MTA Regional Bus Operations

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MTA Regional Bus Operations
MTA Regional Bus logo.svg
Slogan Improving...non-stop.
Parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Founded May 7, 2008[1]
Headquarters 2 Broadway, New York, NY 10004-2207
Locale New York metropolitan area
Service area New York City
Service type Local, limited-stop, bus rapid transit, and express bus service
Fleet 5,725[2]
Daily ridership 5.02 million (2016)
Fuel type
Chief executive Andy Byford

MTA Regional Bus Operations (RBO) is the surface transit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). It was created in 2008 to consolidate all bus operations in New York City operated by the MTA. As of February 2018, MTA Regional Bus Operations runs 234 local routes, 71 express routes, and 17 Select Bus Service routes. Its fleet of 5,725 buses is the largest municipal bus fleet in the United States.

The division comprises two brands: MTA Bus and MTA New York City Bus. While MTA Bus is an amalgamation of former private companies' routes, MTA New York City Bus is composed of public routes that were taken over by the city before 2008. The MTA also operates paratransit services and formerly operated Long Island Bus.

Brands and service area

Regional Bus Operations is currently only used in official documentation, and not publicly as a brand. The current public brands are listed below:

The most common scheme is a straight blue stripe across the sides of the bus against a white base, with no colors on the front or back, and black window trim. From 1977 until late 2007 (and still present on much of the fleet), the livery was a full all-around stripe with a black rear, and until late 2010 (and still present on buses repainted during this time), the scheme was a stripe with a blank rear. Buses operated in Select Bus Service bus rapid transit service are wrapped with a light blue-and-white wrap below the windows. In spring 2016, a new livery was introduced based on navy blue, light blue, and gold, with a mostly blue front and sides, a light blue and gold wave, and a gold back. This new livery will gradually replace the blue stripe on a white base livery, and with the new livery's introduction, the only public distinction between MTA New York City Bus and MTA Bus will be the garage sticker.

Currently, many RBO's operational changes have been at the management level, with the creation of a unified command center and consolidation of management for all bus operations, with the aim of reducing redundancies in the agency. Other changes have included eliminating the MTA Bus call center, folding it into that of MTA New York City Transit, and the unification of the fare policy for all of the MTA's services.


The history of the MTA's bus operations generally follows the history of the New York City Transit Authority, also known as MTA New York City Transit (NYCT), which was created on June 15, 1953 by the State of New York to take over operations then operated by the New York City Board of Transportation.[3]:133[4]:302[5] In 1962 the State established the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MaBSTOA) as a subsidiary of NYCT to take over operations then operated by two private companies, Fifth Avenue Coach Lines, Inc. and Surface Transit, Inc.[3]:133[4]:268[5] Both NYCT and MaBSTOA operate service pursuant to a lease agreement with the City of New York.[4]:81[3]:133

MTA New York City Bus

An early livery for the NYC Transit Authority

City involvement with surface transit in the city began in September 1919, when Mayor John Francis Hylan, through the New York City Department of Plant and Structures (DP&S), organized private entrepreneurs to operate "emergency" buses to replace four abandoned storage battery streetcar lines: the Madison Street Line, Spring and Delancey Streets Line, Avenue C Line, and Sixth Avenue Ferry Line.[6] Many routes were soon added, replacing lines such as the Brooklyn and North River Line (trolleys)[7] and Queens Bus Lines (buses),[8] and the DP&S also began operating trolleys in Staten Island to replace the Staten Island Midland Railway's system.[9][10] Eventually all of these routes were transferred to private management.[citation needed]

Another city acquisition was the Bridge Operating Company, which ran the Williamsburg Bridge Local trolley, acquired in 1921 by the DP&S.[11] Unlike the other lines,[citation needed] this one remained city-operated, and was replaced by the B39 bus route on December 5, 1948, by then transferred to the New York City Board of Transportation.[12]

With the city takeover of the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation's surface subsidiary, the Brooklyn and Queens Transit Corporation, on June 2, 1940,[13] the city gained a large network of trolley and bus lines, covering all of Brooklyn and portions of Queens.[14] On February 23, 1947, the Board of Transportation took over the Staten Island bus network of the Isle Transportation Company.[15] Further acquisitions were made on March 30, 1947, with the North Shore Bus Company in Queens,[16] and September 24, 1948, with the East Side Omnibus Corporation and Comprehensive Omnibus Corporation in Manhattan.[17] The final Brooklyn trolleys were the Church Avenue Line and McDonald Avenue Line, discontinued on October 31, 1956,[18] though the privately operated (by the Queensboro Bridge Railway) Queensboro Bridge Local remained until 1957.[19][20][21]

The early 1970s livery, using a blue base. This bus is operating in special holiday service in 2008.

Thus, in the late 1950s, the city operated all local service in Staten Island and Brooklyn, about half the local service in Queens, and several routes in Manhattan. Several private companies operated buses in Queens, and the Avenue B and East Broadway Transit Company operated a small Manhattan system, but by far the largest system was the Fifth Avenue Coach Company and Surface Transit, which operated almost all Manhattan routes and all Bronx routes, plus two into Queens (15 Fifth Avenue - Jackson Heights and TB Triborough Bridge) and one within Queens (16 Elmhurst Crosstown). After a strike in 1962, the city condemned the assets of the bus companies. To facilitate the anticipated sale of the bus service back to private ownership, a new agency, the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MaBSTOA) was formed as a subsidiary of the New York City Transit Authority to operate the former Fifth Avenue Coach Lines, Inc. and Surface Transit, Inc. routes under lease from the city. The final acquisition was in 1980, when MaBSTOA took over operations of the Avenue B & East Broadway Transit Co. Inc.'s routes, using MaBSTOA equipment with Avenue B red route roll signs (NYCTA acquired the 13 Grumman Flxibles that had been assigned to Avenue B and placed them in NYCTA service).[citation needed]

However, in late 1981 the MTA decided to merge the New York City Transit Authority's Surface Division (aka NYCTA Civil Service) with the Manhattan & Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (aka MABSTOA Non Civil Service) into one single entity using the MTA - New York City Transit Authority, or MTA - New York City Bus moniker instead of the former.

Public takeover of the remaining Queens buses, as well as most express routes, was implemented in 2005 and 2006 when the city purchased the assets of seven private bus companies, and entered into an agreement with the new MTA Bus Company for their operation and funding.[22] In 2008, the bus operations of New York City Transit and MTA Bus Company (as well as the now former Long Island Bus division) were merged into a new regional operation, MTA Regional Bus Operations. The New York City Bus brand continues to be used; however, it (and the MTA Bus brand) are being phased out with the introduction of a new blue-and-gold livery; the first two buses with the new livery for New York City Transit service were delivered in fall 2016 (MTA Bus had its first 75 examples delivered in spring and summer 2016). Even with the new livery, New York City Transit Authority, Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, and MTA Bus Company continue to be the legal entities operating the services.


A typical vehicle, an MCI cruiser, used in express bus service. This example wears the livery used from 1977 until 2016.

MTA Bus Company was established in late 2004 to operate bus services resulting from the city's takeover of the privately operated bus route operations previously administered and subsidized by the NYCDOT.[23][24][25]

The routes were taken over on a staggered schedule, beginning with the former Liberty Lines Express bus routes on January 3, 2005, Queens Surface Corporation bus routes on February 27, 2005, New York Bus Service bus routes on July 1, 2005, Command Bus Company bus routes on December 5, 2005, Green Bus Lines bus routes on January 9, 2006, and Jamaica Buses bus routes on January 30, 2006. Triboro Coach Corporation, the final remaining company, ceased operating on February 20, 2006.[23][26][27][28][29]

Currently, the only NYCDOT-subsidized lines not consolidated into MTA Bus are those run by Academy Bus and formerly by Atlantic Express until their bankruptcy in 2013. Academy Bus previously operated those routes and others until 2001, when Atlantic Express and NYCT took them over.[30] Although the X23, and X24 routes were absorbed by Atlantic Express, the X17J, X21, X22, and X30 routes were absorbed by the New York City Transit Authority. NYCT discontinued service on the X21 months after the takeover.[31] Recently, NYS Assemblyman Lou Tobacco and NYS Senator Andrew Lanza, along with U.S. Congressman Michael E. McMahon and NYC Councilmen Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo have asked the MTA to look into the possible consolidation of the remainder of the NYCDOT routes.[32] In Brooklyn, a company called Private Transportation operates the B110 route; this is franchised but not subsidized by NYCDOT. Atlantic Express also ran the AE7 express route from Travis, Staten Island and Tottenville, Staten Island in the same manner as the Private Transportation B110 local route. Citing low ridership and increased costs, Atlantic Express canceled the AE7 service on December 31, 2010. Councilmen Ignizio and Oddo as well as Congressman Michael G. Grimm have called on the MTA to revamp that route also.[33]

An MTA articulated New Flyer Xcelsior XN60 articulated bus in the current livery, introduced in spring 2016. With the new livery, there is no longer any distinction between New York City Bus and MTA Bus discernible to the general public except for the garage sticker.


The current system came into being in the mid-2000s following the MTA's assumption, through its subsidiary MTA Bus Company (MTABC), of services previously operated by private carriers under operating authority agreements administered by the New York City Department of Transportation, the successor to the New York City Bureau of Franchises. MTABC operates service pursuant to an agreement with the City of New York under which all expenses of MTABC, less operating revenues, are reimbursed. This brought almost all bus transportation in New York City under its control.[34]

After the bus mergers were completed in 2006,[35] the MTA then moved to streamline its operations through consolidation of management function. To that effect, RBO was officially created in May 2008, with the president of what was then MTA New York City Transit's Department of Buses, Joseph J. Smith, named to lead the consolidated bus operations.[1] MTA Regional Bus also included the MTA Long Island Bus division until December 2011, when its services were transferred to the private operator Veolia Transport.[36]

In 2008, the bus operations of MTA Bus Company and New York City Transit (as well as the now former Long Island Bus division) were merged into a new regional operation, MTA Regional Bus Operations. The MTA Bus brand continues to be used. This brand, and the New York City Bus brand, was removed from buses delivered from 2016 on, and the blue-stripe livery was replaced with a new blue-and-gold livery. The first order with the new livery, 75 articulated buses for MTA Bus, were delivered in spring and summer 2016.[1]

Until December 31, 2011, MTA Regional Bus Operations also operated Nassau County's bus and paratransit service, formerly known as Long Island Bus. This service was operated by the MTA under an agreement with Nassau County, who owned its facilities and equipment. In 2011, the MTA asked Nassau County to provide more funding for Long Island Bus than they were at the time. The county refused to provide additional funding, and the MTA voted to end operation of the system at the end of 2011. The county then decided to hire Veolia Transport, (now Transdev) a private transportation company, to operate the system in place of the MTA beginning in 2012. The system was then rebranded "Nassau Inter-County Express".[36]


MTA Regional Bus routes are spread out across New York City. However, some bus routes may also operate to areas beyond city limits. The Q5 and Q85 routes cross the Nassau County border to go to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. The Q2 and Q110 routes leave Queens as they run along Hempstead Turnpike and onto the Cross Island Parkway, and Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, where they re-enter the city. The Q46 local and QM6 express buses run along Lakeville Road in Lake Success, Nassau County upon entering Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore Towers. The Q113 and Q114 cross into Nassau County between Southeast Queens and Far Rockaway. During peak hours, select Q111 buses run to Cedarhurst in Nassau County.[37] The Bx16 route runs into Westchester County for two blocks in Mount Vernon. The Bx7 and Bx10 buses both make their last stops at the Bronx-Westchester border. BxM3 express buses leave the city as they operate to Getty Square in Yonkers.[37] The S89 is the only route to have a stop outside state borders, terminating at the 34th Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station in Bayonne, New Jersey. Some Staten Island express routes run via New Jersey, but do not stop in the state.[38]

