New York, NY – Wanna know how to improve bus service in this town? Better ask a bus driver. That’s what the union representing the city’s mass transit bus
drivers has done. And this is what they said.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 [TWU], the union representing some 41,000 men and women in New York City’s public transportation system, asked about 400 bus drivers how they could curb stress and be better behind the wheel.
According to the survey, city bus drivers forced to contend with chronically clogged traffic, double-parked cars and droves of hurried passengers, are looking to the Department of Transportation to beef up bus-only lanes with physical barriers that deter motors from encroaching on their territory.
Over a dozen Select Bus Service lanes currently exist throughout the City of New York. More than half of New York City bus drivers participating in the TWU Local 100 survey said that camera-enforcement of bus-only lanes would make the corridors more effective. Bus-only lanes offer drivers their own dedicated piece of the road, in addition to allowing off-board payment and all-door boarding — two features that bus drivers participating in the survey also like [79- and 29-percent, respectively].
Physically separated bus-only lanes are operational in cities throughout the world — but only in a few here in the United States. This past spring, Boston knocked off four-minutes along a bus route outfitted with traffic cones separating bus-only lanes from the rest of traffic.
The two-day pilot program was successful enough to warrant further testing this spring.
Earlier this week, new Transit Authority President Andy Byford touted a new Bus Action Plan aimed at stemming the tide of declining ridership largely due to chronically slow, traffic-snarled buses.
J.P. Patafio, the VP representing bus drivers in Brooklyn, agrees with Byford that problems need to be addressed — but stresses that the men and women behind the wheel need to be part of the solution.
“We agree with the new present of NYC Transit that there should be a Bus Action Plan, and bus drivers should be heard on what’s wrong with the system and
how to make it better,” Patafio said in a statement.” That’s why we did this survey. To improve service and alleviate the conditions that make driving a bus in NYC such a stressful job.”
Last week, Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel released a report reviving calls for Congestion Pricing as a way of alleviating traffic on the street, as well as creating a fresh revenue stream to help NYC’s ailing subway system.
TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano has already expressed support for technical fixes including all-door boarding and priority signaling for bus drivers, but in November, told LaborPress that “far more aggressive measures also are needed.”
“City Hall should support Congestion Pricing, which will reduce the number of cars entering Manhattan and raise needed transit funds,” Utano said. “City Hall, which controls the streets, also should create real Bus Rapid Transit routes with barriers to keep cars out of bus-only lanes.”
The idea of burdening already hard pressed for-hire drivers with additional fees, however, faces stiff opposition.
Independent Drivers Guild Founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr., issued a statement saying, “While important details are not yet defined, any plan that shifts further financial burden on to these 100,000 workers and their families would be devastating.”
Fifty-three percent of bus drivers participating in Local 100’s survey said traffic is the biggest cause of bus bunching on the street. Twenty-four percent also said that double-parked cars are the biggest cause of stress for bus drivers.