B68 turning around in the Mermaid Bus Loop in Brooklyn. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit
This morning the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign released a bus report highlighting what they feel is a lack of adequate bus service to match growing bus ridership. Here is their report:
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today released an analysis showing that gains in weekday bus service lag behind increases in bus ridership.
The Campaign compared changes in weekday ridership to changes in weekday service over the past decade, between September 1997 and September 2007, using data from MTA New York City Transit.
For the city bus system overall, average weekday ridership increased 22% between 1997 and 2007, but weekday service only 15%.
Average weekday bus ridership rose by almost 450,000 daily, from two million in September 1997 to 2.45 million in September 2007 — up 22%. For the same period, service rose from 10.4 million “revenue seat miles” to 11.9 million — only 15%.
Bus ridership has increased since the start of free transfers between subways and buses in July 1997, with periods in which bus ridership dropped or stagnated after fare increases. In its three previous reports comparing bus service to ridership, the Campaign chose 1997 as its base year for comparisons. The reports can be found at www.straphangers.org by clicking on “reports and features.”
“Crushed by crowds? Have to wait for more than one bus to go by? It’s not your imagination, transit officials have never caught up to the waves of new bus riders,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
The group reviewed the amount of scheduled weekday service for 185 local bus routes — measured in what is called “revenue seat miles” — and then compared it to weekday ridership.
Russianoff noted that the city- and borough-wide numbers showed the general trend in direction in ridership and service levels. However, while the Campaign could conclude bus service lags behind ridership city-wide and borough-wide, it could not say exactly how much needs to be added to individual routes to keep up with ridership.
* Gains in service lagged behind increases in ridership in three boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens: In Brooklyn, the gap was more than triple, with ridership increasing 26% since 1997, but service only 8%. In Queens and the Bronx, the gap was 10 percentage points. Ridership was up 24% in the Bronx, but service only 14%. In Queens, ridership increased 30%, but service only 20%.
* Gains in service outpaced increases in ridership in two boroughs: In Manhattan, gains in service were slightly more than increases in ridership (15% to 13%). On Staten Island, gains in service outpaced increases in ridership overall (23% to 18%).
Ridership and service levels are also shown for each of the 185 individual routes, both in September 1997 and September 2007. However, the Campaign recommended caution in using these numbers on a route-by-route basis due to changes made in the routing of these bus lines over the past decade.
Russianoff urged community groups to use the analysis to press for more bus service where it makes sense to do so.
In the past, transit officials have challenged some comparisons, arguing that a number of routes already had excess capacity back in 1997, and were able to absorb the increase in ridership.
The Campaign’s analysis comes as transit officials are warning that they may be forced to raise fares and possibly cut service in response to a $500 million to $700 million budget deficit likely for 2009.
Russianoff said, “It makes no sense to cut service that’s already lagging behind ridership and new riders are flocking to transit service as the price of gasoline heads toward $5 a gallon.”
In the past, transit officials have said that the agency checks periodically to see whether passenger levels met its own standards for bus crowding on specific routes. These are known as “loading guidelines.” Russianoff said: “If New York City Transit’s own checks of ridership show it is providing enough matching levels of bus service, it should publicly release the crowding information on a regular basis.” He noted that this greater transparency would allow communities to judge whether they were receiving their fair share of bus service. Russianoff added that no description of the bus loading guidelines could be easily found on the MTA’s website, www.mta.info.
I feel the agency brings up legitimate points as to how current bus service is lacking. I have heard complaints from many people I know about the lack of bus service matching the current ridership levels. I am not surprised that the 3 worst boroughs in the report were the Bronx, Brooklyn, & Queens. These are the 3 boroughs I heard the majority of complaints from. From my own use of buses, I have noticed the problem in the Bronx as I am the most familiar with their routes.
Not surprising the MTA issued a press release responding to the Straphangers Campaign report. I will get to that in the next entry.
xoxo Transit Blogger