While subway riders suffer 'Summer of Hell' transit activists and local politicians say bus service needs rescue too

Subway breakdowns and delays are getting all the attention — but politicians and advocates say it's time for the MTA to accelerate plans to turnaround the struggling bus system. Transit Reporter Jose Martinez has that story.

With the subway melting down, the MTA has unveiled a rescue plan for the system's six million daily riders.

"The New York City subway system, no doubt, is in distress," said MTA chairman Joe Lhota.

But the focus on the troubled transit system belowground has some of the two-and-a-half million riders who use mass transit aboveground asking – 'What about bus?'

"I could give a seminar about the whole bus line if I want to," said one rider. "But I'm ready to jump into a cab or even walk."

With average bus speeds falling and ridership down two percent this year alone, dozens of state Assembly members and transit advocates are calling on the MTA to come up with another rescue plan, this one for the buses.

"Over the past, not few years, but the past probably couple of decades, there has been a steady decline in bus service," said Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. "And while it hasn't made the front pages, we're here to say we need that issue addressed."

The Assembly members demanded that the MTA develop a "bus master plan" within six months to improve the commute for bus riders. With the slowest lines plodding along at four miles per hour in the most congested parts of the city.

"Especially during a subway emergency, we need surface transit even more than before," said Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

The MTA earlier this year pledged to make a series of bus improvements. But critics say the improvements are much like buses themselves — too slow in arriving.

Among the upgrades being rolled out are more bus lanes, traffic signals that give priority to buses and more Select Bus Service routes where riders pay at kiosks and can board at any door.

"There should be select bus on all the lines," said one rider. "Of course!"

In a statement, the MTA says it needs the city's help to boost bus service.

"We look forward to continuing to work with our partners at the NYPD who do bus lane enforcement, as well as at NYC DOT, who play a key role in reducing congestion on their streets, installing their own technology and helping our buses move faster," the statement read in part.

The goal of any bus riders trying to get somewhere.

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