With Bus Speeds Dismal, MTA Installs Camera System To Aid Bus Lane Enforcement

The Q60 bus travels down Queens Boulevard.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling.

The Q60 bus travels down Queens Boulevard. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By Jonathan Sperling

The MTA is pulling no punches when it comes to motorists who obstruct bus lanes, equipping part of its bus fleet with a camera system that can document clear cases of bus lane violation, the agency announced Tuesday.

More than 120 buses serving routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan will soon be equipped with the Automated Bus Lane Enforcement system pilot program, an early step in NYCTransit’s evaluation of automated bus lane enforcement, as well as its effect on bus speeds and travel times. The MTA told the Eagle that would eventually expand the program to include all bus routes with bus lanes, including those in Queens.

The system, born out of a $6.2 million contract with Siemens Mobility, will be installed on new buses that will be delivered from 2019 to early 2020.

“This advanced automated camera technology will make a real difference toward clearing the way for our buses as they navigate some of the most congested roadways in the nation,” said MTA Bus Company President Darryl Irick in a statement. “Together with our City partners, we are prioritizing public transit on city streets so that our buses and our customers spend less time sitting in traffic. We look forward to putting these cameras on the road and dedicating additional capital funds from congestion pricing and other means so we can expand the program even further.”

The ABLE system works by capturing the license plate, photo, video, location and timestamp of vehicles obstructing bus lanes. The information is then sent to the Department of Transportation for review and processing.

Multiple pieces of evidence ensures that vehicles making permitted turns from bus lanes are not ticketed, according to the MTA. People who drive, park or stand in a bus lane during its hours of operation are subject to fines ranging from $115-150, according to the DOT.

A report published by the Bus Turnaround Coalition gave more than 50 percent of city buses a “D” or “F” grade based on speed and service predictability, among other factors. Several Queens bus routes stand to see increased speeds once the ABLE system is installed, including Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica.