Why are taxes, tolls and ticketing the politicians’ solutions to the traffic problems caused by their poor planning? And why do they always single out the trucking industry? Comptroller Scott Stringer, in his recent report, Improving Select Bus Service: Putting the Rapid in Bus Rapid Transit, says “the City must double down on traffic enforcement“ to improve the speed and reliability of Select Bus Service (SBS).
Not familiar with SBS Buses? While the MTA and City planners spent billions in Manhattan on glitzy new subway stations and the three station Second Avenue Subway, and none for improving roadway infrastructure, they figured they could speed up buses and increase ridership by removing traffic lanes and parking spots to create dedicated bus lanes. Yet bus ridership is decreasing while congestion grows. By his own survey, Stringer says that 70% of the SBS riders surveyed blame congestion for poor bus performance. Only 28% of those surveyed blame the poor performance on drivers who block bus stops or bus lanes.
So, rather than focus on the causes of congestion, Stringer believes more enforcement will save the day. But enforcement won’t solve congestion if drivers have no realistic alternatives. Going for the drama, Stringer focuses on the trucking industry claiming that the bulk of repeat offenders are commercial vehicles. Yet by Stringer’s own data, only about a third (37%) of the almost 13,000 bus lane/bus stop tickets issued to those with 5 or more tickets were issued to commercial firms.
The commercial firms that received these 4,712 tickets are probably not “scofflaws” as Stringer alleges. In most cases they’re firms that had to be in those locations, oil deliveries, armored cars or other valuables, construction materials, bulky items or simply crossing the bus lane to pull in or out of legal parking. Trucks are the implements of commerce, not the causes of congestion. In fact, Stringer fails to mention the true causes of congestion, the removal of traffic and legal parking spaces, construction, and the doubling of For Hire Vehicles (i.e. Uber & Lyft), whose drivers often park in designated truck parking zones while waiting for their next fare.
Yet even while calling for more enforcement, Stringer acknowledges the struggle truck drivers face. “As online shopping, grocery stores, and restaurants proliferate throughout the five boroughs, delivery vehicles have become more common and have had greater difficulty finding legal, curbside spots to drop off their wares. Too often, bus lanes and stops have become the solution to that problem…” Furthermore, by information released by his office (see below) the combined revenue from parking and moving violations to the city has been increasing since Vision Zero was initiated. Moving violation revenue is comparatively low because the State grabs a mandatory $88 surcharge plus administrative fees for every guilty ticket. Given the Mayor’s ticket blitz disguised as a congestion plan those numbers are going to keep rising. The facts and figures contained in the comptroller’s report do not support the conclusion that more ticketing will improve bus ridership or fix traffic problems.
If the City continues with their heavy-handed, anti-commerce agenda they will drive out small businesses and destroy communities, at which point improving bus speed will become irrelevant.