Fixing New York City's Buses

Fixing New York
City’s Buses

Presented by The Bus Turnaround Coalition

Every weekday, New Yorkers take more than 2 million rides on the city’s buses.

But today, buses in New York City are slow, unreliable, and getting worse.

As a result, New Yorkers are voting with their MetroCards: they are steadily abandoning the bus. Between 2002 and 2016, bus ridership dropped nearly 18%.

New York City’s buses are in crisis.

Ridership decline is a dangerous trend,

not only because New Yorkers who give up on the bus may travel in single-occupancy cars instead, but also because low ridership can cause a destructive spiral in which bus service is slashed as riders choose to avoid it. Unreliable bus service is hurting New Yorkers. As travel times become increasingly long and unreliable, bus riders lose time and money. Poor service can make them late to work and school and force them to spend money on cabs.

But our buses can be fixed—other cities have done it.

It’s time for a turnaround. Fast, reliable buses are possible in NYC. Other dense cities have turned around their ailing bus systems and we can too! Using best practices from around the country and the world, we have developed practical strategies for fixing New York’s buses.

Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses is presented by the Bus Turnaround Coalition, a diverse group of New Yorkers determined to turn around the poor service that plagues the city’s bus system and the more than 2 million rides taken on it every weekday.

Rider Stories
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Meet Beth

Beth is a retired high school English teacher who is originally from Texas. She moved here in the 1980s because of a lifelong desire to live in NYC and for the freedom public transportation gave her. Beth lives on the Upper East Side, near the Queensboro Bridge. She is an active swimmer who practices three times a week to strengthen her bad knees and is also heavily involved in her church community on the Upper West Side. She got involved in the Bus Turnaround campaign out of frustration over inaccurate bus schedules and the poor and inaccurate information provided to riders.

“I‘m a retiree. Whatever time I may have left shouldn’t be spent waiting for the bus.”

As a resident of the Upper East side, Beth relies on buses like the M57 to get across town. She often has to wait a long time for the bus, typically without a shelter or place to sit. Once the bus does arrive, she then faces the frustration of a slow ride stuck in mixed traffic with single occupancy vehicles.


  • Non-existent or unreliable bus countdown clock information

  • Bus is very slow: 4 mph

  • Bus is unreliable

Report Cards
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Meet John

John is a father of three who works and lives in the Bronx. He is a librarian at the Van Cortlandt branch of the New York Public Library. He uses multiple buses, most often the Bx17 and Bx1 to take his kids to school and go to work. John got involved in Bus Turnaround out of frustration over poor service that continues to deteriorate while fares continue to increase. Bus service is so unreliable that John often ends up walking over a mile with his children when his bus does not arrive.

“New York needs a bus system that beats like the heart of the city.”

As a father with three kids to get to school before he gets to work, John gets up at 6:00AM. His first journey of the day begins on the Bx17 to take his children to school. After that, he takes the Bx1 along the Grand Concourse to get to work. Long wait times and unreliable service mean that John builds a lot of buffer time into his morning to ensure that he and his kids get to work and school on time. John typically spends over an hour and half traveling on slow buses each morning. He repeats this routine at the end of each weekday.


  • Bus is highly unreliable and as a result, actual service is often less frequent than what the schedule indicates.

  • Bus is very slow.

Report Cards
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Meet Natasha

Natasha is a small business owner from Eastern Queens. Her main bus route is the Q83, which she takes to get to the subway to reach Manhattan. Natasha grew up in the St Albans neighborhood and has depended on buses her entire life. Since the bus is slow and unreliable, she sometimes takes taxis to or from the Long Island Railroad station or dollar vans to get to and from the subway. Natasha got involved in the Bus Turnaround Campaign out of frustration over having to spend extra money when the bus doesn’t come. She’s tired of using resources that she could be investing in her business to compensate for undependable buses.

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“Within the last decade bus service has seriously declined, making a significant difference in the amount of time I spend commuting and my overall peace of mind.”

To return home from work in the city at the end of her workday, Natasha takes the E train to Jamaica Center, a ride that often takes more than an hour. She then waits 20 minutes for the Q83, the only bus she can take to reach her home. When the bus arrives, it is usually already crowded. She and dozens of bus riders squeeze their way into the bus, making boarding uncomfortable and slow. The bus moves slowly out of Jamaica, and takes 25 minutes to travel 2 miles to her home. In total, it takes Natasha 2 hours to get home after a long day.


  • The bus is often late, which can mean a long wait at the bus stop. When the bus finally arrives, it is often very crowded.

  • Boarding the bus can be slow, especially when many people are waiting at transfer points in Jamaica

  • The bus often gets stuck in traffic, especially at the transit hub in Jamaica, and becomes bunched

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Ways to get involved

  • When your bus is late or moving too slowly, tweet at @NYCMayor and @JoeLhota and use the hashtag #busturnaround
  • Join the grassroots effort by contacting Stephanie at stephanie@ridersny.org
  • Sign the Riders Alliance petition for better buses here.
  • Share your woes on the bus here.
  • Join us in testifying at an upcoming MTA Board Meeting. See Straphangers’ helpful tips on testifying here.

The Turnaround Campaign is currently:

  1. Calling on MTA leadership to bring all door boarding to local buses when they replace the MetroCard.
  2. Calling on Mayor DeBlasio to
    • add bus lanes to at least 10 local routes in 2018, and
    • add transit signal priority to 20 routes in 2018.

Please scroll down to learn more about our current campaign asks and related actions.



Implement all door boarding on local buses

We're calling on MTA leadership to bring all door boarding to local buses when they replace the MetroCard.

Create more bus lanes with effective enforcement and signal priority for buses

We're calling on Mayor DeBlasio to add bus lanes with effective enforcement to at least 10 local routes in 2018.


Top 10 nominees for bus lanes

The Bus Turnaround Coalition has identified the top ten prime streets for practical, near-term bus improvements across all five New York City boroughs.
Increase the use of transit signal priority

We're calling on Mayor DeBlasio to add transit signal priority to 20 bus routes in 2018.


Waiting for the light

New Yorkers are stuck spending 21% of their bus rides stopped at red lights—but they shouldn’t be: transit signal priority (TSP) can be used to extend green lights or shorten red ones when a bus is approaching, speeding up trips and improving schedule reliability.
Other actions and events

This Valentine’s Day: Mayor Deblasio, will you be our bus mayor?

This Valentine’s Day, join us in tweeting @NYCMayor to ask him to be a champion for NYC bus riders by prioritizing buses on city streets. #busmayor #busturnaround


Bus Turnaround Coalition releases new grades for MTA bus routes

The Bus Turnaround Coalition gathered Thursday morning outside of Brooklyn Borough Hall to release new grades for each of NYC’s local bus routes. These grades are based on analysis of bus speeds and reliability over the last year and are available at http://www.busturnaround.nyc. Out of 246 local bus routes evaluated by the coalition, nearly 75 percent received Ds or Fs.

Join the #BusTurnaround conversation on social media

The Turnaround Campaign in the News


About Us:
The Bus Turnaround Coalition is a diverse group of New Yorkers determined to turn around the poor service that plagues the city’s bus system and the more than 2 million rides taken on it every weekday. We are winning increased attention from our leaders and greater resources for high quality, fast and reliable bus service for all neighborhoods in New York City. We launched our campaign in July 2016.

The website’s content was developed by the Bus Turnaround Coalition, including Tabitha Decker, Zak Accuardi, Mary Buchanan, Al Beatty, Jon Orcutt, Hayley Richardson, and Chris Pangilinan of TransitCenter; John Raskin, Stephanie Veras, and Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance; Nick Sifuentes and Vincent Pellecchia of Tri-State Transportation Campaign; and Gene Russianoff and Jaqi Cohen of New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign.

Many people have contributed to the data analysis that underlies the bus report cards. The Bus Turnaround Coalition is indebted to Nathan Johnson, without whose dedication and technical expertise the bus performance analysis presented here would not have been possible. Neil Freeman and Kuan Butts also made valuable contributions to this analysis. JD Godchaux and Lela Prashad of NiJeL created an earlier version of the bus report cards on which the current version is based. Finally, the report cards were produced in partnership with and using technology from Carto.

The recommended changes in the “solutions” section are derived from analysis conducted by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, an effort led by Larry Gould and David Fields.

This website was designed and built by Objective Subject. Original Turnaround illustrations were created by Max Halton.