New York City Transit bus routes are labeled with a number and a prefix identifying the primary borough of operation (B for Brooklyn,[39] BX for the Bronx,[40] M for Manhattan,[41] Q for Queens,[37] and S for Staten Island[38]).[a] Express buses use the letter X rather than a borough label. Lettered suffixes can be used to designate branches or variants.[39][40][37][38] MTA Bus Company bus routes follow this scheme as well, but combines prefixes for inter-borough express routes to Manhattan (i.e. an express route from the Bronx is prefixed BXM;[40] from Queens, QM;[37] and from Brooklyn, BM[39]). This was a labeling system previously used by the former private carriers.[citation needed] In August 2018, all express bus routes in Staten Island are expected to be replaced with 21 new routes with a "SIM" prefix.[42][43]

Local and limited-stop service

A former Bee-Line Bus System Orion V on the Q113 displaying "LIMITED" on its route sign, with several "Limited" cards on the operator's dashboard. This particular bus was withdrawn from service in 2013 and is scrapped.

Local and limited-stop buses provide service within a single borough, or in some cases across two. While local buses make all stops along a route, limited-stop buses only make stops at busy transfer points, points of interest, and heavily used roadways. Limited stop service was first attempted with the M4 bus during rush hours in 1973, then expanded to other routes from there. The usual setup is that limited stop service runs the full route, while local services run only in the limited stop area, and the limited stop buses run local at the tail ends of the route not served by locals (similar to the operation of some subway services and the Staten Island Railway). There are also full-route limited-stop buses, with local variants that make limited stops along the entire route; limited-only buses with no local variants under the same route number; and limited-zone buses, with a semi-limited section (with smaller distances between stops than on regular limited routes) near the route's tail ends, and a non-stop section in the middle.

Most Limited-Stop buses flash "LIMITED" or "LIMITED STOPS" on the destination sign. Occasionally, a paper orange and purple "Limited" sign will also be placed at the bottom of the windshield by the bus operator. Dark navy blue "LOCAL" and red "Express" signs also exist.[44]

The following MTA Regional Bus routes run limited stop service (for non-Staten Island routes, where there is a route numbering system, bold indicates no corresponding local service on the limited-stop route, and italic indicates no corresponding daytime local service on the limited-stop route):

Borough Routes Ref.
The Bronx Bx1, Bx15, Bx36 [40]
Brooklyn B6, B35, B38, B41, B49, B82, B103 [39]
Manhattan M1, M2, M4, M5, M98, M101 [41]
Queens Q4, Q5, Q6, Q10, Q17, Q25, Q27, Q36, Q43, Q46, Q50,[a 1] Q58, Q65, Q83, Q85, Q100, Q113,[a 2] Q114[a 2] [37]
Staten Island[a 3] S81, S84, S86, S89, S90, S91, S92, S93, S94, S96, S98 [38]
  1. ^ Local service along the Q50 corridor between Pelham Bay Park and Co-op City in the Bronx is provided by the Bx23 bus.
  2. ^ a b The Q113 and Q114 Limited buses, which run on the same corridor for most of their lengths, do not have a corresponding local variant with the same route number. Local service is provided by the Q111 bus throughout most of the combined routes, while the Q114 is the local service on the portion of the route in Nassau County.
  3. ^ None of the Staten Island limited-stop routes have corresponding local variants with the same route number. Concurrent local service is provided by routes with different route numbers, but with the same last digit in the number (example: S46/S96).

Select Bus Service

Select Bus Service fare payment center.
Select Bus Service bus #1254 operating on the M15 SBS service through the Lower East Side

Select Bus Service (SBS), the brand name for MTA bus rapid transit service, is a variant of Limited-Stop bus service that requires fare payment to be made before boarding the bus, at fare payment machines in shelters at designated "stations" (such a shelter is shown to the right). Receipts given for payment of fare are "proof-of-payment" that must be shown to the MTA's fare inspectors upon request. In the event of the fare machine failing to issue a receipt, the bus operator must be notified of the problem. The implementation of this new service is paired with new lane markings and traffic signs that reserve a lane for buses only during the daytime.[45]

The first Select Bus Service corridor, on the Bx12 along 207th Street, Fordham Road, and Pelham Parkway, was placed into service on June 29, 2008.[46] The next line, the M15, saw Select Service begin on October 10, 2010 after the delivery of new low-floor buses.[47][48] The M34/M34A line was started on November 13, 2011. Initially, a 34th Street busway was planned that would require eliminating 34th Street as a through street, but it was dropped in favor of the standard SBS model.[49] The B44 Rogers/Bedford/Nostrand Avenues bus route, the fifth Select Bus Service corridor in the city, was implemented on November 17, 2013 after the arrival of new fare machines. The S79 Hylan Boulevard/Richmond Avenue route, initially slated to be converted to SBS in 2013, was moved up to September 2, 2012; the local equivalents of the S79 route are the S78 and S59 buses.[50] A sixth corridor, the second for the Bronx, began service on the Bx41 Webster Avenue route on June 30, 2013; this route was the first "Phase II" SBS route to begin service (the existing corridors plus the B44 comprise Phase I). Another Select Bus Service route on Webster Avenue, which will be extended to run between LaGuardia Airport and Fordham Plaza alongside the local Bx41 route, is proposed for later implementation.[51][52][53]

