With New York City Transit committed to a yearlong review of Queens’ bus routes and the last day of the state Legislature’s session set for June 19, riders’ advocates and elected officials were in Flushing on May 23 calling for camera enforcement of bus lanes.
Speaking at the Q44 Select Bus Service stop at Main Street and Booth Memorial Avenue, Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has made progress on subways.
“But the buses need to be improved as well,” he said. Sifuentes and others present are backing companion bills in the state Senate and Assembly that would lift the caps on automated enforcement cameras and increase the fines that are allowed.
Companion bills are being sponsored by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). Rozic said the bill is based on one she first introduced in 2015. She said bus lanes work better without cars, and car traffic moves faster without buses.
“For SBS routes that are often obstructed, lane enforcement is essential to ensuring lanes remain clear for the thousands of passengers who rely on local bus service,” she said. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) concurred.
“This is commonsense legislation that will increase reliability while decreasing congestion,” she said.
Fulton Hou, a member of the Riders Alliance and a resident of Floral Park, said people who live beyond the ends of the subway lines must rely on buses.
“I have to take two buses to get to the subway when I go to school, to work or have appointments,” Hou said. “If any one is delayed, I’m late.” Sifuentes said cameras and the accompanying summonses could speed up bus traffic by 17 percent.
“Bus lanes are essential for better service, but they don’t work when cars and trucks are parked in them,” said Jaqi Cohen of Straphangers Campaign.
She and Rebecca Bailin, political director of the Riders Alliance, urged people to contact their state legislators to support the bills.
Even Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), an opponent of recently approved congestion pricing legislation, attended the press conference to lend his support.
State Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) denied that the cameras would simply be a revenue grab for the state.
“Personally, I hope the revenue from bus lane cameras would be zero,” he said.
Liu and Stavisky also said the bills guard against a camera’s inability to distinguish between a driver who is using a bus lane as a travel lane and one who is using it for a right turn, as several drivers did within view of the press conference before turning east onto Booth Memorial Avenue.
Liu said the bill calls for human review of any footage before a summons is sent out, while Stavisky said the cameras would be activated by bus drivers who would be in a position to distinguish who is doing what when entering a lane.