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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Plans to Expand Select Bus Service

October 20, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I’m impressed, Natasha. And the Rider’s Alliance is very smart to have you one of the people speaking on behalf of bus riders and straphangers and the people of New York City.

Natasha, thank you. I had a great talk with Natasha coming over here and I said to her – I listened to her whole life story and I said, “Natasha, you’re a New York success story.”

Grew up in St. Albans, Queens, went to our public high schools, and got a great education, got a lot of drive to go ahead and get out there in the workforce, and she succeeded. And she decided she wanted to start her own business which she did about a year ago and she’s making it work. She’s getting a big customer base. And she also knows because of the work she’s been doing how tough it is for people to get around. And I think I just heard a really eloquent statement on both the challenges we face as New Yorkers but also what we can do about it.

So, I just want to congratulate you, Natasha, for your new business. And thank you for your beautiful statement.


Now, I want to say at the outset, this is a – Select Bus Service is a very good thing for New York City and something that has to grow, and grow rapidly.

It’s also an example of real cooperation between the MTA and the City of New York. We can have a longer conversation about the MTA and about the challenges we face with our subways but what has been a real success story has been the working relationship between the MTA and the New York City Department of Transportation to create Select Bus Service routes and to get them online quickly.

It takes a lot of work on both sides. It takes real investment. It takes making big, physical changes along the route to make it work. But then when it works it’s a tremendous step forward for everyday New Yorkers and it becomes very popular – that’s what you heard from Natasha.

People who experience Select Bus Service really appreciate it.

So, I want to thank, representing the MTA, Steve Vidal, the Vice President for the MTA, one of the leaders of the MTA’s work in providing Select Bus Service. Thank you for joining us, Steve. And thank you for the great work you do. We appreciate it.


Now, Natasha’s right. New Yorkers work hard. This is the most wonderful city in the world. It’s a city that rewards us in so many ways. It’s also a tough city to live in. It’s hard to get around. There’s a lot of congestion and people really the wear-and-tear of life in this city.

So, our job is to make their lives easier. Our job is to lighten that burden. And we know if you can get around, if you can get around quickly everything else can work in your day. And if you can’t get around quickly it means missing a doctor appointment or a job interview or your kid’s little league game – things that really, really matter to people.

So, this is about as basic as it gets in terms of making life in this city work.

Again, a lot of attention goes on the subway system and for good reason. It carries a huge number of New Yorkers. But don’t forget the bus system. It’s so important to our lives – 2.5 million New Yorkers who use the buses every day rely on the buses to get them around.

And Natasha’s right. We have to do better. We have to make them faster and that’s the bottom line. If they’re faster, more and more people will use them. If they are easier to use, more and more people will get out of their cars. But if they’re not moving fast enough, it doesn’t encourage anyone to come and take the bus.

And this is where this partnership between the MTA and the City comes in, working together to expand Select Bus Service.

We put out today this summary of how we’re going to move forward with bus service in this city, and it’s exciting – 21 new Select Bus Service routes for all five boroughs. Twenty-one new routes will be created that are going to speed New Yorkers on their way, give them a comfortable ride, a quick ride, a better way to get around.

So, this is part of what the future of New York City looks like. Select Bus Service has been a huge success. It’s time to take it to the next level in all five boroughs. That’s what we celebrate today.

Now, I have to tell you, Natasha indicated it, there are real reasons why this works and why it’s a better way. The dedicated lanes make all the difference. The fact that people pay their fare before they get on board – you saw when we took that ride a moment ago how easy it was for us to get on quickly, others to get off, and everything keeps moving because people buy their tickets in advance.

Yeah, you got to invest to put all that together so it’s there for people but once you do it’s worth the investment. It makes a huge difference. Here’s the fact – Select Bus Service has reduced travel time for the New Yorkers who use it by 30 percent.

Now think about that. The city that never sleeps, the place where every minute counts – for New Yorkers who use Select Bus Service, they’re saving 30 percent of their time in terms of travel. It’s extraordinary.

Right now, Select Bus Service is working for lots of people – it’s about 12 percent of the bus rides taken in the city but we want that number to jump up. We want more and more New Yorkers to have their go-to option be Select Bus Service.

So, we predict, based on the routes that you’ll see here in all five boroughs, that Select Bus Service ridership will go up to 30 percent of all ridership in New York City in the coming years.

Now, that will more than double the current number of folks who are using Select Bus Service. There’s about 300,000 people now. It’s going to go up to about 800,000 New Yorkers every day who will be using Select Bus Service. And as I always tell my colleagues, when we use a number like 800,000 – it’s an amazing number of people but as New Yorkers big numbers don’t always impress us – 800,000 people a day using Select Bus Service that is the equivalent of the entire of population of Seattle, Washington. Just to put in perspective how big a deal it will be when we build out Select Bus Service with these 21 new lines.

