Traffic Congestion and Reckless Driving in New York City

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018. W 39th St. & 6th Ave in Manhattan, New York City.

I was traveling straight in the right-hand lane when a Yankee Trails bus (lic. plate 41944-PC, perhaps, the video is sort of blurry) made a right onto 6th Ave from the left-hand lane and cut me off. I had to turn hard to the right to avoid having the bus hit the front of my car and probably rip the front fender off or worse.

This is obviously a violation of traffic laws and is reckless driving. Bus drivers in NYC just don’t seem to care about other vehicles on the road. Even MTA buses often cut people off or swing hard into an adjacent lane without waiting for traffic to clear, running other vehicles into oncoming traffic or causing them to have to slam hard on their brakes.

It’s ridiculous and this type of driving is consistent and constant in New York City. It’s not just the buses, either. A lot of people in personal vehicles drive the same way.

Take this driver, for example:

Every so often, Pix11 or NY1 will post a story on Facebook about traffic congestion and commenters offer a slew of theories and complaints. Those complaints have mostly targetted For-Hire Vehicle services, but I don’t see removing all for-hire vehicles as a legitimate or even reasonable solution.

Are there a lot of For-Hire Vehicles in the city? Yes, because there are a lot of people that need and use them. Do they cause a lot of congestion? Not really. Not compared to traffic accidents caused by people who drive like that Yankee Trails bus driver, or the person on Westend Ave in the second video. Or like all of the double and triple-parked delivery vehicles during the day that bottleneck traffic on main avenues and side streets.

Traffic congestion sucks, but much of that pain is self-inflicted. Legislating that deliveries only occur at night would be a quick fix that would dramatically ease traffic congestion during the day. That lighter traffic would probably lead to less road rage/stupidity, which would lead to fewer accidents.

But, that’s an easy, smart fix for average New Yorkers that doesn’t pander to business interests. It also doesn’t create an opportunity for the city and state government to screw New Yorkers with another tax, which they’re introducing on all for-hire vehicles fares below 96th Street starting in January 2019, supposedly to supplement the MTA’s budget. Being real, it doesn’t make sense to tax an unrelated service to make up budget shortfalls in the MTA. Being more real, that money will probably just line pockets and by summer of 2019 the MTA will be crying for more cash and raising fares again. Is anyone really surprised, though?

Bus Breakdown

Broken down M100 Bus in Manhattan

Broken down M100 Bus in Manhattan

NYC uses a mix of old and new buses in the city. A few days ago, I was on one of the older buses (the M100) when I started to smell something burning. At the next stop, the driver turned the bus off and told everyone to leave. I think the engine must have been overheating in a serious way for that much of an odor to enter the bus. I thought a building in the neighborhood was on fire. An overheating engine makes a lot more sense, since there weren’t any sirens.

It wasn’t really too big of a deal because we were able to board the following bus for free. New York City is pretty good about that sort of thing and often provides free shuttle buses during subway downtime as well. I felt bad for the guy in the wheelchair, though. With the engine screwed up, there was no way to get him off the bus. The engine usually revs pretty hard when the ramp is being extended, lowered and retracted. The newer buses are designed so that the floor of the bus is closer to the street level, which would make getting a guy in an electric, heavy wheelchair, out of a broken down bus much easier.

I hope everything turned out ok for the guy. He seemed pretty cool when I briefly spoke to him as I was getting off the bus. I thought about staying to help, but I figured I’d just get in the way. When we were pulling away on the following bus, three police officers were standing by the open rear doors, probably figuring out how to get the guy and his chair out. The bus driver was still talking on the bus phone, probably requesting help. I think the LCD said “Maintenance Call,” when I had walked by.

So, NYC Bus Drivers Only Stop When They Want To Now?

I went up to Target today with my mom to give her a hand with her bags.  On the way back, we got to 14th street just in time to see a bus pull off, so we walked from 2nd Avenue to 1st Avenue, and right as we got there a bus pulled into the stop.  My mom was tired, so we got on the bus and used our transfers.

About halfway between Avenue A and Avenue B, I pressed the strip to light up the ‘Stop Requested’ sign at the front of the bus.  Instead of slowing, the bus driver accelerated.  People yelled at him to stop, but he kept going anyway, right on past the bus stop.  I guess he just didn’t feel like stopping there tonight.

After everyone shouted at the driver to stop, and he ignored us, he got on the bus intercom and told everyone to hold still, because he was going to take our picture. Why was he taking our picture to start with? And why are buses equipped to take still photos of passengers in the first place? Isn’t video enough?  Does a bus driver have the authority to arbitrarily take photos of passengers?  And what systems are in place to prevent abuse?

