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.