TRANSIT: New NYC bus service solves red lights, loading delays

Pre-paid fare collection minimizes boarding issues; signal priority, dedicated lanes increase bus speeds

June 25, 2014

With bus ridership down 7% since 2007, the New York City DOT and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have introduced a series of new Select Bus Service (SBS) lines—some of which employ signal priority technology—to improve bus service and control congestion.

The SBS lines tackle two of the biggest complaints about bus travel: congestion and boarding delays. All SBS buses operate in dedicated lanes, and three of the seven lines employ signal priority technology to reduce the amount of time spent sitting at red lights. Studies have shown that bus speeds on these three routes have increased by 10% since the technology was implemented. In particular, morning rush hour speeds have increased by 17% on Victory Boulevard in Staten Island and 11% during the evening rush.

At present, NYC DOT says it will install signal priority technology on three more SBS routes. Some non-SBS routes will also reportedly receive the technology. Installation and operation costs are said to be between $1 million and $2 million per route.

The SBS buses also utilize a pre-paid fare collection system, eliminating boarding delays while passengers search for money or fare cards. MTA also announced plans to have a whole new fare payment system in place by 2019.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has promised to create at least 13 more SBS lines in the near future.