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CityLab
Transportation

Why the Bus Got So Bad, and How to Save It

TransitCenter’s Steven Higashide has created a how-to guide to help city leaders and public transportation advocates save struggling bus systems.
A New York City bus in its usual habitat: stuck in heavy traffic.
A New York City bus in its usual habitat: stuck in heavy traffic.Seth Wenig/AP

If you had flicked through the cavernous layers of New York City transit Twitter last Thursday morning (and practically ever since), all you would have seen were buses.

There they are, speeding down Manhattan’s 14th Street on freshly painted red lanes devoid of private car traffic, which is now banned for most hours of the day. This was the first glimpse of a true bus-centric street in America’s largest city, a feat of traffic engineering that fended off civil lawsuits to become a reality. The busway is now over a week old and has already increased the speeds of one of the city’s pokiest routes. In hindsight, its mission statement—give buses priority, and they will move efficiently—seems so painfully obvious, that it now seems difficult to believe it took this long to pull off.