New York’s transit woes aren’t just limited to the subways–MTA buses aren’t meeting the needs of their over 2 million daily riders. Speaking at a press conference at the NYPD tow pound in New York’s 27th district on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to increase bus speeds across the city by an average of 25 percent.
“We can have a virtuous circle here, if we get it right,” de Blasio stated, standing before a group of police officers that make up his bus lane new task force.
Starting Thursday, seven newly formed squads of NYPD officers will patrol New York’s “most problematic” bus routes across all five boroughs with the express purpose of ticketing and towing cars that block bus lanes.
“It’s really clear. To all the people out there thinking about parking in the bus lane: don’t do it. Don’t do it,” de Blasio said. “Because these good public servants are coming to get you out of that bus lane if you’re blocking millions of New Yorkers from getting where they need to go.”
NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan was quick to elaborate, saying that officers in the bus lane task force will not tow cars that have briefly stopped in bus lanes, only move them along. Once the driver cuts the engine and steps out of the vehicle, however, officers will ticket and tow. Altogether, the price tag for parking in a bus lane will be $300–$185 to retrieve the car, and $115 for the court summons. According to Chan, not even fellow police vehicles will be exempt.
“No one wants to see cars towed,” de Blasio added. “If you don’t violate the law, you’ll be fine.”
Buses in Manhattan especially have been notoriously slow due to traffic congestion, which has been the subject of several controversial policies meant to fix the problem. According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, his constituents may run out of animals to nickname slow bus lines, with routes called “the turtle,” “the sloth” and “the slug.”
“Squirrels can run at a faster pace than these buses,” he stated. “The good news is that you don’t have to run for any of them.”
Mayor de Blasio brought up a number of other possible solutions, though none that could take effect as immediately as his bus lane task force. Among fixes for the buses, de Blasio proposed expanding New York’s stoplight signal system, which will extend a green light at certain intersections if a bus is getting near. Additionally, he recommended adding more Special Bus Service routes, which have their own dedicated lanes and therefore avoid the worst of traffic congestion.
“It’s working,” de Blasio said. “Wherever we put it in, it’s working. We need to do a lot more and we need to do it faster.”
Though de Blasio admitted that he always preferred using the subways, he pointed to his recent ferry service expansion announcement as an example for his commitment to improving New York’s transit.
“It’s within our power to get people more and better options to get around,” he said.