Mobilizing the Region
Issue 259 March 3, 2000

NYC Council: Hard Look at Long Buses

This week East-side NYC Councilmembers Gifford Miller and Eva Moskowitz called for a Council hearing on the MTA's introduction of articulated buses to Manhattan routes 79 and 86. The 60 foot long buses with an accordian-like flexible segment have run on these popular cross-town routes since November and have served Bronx routes 1 and 2, 12, and 55 since early 1997 (see MTR #117). More buses are expected to be placed on BX 5, 22, and 39 within the next year.

Articulated buses are twenty feet longer than the MTA's standard buses and contain 30-odd more seats, but in the case of both Manhattan and Bronx their introduction was accompanied by substantial reductions in service frequency, creating longer waits at the bus stop for transit riders. During rush hour the MTA now sends three articulated buses down Manhattan routes for every four regular buses previously run, and in total offers 15% fewer weekday bus trips. In the transit dependant Bronx, service reductions on articulated lines were even more extreme with a 22% cut on the BX 1 and 2 and a 47% cut on BX 55. The MTA's consistent use of the extra-long buses to mask overall service reductions has rider advocates wary of the request for 400 new articulated buses in the previously vetted version of the MTA 2000-2004 capital plan.

The MTA's expansion of its articulated bus fleet also raises environmental and public health issues as all articulated buses currently in service as well as the model proposed for future purchase are powered by diesel fuel (see following article).

Riders and drivers have further complaints that the long buses block driver visibility and cause traffic back-ups around tight corners like 86th St. and West End. The buses are also described as difficult to board, especially for the elderly and the disabled.

For five months, the MTA has refused to meet with East-side residents or their representatives to discuss these concerns. The two Councilmembers believe that a hearing would lead to greater public scrutiny of the problems associated with articulated buses and expect it to create pressure on the MTA to use the longer buses to add additional seats to crowded routes, rather than as an occasion for service cuts.

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