Though much noise was made last year about the all-red repainting of oft-clogged bus lanes, their message seems to be lost on most motorists, which is prompting the new MTA chairman Jay H. Walder to plan more drastic measures for getting New York’s bus system up to speed.
In a recent interview with the Times, Walder discusses some of his big, new (at least in New York) ideas for the buses and subways: security cameras on traffic poles and buses to photograph and fine bus lane-cruising cars, GPS tracking for up-to-the-minute bus arrival estimates, and sensor-equipped Metrocards that don’t need to swiped so much as flashed, meaning you’ll never have the wind knocked out of you by an unmoving turnstile ever again.
All of which sounds fun and flashy in a geeky, tech-y kind of way, but seems to amount to cosmetic patches where more fundamental structural changes are needed. Walder would do well to read about Bogota’s unbeatable TransMilenio bus system, which has dedicated lanes that are protected by cement barriers, special boarding platforms so that riders have already paid their fare before the bus arrives and don’t have to climb on-board. In the meantime, Walder’s plans to bring bus ridership numbers closer to subway figures—currently there are roughly twice as many subway-riders as bus-riders—seem more like a fantasy than an attainable goal.