A seventh corridor, and the third for Manhattan, the M60 125th StreetTriborough BridgeAstoria Boulevard bus route to LaGuardia Airport, was converted to SBS on May 25, 2014; local service was replaced by other routes running alongside the route of the M60 (the M100, M101, Bx15, and Q19).[54] An eighth Select Bus Service route was planned in the 2014–2017 Financial Plan.[55] The eighth Select Bus Service corridor (ninth route overall), and the fourth in Manhattan, was for the M86 running on 86th Street, which was originally scheduled to start running on June 28, 2015, but pushed back to July 13, 2015; it does not include a major change in stops.[56]

The ninth corridor, and the second for Brooklyn, is the B46 on Utica Avenue. When implemented, the local and Select Bus Service route of the B46 changed northern terminals to improve reliability. Originally planned for implementation in fall 2015, it was instituted on July 3, 2016.[57] The tenth corridor, and the first for Queens, is the Q44 limited bus route running on East 177th Street (the Cross Bronx Expressway service road) and Main Street, which began on November 29, 2015. Selected stops in the Bronx were combined into much busier stops for faster service, and some stops in Queens have been replaced by the Q20A/B local routes. As both the Q20 branches do not enter the Bronx and the Q44 ran local late nights only, the Q44 gained 24/7 SBS service between the Bronx Zoo and Jamaica. The Q20A replaced the Q44 local in Queens late nights.[58]

On September 25, 2016, the eleventh corridor (twelfth route overall) and the second for Queens, the Q70, was rebranded as the "LaGuardia Link" and became a SBS route. As opposed to other SBS routes, the Q70 is wrapped in a light blue scheme with clouds and airplanes in order to encourage more people to use public transportation when using the airport. This marked MTA Bus's first SBS route, as well as the second for Queens and the eleventh overall.[59][60] The M23, the twelfth corridor (thirteenth route) and the fifth in Manhattan, became a Select Bus Service route on November 6, 2016 with dedicated bus lanes and countdown clocks at some stops, replacing M23 local service at the cost of $1.7 million.[60] The M79 became an SBS route on May 21, 2017,[61] with the installation of bus lanes along its route.[62] The Bx6, after the completion of bus lanes and widened sidewalks, became an SBS route on September 3, 2017. It supplements the local service by stopping at high ridership stops. This is the third route for the Bronx.[63] Select Bus Service along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards was implemented on the Q52 and Q53 routes on November 12, 2017.[64][65] The B82 SBS in Summer 2018. Bus lanes will be installed in conjunction with Vision Zero improvements, such as additional crosswalks and pedestrian islands.[66]

Buses used in this service are identifiable with "stations" equipped with ticket machines, and also have a "+selectbusservice" wrap identifying them as such buses. Locations of stops (and in some cases, the local bus stops) were shifted or eliminated where possible to prevent mixing of local bus customers. SBS is offered in conjunction with the New York City and New York State Department of Transportation.[67][68]

Express service

Express bus service is generally geared towards peak hour commuters from the outer boroughs and neighboring suburbs that lack rail or subway services to and from Midtown Manhattan or Lower Manhattan. Some routes also provide significant off-peak service from early morning to late evening, every day (notably the X10, X17, X27, X28, BxM1/2, BxM3, BxM4, BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, BxM10, BxM11, QM2, QM4 and QM5/6; the X1 runs 24 hours a day). 45-foot MCI and Prevost over-the-road coaches are used for express service.[69]

Service originally began in 1968, on route R8X (now X8) traveling from the South Shore of Staten Island, up Hylan Blvd and Father Capodanno Blvd., into Downtown Brooklyn. In the 1980s, the R8X was renumbered and rerouted from Brooklyn to its current terminal in Lower Manhattan.[70][5]


An MV-1 Access-A-Ride cab

In addition to a 100% accessible bus fleet, New York City Transit also provides paratransit services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 under the Access-A-Ride brand, for customers who cannot use regular bus or subway service. It services all five boroughs of New York City at all times.[71] The Access-A-Ride paratransit services are provided by various independent contractors, using vehicles owned by the MTA.[72] Although all buses are wheelchair-accessible, these vehicles provide an accessible transport option for MTA riders. The program was created in 1991 after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[73]

Bus stops

Within a service area, bus stops are normally located every two to three city blocks apart; specific guidelines dictate that stops should be placed every 750 feet (230 m).[74][75] Buses marked Limited-Stop, Select Bus Service, and Express have fewer stops. Stops are located curbside, usually at street intersections, identified by blue signage and shelters. Buses stop either on concrete pads, or designated bus lanes (maroon-red if painted). Some bus stops, particularly along Select Bus Service routes, are designed as bus bulbs.[74][76][77][78]

All bus stops are in effect at all times unless otherwise indicated by signage.


B44 Select Bus Service bus stop in Brooklyn.

Bus stops in New York City are identified by two types of signs:

In addition, Queens buses that run along the border with Nassau County (Q36, Q46, QM6) or within Nassau County (Q111, Q113, Q114) will sometimes share former Long Island Bus-style signage with Nassau Inter-County Express bus service, though many stops on the Q111, Q113, and Q114 routes in Nassau County are either unsigned, or simply signed as "No Stopping Bus Stop". These signs are also made of metal.

The newer signs, used on all New York City Bus-branded routes, were in place by the mid-2000s, while old-style bus stop signs still exist on many MTA Bus-branded routes, showing only the route and not the destination. All bus stop signs within the city borders are maintained by New York City Department of Transportation.[81][82][83] The newer signs are made of recyclable ABS plastic that last up to ten years and are easier to maintain then the old metal signs, which last about three years on average. The green plastic pole stands from 12 feet (3.7 m) to 20 feet (6.1 m) high, versus the old 6-to-9-foot-high (1.8 to 2.7 m) metal signs. Both old and new-style stops carry a Guide-A-Ride box that is attached to the center of the pole, providing route maps, schedules and other information.[79][84][74][83] Guide-A-Ride boxes were installed on all NYCT routes by the 1980s.[85] Implementation on MTA Bus Company routes began in the 2000s for express buses, and in 2012 for local bus routes.[86][87][88] All bus stops have schedules as of 2014.

