Students look to revamp city bus service

While NYC may have the slowest buses in the country, these advocates think they can make it one of the best – with the mayor’s help.

Around two dozen students, advocates and politicians stood outside City Hall on Monday to announce a “student bus rider platform,” which includes a series of reforms and investments to the largest municipal fleet of buses in the country.

The platform includes expanding fair fares to college students, advocating for the Mayor to fully fund the NYC Streets Plan and bus improvements, building 30 miles of new busway this year, instituting all-door boarding and permanent One Metro New York (OMNY), the city’s contactless paying system, fare capping on buses.

Some plans like all-door boarding have been on transit advocates’ wishlist for years. Members from Riders Aliance have been advocating for the system since at least 2018, while the Metropolitan Transit Authority has languished to still roll out a pilot program.

While Mayor Adams has pledged to fulfill the promises of the NYC Streets plan, the city’s five-year master plan for transportation, he has not spared the Department of Transportation from across the board cuts in his preliminary budget proposal.

“Traffic congestion has worked back to pre-pandemic levels and commuting patterns have shifted away from the traditional Manhattan-centric model, making efficient and reliable bus service all the more important, particularly in the outer boroughs. Students are among the most transit-dependent in New York City, and they need much better bus service to connect them to school and work opportunities,” Liam Blank, the policy and communications manager for the Tri-State Transportation Committee, said.

David Dugue, a 22-year-old senior at Brooklyn College, is one of those students. His commute from his home in Marine Park to college should take 15 minutes but often takes longer due to delays. But the express bus he has to take is often too expensive, forcing Dugue to make the decision between transportation and food costs. Sometimes, Dugue has to walk home just to be able to have enough money for lunch the next day.

“Why does it have to be like this? To rely on unreliable transit that will make us late even when we wake up on time? Having affordable transportation affords us the agency to go to class,study at the library and attend events like these,” Dugue said. “The lack in investment and planning for transportation has left us in the freezing cold, wet in the rain and flooding in the heat.”

Dugue clarified later in an interview that he felt that Mayor Eric Adams has been more talk than action when it comes to transportation, but that the hard work will be done through pushing the mayor and city council on the policies. Dugue is involved in campus advocacy relating to both the Strap Hangers Campaign and the New York Public Interest Research Group—the two groups that helped host the press conference.

“Many tens of thousands of college students in New York City rely on buses to get to class — but our slow, unreliable bus system is failing them,” Councilman Lincoln Restler said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the New York Public Interest Research Group for their student-led advocacy in demanding new busways, fare equity, and bus improvements. We need to do everything we can to improve our bus system and make our City more just, inclusive, and sustainable.”

City buses will be better with Cuomo gone

As now disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo prepares to step down from his position this coming Monday, officials throughout the City and State are positioning themselves to make the most of the situation. Incoming Governor Kathy Hochul is already working on damage control, opportunistic Republicans are eyeing a victory in next year’s Gubernatorial election, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is revelling in his ‘I told you so’ routine.
However, slightly removed from the spotlight, members of the MTA and DOT have already started to adjust to the new political climate. Evidence of this can be found in the agencies’ joint announcement this week to greatly expand the City’s bus system, with more dedicated bus lanes, improved intersections, and an all-door boarding program planned for the coming two years.
While this announcement might seem askew from the goings on in Albany, it seems planned — or at least appropriate — that bus improvements will begin to be implemented directly after Cuomo’s political collapse is finally complete. The outgoing Governor never made the City’s public transit a priority, due in part to his ego-driven rivalries with former New York City Transit President Andy Byford and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
This week’s announcement could prove to be a small first step in mending the relationship between City and State governments, especially as it pertains to public services like mass transit. However, if you are not feeling that optimistic, it is at least a sign that government agencies can tackle projects that benefit New Yorkers without viewing them through the vain lens of political wins and losses.
Bus improvements are not sexy, but they are needed. More importantly though, they are possible, with even the smallest bit of coordination between different levels of government. Improving our bus system won’t score you quick political points like a new park, daily press conferences, or a bridge named after your father, but it is the right thing to do because it improves quality of life for millions of New Yorkers.
With Cuomo gone, let’s hope that the air of hostility that surrounds him will also subside, and that our government will become less political and more efficient. At the very least, let’s hope that our busses get stuck in less traffic.

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