Transit advocates hail bus lane bill that removes cap on camera enforcement

The Q60 makes its way down Queens Boulevard.  Eagle  file photo by Jonathan Sperling.

The Q60 makes its way down Queens Boulevard. Eagle file photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By Jonathan Sperling

Stay in your lane. Not the bus lane.

That’s the message to city drivers after the New York State Senate passed a bill Tuesday that removes the cap on automated enforcement cameras for bus lanes and traffic lights throughout the city, while also increasing penalties for repeat offenders.

“Public transit is the lifeblood of NYC and the entire region. Buses are integral to that system. But w/out camera enforcement, dedicated bus lanes are just so many painted lines,” Manhattan State Sen. Liz Krueger, the bill’s sponsor, said on Twitter following the bill’s passage. “Albany shouldn't prevent NYC from deploying the tools to improve bus service and reduce congestion.”

The legislation notes that New York state law currently limits the use of bus lane enforcement cameras to only 16 bus routes in the city, despite the fact that the Department of Transportation has installed more bus lanes than that. The bill would give the DOT the power to enforce the bus-only rule with cameras, increasing their effectiveness by punishing drivers who would otherwise violate the law.

Under the bill, drivers who violate bus lane laws more than four times in a 12-month period are subject to a $250 fine. Revenue gained from paid fines will go toward the New York City Transportation Assistance Fund, which funds the operating and capital costs of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s subway action plan.

Southeast Queens neighborhoods such as South Jamaica, Cambria Heights and St. Albans are especially dependent on MTA buses, as the subway does not serve those areas. State Sen. Leroy Comrie, whose district includes a large swath of Southeastern Queens, was one of the bill’s co-sponsors. He could not be reached for comment by the Eagle as of press time Wednesday.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, who cast the lone “nay” committee vote on the bill on June 12, could not be reached for comment by the Eagle as of press time Wednesday.

City-based transit advocates have long rallied for stricter bus lane enforcement. Earlier this year at a rally in Jamaica, Southeast Queens residents told the Eagle that area buses are often subject to overcrowding, delays and irregular service. Queens has several bus routes with marked lanes, including sections of Archer Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and the Long Island Expressway.

“Today, the New York State Senate took a tremendous step towards improving the lives of over 2 million New Yorkers who take the bus each day by passing S.1925,” said Straphangers Campaign Campaign Director Jaqi Cohen in a statement following the bill’s passage.

“This legislation, if enacted, would help keep bus lanes free and clear for bus riders who endure some of the worst commutes in New York City,” she added.

Unauthorized vehicles are barred from entering a bus lane, except when making a right turn at the next street, to access a curb cut or driveway within 200 feet, or to quickly drop off or pick up passengers. For more rules regarding bus lanes, visit the Select Bus Service page of nyc.gov.