Older signs

A Q19 bus at an old-style bus stop, showing only the routes served, in Downtown Flushing, Queens.

The first metal signs in the city to feature a pictograph of a bus were installed by the Transit Authority in the 1960s.[89] Metal signs in their current design, which are mainly used on MTA Bus-operated routes and at temporary construction-regulation bus stops, were first used in 1976, as part of a pilot program on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Midtown Manhattan funded by the Urban Mass Transit Administration,[80] and fully implemented in the 1980s.[90]

In its current iteration, the upper portion of the sign is red, reading "NO STANDING" with an arrow identifying the no standing zone. Below on a blue background is a white circle, with a blue pictograph of a bus and wheelchair from the International Symbol of Access.[80] Routes are identified with color-coded labels (see below), but without destinations.[44][80][79] Some signs for express-bus service are colored lime-green and read "EXPRESS" at the top.[91]

Newer signs

A newer bus stop at Flatbush Avenue and Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, showing both the routes served and the destination

The modern color-coded lollipop-shaped bus stop signs, which are used at all bus stops on New York City Bus-operated routes as well as at bus stops shared with MTA Bus routes and other companies, were first installed in November 1996 in Jamaica, Queens.[79] They were designed by W.S. Sign Design Corporation.[84] The signs were created following two federal grants given to the MTA and DOT in 1994 totaling $1.5 million,[83] in response to complaints from bus riders that the previous metal signs lacked basic information about bus routes and schedules, and that some signs were often missing entirely. They were based off signs used in London and Paris that had existed since at least the 1950s.[79][92]

It is important to note that these signs are installed in violation of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1680 which requires all "traffic control devices" to comply with the U.S. Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as modified by the NYS Supplement. They are a violation because parking signs must be rectangular rather than circular. As a partial result of posting these signs, the federal government is considering denying highway aid money to the city.

The new bus stop sign features a large circle on top and rectangular color-coded bus route information on the bottom. The bus stop circle also has a pictograph of a bus and ADA wheelchair, in white on a blue background. Hanging off the pole below are rectangular bus route signs, color-coded by type of service. Each has a route number and final destination, usually the neighborhood in which it terminates, though a street or landmark is listed for some routes. Westbound Bx12 local signs, for example, read "Sedgwick Avenue" instead of the neighborhood University Heights. At the bottom of this area is a white rectangle with black text announcing the name of the stop, usually the names of the streets at the intersection. On bus stops that operate at all times of day, an arrow and red text on the bottom of the upper circle indicates the no-standing zone for cars. On stops that only operate part-time, the top route number box will read "NO STANDING", with the top destination box listing the days and/or times of day this is in effect.[44][79][83] Some bus routes that run underneath elevated subway lines (such as the Bx9 underneath the Broadway elevated in the Bronx) use metal bus stop signs with a printed image depicting a modern bus sign, affixed to the pillars of the El.

Electronic countdown clocks

A countdown clock for Staten Island express routes near City Hall (left), and for the Q69 and Q100 buses in Astoria, Queens (right). The sign on the left displays "Stops Away", while the one on the right displays "Minutes Away".

Some bus stops, produced by Data Display and STV Incorporated,[93][94] feature electronic countdown clocks. In addition to the route and destination, an LED readout in between displays how many stops away or minutes away the next bus is using the MTA's "Bus Time" system. The first two signs of this kind, in Stapleton and New Dorp on Staten Island, were installed in 2013. The Stapleton stop is solar-powered. A third stop was installed near City Hall in Manhattan in 2015. An additional 18 stops in Staten Island and Brooklyn were approved for installation in late 2014, 10 for Queens in 2015, and 100 in Staten Island in 2016, as part of the NYCDOT's plan to install around 350 across the city.[95][96][97][93][98][99][100]

Several stops along Select Bus Service routes, such as the B44, B46, M34/M34A, M60, M79, M86, and Q44 employ different countdown clocks that are separate from bus stop signage. These clocks are part of wayfinding information kiosks installed in conjunction with the city's WalkNYC project beginning in 2013.[101][102][103] As of 2016, a total of 32 bus stops currently have one of the two countdown clocks installed.[98] The current countdown clocks are successors to a pilot program on the M15 in 2007, and another on the M34 and M16 buses between 2009 and 2012.[104][105][106]

Sign colors

The signage for routes at bus stops may be given different colors depending on the types of services available at each stop.[44][79]

Sign color Type of service
  • MTA local bus service.
  • Bee-Line local bus stops
    • Pick-up only except along Boston Road, Broadway above West 242nd Street, White Plains Rd Between E. 241st Street and W. 1st Street (Mt. Vernon City Line), Boston Road, Fordham Road, Mundy Lane, and through Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, where there are pick-up and drop-off.
  • NICE local bus stops within New York City limits
    • Pick-up only outbound, drop-off only inbound in Queens, except in Far Rockaway, Queens, along Jamaica Avenue west of 239th Street and Hook Creek Boulevard.
  • Some MTA Bus-operated local bus stops are      light blue.
  • MTA Limited-Stop bus service.
  • Some MTA Bus-operated limited bus stops are      light purple.
  • MTA express bus service, (pick-up only to Manhattan, drop-off only from Manhattan).
  • B110 express service in Brooklyn (privately operated).
  • Some MTA Bus-operated express bus stops are      light green.
  • MTA Select Bus Service.
  • Bus stops generally have several individual light blue and dark blue wavy stripes, juxtaposed with the background gradient. Newer routes have yellow stripes as well.
Turquoise & blue
  • Service operates late nights only.
  • Special school service (stopping at that stop only when New York City public schools are in session).
  • Private, tour, commuter and long distance bus company bus stop.


An old-style, black-frame bus shelter in the Bronx.

