New York City is bus-ting more drivers for blocking bus lanes than ever before — including a million being issued over the last three years.
City stats show the number of tickets has risen steadily since the agency began using bus lane cameras in 2010, as more automated surveillance has been rolled out.
Bus lane fines start at $50 and go up by $50 for each new offense, with $250 the maximum penalty within a 12-month period.
“I think the bus lane tickets are just another excuse for the city to rape us for money. It’s insane that they’ve been on throughout the pandemic,” said one Brooklynite who requested anonymity who has been caught by cameras near her boyfriend’s place on Utica Avenue at least 10 times. “Speed camera and red light cameras, I understand, but bus lane? It makes no sense.”
But the MTA says tough cookies. Officials point to data showing bus speeds have increased on routes with bus lanes or busways and decreased everywhere else. “Are you a bus? If the answer is no, avoiding a ticket is easy: Stay out of the bus lane,” said spokesman Aaron Donovan.
Tickets issued by the city’s “fixed location” cameras increased this year from roughly 356,000 in 2020 and 263,000 in 2019 to over 382,000 this year through Nov. 4, according to the DOT.
At the same time, the state Legislature approved the use of bus-mounted cameras for bus lane enforcement two years ago. Former MTA transit boss Andy Byford, who was run out of town by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had urged the state to enact the program, noting that “you can’t have a cop on every corner.”
That authorization allowed the MTA to slap cameras on First Avenue, Second Avenue, 86th Street, 34th Street and 14th Street in Manhattan and on Nostrand and Utica avenues in Brooklyn. Those cameras issued 108,746 tickets from October 2019 through this September, the MTA said.
The DOT has 379 bus lane cameras at 192 locations — and plans to add more, spokesman Seth Stein said.
“We are using every tool at our disposal to speed up buses, saving our fellow New Yorkers precious time with friends and family,” Stein said in a statement. “Bus lane cameras are critical to keeping lanes clear and incredibly effective at changing drivers’ behavior, and will continue to be key to speeding up bus service.”
Stein said DOT and MTA data show eight out of 10 drivers do not commit a second bus lane violation after they receive their first ticket. For bus-mounted cameras, that number is 87 percent, Stein said. Four out of five drivers do not contest their tickets or pay immediately, according to the DOT.
Tickets snapped by bus-mounted cameras are paid to the MTA while fines from the Department of Transportation’s “fixed location” cameras go to city coffers.
“We would be more than happy to receive no revenue from this program,” he said. “Because that means it works.”