MTA 2011 Highlights: Select Bus Service Arrives at 34th Street

In 2011, the MTA focused on delivering on some long-promised benefits for our 8.5 million customers. This is the fifth in a daily series that recaps the best of 2011.

Photo of M34

New Select Bus Service, called M34 SBS, commenced in November and replaced the previous M34 and M16 service.

Supported jointly by MTA New York City Transit, the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York City Police Department, Select Bus Service is New York City's version of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) --- an increased-speed, high-performance bus system incorporating off-board fare collection, fewer stops, low-floor hybrid-electric buses, and a branded, easily identifiable service. Similar service changes have already brought a noticeable improvement in speed, reliability and ridership along the Bx12 SBS on Fordham Road in the Bronx and the M15 SBS along First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. These routes have improved bus speeds by 20 percent and increased total route ridership by 10 percent.

Previously, the M34 and M16 buses spent more than 35 percent of its total trip travel time stopped while customers boarded. With off-board fare collection, travel time for the M34 will be reduced substantially. The old M34 and M16 routes carried over 18,000 passengers on an average weekday primarily along 34th Street which sees high pedestrian volumes with people accessing Penn Station and several subway stations along the corridor.

Implementation of M34 SBS on 34th Street will not increase bus operating costs and will operate the same hours and frequency as current M34 and M16 service. There is no reduction in service from past levels of service. Select Bus Service has two branches replicating the old M34 and M16 service, relabeled M34 and M34A respectively. The M34 SBS now operates via 34th Street between Twelfth Avenue / Javits Center and the East 34th Street Pier replicating the old M34. The M34A SBS operates between the Port Authority Bus Terminal / Ninth Avenue at 42nd Street and Waterside Plaza replicating the old M16. It operates on 34th Street between First and Ninth Avenues.

Improved software has been incorporated into fare machines to improve reliability by notifying bus command of problems with MetroCard jams, and paper running out for receipts. The fare machines are located at every SBS stop except at the end of the routes where boardings are very few. The Eagle Team fare inspectors will not issue summonses at stops where there are no fare machines.

One key element of SBS is dedicated bus lanes. Currently, terra cotta colored curbside bus lanes are in place on the full extent of 34th Street. NYCDOT will introduce terra cotta colored offset bus lanes on much of the route in 2012. Offset bus lanes are located next to the parking lane, instead of next to the curb, reducing blockages and allowing for sidewalk extensions at stops, called bus bulbs. To facilitate deliveries to businesses, there will be loading zones on each block along 34th Street.

New York City Transit and NYCDOT will continue to work closely with the NYPD on bus lane enforcement. New York City Transit currently has six cameras on board buses as part of a pilot for bus lane enforcement. An RFP was recent issued for the installation of on board cameras on 90 more buses along the SBS routes.

NYCDOT has already successfully tested and operated camera enforcement technology on 34th Street and adjudicated violations by taxi drivers. Subsequently the New York State Legislature authorized use of camera enforcement for all vehicles in 2010. Vehicles may enter a bus lane only to make the next available right turn, or to quickly drop off or pick up passengers. Violating bus lane rules results in a $115 – $150 fine.

In November 2008, testing began on a technology and management system to enable the use of a bus-only signal priority system. After a successful testing period, a turn-signal priority system that gives buses an exclusive signal phase to turn left onto Seventh Avenue was activated.