New York's transit network is the lifeblood of the city and its economy. Since 1990, subway ridership is up 57 percent and bus ridership is up almost 60 percent. The bus system alone now carries over 2.7 million passengers a day. But with the resurgence of our transit system has come a new set of transportation challenges.
- Subway crowding and unmet transit needs: subway lines such as the Lexington Avenue line in Manhattan are at capacity. Moreover, many jobs and residents are located beyond the reach of the subway network.
- Slowing bus speeds: New York has among the slowest buses in the nation. In congested areas, such as Downtown Brooklyn and Midtown Manhattan, buses move at four to five miles per hour, barely faster than the average pedestrian.
- A growing city: New York is expected to grow by nearly one million residents by 2030. To accommodate this growth without increasing New York's carbon footprint-the core goal of PlaNYC, the City's sustainability plan-will require expanded transit options.
- Limited capital funding: The City of New York and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have very limited resources. Subway extensions beyond those already planned are not financially feasible.
Bus Rapid Transit: Part of the Solution
Faced with these challenges, how can the City and the MTA meet the growing mobility needs of New Yorkers? Part of the answer is to improve the city's bus system by implementing bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT is a cost effective approach to transit service that cities around the world have used to make riding the bus more like riding the subway. BRT does this in two key ways:
BY IMPROVING SPEED AND RELIABILITY:
- Frequent service: on high-ridership BRT corridors buses arrive every five to ten minutes or
- Station spacing: BRT stops are spaced about every half a mile, reducing travel time.
- Off-board fare payment: riders pay their fares at stations before boarding, reducing stop time.
- Traffic Signal Priority (TSP): BRT buses receive an extended green at traffic signals.
- Bus lanes: BRT buses operate in their own bus lane or busway, bypassing congestion.
BY IMPROVING PASSENGER COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE:
- Enhanced stations: BRT stops include attractive shelters with seating and lighting. Stations with bus bulbs can have level boarding, landscaping, and other amenities.
- BRT vehicles: BRT buses are low-floor and have up to three doors, making boarding faster and
- Branding: BRT routes feature a unique brand, making them easily identifiable. MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have worked together to create a BRT pilot program with five planned routes. In June of 2008, the City and the MTA launched the city's first version of BRT, called the Bx12 Select Bus Service (SBS), on Fordham Road in the Bronx. The results have been striking: travel times are down almost 20 percent and ridership is up by over 5,000 passengers per day. Based on this success, the City and the MTA have begun planning a comprehensive BRT network, complementing and supplementing the existing bus and subway networks.