Countdown clocks coming to East Side bus stops

Council Member Dan Garodnick (right) stands by a new countdown clock at a bus stop for the M66. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In an effort to help straphangers get a more reliable idea of when their next bus is coming, the city is installing 48 new countdown clocks at bus stops around Council District 4. The project is being funded with nearly $1 million allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who admitted that there’s still plenty of work to be done in making buses more reliable.

Similar countdown displays are already in place in local routes where Select Bus Service is offered, like the M23, although other SBS routes, including the M15, will be getting new countdown clocks in stops that don’t have them already.

The announcement was made last Tuesday at a bus stop at 68th Street and Lexington, which is one of four where a new countdown clock has already been installed. The other three are in midtown and the other 44 will be installed by the end of the year.

Garodnick, who was joined by Manhattan Borough Department of Transportation Commissioner Luis Sanchez and John Raskin of the Riders Alliance, discussed how unlike other methods of mass transit, bus usage is actually on the decline.

While noting that it’s sometimes the only option for the mobility impaired or New Yorkers who don’t live close to a subway, the speed or rather lack of it at which buses travel, has made above ground mass transit too slow and unreliable for a growing number of people.

“Bus service has declined by 16 percent in the last decade,” said Raskin. “People are voting with their MetroCards. People are starting to abandon the bus.”

Garodnick gave the bus stopping on that block, the M66, as an example of why.

“It’s the 17th busiest out of 40 routes, but it moves at 4.1 miles per hour,” he said. “I can jog backwards carrying my six-year-old son faster than the M66 goes to the West Side.”

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Select Bus Service arrives along M23 route

Workers stand by a newly built bus stop for the M23, which now has Select Bus Service, at 23rd Street and Broadway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Workers stand by a newly built bus stop for the M23, which now has Select Bus Service, at 23rd Street and Broadway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

After months of planning — and a canceled plan to remove a Stuyvesant Town bus stop — Select Bus Service has come to 23rd Street.

SBS buses have sped up service by 10-30 percent, according to the mayor who made the announcement via a press release on Monday. The news was cheered by local elected officials, who pointed out that the M23 has been one of the city’s slowest buses, even twice winning the annual Straphangers Campaign’s Pokey Award for the slowest route.

“My constituents agree: the M23 is one of the slowest bus routes in the city and it’s often faster to walk than take the bus,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

State Senator Liz Krueger said the SBS couldn’t come at a more needed time: ahead of the dreaded L-pocalypse.

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How straphangers can save hundreds of dollars a year, starting in January

Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at an event in Union Square to promote the Community Benefits Law, which will save commuters an average of $443 a year in monthly MetroCards. (Photo courtesy of Riders Alliance)

Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at an event in Union Square to promote the Community Benefits Law, which will save commuters an average of $443 a year in monthly MetroCards. (Photo courtesy of Riders Alliance)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

To help commuters estimate how much they could save on transit as a result of the new Commuter Benefits Law, City Council Member Dan Garodnick joined representatives from the Rider’s Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Union Square subway station on Sunday with a giant calculator and an oversized tax chart.

Garodnick had originally proposed the legislation in the spring of 2014 and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the legislation that October, but the councilmember held the event in Union Square last weekend as a reminder that commuters should take advantage of the benefits because the law officially goes into effect on January 1, 2016.

The new law will require businesses with 20 or more employees to offer workers the opportunity to use pre-tax dollars toward transit. Garodnick said that there was previously no requirement for employers and once the law goes into effect, the Department of Consumer Affairs will have the power to enforce it. But he emphasized that he wants to let both employers and employees know about the program’s advantages rather than worry about consequences of non-compliance.

“At this moment we’re really trying to educate,” he said. “We want people to know it’s a benefit that will be available and encourage employers to set it up.”

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M15 voted city’s most unreliable bus

Three M15 buses line up alongside a bus stop in front of Stuyvesant Town on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Three M15 buses line up alongside a bus stop in front of Stuyvesant Town on First Avenue. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives bestowed their annual dubious award of “Schleppie” for the most unreliable bus line in the city to the M15, including its Select Bus Service (SBS) option.

The Schleppie, which is represented by two lumbering elephants on a pedestal, was given to the First and Second Avenue Manhattan line because of its tendency towards bus bunching as well as major gaps in service.

The award, which has been given since 2006, goes to any route with an average “wait assessment” greater than 20 percent. This determination is based on official “wait assessments” for “42 high-volume routes,” chosen by Transit. Wait assessment measures how closely a line sticks to scheduled intervals for arrival. Wait assessment becomes poorer the more buses arrive in bunches or with major gaps in service.

Still, the NYPIRG had some words of encouragement for the route, acknowledging that in 2013, the M15 was the most utilized route out of nearly 200 local routes in the entire city. The local and SBS together move 54,310 riders on an average weekday. The report also said Transportation Alternatives was optimistic things would improve once the city implements SBS routes.

“New Yorkers know from bitter daily experience that bus service is slow and unreliable,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “But there is real hope for dramatic improvement in Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build a rapid network of 20 ‘Select Bus Service/Bus Rapid Transit’ routes.”

The report also went on to say that based on its findings, SBS routes were living up to the expectation of being speedier than locals, while also performing “modestly” better in terms of reliability.

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