MTA unveils 'bus action plan' to completely overhaul bus service

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Reporter Tim Fleischer has the latest on the MTA's new plan.

The MTA on Monday unveiled its "Bus Action Plan," which includes sweeping measures to modernize the city's network of buses.

It includes the possibility of adding double-deckers to the fleet of 5,700 buses, and the agency has one such bus that will be pilot-tested on one line - the X17J between Staten Island and Manhattan.

The plan is the result of an expansive review of the system commissioned by NYC Transit President Andy Byford, who declared improving bus service as one of his top four priorities.

"We now want to take bus ridership and the bus network to the next level," Byford said.

The MTA is hoping to reverse its trend of lower ridership, and the announcement comes days after City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that found ridership had decreased on the city's Select Bus Service, which was originally meant to improve bus routes. However, they were shown to have a 62 percent on-time performance due to issues such as cars blocking the bus-only lanes. The report recommended "doubling down" on bus-lane traffic enforcement.

"We needed to look at the whole journey experience end to end," Byford said. "We needed to look at root causes of delays and find out why in recent years people have been deserting the bus network."

So far, the plan has drawn support from transit advocates.

"We'd like to say hallelujah," said Jackie Cohen, of the Straphangers Campaign

CLICK HERE to view photos of the reimagined bus fleet.

Specific elements of the NYC Transit Bus Plan include (according to the press release):

--A completely redesigned bus route network: NYC Transit is performing a top-to-bottom, holistic review and redesign of the entire city's bus route network - the first in decades - based on public input, demographic changes and travel demand analysis. Route changes will provide better connectivity and more direct service in every neighborhood, with updated stop spacing and the expansion of off-peak service on strategic routes.

--Collaboration with NYCDOT, NYPD and local communities: NYC Transit will collaborate with NYCDOT to expand the implementation of bus lanes, exclusive busways, queue jumps, bus stop arrival time displays and bus priority technology on traffic signals and buses known as "traffic signal priority." Many of these changes will also require robust community outreach. NYC Transit will also advocate for strengthened NYPD enforcement of bus lanes, dedicated transit-priority traffic teams, and legislative approval to expand bus-mounted cameras beyond 16 existing routes to help enforce bus lane rules in more locations.

--Speeding up boarding by using all doors: NYC Transit is pursuing new approaches to speed up bus boarding, particularly using upcoming electronic tap-to-pay readers to facilitate all-door boarding. While purchasing fare media with cash will always be an option with the new fare payment system being developed by the MTA, NYC Transit will also explore cashless options to speed up boarding time in select circumstances.

--Improving customer service and the customer experience: NYC Transit is in the midst of implementing a renewed and intensified dedication to customer service across all of its services. Additionally, bus customers will benefit from technological advancements like digital information screens providing helpful bus route, next stop and real-time service advisories. Seat availability information on express buses will become available via a mobile application, and the Bus Performance Dashboard unveiled earlier this year will see continual enhancement. NYC Transit will also develop simpler and more helpful bus route maps - including dynamic, customizable and location-specific maps - and work with NYCDOT to have more bus shelters equipped with real-time bus arrival info displays.

--Proactive management to improve service delivery: NYC Transit is opening a brand new Bus Command Center and upgrading to the latest computer-aided dispatch and operations support technology, including using GPS-based displays of bus locations to help bus operators and dispatchers work together to reduce "bunching," the uneven spacing of buses that can often lead to multiple buses arriving at a stop at once. Reorganization and updated training will also streamline operations and the strategic sharing and deployment of resources. NYC Transit will work with supervision and the workforce to explore how to better use buses that sometimes travel empty as they return to depots.

--Enhancing NYC Transit's world-class fleet of buses: The NYC Transit Bus Plan will also focus on enhancing the bus fleet using zero-emission, all-electric buses as well as New York City's first double-decker public bus. A pilot test of 10 electric buses began earlier this year, while a double-decker express bus will be tested on a Staten Island route starting this spring. The rest of the fleet is being upgraded with digital displays to show real-time route, stop and service update information, as well as traffic signal priority and new fare payment technology. The bus fleet is also being outfitted with new safety technologies such as turn warnings for pedestrians, and security cameras.

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