Want to Speed Up NYC Buses? Get Bus Camera Legislation Through Albany Gridlock.

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Albany hasn’t had a great record on public transit issues recently.  But state elected officials have a chance to pass legislation that would mean an easier commute for millions of transit riders: Allowing large cities to use bus lane enforcement cameras.  Like red light cameras, these would take photos or short video of license plates when a driver illegally holds up busloads of people by parking in a bus lane, and a ticket would arrive in the mail. (They’ve been used successfully in London and other cities around the world.)

2.4 million New Yorkers take the bus every day, according to MTA statistics.  But the city’s buses are also some of the slowest in the country. According to the Straphangers Campaign, the M42 crosstown bus is slower than “a five-year-old on a motorized tricycle,” traveling at 3.7 miles per hour.

New bus-only lanes, like the city is planning on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, could give millions of commuters a faster ride and more time to spend with their friends and family.  But without real enforcement, the new lanes will probably look just like the ones NYC has now:

Technically this DOES stop other cars from blocking the lane.

Governor Paterson has included a bus lane camera program in his budget.  Assemblyman Jonathan Bing of Manhattan and State Senator Martin Dilan of Brooklyn have introduced a bill that would do the same thing.  A great many NYC legislators have signed on, and the City Council passed a resolution supporting bus cameras two years ago.  But the biggest obstacle to passing the bill may be Assemblyman David Gantt of Rochester, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee.  He killed a similar bill in 2008 (by pressuring some of the bill’s sponsors to vote against it), citing privacy concerns — even though the New York Civil Liberties Union helped draft the language to ensure that safeguards were built in.

Want to support this bill?  Until the end of today, you can send a fax to Assemblyman Gantt through Transportation Alternatives’ website.