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Second Avenue Express Bus

By Jose B. Rivera

How it Works
The new double carriage buses ride down Second Avenue on the right side of the street. During the daytime hours the whole of the right hand side of the street is off limits to parking, regardless if it is a bus stop or not. On average an express bus stops every ten city blocks to discharge and pick up passengers.

Before passengers are allowed to board the bus, they must first purchase a ticket at ticket vending machines at the bus stop. These machines must be used even if passengers already have a MetroCard. MetroCards can be used to pay this express bus fare. Passengers can enter the bus in any one of the three entrances to the bus with the receipt that was generated by the ticket vending machine.

Ticket Vending MachineThe Problems
There are many problems with this Express Bus setup. Among them is the fact that these buses are not any faster than regular express buses. The bus speed going down the avenue is the same.  The bus must still duck into its designated space, park and wait for the passengers to enter and discharge.

From a passengers point of view getting to board the bus is more work than usual.  You would think that a passenger with a MetroCard could just walk into the bus.  Remember, MetroCards are prepaid and therefore the bus fare has already been paid for.  But no, passengers must swipe their MetroCards to receive a receipt that will then allow them to board the bus.  So given a situation where many people arrive at the bus stop at the same time, getting on the bus can become an issue as all the passenger must first obtain their receipt before boarding. This is silly considering those with MetroCards could have just as easily swiped on the bus.

bus driver waitsThis writer has observed on many occasions that the drivers of the express buses will wait as long as is necessary for people to obtain their receipts, even late comers.  But doesn’t this defeat the purpose of this whole setup, to have quick pickups and ultimately a quick bus trip? What is being saved here? It definitely is not time.

To make matters worst, passengers are on an honor system. No one checks their receipts. This will increase the sneak onto the back of the bus trick so prevalent on city buses easier. This is a “let’s pretend everyone will be good and pay” idea. Great for heaven but not so good on earth.

space for bus actually takes up two lanesParking
The worst part of this express bus situation is that it inconveniences more people than it can possibly ever convenience. Look at the numbers to see why. One can park an average of 12 cars on each Second Avenue side of the street. The express bus takes up all the parking on the right hand side of the street which means that all of East Harlem looses at 300 parking spaces during the daytime, Monday through Friday. Add the other communities down Second Avenue and the number of lost parking spaces becomes worst. It makes parking in our communities that much more acute.  In creating this bus plan, the city, did not think about how they were making a parking shortage worst, nor did they figure a way to make allowances to car owner over the loss of parking spaces. One gets the feeling that the city has declared war on car owner in their attempt to make public transportation more appealing. By the way, First Avenue will also get their version of the Express Bus complete with a whole lane for the bus, thereby deleting more parking in the affected communities.

A Gotcha
The City also added a silly rule to its right hand side of the street bus lane. Car drives are not allowed to drop off passengers, even when no buses are in sight. The city has installed cameras to ensure that those who break this rule will be ticketed. Trucks with deliveries to stores along the bus route must park on a side street and then haul their deliveries in order to avoid getting a ticket. Yet another lets make this city harder to live in idea by the Bloomberg Administration.

Passenger Purchase TicketsEven a bus holding 100 passengers will not overcome the thousands inconvenienced by not having the parking or drop off space and the thousands who drive by Second Avenue every hour. It is a bad trade off.  At 5 express buses per hour times 8 hours of taking up the lane it comes out to 20-30 thousand bus passengers served vs the hundreds of thousands of car drives who have to fight on an avenue made narrower for them to drive on and 300 less parking spaces per hour (2,400 parking space hours) on each affected avenue. One can not even calculate the new stress car owners have to endure in looking for parking spots in the affected communities.

All this for an express bus which is not quicker than the regular express bus, causes passengers more work in order to board, and takes away valuable parking and drop off real estate. This plan is an attempt to alienate car drivers and city residents. It is bad enough being nickle and dime when it comes to taxes, parking regulations, increase in public transportation while services plummets, but now the city has declared war on its residents with this silly plan. It almost seems that the city is doing everything possible to make living here harder and harder to do. A plan which affects lower income residents as higher income residents can park their car in paid for parking garages.

This express bus idea is more ideal in theory than it ever can be in practice. It is one of those ideas that looks good on paper. An idea that has more symbolism behind it then an actually delivery. It sounds good but is not.

The city should go back to the regular express buses, give the avenues back to the residents and just require that everyone have their MetroCard out and ready as they board a bus. No need to take up a whole lane of an avenue. No need to take valuable parking away from city residents. And no need to take much needed space to drop off car passengers or to make deliveries. New Yorkers can also use a break from yet another thing to be ticketed for.  Mayor Bloomberg has made New York City more oppressive to its citizens.  He needs to take an express bus out of the city for good and for our good. The sooner the better.

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