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NEWS RELEASE

Embargoed for Release:                       
Monday, May 10, 2004, 7 a.m.
For info, contact:
Gene Russianoff at (212) 349-6460

Bus Service Continues to Lag Behind Ridership, Analysis Finds
“Don't Cut Bus Service,” Riders Group Says to Transit Officials

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today released an analysis showing that weekday bus service continues to lag behind bus ridership.

The analysis comes as transit officials are warning that they may be forced to slash service in response to a $544 million budget deficit projected for 2005.

The Campaign compared changes in weekday ridership to changes in weekday service between September 1997 and September 2003, using data from MTA New York City Transit.

Overall —for 184 local bus routes in the five boroughs — weekday ridership increased 20% between 1997 and 2003, but weekday service only 13%.

Average weekday bus ridership rose by nearly 400,000 daily, from two million in September 1997 to 2.4 million in September 2003 — up 20%. For the same period, service rose from 10.4 million “revenue seat miles” to 11.8 million — only 13%.

Bus ridership had steadily increased between 1996 and 2003, skyrocketing after the start of free transfers between subways and buses in July 1997. But after the May 2003 fare increase, bus ridership started to decrease and is now running about 4.8% below 2003 on average each month.

“Although ridership went down after the fare hike, it remains way above 1997 levels and service has yet to catch up,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “If transit officials cut bus service because of budget pressures, there will be even more elbow-in-the-ribs crowding. It is no time to cut bus service.”

The group reviewed the amount of scheduled weekday service for 184 local bus routes — measured in what is called "revenue seat miles" — compared to trends in weekday ridership.

As shown in the attached tables and maps, the campaign's review found:

  • Service lagged behind ridership in three boroughs, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens: In Manhattan, the gap was more than double, with ridership increasing 17% since 1997, but service only 7%. In Brooklyn, the gap was double, with ridership up 24% but service only 12%. In Queens, ridership increased 24%, but service only 17%.

  • Service slightly outpaced ridership overall in two boroughs: In the Bronx, service slightly outpaced ridership overall (18% to 16%.) On Staten Island, service slightly outpaced ridership overall (12% to 11%.)

  • Service lagged behind ridership on a majority of bus routes in four boroughs — the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens — between September 1997 and September 2003:
    • In the Bronx, service lagged behind ridership for 22 bus routes, while service outpaced ridership on 14 routes.
    • In Brooklyn, service lagged behind ridership for 45 bus routes, while service outpaced ridership on 9 routes.
    • In Manhattan, service lagged behind ridership for 25 bus routes, while service outpaced ridership on 11 routes.
    • In Queens, service lagged behind ridership for 24 bus routes, while service outpaced ridership on 14 routes.

  • Service did outpace ridership on a majority of bus routes in one borough - Staten Island - between September 1997 and September 2003. Twelve Staten Island routes saw service match or outpace ridership. But on 8 routes, service lagged behind ridership.

  • Routes with the biggest gaps between ridership and service in each borough were:
    • In the Bronx, the Bx33, where ridership increased 32% but service was actually reduced by 5%. The Bx33 travels between Port Morris and Harlem.
    • In Brooklyn, the B77, where ridership increased 96% but service only 15%. The B77 travels between Park Slope and Red Hook.
    • In Manhattan, the M60, where ridership increased 237% but service only 149%. The M60 travels between the Upper West Side and LaGuardia Airport.
    • In Queens, the Q32, where ridership increased 30% but service was actually reduced by 38%. The Q32 travels between Penn Station and Jackson Heights.
    • In Staten Island, the S53/93, where ridership increased 40% but service only 13%. The S53/93 travels between Bay Ridge and Port Richmond.

In response to past analyses, transit officials have said that they regularly conduct “traffic” checks to set service levels and minimize crowding. New York City Transit has also said that many bus routes had been operating with excess capacity before 1997.

Russianoff urged community groups to use the analysis to press for more bus service.

This analysis was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is a leader in encouraging measurement of the quality of government services.

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