Frequently Asked Questions
What is Select Bus Service?
Select Bus Service is New York City's new, innovative bus service designed to reduce travel time and increase the level of comfort for customers. Select Bus Service was inaugurated in June 2008 and introduced changes to the way buses operate. SBS may include some (but not all) of the following elements:
- High visibility stations
- Bus ways where the road or lanes are dedicated to the exclusive use of buses
- A service plan that provides an easily understandable route map and schedule
- High capacity vehicles
- A faster fare collection system where customers pay before boarding
- On-board cameras
- Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) which gives buses priority at traffic lights
- System identity and branding which bring a unique and distinguished visibility to the BRT service.
Why buses? The subway is faster and more reliable; why not build a subway instead?
Subways are indeed faster and more reliable than bus systems which must compete with general traffic and pedestrians for the same street space. Subway lines, however, require costly up-front infrastructure and equipment investments and take many years to construct. Select Bus Service, often referred to as "rubber-tired light rail," uses a variety of techniques and technologies that will improve the quality and performance of transit much more quickly at a much lower cost.
How is Select Bus Service different from other buses?
Select Bus Service vehicles are new. These new vehicles will have distinctive branding and will be low floor articulated buses, with an extra third door to allow people to get on and off faster.
Select Bus Service also includes:
- New bus lanes, allowing buses to travel faster.
- Transit Signal Priority (TSP) which will result in buses stopping at fewer traffic lights.
- Off-board fare collection with all-door boarding allows the bus spend less time at stops
- Real time arrival information, with the wait for the next bus shown at bus shelters and available by cell phone or over the internet.
- Automated stop announcements
How will Select Bus Service be faster than the regular bus?
It will be faster due to several improvements. The proof-of-payment fare collection system will speed boarding at every stop. In addition, there will be a traffic signal priority system that permits Select Bus Service buses to get a green light at certain intersections. There will be somewhat fewer stops than current limited stop service. Bus only lanes will reduce delays. All of these features will make for a faster trip.
How will I be able to identify Select Bus Service stations and vehicles?
A distinctive, consistent design program has been developed that unifies the various Select Bus Service elements, including bus lanes, stations, buses, and traveler information.
SBS in New York City
Why does New York City need Select Bus Service?
NYC Transit has experienced a significant growth in bus ridership, with over 3 million bus riders daily and there are more transit riders than drivers in the city, and more transit riders than ever before. However, bus speed and reliability has suffered as a result of high ridership and congested road conditions. SBS will improve mobility and access in the neighborhoods that it serves. Everyone in the city benefits from improved public transportation through cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced congestion.
Where and when will the SBS routes be implemented?
- Fordham Road-Pelham Parkway - Launched Summer 2008
- 34th Street Phase I Enhanced Bus Priority Corridor - Launched Fall 2008
- First Avenue-Second Avenue SBS - Fall 2010
- Nostrand Avenue-Rogers Avenue SBS - 2012
- 34th Street Phase 2 Transitway - 2012
- Hylan Boulevard SBS and Transitway - 2013
What is the source of funding for this project?
Funding for Select Bus Service Implementation has been identified in the MTA's 5-year capital program. Approximately twenty (20) million dollars has been allocated for the program, which will be augmented by funds from other sources. The cost for each corridor will vary depending on the treatments being considered. NYCDOT is currently pursuing funding from the Federal Government to pay for new bus lanes, traffic signals and SBS stations.
How did DOT select the BRT routes?
The proposed BRT routes were selected through a thorough process, which included several public workshops and community board meetings along each proposed corridor.
In selecting the BRT corridors, public input was weighed heavily, other criteria for selection included BRT benefits (such as how many riders will be helped), and BRT compatibility (how physically appropriate this corridor is for BRT).
Going forward, each BRT corridor has or will have a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that continues to or will advise corridor design. The CACs will include elected officials, community board leaders, representatives from civic organizations, neighborhood groups, and major institutions.
Will there be inter-borough Select Bus Service?
The Hylan Boulevard corridor in Staten Island and the Fordham Road/Pelham Parkway corridor in the Bronx will both provide inter-borough service. The Hylan Boulevard corridor terminates at the 86th Street and 4th Ave subway station in Brooklyn . The Fordham Road/Pelham Parkway corridor terminates at 207th Street and Broadway subway station in Manhattan . At public meetings we heard a number of other suggestions for inter-borough SBS corridors. If successful, the applications of SBS in New York City could lead to extended, inter-borough services in the future.
Late at night, do we really need SBS? I would rather have more buses at every stop so that the wait will be shorter.
Late in the evening, when ridership drops noticeably, only local service will be provided. Generally speaking, when ridership levels drop to where one bus every 10 minutes is warranted, SBS will be curtailed in favor of 100% local service.
SBS and other buses
What will happen to my local bus and local bus stop?
Select Bus Service will be an addition to current local bus routes. With its introduction, local bus service will continue to operate as it does today. Additionally, please keep in mind that NYCT routinely makes minor adjustments and improvements to local routes as part of the efforts to provide better service and that these efforts are independent of this project.
What will happen to the limited-stop bus service?
On the corridors selected for the Select Bus Service, Limited-Stop Service will be replaced by Select Bus Service. In many ways Select Bus Service represents a highly-improved form of limited-stop bus transit. Select Bus Service will transform the limited-stop route into a more efficient and faster service.
Limited-stop bus routes that are not selected in the SBS corridors will not be immediately affected. The lessons learned in the demonstration projects will allow the project partners to bring improvement measures to bus service throughout the city.
What types of vehicles will be used?
The system will initially utilize existing NYCT buses, 60-foot-long articulated buses. They will be easily identified by the customer-friendly graphics and blue LED signs on the front of the bus.