So, some of this will be starting immediately. Other pieces are going to take longer but right away within the next year, two new routes will be open – Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard route in Queens, and the Flatlands Avenue – Kings Highway route in Brooklyn. They will be open in the coming months.

Those two combined will serve 50,000 riders a day. We’re looking for every way to continue to improve the Select Bus Service to make it better all the time but also to take some of the lessons we’ve learned from it and apply it on other types of bus routes working with the MTA.

The bottom line is we have to reach every single neighborhood. No neighborhood should be neglected. No one should have a problem getting around because of the ZIP code they live in. Select Bus Service is a difference maker.

You know our commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, in the beginning of this administration explained to me that maybe Select Bus Service wasn’t going to get all the headlines but it was going to be the workhorse. It was going to make a huge impact on people’s lives and do the things that we wanted – provide service where there isn’t enough and make it faster, and boy, that’s proven to be true. And it’s become very, very popular.

So, look, to conclude my comments before I turn to my colleagues, this is part of a four-pronged attack on the problem of congestion and the need to address mass transit options, things that are making a huge difference.

Select Bus Service – extraordinary impact, a lot more to go.

NYC Ferry – we’ve already seen just with the introduction of the first lines how incredibly popular it’s been – limitless potential with NYC Ferry to help people get around in a way that keeps them off the roads and also doesn’t even mean crowding our subways further.

What we’re going to do with light rail in Brooklyn and Queens in the next few years could be a great difference-maker not only for those very busy neighborhoods, but if it works, something we can use well beyond.

And then of course, Citi Bike, which I think had its 50 millionth rider recently – a huge success that’s being expanded all over the city.

Four types of transportation, none of which existed in this way even just a few years ago. Citi Bike has been around a little longer but not that long. NYC Ferry – brand new approach to city-wide ferry service. Select Bus Service has just been emerging in these last years, now we’re going to take it to the next level. And light rail to come.

This is about the city of the future – providing more and more mass transit options. And this is what’s going to allow New Yorkers to live a better life. With that I want to turn to our Commissioner. I want to thank her. Something like this – it’s a nice slim booklet but it represents a whole lot of work that she and her team had to put in to determine all the places that we could make it work. And then lucky them, they get to implement it.

And we’re going to working to make sure it’s on a very quick and aggressive timeline as per usual. But DOT has done an outstanding job with Select Bus Service.

It’s my pleasure to introduce Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.


Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Department of Transportation: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I just want to say a few thank you’s. First of all, thank you to you for your leadership on Select Bus Service and all the other things we’re doing in transportation and for the resources. We’ve invested almost $300 million. When we came into office we had, I think, six Select Bus Service routes. We’re up to 14 and that number obviously is going to continue to grow aggressively.

I also want to thank my colleagues at DOT – Eric Beaton, and some of the others, Janet Jenkins – who’ve been, as you said Mr. Mayor, the ones who’ve really done incredible work here. And it has been a great partnership with the MTA.

I’m so glad Steve Vidal is here. We work with him on bus. We also work with him on Vision Zero. He’s been someone really concerned about making bus travel safer in the city – and his colleagues Ronnie Hakim and Darryl Irick. So, we’ve had a lot of great partners in this work. It’s been gratifying to hear from average New Yorkers how much they appreciate the service, the time it saves them, and we look forward to implementing this really bold vision.

Thank you.


Mayor: Thank you very much. Now, the elected officials who are here have been really supportive of expanding mass transit options and they certainly all got to experience what’s great about Select Bus Service just not. Let’s start with Senator Brad Hoylman.


Thank you, brother. Now, my pleasure to introduce Assembly Member Dick Godfrey –


Thank you so much, Dick. My pleasure to introduce, Council Member Corey Johnson –


Thank you very much, Corey. You’ve heard from the representatives of this part of Manhattan. Now, we’re going to reach into Brooklyn because Councilman Brad Lander worked on this issue for the whole city, studying the potential of SBS. And I know he’s been looking forward to this day. Council Member Brad Lander –



Thank you very much, Brad. Finally, he gets a lot of credit and everyone he represents who’s worked so hard for these changes, that’s always voices telling us we can go farther, and sometimes takes government a little while to make sense of it but we finally got there.

But one of the strongest voices on behalf of everyday New Yorkers who need to get around is the Executive Director of the Rider’s Alliance, John Raskin.



Thank you very much. Thank you. So, finally, I’ll just say this took a lot of work. Again, the real work begins now. You see how big a deal this is, how much of the city this is going to reach. That’s a lot of work that has to be done but we’re dedicated to doing it very quickly because we know it’s going to have a transformative impact on people’s lives.

So, today we celebrate. Tomorrow we get to work.

Thanks everyone very much.

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