Transit Advocates Release Collection of ‘Bus Rider Blues’ Stories of Horrible NYC Rides

Public transport activists released ‘Bus Rider Blues’, a collection of stories detailing passengers’ struggles with New York’s notoriously slow and unreliable bus system, while rallying outside City Hall for a better service on Tuesday, December 7.

The compilation, published online by advocacy group Riders Alliance, features 50 real transit stories of stranded straphangers waiting for buses who either never came or were hopelessly stuck in endless traffic.

The riders recounted some of their heartbreaking experiences, such as a City College of Upper Manhattan student who tried to take a crosstown Bx12 to the Bronx, only to be nearly left behind by a rerouted bus.

“We then spotted him on the adjacent avenue, away from the bus stops,” Abram Morris said at Tuesday’s press conference. “And then the bus took 45 minutes to make a single stop.”

An elderly person from Jamaica, Queens, who regularly crosses the borough on half a dozen different routes, said she struggled to find a seat on crowded buses, despite leaning on on a cane to get around.

“The front of the bus is so crowded that I have to back up to cross it,” said Jeanne Majors. “I’m afraid of falling and hurting myself.”

“I want more buses on the routes and more reliability so the buses aren’t so crowded,” the 72-year-old added.

With car traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels, bus speeds have slowed in all five boroughs in recent months, according to the latest statistics from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Average citywide speeds in October were 7.9 miles per hour, down from 8.3 mph in October 2020, as car traffic returned to near pre-pandemic levels.

That’s almost as slow as 2017, when New York buses came in last for any major US city’s bus speed at 7.4 mph.

Traffic has been so bad near choke points like the Holland Tunnel that the MTA had to shut down its M21 crosstown bus two-thirds of every weekday earlier this year.

A regular B54 driver said he had to wait at least 20 minutes for his bus at the line’s western terminus at Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to get to his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, while waiting for buses out of order. – or group in public transport jargon – because people are forced to wait outside.

“It’s frustrating for me along [with] almost a dozen other cyclists all year round, whether in a major snowstorm in winter or a violent thunderstorm in summer,” said Pedro Valdez-Rivera.

Brooklynite Pedro Valdez-Rivera holds a copy of “Bus Rider Blues,” a compilation of 50 true stories of passenger experiences with city buses, published by Riders Alliance advocates.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The city’s Department of Transportation, which manages the streets, recently made the Jay Street bus lane permanent after piloting vehicle traffic restrictions along the 0.4-mile stretch for more than a year.

However, red lanes aimed at speeding up journeys for tens of thousands of cyclists have been routinely blocked by drivers illegally descending into the lane or leaving their cars double-parked, Valdez-Rivera said, an experiment backed by recent data of the DOT.

At Tuesday’s rally, MTA interim president and CEO Janno Lieber made a surprise appearance.

“It’s not a usual thing, the MTA president comes to a demonstration by lawyers,” Lieber said. “But I have to tell you, you know who else is unhappy with the bus service? This guy.

The transit bigwig says the city needs more bus-only lanes, bus-only lanes and to prevent fraudulent drivers from monopolizing the lanes – all issues that are the city’s responsibility , not the state-controlled MTA.

“That’s what’s going to make a difference,” Lieber said. “I’ve been taking the bus since I was six, my brother and I went to school that way. I’m taking the B35 now on Church Avenue, and you know – you know – it can take a while, right? »

Acting MTA President and CEO Janno Lieber was the surprise guest at the rally.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The MTA has several of its own tools that could speed up buses, but proposals have taken a back seat.

The agency relaunched its borough-by-borough overhauls of the city’s former bus networks in August, starting with the Bronx this fall, after a 17-month hiatus due to COVID-19, but all borough overhauls will not will not be complete until 2026, five years behind the original schedule.

Advocates also called on MTA to allow backdoor boarding on buses using the new OMNY tap payment system. The agency currently plans to start testing it on 10 local routes sometime before the MetroCard is phased out in 2023, even though readers are already on all buses and transit officials could just turn them on and reduce immediately the time spent loading passengers at stops. .

Another method is the proposed toll for drivers entering Manhattan under 61st Street, known as congestion pricing, which promises to get more commuters out of cars and public transportation, but the program does the undergoing an in-depth environmental review which is expected to last until 2023.

Earnest L. Veasey