The next stop was in a dark part of 14th street and would have left us having to cut through a back alley in the projects to get back to where we wanted to be, so we had to stay on the bus until it turned down Avenue D and stopped at 12th street.  That still left us having to cut through the projects, but at least the area was more lighted.  People have been shot and killed in that area fairly regularly over the last few years.

The driver wasn’t done being a jackass, either.  When he pulled into the stop at 12th street, he positioned the rear door so that a pole and a pile of snow were right in front of it.  Besides the fact that I was hauling a heavy cart out of the bus (which caused me to slip and almost fall on that snow, by the way), my mother has bad knees, so it created a very dangerous situation for her.  A guy in the bus was nice enough to hold the doors for my mom while I was struggling with the cart, since the bus driver tried to shut them on her while she was getting out.

We pay good money to ride these buses.  They’re constantly jacking the fare up.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they’d raised the level of courtesy and customer service they offer riders as well?  Or at least stop at designated bus stops when the ‘Stop Requested’ light is lit.

The NYC MTA bus that didn't bother to stop, even though the Stop Requested light was lit.

Luckily, there was a red light, so after getting out of the bus and onto the sidewalk, I took a photo of the back of the bus and then used the plate number and bus number to file a complaint with the MTA.  I wonder if I’ll even hear anything back on this?

Oh, and the kick in the ass of it all is that we wound up having to walk further than if we hadn’t gotten on the bus in the first place.

How Many Times Per Ride Do the Cops Need To Check My Papers Just To Ride The Bus?

Seriously.  I feel like I’m trying to enter another country when I’m riding the new, supposedly improved SBS service.  If you’re not familiar with these SBS service buses, they’re supposedly a great new way to get around town that will be faster than a normal limited bus.  They also supposedly save the city money.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, that’s just bullshit.

These buses use their own, special bus stops.  In addition to these new bus stops needing to be built, new machines had to be installed outside, adjacent to these bus stops.  You see, even though these new buses are equipped with MetroCard readers, they want you to buy a ‘ticket’ before getting on the bus.  That means the city spent extra money on these ‘ticket’ machines as well.  It’s not really a ticket.  You just get a receipt showing your MetroCard has been debited for the fare required to ride the bus.  By the way, that’s more dead trees.  Was that really necessary?  How is it saving money to have to supply all of these ‘ticket’ machines with paper?  Shouldn’t we be moving towards being a paperless society, rather than finding new ways to deforest and kill our planet?  Not that I’m an eco-nut, but this just seems like a blatant waste of resources and money, which doesn’t make sense when everyone is screaming about budget cuts.  I wonder how many people’s jobs got cut so MTA could afford to print thousands, or tens of thousands, of paper tickets every day?

Now, in addition to the complete waste of resources these ticket machines cause, and the fact that instead of lining up to get on the bus you instead line up to get a ticket, there’s an additional problem.  This system creates another opportunity for you to be hassled by the man.  Today, I rode one of these SBS buses from 14th street up to 116th street and the bus was stopped twice and left idling while cops searched everyone on the bus for ‘tickets’.  Idling.  Isn’t that what the new system was supposed to prevent?

Why do they have to do this?  Well, the answer is easy.  They’re relying on a trust system, that people will pay before boarding, but … seriously?  Do they really think this is going to work?  What world are they living in?  Even on a bus system where people only board at the front, there are people who slip on and try to ride for free, and often pull it off.  If you set things up so that people can board at any door and you’re just supposed to trust that they have a ticket, there will always be people trying to sneak on.  People were pulled off and ticketed both times our bus was searched, and unless teams of police are set up to stop these buses and search them randomly, all day every day, it will continue.  These searches slow down the bus and they’re really not any faster than the regular limited buses they replaced in the first place.

You know what?  There’s an easier system than this, and it’s one I learned in Singapore.  For a first world country, we sure are doing things real stupid over here in the US.  We need to model our transit system off of Singapore’s.  Instead of having these flimsy, crap cards we use for our buses and trains, they have cards with chips in them that can be read like the Visa PayWave cards.  You don’t even have to take them out of your wallet or purse.  You just slide them over a scanner as you enter and exit the bus or train station.  That would save time.  Not having paper tickets would save time.  Not requiring the bus to be stopped and all the passengers to be checked like Nazis searching for Jews would be faster.