The current bus shelters found at many bus stops were designed by Spain-based advertising company Cemusa, as part of a citywide "street furniture" project that also included newsstands, bike shelters, and public toilets.[107] Cemusa was awarded a 20-year contract for 3,300 bus shelters in May 2006, after the project had been receiving design bids going back to the 1990s. As opposed to the city paying Cemusa to install the shelters, the company paid for exclusive rights to advertise on the shelters; in return, the company would share a portion of the ad revenue generated.[108][109][110][111] They replaced the simple old-style shelters, consisting of black-painted metal with glass.[112][113] The first 24 shelters were installed by December 2006 in Queens.[114]

A newer, steel-and-glass-frame Cemusa shelter on the B44 SBS route in Brooklyn.

Designed by British architect Nicholas Grimshaw and his firm Grimshaw Architects, the shelters are constructed of stainless steel, with glass on three sides including the roof and rear. The fourth side consists of an advertising panel. On the non-advertising panel is an insert listing the streets of the intersection where the stop is located on the outer side, and route maps and information also featured on the Guide-A-Ride on its inner face.[107][112][115] The shelters come in five sizes (Regular: 5 by 14 feet (1.5 m × 4.3 m); Narrow: 3.5 by 14 feet (1.1 m × 4.3 m); Short: 5 by 10 feet (1.5 m × 3.0 m); Little: 3.5 by 10 feet (1.1 m × 3.0 m); and Double: 5 by 26 feet (1.5 m × 7.9 m)).[107][112] All the modern shelters feature benches (many of the old ones did not), and were praised for environmentally friendly construction during their introduction.[114][116][117] Several of these shelters, primarily in Manhattan, have since been equipped with LED displays, LCD video advertisement panels, and ad panels with NFC communication technology.[118][119][120] Following the acquisition of Cemusa by French advertising firm JCDecaux in 2015, bus shelters are now maintained by JCDecaux.[112]

Late-night Request-A-Stop

Between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., "Request-a-Stop" service is available as dictated by NYCDOT traffic regulations. If requested by a passenger, the bus operator may discharge passengers at a location along the route that is not a bus stop, as long as it is considered safe. If the location is not "safe" (i.e. it will interfere with traffic flow), the bus operator will discharge passengers at the nearest safe location.[74][121] Request-A-Stop is not available on Select Bus Service, Express routes, Limited-Stop routes, or overnight bus shuttles.[74] Request-A-Stop was inaugurated on December 5, 1993 in Staten Island, and expanded to other boroughs in 1994.[122]


A USB charging port in a bus introduced in 2016.

The fleet consists of over 5,700 buses of various types and models for fixed-route service, making MTA RBO's fleet the largest public bus fleet in the United States.[69] The MTA also has over 2,000 vans and cabs for ADA paratransit service, providing service in New York City, southwestern Nassau County, and the city of Yonkers. All vehicles (except for paratransit cabs) are fully accessible to persons with disabilities.[123][124] Fixed-route buses are dispatched from 28 garages (20 New York City Bus and 8 MTA Bus) and one annex in New York City.

Several fleet improvements have been introduced over the system's history. The first large order of air conditioned buses began service in 1966.[70] "Kneeling buses" were introduced in 1976, and wheelchair lifts began appearing in 1980.[5][70][125] Also in the 1980s, stop-request cords ("bell cords") were replaced by yellow tape strips. However, buses ordered after 2008 feature cords rather than tape strips due to the latter's higher maintenance cost.[126] Articulated buses were introduced in 1996, and have since become prominent in the Bronx and Manhattan.[127][5] Low-floor buses, designed to speed boarding and alighting and improve riding conditions for elderly and disabled passengers, were first tested in 1997[128][129] and have made up most of the new non-express buses ordered since the early 2000s. Most post-2000 orders also feature stop-request buttons located on grab bars.[74] Beginning in 2016, new orders along with buses built after 2011 will be built/retrofitted with Wi-Fi connectivity and USB charging ports.

A pilot program is currently ongoing to bring an audio/visual system to the current and future bus fleet. This will include digital information screens installed throughout the interior of the bus which will provide real-time information such as time, weather, advertisements, service advisories and automated announcements that announces next stops & PSAs in an effort to improve customer service and ADA accessibility.[130] These screens are currently being tested under contract from 3 different vendors and will eventually be expanded to all of the fleet citywide.

A new livery was also introduced, replacing the blue stripe livery on a white base that had been in use in one variation or another since the late 1970s. The first of these buses entered service in mid-May 2016 on the Q10 route.[131]

Buses operating on clean or alternative fuels also make up a significant portion of the fleet, particularly since the establishment of the MTA's "Clean Fuel Bus" program in June 2000.[70] Buses running compressed natural gas (CNG) were first tested in the early 1990s,[132][133] and mass-ordered beginning in 1999.[70][132] Hybrid-electric buses, operating with a combination of diesel and electric power, were introduced in September 1998,[70][134][135] and mass-ordered beginning in 2004.[5][134] Within the current fleet are over 1,600 diesel-electric buses and over 700 buses powered by compressed natural gas,[69][136] the largest fleet of either kind in the United States.[137]


Dollar bills and half-dollar coins are not accepted on fixed-route buses or Select Bus Service payment stations, nor are they accepted on buses of the Bee-Line Bus System (Bee-Line) in Westchester County or the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) in Nassau County. All fares are in US dollars, and the following fare policy applies to all New York City Transit, MTA Bus, NICE, and Bee-Line (except for the BxM4C) buses. Up to three children who are 5 years old or younger get to ride free provided that they are accompanied by a fare-paying rider.

