reduce the number of cars using bus lanes. In 2021, the Times notes, automated traffic cameras issued at least 600,000 violations for drivers using bus lanes, with “Drivers who received one ticket… far less likely to get another.”
For more information on New York City’s plan to install 150 new bus lanes, visit the New York Times’ report here.