NYC Transit is moving forward on purchasing low-floor, three door articulated buses, which would operate well in some SBS corridors. Any new buses must conform to the rigorous performance, safety and operating standards established by New York City Transit that is required to operate on the heavily-used streets of the city.
Why can't you have the Select Bus Service and the local bus stop at the same place?
The Fordham Road-Pelham Parkway corridor has a very high volume of bus service. Under current conditions, we sometimes find that two or more buses arrive at busy stops at the same time. This causes buses to get in each other's way, and sometimes buses cannot pull to the curb, which forces customers to board in the street. By having separate stops for Select Bus Service and local services, neither service will interfere with the other.
What will be the fare for Select Bus Service? How will fares be collected?
The fare will be same as for subway and local bus service.
On the Fordham Road-Pelham Parkway Select Bus Service, fares are being collected in a new manner. Customers pay their fare prior to boarding at machines which will be at every Select Bus Service stop. Riders can pay by MetroCard or coin. Customers will be issued a proof-of-payment receipt which they must hold during their trip to show to an inspector who may be riding the bus or at a bus stop. All transfers will work the same way they do today. Only customers who pay with coins and need a transfer will need to enter through the front door to ask the bus operator for a transfer. Otherwise, customers may board the bus through both doors. There is no need to show anything to the bus driver. Just keep the receipt that was issued by the machine.
Will Select Bus Service honor the free transfers that I get from my current bus?
Yes. The transfer policy will remain the same for Select Bus Service as the one currently in place for buses and the subway. You will need to insert your MetroCard or bus transfer at the MetroCard Fare Collector machine and obtain a proof-of-payment receipt.
What if I am on the Select Bus Service but I don't have my receipt?
Anyone who does not have a valid receipt will be issued a fare evasion summons by the fare inspector.
How can I transfer to a bus/subway after paying my SBS fare?
It will be the same procedure as now. Your connecting transfer data is encoded on your MetroCard. Just dip your MetroCard on the connecting bus and the transfer will be accepted.
How do I show proof of payment when transferring to another bus?
This customer must enter the front door and show their receipt to the Bus Operator and request a transfer. The Bus Operator will issue a transfer ticket from the farebox.
Does off-board fare collection encourage fare evasion?
This is not true; on Fordham Road/Pelham Parkway the MTA has been checking receipts and have noted that people are actually paying the fare more than they were before the SBS started - the fare evasion rate on the Bx12 SBS is approximately 1/4 of what it was when the route had the standard fare collection system. As a result, the MTA is receiving more revenue per rider on the route than they had been previously. Also, many bus riders transfer from or to the subway after their BRT trip, so they have already paid for their trip and are receiving a free transfer. (The MTA does not inspect every rider, but inspects enough that riders respect the possibility of a $100 summons for fare evasion.)
Where will people park who want to go to stores on a block with a bus lane?
In many cases, curbside parking will remain unchanged. As each of the corridors have different running way concepts; parking will be handled slightly differently for each of the corridors. Overnight parking will continue to be permitted at the curb. Where appropriate, a small amount of parking will be established on side streets adjacent to commercial areas. In some cases offset bus lanes will allow existing curbside parking to be maintained on both sides of the street. And in some locations, parking can even be added. There may be some localized changes to parking regulations, for which DOT will work with local stakeholders.
In the case of the Fordham Road Corridor, given that all day bus lanes are proposed in both directions, for most of the day, parking will not be permitted on Fordham Road. There are some municipal parking facilities in this area. Outside of the hours of operation of the bus lanes, i.e. before 7 am and after 7 pm, curb space will be available for parking.
Will BRT affect delivery/loading times for businesses? How will it affect customer visits and parking ability?
BRT will help customer mobility and increase business accessibility as the majority of shoppers in NYC walk or use transit. A survey on Forham Road before the implementation of SBS found that the large majority of shoppers walked or used transit and parked on Fordham Road itself.
To help facilitate delivery, DOT worked with business owners on Fordham Road, to establish "delivery windows" to allow deliveries to occur in the bus lane during focused times of day. In fact, during the "windows" more space was made available for loading than existed before. Other BRT routes will not have "curb" bus lanes. On Nostrand Ave and most parts of First Avenue/ Second Avenue Select Bus Service (SBS) BRT routes, the "offset" bus lane (the next lane over form the curb-line) will allow curbside loading and parking at the curb, making deliveries and loading easier for businesses.
How will SBS affect traffic?
BRT is called for in PlaNYC, the City's sustainability plan, as well as in Sustainable Streets, DOT's strategic plan, as a means to improve not only bus efficiency but mobility on NYC's streets. SBS works to make traffic move as efficiently as possible and improves overall traffic conditions. Traffic analysis and an Environmental Review process will be conducted in each of the selected SBS areas so the impacts can be analyzed and improved. This process also allows DOT and the MTA to take a fresh look at traffic infrastructure, such as curb regulations and signal timing enabling SBS to be developed in a way so that it can improve mobility for all modes of transportation. Also, while bus lanes developed as part of SBS can sometimes reduce the number of lanes available for general traffic, this does not always increase congestion for other vehicles. Bus lanes can reduce the congestion that buses cause pulling into and out of traffic. And, developing better transit service will also encourage people to take transit instead of driving, easing traffic.
How will the City assure that bus lanes are enforced?
Improving the enforcement of bus lanes is a critical element to ensuring the success of SBS, and we are working closely with the New York City Police Department on enforcement strategies that are both aggressive and sustainable.
In the long-term, we are also working towards the implementation of bus lane enforcement cameras, which would automate the enforcement process by issuing violation notices to vehicles that illegally drive or park in the bus lane. Bus lane cameras require approval from New York State, and draft legislation enabling enforcement through cameras was recently introduced in Albany.