And, if you’re going to have cops constantly searching people on the bus, do it smart, not stupid.  I mean, really, you want to stop the whole bus and have us sitting there while everyone is checked for tickets?  Here’s a better idea.  Have cops get on the bus, have the doors close and the bus continue on its route while the cops check tickets.  Have the cops get off at the next stop and either get on the following bus, or cross the street and go back the way they came on the next bus.  That would allow them to continue writing tickets and providing the city government with this new revenue stream (because that’s what this is all about), and it wouldn’t increase people’s commute times.  And hey, since I mentioned Singapore’s system earlier, here’s another spot where it could come in handy.  They have people that randomly get on and ride with the bus.  These people carry handheld card readers that can read your card and show when you last scanned it.  Oh, and they don’t stop the whole bus while they do it.  That’s pretty easy, and it’s smart.  I wonder why they didn’t think of it?

This whole thing with the tickets was done to supposedly save money on the fuel the buses use while idling at bus stops, and to make things faster and more convenient for riders.  The MTA/SBS built a bunch of new bus stops, built new ‘ticket’ machines, are printing paper tickets that aren’t free to produce, and then have the buses idle for police checks, but somehow this is cheaper and faster than just running a normal limited bus.  I totally see the logic here.

I Finally Met New York City Crazy And It Was Old And Wielded A Cane

Yesterday was Black Friday, a day notorious for being a retail hell, with people going crazy over sales.  The shops weren’t the only place that crazy was breaking through to the surface though.  After a long day at work, I was on my way home.  I had just gotten back downtown and was waiting at a bus stop to transfer onto a cross-town bus for the last part of my trip.  When the bus pulled up, a few people got off and then a woman went up the steps and started dropping change into the fare box, so I followed behind her, ready to dip my card into the machine.  When the woman ahead of me finished, I dipped my card and paid my fare and right as I did, a woman with a cane pushed past the first lady boarding the bus and started shouting, “Getting off the bus!  Getting off the bus!”

I stepped back as far as I could to give her room to get by.  Now, I assume this woman was nuts, because instead of stepping past and going down the stairs, she spread her arms out and pushed up against me, then hit me with her cane repeatedly, all the while shouting, “Getting off the bus!  Getting off the bus!”  She didn’t continue on.  She just stood there looking at me, whacking my legs with her cane.

Not being in the mood to be slowly bludgeoned to death by an old woman with a cane, I pushed her away from me and said, “Get off the fucking bus then.”  She started yelling at me and hit me in the arm with her cane.

Right away, the bus driver said, “Hey, why you messin’ with dat old woman?”

My first thought was, ‘Are you fucking serious?’ and I said to him, “Because the bitch hit me with her cane.”

The driver replied, “She’s trying to get off the bus.”

I told him, “That doesn’t give her an excuse to start hitting me with her cane.”

The driver said, “Well, you should have let her get off the bus before you came up.”

So I said, “I was already up here and paid.  I backed up and gave her plenty of space.  She had plenty of room to get down.”

He said, “Well, you could have gotten back down and waited for her to get off.”

At this point, I’d reached the end of my patience, with the driver being a moron and the woman still yelling at my back so I said, “Fuck no.  She had enough room.  She can go fuck herself and so can you.”

Then I walked back into the bus to find a seat.  As I was walking away, the woman yelled at me, “You asshole!”

So, I looked back over my shoulder and said, “Ya, fuck you!”  Then I sat down and waited.

It took quite a while for other people to start coming on the bus.  I guess the old woman was making a big show up there.  The buses are double length, with a swivel section in the middle, so I don’t know what, if anything, more was said.  Maybe she was being extra slow getting off the bus as her final act of retaliation for not putting up with her craziness.

The next guy to get on the bus came and sat down across the aisle from me and said, “Hey yo, I saw that whole shit go down.  That bitch was crazy.  Fuck that driver.  He made an issue out of that shit because of the color of your complexion and that old lady’s complexion, tryin’ to make that shit all racial.  That woman had no business hitting you with her cane.  I saw it all man.”

Then a lady sat in front of me and said that the old woman is lucky she did that to someone with an even temper, because if I had been a “bad” person, I might have done something nasty to her.  She said the woman must have a problem with her head.

It’s true.  You never know what kind of person you’re talking to or what they’re capable of, especially in New York City, where crazy people are so common.  I’m not going to beat up someone that’s obviously mentally imbalanced, but I’m not going to stand there and let them assault me and then just smile about it either.

To clarify what the guy that sat across from me was saying, the driver was black and so was the woman with the cane.  I don’t know if it was a racial issue, but it seems odd to me that the driver just automatically assumed I was at fault.  He didn’t seem to have a problem with the first woman who got on the bus, who was also black and in the old woman’s way.  It was just me.

So, I guess you could say this was a double dose of crazy, crazy crazy and crazy racism crazy.  Like I said to the guy that pointed it out to me, though, this is just another day in New York City.