Local, Limited-Stop, and Select Bus Service
(transfer available upon request)
Express Bus Service
(New York City Bus and MTA Bus)
Student fare Access-A-Ride
(New York City paratransit)
Full fare Reduced fare Full fare Reduced-fare
(off-peak only)
Student Free MetroCard
(City of New York only)
Student Half Fare MetroCard
(City of New York only)
($3 for a Single-Ride ticket)
$1.35[138] $6.50 $3.25 Free $1.35 $2.75
Transfer rules:
  • All transfers are good for 2 hours .
    • EXCEPTION: A three-hour transfer window applies from transfers from any subway station to the Q22, Q113, and Q114 routes of MTA Bus, and the n31, n32 and n33 routes of the Nassau Inter-County Express.
  • MetroCard transfers are good for one connecting trip on any other local or express bus service, New York City Subway, or Bee-Line buses (restrictions apply).
    • EXCEPTIONS: Two transfers are available with MetroCard for the following transfers. The transfers must be made in order or in reverse order, and the 2-hour rule applies.
      1. Between bus routes crossing the Staten Island Railway south of the Staten Island Expressway, the Staten Island Railway through St. George Ferry Terminal, and then any MTA local bus or subway service below Chambers Street in lower Manhattan.
      2. Between the B61, B62, and any bus route connecting with either the B61 or the B62.
      3. Between the B70, S53, and any bus route connecting with the S53.
      4. Between the Q22, Q35, and the 2 and ​5 trains at the Flatbush Avenue–Brooklyn College station.
      5. Between the Q22, Q52 Select Bus Service or Q53 Select Bus Service, and the A train at the Rockaway Boulevard station.
  • Transfers with coins are good for use on one connecting local bus route.

Other notes:

  • Peak travel periods for express buses are 6:00 AM–10:00 AM and 3:00 PM–7:00 PM, Monday through Friday when buses are on a weekday schedule.

Quality of service


Two back-to-back buses on the M15 Select Bus Service route

As of November 2017, three-quarters of bus routes provide high-frequency service in at least one direction during rush hours, with buses arriving at least every ten minutes. Of these routes, 54% provide high-frequency service in both directions, while 21% provide service only in the peak direction (toward transit hubs during the morning, and away from these hubs during the evening). One quarter of routes run with headways of more than 10 minutes during rush hours.[139]:22

Of the five boroughs, the Bronx has the greatest proportion of bus routes with high frequencies in both directions, with 65% of routes running such frequencies as of November 2017. Manhattan has the highest ratio of routes with high frequencies in at least one direction, at 85%. On the other hand, more than 60% of routes on Staten Island, the city's least populous borough, ran with low rush-hour frequencies, marking the highest such ratio in the city. In roughly 28% of the city's neighborhoods, less than half of routes operate at high frequencies in both directions.[139]:22 Neighborhoods outside of each borough's central business districts, as well as off-peak service, are more likely to be subject to low-frequency bus service, despite significant off-peak demand in areas like Forest Hills, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.[139]:23 MTA Bus and New York City Bus also have the U.S.'s highest rates of deadhead runs, or "not-in-service" runs without passengers, with a respective 19% and 14% of trips being deadheads.[139]:24

Buses running off-schedule are also common in the MTA Regional Bus system, with almost one in four buses running either too early or too late to maintain a constant spacing between buses. This is prevalent even on Select Bus Service bus rapid transit routes, where 20% of bus trips do not adhere to their schedules.[139]:26 Some routes suffer from bus bunching. Routes affected by bus bunching may not have any buses in a certain direction for prolonged periods of time, and then several buses will show up within a short time period. In 2017, nearly twelve percent of routes were considered to be bunched on a regular basis, compared to 9.4% in 2015.[140] This phenomenon most affects bus routes within Brooklyn Community Board 5 in East Brooklyn, where 15% of buses are subject to bunching.[141]


A bus on the M79 route, once ranked one of the slowest in the system

As of 2017, MTA buses on local buses run at average speeds of 7 to 8 miles per hour (11 to 13 km/h),[142][140] the slowest of any major bus system nationwide.[139]:27 MTA Select Bus Service routes had marginally faster speeds, averaging 8.7 miles per hour (14.0 km/h).[139]:40 The average speed varies between boroughs, with Manhattan having the lowest average local-bus speed (6 miles per hour [9.7 km/h]) and Staten Island having the highest (11 miles per hour [18 km/h]).[139]:27 In 2017, sixteen of the seventeen bus routes with average speeds of less than 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h) were located in Manhattan. Conversely, eight of the eleven routes with average speeds of more than 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) were located on Staten Island.[139]:28 On average, buses generally spend a little more than half of the trip (54%) in motion, while 22% of the trip is spent at bus stops and 21% is spent idling at red lights.[139]:29

The Straphangers Campaign, another riders' advocacy group, gives out "Pokey Awards" to the slowest bus routes of each year.[143] The slowest bus routes are typically crosstown bus routes in Manhattan, with 14 of the slowest bus routes in 2017 being crosstown bus routes.[139]:28 In 2017, the slowest bus route was the M42 crosstown bus on 42nd Street, which had an average speed of 3.9 miles per hour (6.3 km/h), approximately a walking pace. This was followed by the M31/M57, M50, and M66 crosstown buses on 57th, 49th/50th, and 65th/66th Streets respectively, all of which averaged less than 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h).[144] Other "winners" of the Pokey Award include the M79 on 79th Street[143] and the M23 on 23rd Street,[145] both of which have now been converted to Select Bus Service routes. However, Select Bus Service routes only serve 12% of all bus riders as of 2016, and the average bus route is 10% percent slower than it was in the mid-1990s.[146]

A 2015 study found that 35 MTA routes with significant ridership figures had average speeds of less than 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), and that the M66 crosstown bus had an average speed of 3.1 miles per hour (5.0 km/h). Slow bus rides were not limited to Manhattan routes; the Bx2 bus in the Bronx and the B35 bus in Brooklyn both ran at speeds of less than 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h).[147] In 2018, the riders' advocacy group Bus Turnaround Campaign rated each bus route based on speed and reliability, and gave 75% of city bus routes a "D" or "F" grade.[140]

