Hoylman bill would bring back SBS lights

SBS bus (Photo via Wikipedia)

SBS bus (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation on Monday that would allow New York City Transit to use purple flashing lights on SBS buses.

“It’s hard to believe we need Albany approval to change the color of lights on select buses in New York City, but we do,” Hoylman said. “That said, it’s important we pass legislation that enables select buses to use purple colored lights to allow thousands of riders, many of them my constituents, to distinguish from a distance SBS buses from traditional buses, giving riders time determine whether they need to pre-pay the SBS fare or take a local bus. Plus, purple lights won’t cause confusion with emergency vehicles because they don’t use this color.”

The legislation comes about a month after Community Board 6 passed a resolution that supported the return of the flashing lights at the full board meeting on April 9.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner introduced a bill in the State Assembly in March, 2013 to amend vehicle and traffic law and correct the issue. Hoylman’s bill is the same as the one in the Assembly and the legislation would add a new paragraph to the law so that the MTA was permitted to use flashing purple lights for buses on SBS routes. The senator’s district includes significant portions of the M15 SBS route, which runs on First and Second Avenue, as well as the M34 SBS route, which runs crosstown on 34th Street.

Stuyvesant Town resident and CB6 board member Lawrence Scheyer has been a strong supporter of the return of the lights because of the hassle that a lack of lights has caused for both express and local bus riders. Many proponents for the lights have argued that the short warning time for an approaching SBS bus makes the curbside payment system more difficult.

“Especially during long waits for buses on dark and stormy and frigid nights, the first sighting of the SBS bus’ signature twin beacons of blinking light in the in the distance was reassuring to all waiting bus passengers,” Scheyer said. “At major stops where riders wait at different locations for local or Select buses, such early warning provided ample opportunity for everybody, calmly, to pre-pay at curbside kiosks and obtain receipts.”

Flashing lights were utilized on SBS buses from the time they were put into service in 2008 until late 2012. Elected officials from Staten Island pressured then-MTA commissioner Joe Lhota to get rid of the lights, citing confusion with volunteer emergency vehicles and no flashing lights have distinguished the buses since then.

Letters to the Editor, May 16

Limited choices for those of limited mobility

Dear Sirs:

Standing or sitting in one place at a Limited bus stop on 3rd Ave. enables me to choose whichever bus comes first…. one that can drop me close to my destination or a Limited which will require more walking. I choose according to how much time and strength I have.

This has become one of life’s little luxuries when compared to the Select Bus System on 1st and 2nd Aves. where the local and Select stops are half a block apart or, in the case of 1st and “23rd” St., where they are a block apart, i.e. the local is at 24th St. and the express (Select) is at 25th. (When your knees hurt, you have a walker, etc. you need the first door of the Select bus, which is lowered and is at 25th St.)

With the blue lights Select buses were visible about 8 blocks away… time to walk from the local stop and buy a ticket or vice-versa. The Select bus signage is rather small and readable only when it is pulling in… but you can still see people dashing to get a bus… any bus.

Beginning with NY Eye and Ear at 14th and 2nd and ending with NYU, which now extends to 38th on 1st, I count seven major hospitals/clinics. Ride the local buses in this area and see the many who have physical limitations or are carrying children and are clearly visiting the hospitals/clinics.

In my experience there are two Select buses to every local bus on 1st and 2nd.  I believe the MTA has deemed this system a success because it has shortened the ride from the Upper East Side to City Hall or Wall St. areas on the Select buses. (I suspect the MTA was tired of maintaining the blue lights anyway.)
It appears the local rider…even along this hospital corridor…has never mattered to the MTA.

By all means one can complain directly to the MTA, but this is mayoral election year. I haven’t chosen a candidate but Bill de Blasio has formulated a message of “Two Cities” to describe how many of our problems have been addressed.

The other day, I was going out a back bus door in the rain and struggling with umbrella and cane when the door shut on me.  After yelling, etc. I was told it shuts automatically after a set period of time. I have a big bruise on one arm where the door slammed into me.  Seems to me the MTA is focused on time tables and efficiencies which leaves me in the less fortunate, easily overlooked part of the “two cities.”

Joyce Ann Kent,
Gramercy Park

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