When you think about the frustrations of commuting in New York City, the subway is surely top of mind as it’s the bane of existence for tens of thousands of New Yorkers on a near-daily basis.
Less on the radar, though, are the 2.5 million residents who not only rely on but are equally frustrated by the city’s bus service. But now their voices are being heard thanks to a new book released Tuesday by Riders Alliance and the Bus Turnaround Campaign.
“The Woes on the Bus: Frustration and Suffering All Through the Town” recounts firsthand experiences of dozens of bus riders who have missed work, school or doctor’s appointments, faced firings, spent money on cabs or rideshares in addition to MetroCards or even lost out on an audition to sing with John Legend — all because of late buses.
“Every single day, riders are being let down,” Stephanie Burgos-Veras of Riders Alliance said at book launch held in front of the bus stop for the M7, M10, M20 and M104 at 8th Avenue and Columbus Circle. “We need buses we can rely on.”
For Ramona Ferreyra, the bus is often the only option as she has spine and hip issues that make it difficult to go up and down subway stairs.
The South Bronx resident said the BX19 is often late, inconsistent and packed, which causes her to arrive late to her frequent doctor visits. Because she is on assistance, she can’t afford to take scab or rideshares as many others find themselves doing to compensate.
“I wish the bus service was more dependable to reflect what the community is shifting to,” she said of the borough, which last week announced development plans for the mixed-use Bronx Point near the 145th Street Bridge.
“These stories make clear the wheels on the bus are not going 'round as they should,” said Tabitha Decker, NYC program director at TransitCenter said.
Bus advocates’ advice for Cuomo & de Blasio
The advocates said that city buses go an average of 7.4 mph — slower than San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia — and despite a surge in population and subway ridership, bus ridership declined 16 percent from 2002 to 2015.
The Bus Turnaround Campaign, a coalition of transit advocacy groups, is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the MTA, and Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt its six-point plan to improve bus service.
Among the suggestions are redesigning the bus network and routes, adopting all-door boarding, implementing better means of keeping buses on schedule, such as ensuring on-time terminal departures and intervening when they get off-schedule, redesigning streets to add additional bus lanes, reducing time at red lights, give real-time updates at stops and on buses and being more transparent about bus performance.
“Providing reliable and strong bus service is a key priority for the MTA and is an incredibly complex challenge due to worsening congestion on city streets — especially in the heart of Manhattan,” agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz told Metro. “Better bus service is directly connected to less congested New York City streets, strong enforcement of bus-only lanes and expediting new technology like traffic signalization prioritization. We continue to work with NYC DOT on the citywide rollout of new technologies and look forward to helping them reduce congestion on the streets to get our buses moving."
Additionally, the MTA offers a Bus Time app for tracking schedules and plans to expand its Select Bus Service, install a new payment system to cut down on boarding time and implement all-door boarding when practical.
‘The Woes on the Bus’ go round and round
“The schedule is unreliable, and I end up waiting 45-60 minutes. I would never take the bus to something with a deadline.” Sunny, Brooklyn
“Even though the Q3 is out of our control, my kids still have been punished with lunch detention for being tardy to class.” Kemisha, Queens
“I’m late to work. I’m late to get home. Being late for work is the worst because the missed time comes out of my pay.” Pam, Brooklyn
“When you’re late to pick up kids at school, the school charges you. I can’t afford after-school care. I was 30 minutes late to pick up my grandkids at school because of the bues, and then my family suffered financially.” Florinda, Manhattan
“One day in February, the bus was delayed for 30 minutes. My boss fired me the same day.” Josmariel, Bronx
“The bus is never on time, and I feel like it gets rerouted a lot. Once I missed an audition to do background vocals for John Legend.” Faith, Brooklyn