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PR- 094-08
March 19, 2008


Federally-Funded Pilot Program Has Already Cut Travel Times For MTA Buses On Staten Island 17 Percent By Turning Traffic Lights Green As Buses Approach

Green-Lighting Buses Could Be Expanded Regionally if Congestion Pricing Passes

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, New York City Department of Transportation  Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director and CEO, Elliot G. Sander toured a pilot program on Staten Island has that already cut transit travel times along a busy corridor to and from the Staten Island Ferry 17 percent. This substantial reduction has been achieved by keeping traffic signals green longer or turning them green sooner as MTA buses approach. The pilot program, which is called a Transit Signal Priority (TSP) program, could be expanded throughout the New York Metropolitan region using funding under the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) if the Mayor's congestion pricing is adopted, which would allow the City to receive $354.5 million in federal grant aid.

"This pilot project on Staten Island was paid for with about $900,000 in federal funds and it's a perfect example of the kind of transit improvements that we would make with the $354 million that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide to New York City if - and only if - the City Council and State Legislature approve congestion pricing," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Secretary Peters intends to make that money available to fund other immediate improvements to our transit system in parts of the city where those improvements most are needed. They'll encourage New Yorkers who now commute by car to the proposed congestion pricing zone to instead use mass transit."

"It's not every day you can improve the lives of millions, finance major new subway and bus projects and protect the environment with a single vote. Voting for the Mayor's plan and our Urban Partnership funding is just that opportunity," Secretary Peters said.

TSP technology was installed aboard 300 New York City Transit buses on Staten Island and at 14 intersections along the critical 2.3-mile Victory Boulevard/Bay Street corridor to and from the ferry terminal in St. George. The system operates in the ferry-terminal bound direction during the morning rush-hour period and outbound during the evening rush period, and is used by 19 bus lines and 49,000 daily passengers.

TSP speeds bus service through traffic-signal controlled intersections using optical sensors mounted on top of traffic signal arms, which can detect the signals put out by emitters installed aboard approaching buses from 150 feet away. The signal is then relayed to the electronic traffic controller at the base of each traffic signal pole, which can then extend the length of green signals, or reduce the time it takes for a red signal to return to green for buses. As part of the announcement, the Mayor and other officials rode MTA buses equipped with the emitters from the St. George Terminal along Victory Boulevard to demonstrate the project.

A study by City's Department of Transportation found that TSP and other signal improvements along the Victory/Bay test corridor reduced travel times by up to 17 percent-from 11 minutes and 48-seconds to nine minutes and 54 seconds-when combined with other signal improvements, all without significant delays on side-streets. The study also found that there would be even more significant reductions in travel times if TSP is deployed over longer distances. The City's Department of Transportation plans to install TSP technology at more than 30 intersections along six miles of Fordham Road in the Bronx by this summer, and is looking to install systems along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, on Union Street, Sutphin Boulevard and Hillside Avenue in Queens, and Richmond Terrace on Staten Island.

"We are saving up to about two minutes during rush hour bus trip through this program, and as any Staten Islander knows, two minutes can be the difference between making or missing that ferry to Manhattan," said NYCDOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "Speeding bus travel and making it more reliable encourages people to take public transit and is essential to our commitments under PlaNYC, and it is also a prime example of the kind of investments we can make citywide with these federal funds available through the UPA."

"The MTA's buses can only go as fast as traffic allows, which is why we need innovations like this and congestion pricing, which will speed buses by taking cars off the road," said Elliott G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. "Congestion pricing has the added bonus of providing vital capital funding to keep the system working and growing. It is a win-win for the 8.5 million New Yorkers who rely on our transportation network each day."

The pilot program cost approximately $900,000 and was funded by the Federal Department of Transportation as part of the Staten Island-Brooklyn Mobility Enhancement Project. While decreasing travel times, TSP also serves to improve corridor mobility, reduce traffic congestion, improve intersection operation, and reduce emissions and fuel use. Rush-hour buses on Victory Boulevard use curbside bus lanes, which also increase travel speeds and reduce congestion delays.

Under a TSP system, not every single bus along a route will be met with a green light. The system can hold a green for an approaching bus, but the priority signal is automatically suspended when a bus opens its doors to pick up and discharge passengers. Also, a red signal does not automatically turn to green when a TSP-enabled bus approaches, though it may turn to a green signal earlier when a bus approaches, depending on where it is in the light cycle.


Stu Loeser / John Gallagher   (212) 788-2958

Seth Solomonow   (Department of Transportation)
(212) 442-7033

Sarah Echols (USDOT)   (202) 366-4570

Jeremy Soffin (MTA)   (212) 878-7145

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