With bus ridership in free fall, New York City is exploring ways to impove service and stanch the decline. The city will do well to listen to ideas from the people who know the system best: bus drivers. As part of research on how to improve bus service in the borough of Brooklyn, Alon Levy and Eric Goldwyn recently spoke to 373 of the city's drivers. In a recent piece for City Lab, Alon and Eric wrote up a bit of what they learned from the survey.
The top fix they’d like to see is off-board fare collection. Managing the farebox creates lots of opportunities for conflict with passengers. According to the Transport Workers Union Local 100, 75 Brooklyn bus operators were assaulted in 2017, in part because of disputes over payment. Relatedly, some 90 percent of the bus operators who responded to our survey said that all-door boarding, which would be made possible by off-board fare payment, would make them more effective at their jobs, the highest show of support for any change.
The second most important issue they highlighted was traffic and bus lane enforcement. The two issues that cause operators the most stress are double-parked vehicles (79 percent) and traffic (63 percent). In addition, 82 percent of operators said reduced congestion would make them more effective at their job. This finding is especially salient because New York has already rolled out camera-enforced bus lanes on some routes. Operators told us that these lanes don’t do enough to keep buses from getting trapped behind double-parked vehicles, taxis that are picking up or dropping off, and vehicles turning in front of them.