MTA touts performance of M79 SBS

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79th Street bus route is faster since introduction of off-board fare payment, officials say


  • The DOT added three-quarters of a mile of new bus lane along the M79 route as part of select bus service implementation, which transit officials say contributed to increased bus speeds and ridership. Photo: MTA/NYC DOT

Crosstown bus service on the 79th Street corridor has seen increases in speed and ridership since the introduction of select bus service last year, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority data.

The M79 bus is eight percent faster on average since the M79 SBS route launched in May 2017. M79 SBS buses spend 21 percent less time paused at bus stops and five percent less time stuck in traffic that they did in the route’s previous iteration, according to transit data presented to Manhattan community boards this month.

Riders traveling west during the evening rush hour experienced the greatest time savings, with buses completing their runs nearly three minutes faster on average, a 12 percent speed increase.

Transportation officials attribute the speed increase to the SBS off-board payment system, which reduces dwell time spent at bus stops for fare collection, as well as street improvements implemented by the city’s Department of Transportation, including newly painted bus lanes and traffic light timing adjustments.

The results on the M79 SBS route are in line with the average speed increase of about 10 percent that the MTA has seen on other routes after SBS implementation.

“Prior to the M79 [SBS] launch in May of last year, ridership had been dropping,” Joe Chiarmonte, a bus service planner with MTA New York City Transit, told Community Board 7’s transportation committee om Nov. 13. “As soon as we implemented the M79 [SBS], ridership, as compared to the previous year’s ridership, started to increase.”

One year after the launch, ridership on the M79 route was nine percent greater than it was a year prior, outpacing the 0.5 percent increase in Manhattan-wide bus ridership over the same period. On average, current daily ridership on the route is roughly 12,500.

Buses aren’t the only vehicles moving faster since the launch of SBS. Non-bus vehicle travel time has decreased eight percent on the West Side portion of the M79 route. On the East Side, travel times are down six percent for non-bus vehicles moving east on 79th Street and down two percent for vehicles heading west.

MTA and DOT officials are hopeful that the M79 SBS will see further improvements in performance and ridership as additional street design changes are implemented as part of an upcoming capital project. Planned capital improvements along the route include curb extensions and pedestrian islands to improve pedestrian safety, concrete reinforcements, or bus pads, at stops to prevent wear on the road surface, and additional “bus bulbs,” which are portions of sidewalk that extend into the street at stops to speed boarding and ease crowding on narrow sidewalks.

The city’s Department of Design and Construction will begin preliminary work on the project next year, with the goal of starting construction in 2022.

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