As a result of these slow average speeds, MTA Regional Bus Operations has the highest per-mile operating cost of all city bus systems in the U.S., with a per-mile cost of $30.40. If the operating costs were closer to the U.S. average, MTA buses would have the highest farebox recovery ratio among U.S. cities' bus systems.[148]

Length and winding routes

Many local New York City Bus and MTA Bus routes take long and winding routes that, in the most extreme cases, take more than two hours to traverse from end to end.[139]:36 Some of the longest routes are in Staten Island, where the average bus line is 10.6 miles (17.1 km) long. The longest local bus route in the city, the S78, is 20.8 miles (33.5 km) long and spans the entire length of Staten Island. Brooklyn also has several long bus routes, and the borough hosts three of the city's ten longest routes.[139]:37

Some local routes divert into neighborhoods and detour down driveways rather than taking a more direct path. These routes then merge onto heavily-congested main corridors.[139]:39 A 2017 report indicated that nearly half of bus routes had at least 10 turns along their routes. The most winding route was the Bx8 bus in the Bronx, with 29 turns.[139]:38

Starting in 2015, the MTA investigated express bus routes on Staten Island, which were circuitous, duplicative, and infrequent.[149]:14–16 The MTA proposed replacing all of the existing express bus routes with simpler and shorter variants, a proposal supported by 76% of Staten Island residents who had learned about the study.[149]:20, 21, 23 In March 2018, after hosting several meetings with Staten Island residents, the MTA announced that express bus service to Staten Island was expected to be completely reorganized in August 2018. As part of the redesign, all of the existing bus routes would be discontinued and replaced with 21 new routes with a "SIM" prefix.[150][151]


As of December 2017, MTA bus routes tend to be more heavily used on weekends than on weekdays. Weekday bus ridership in 2017 averaged 1.9 million, while weekend ridership averaged 2.1 million. Express buses had an average weekday ridership of 40,200, while paratransit was used by a mean of 27,900 people each weekday.[152]:94

Bus ridership has steadily declined through the 2000s and 2010s. From 2008 to 2017, bus ridership declined by more than 100 million.[153] Average weekday bus ridership fell 5.7%, and average weekend bus ridership fell 4%, from 2016 to 2017.[152]:96 The greatest ridership decreases were in Manhattan, where bus ridership declined more than 15% from 2011 to 2016. Ridership decreased less dramatically in Brooklyn and parts of Queens and Staten Island, while ridership increased slightly within the Bronx, southwest Brooklyn, central Queens, and most of Staten Island.[139]:18 Bus lines that ran parallel to subway routes also saw ridership declines. As of 2017, there were thirteen bus routes with at least 20 stops within 0.1 miles (0.16 km) of a subway station; all saw ridership declines, with each route averaging a 20% loss.[139]:42

Service improvements

Bus lanes

Bus lanes on the B44 route in Brooklyn

To speed up bus service, the city started installing bus lanes in Downtown Brooklyn and St. George, Staten Island, in 1963.[154] Another bus lane was soon installed along Hillside Avenue in Queens.[155]:1 In 1969, part of 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan also received a bus lane.[156] Additional bus lanes were added in the 1970s and 1980s.[155]:1 Bus lanes now exist on major corridors in all five boroughs, and are especially prevalent on high-volume and Select Bus Service corridors. There are also bus lanes along several highways that lead to Manhattan.[157] The city's bus lane network is about 104 miles (167 km) long as of November 2017, representing nearly two percent of the city's 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of streets.[158][139]:7

The bus lane rules are enforced by traffic cameras on gantries above the lanes; photos are taken of vehicles who violate the rules, and these motorists are then fined.[159][160][161] Bus lanes have generally increased average bus speeds and reduced travel times where they are installed. However, double-parked vehicles and other obstructions often force buses within buses to merge out of these lanes.[139]:40

Bus priority signals

As of July 2017, traffic signal preemption is used on five bus corridors in New York City.[162]:4 Traffic signals with bus preemption allow traffic lights to display a green signal for a longer-than-normal period of time when a bus approaches the intersection. The first corridor to receive traffic signal priority was the Victory Boulevard corridor on Staten Island in 2006, which used infrared detection technology to allow traffic signals to communicate with transponders on buses.[162]:3 Although the system itself was successful, the buses with transponders were reassigned to bus routes in Brooklyn and Queens, rendering the devices useless. Moreover, MTA administrators did not see any cost savings from the program, and employees generally lacked the motivation to maintain the system.[139]:30 In 2008, the Victory Boulevard installation was followed by the Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway corridor (Bx12 bus) in the Bronx, which used GPS transponders aboard buses. Due to both systems' high cost, they were eventually removed from both corridors.[162]:3

In 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that traffic signal priority be installed along 11 bus routes within the following two years.[163] The MTA started testing signal priority along the M15 in Lower Manhattan in 2012.[164] From 2014 to 2016, five Select Bus Service routes received GPS-based traffic signal priority at 260 intersections. They were the M15 in Manhattan; the B44 along Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn; the S79 along Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island; the Bx41 along Webster Avenue in the Bronx; and the B46 along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.[162]:3 The New York City government subsequently studied four of these routes, and found that all of the routes saw increases in average bus speeds along the portions that had bus priority signals.[162]:5–8 Speeds on these routes increased by an average of 18%.[139]:31 [165]

Eleven more corridors were set to receive traffic signal priority by July 2017.[162]:9 The number of equipped intersections rose to 500 by March 2018, and was set to increase further to 1,000 intersections by 2020. However, as of that date, traffic signal priority was still in the testing stages,[166] and preemptive traffic signals in New York City were used in much lower proportions than in other major cities.[139]:30

See also


  1. ^ There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the Q35, Q50, M60, or many bus routes operating between Brooklyn and Queens.


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