For all the attention given to the myriad problems in the city’s subway system, not enough attention is paid to the equally woeful bus network citywide.
Notoriously slow and off schedule, the buses nonetheless serve as a vital transit link for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each day. The MTA and city Transportation Department realize the problems facing the bus network and are doing things to try and speed them up.
Unfortunately, in certain instances, these efforts are facing backlash from community merchants and residents who say the prescribed cures for slow buses and street congestion are worse than the ailments.
With the MTA attempting to close 14th Street in Manhattan to all vehicular traffic except buses, and creating a bus lane along Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood, local groups have even taken the extreme measure of going to court to try and stop such plans.
A judge dismissed the case against the Ridgewood bus lane on Sept. 23, which was based by the litigants on the perception that removing parking and traffic lanes from Fresh Pond Road to better accommodate buses would harm business.
But Judge Joseph Esposito, in his ruling, wasn’t buying it — and made, in our view, a great point about the resistance to traffic changes throughout the city.
“You know why [Fresh Pond Coalition doesn’t] like it? They don’t like it because nobody likes change,” Esposito told attorneys for the coalition that sued the city and MTA. “I don’t like change … But it’s not about me. It’s not about a narrow group of people who use the roads … Everybody has to share the road, you don’t see that? It looks like you’re taking a really parochial, myopic view.”
A similar case on the proposed 14th Street busway in Manhattan is still pending, and one wonders if the judge in that case would look to Esposito’s ruling for guidance.
The transportation situation in the city, especially with regard to buses, is untenable. To their credit, the de Blasio Administration is working with the MTA to figure out ways to speed the buses up to serve more people, and reverse the troubling downward trend in ridership as frustrated commuters turn to ride-sharing as a faster alternative.
Whether it’s the creation of restricted bus lanes, rerouting entire bus lines or expanding limited and Select Bus services, change needs to happen.
We’re choking on our own traffic, and if we can’t get to where we need to go, we will harm way more businesses and families than those living on a single street in any given neighborhood.
The city and MTA should always work with communities when implementing bus changes to make the transition process smooth. However, the time to just say “no” to every proposal needs to come to an end.
The city is at a transit breaking point. We need to work together to keep moving.