NYC Bus Service Hindered by Congestion

Sharing lanes with car traffic may make it impossible for the MTA to increase service frequency.

2 minute read

November 16, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Blurred image of New York City bus driving through intersection with 5th Avenue with golden hour sunset sky in background.

deberarr / Adobe Stock

Bus frequency in New York City is hindered by congestion, writes Dave Colon in Streetsblog NYC, making it practically impossible for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to meet a goal of improving frequency by 20 percent.

Buses will never beat a subway in terms of the total number of people one bus can move compared to a full subway train. But that doesn't mean buses need to provide significantly less bang for their buck, which is what happens when they're caught in a sea of double parked cars and trucks parked in the bus lane.

One potential solution is ramping up the use of automated enforcement to cite drivers who block bus lanes. “ABLE [Automated Bus Lane Enforcement] cameras have improved bus speeds by 5 percent on routes where they're used, and faster buses are of course one way to get more bus service for less money, as the Citizens Budget Commission pointed out in a policy brief on MTA finances in the dark days of 2021.” Yet New York’s buses are moving at the same speed now as in 2018—7.5 miles per hour.

Redesigning inefficient bus routes could also help speed up service. “City bus stops are notoriously close together compared to international peers, which means buses are constantly stopping and starting. The buses also run on long and circuitous routes that haven't been updated in decades, forcing drivers to navigate tight streets and wait out traffic to make left turns.”

Meanwhile, “A spokesperson for the MTA did not dispute the tenor of the budget negotiations, but focused on the fact that the transit system survived at all.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 in StreetsBlog NYC

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3, 2023 - NBC 16

Green Paris Texas city limit sign with population.

How Paris, Texas Became a ‘Unicorn’ for Rural Transit

A robust coalition of advocates in the town of 25,000 brought together the funding and resources to launch a popular bus service that some residents see as a mobility lifeline—and a social club.

November 30, 2023 - Texas Monthly

SMall backyard cottage ADU in San Diego, California.

San Diegans at Odds Over ‘Granny Towers’

A provision in the city’s ADU ordinance allows developers to build an essentially unlimited number of units on single-family lots.

November 29, 2023 - CALmatters

Aerial view of Palo Alto, California at sunrise.

Palo Alto Expands Church ‘Safe Parking’ Program

The city is considering adding commercial lots to the program, which provides safe parking and amenities for people living in cars.

December 6 - ABC 7 News

View of green oil wells in a residential neighborhood in California.

Report: California’s Orphan Wells Still Pose Health Risks

Tens of thousands of idle oil wells litter the state. Taxpayers are often on the hook for cleanup.

December 6 - LAist

Red picnic benches in lush forested area in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California.

Healing Neighborhoods Through Park Equity

Learn more about ways to improve park equity with Norma García-González, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, and Catherine Nagel, the executive director of the City Parks Alliance.

December 6 - Resources Radio

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.