New York Daily News Op-Ed What buses and their riders deserve: Commit to more dedicated lanes, just as city is doing with bikes

https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-what-buses-and-their-riders-deserve-20191204-cqsi6tzf7jerhec4m6swhh7ine-story.html

By GLENN EVERY and ANDREW LYNCH

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |DEC 04, 2019 

Our roads are too crowded with cars, including Uber, Lyft and other for-hire services, and our subways are struggling. Add the annual crush of trucks delivering Christmas presents and you might as well walk. But so many proposed solutions to the transit crises ignore — or even harm — the easiest, cheapest and most obvious solution: the bus.

We know buses don’t quicken the pulses of many alternative-transit advocates, nor do they elicit much passion, even from those who ride them. A bus is hardly romantic. But making our streets more efficient for use by private and city buses will go a long way to making the city move faster and our air cleaner. The recent discussion of eliminating free curb parking — an idea whose time may well have come — further suggests that the bus’s moment is now.

Have you recently traveled by car down Fifth Ave., where two of the four lanes are dedicated to buses? Frankly, you’d do better on foot than in a taxi. But hop on a city bus, and you fly. The same thing goes for 14th St., a rare example of the bus being given priority, and where West-East journeys across Manhattan have been shortened beyond all expectations because buses, and only buses, are making them. Bus speeds have increased by 30% there.

The city should embrace buses as it has bicycles. We need dedicated bus lanes in all five boroughs, especially going into and out of major bridges and tunnels. New technology will allow more accurate and timely bus schedules, spacing and arrival times. Buses should get signal priority at many locations.

Instead, the officials who are taking away curb and street space for Citi Bike and closing streets to favor pedestrians are making life harder for bus riders and the companies that efficiently transport them around town. To say nothing of the often-reported parking placard abuse, which needlessly clogs up miles of valuable curb space.

And where bus-only lanes do exist, it is often a daunting challenge to enforce them, with all manner of vehicles blocking them.

We represent BUS4NYC, a consortium of private bus companies — mostly commuter and charter buses — that bring tens of thousands of commuters and visitors into and out of Manhattan every day, whisks travelers around the region and gives millions of sightseers a safe and economical way to enjoy everything the metropolitan area has to offer, all while lessening single-vehicle congestion. Our buses also safely serve many New York City neighborhoods that are transit deserts, with subways nowhere to be found. Yet the city can do much more to encourage this safe and efficient means of transportation.

A single one of our buses can take as many as 55 cars off the road, saving fuel and reducing emissions. In fact, one extensive scientific study showed that modern buses use less energy and produce less carbon dioxide than van pools, heavy rail, community rail, light rail or trolleys, per passenger mile.

Last week, the city banned cars from streets around the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree during the holidays. The mention of buses in the city’s press release was brief: “MTA buses will bypass 48th to 52nd Streets.”

We think, although well-intentioned, this is short-sighted, hampering an effective mode of transportation that could help ease the holiday crush on our roads. It’s yet another challenge for us. Bus loading and parking spaces are being cut, and the city has limited the amount of time that buses can load and unload while idling. Both sound at first like reasonable measures to keep the air clean and the streets manageable, and we respect the motivations of those who’ve instituted them. But in reality, the effect is quite the opposite. Both these measures mean buses have to stay on the roads longer, tiring drivers and keeping the engines running.

Buses are here and ready to improve our roads. What we need now are the lanes.

Every and Lynch are motorcoach operators and members of BUS4NYC.

BUS4NYC was formed as a 501 c 6 non-for-profit earlier this year to advocate for the private providers of public transportation that power the NYC region. With the core values of four P’s: Pricing, Parity, Parking and People, BUS4NYC has been advocating for bus-friendly policies that promote the private bus industry.  The BUS4NYC/BANY Conference was sponsored by a variety of stakeholders who recognize the importance of private bus operators in and around the region, including Lancer Insurance, the Broadway Association, Broadway.com, Swarthout Coaches, NYC & Company, Petro-Canada and National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey.  For more information on BUS4NYC, please visit www.bus4nyc.org. For more information on BANY, please visit www.www.banybus.org.

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