Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recent News Coverage on CIVITAS' Newsrack Initiative

CIVITAS speaks out against lax enforcement of vandalized and abandoned newsrack boxes and urges NYC Council to schedule an oversight hearing to address this issue. You can sign the petition at and find recent media coverage at:

Our Town East Side
WPIX11 News Video

Plan to attend and show your support at CIVITAS’ upcoming presentation on newsrack enforcement at the Community Board 8 Transportation Committee meeting:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 6:30pm
New York Blood Center, Conference Room 1
310 East 67th Street, (Between First and Second Avenues)
New York, NY 10065

Monday, March 28, 2011

CIVITAS' Select Bus Survey Results and Recommendations

March 21, 2011

Jay Walder
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Metropolitan Transit Authority
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3739

Dear Mr. Walder,

CIVITAS has been a strong supporter of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans on First and Second Avenue and has been an active member of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) since 2009. We saw as a sign of progress the October 2010 launch of the Select Bus Service (SBS) line and its promise to improve travel times along the corridor from 125th Street to South Ferry, a route that is underserved by efficient transit.

Throughout the planning process, led by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and partner New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), CIVITAS has been impressed by the efficient implementation of the new bus line, and opportunities for community input at CAC meetings, and public open houses. Since its October 2010 launch, the highly anticipated SBS has been met with a mix of enthusiasm and skepticism charged by new procedures such as off-board ticketing, proof of payment receipts, three bus entrances, and a designated bus lane with camera enforcement.

In order to gauge the success and shortfalls of SBS’ first few months, CIVITAS conducted a survey from November 1, 2010 to January 3, 2011 focusing on rider experience in the areas of ticketing, boarding, traffic flow, and overall efficiency. We received 262 responses from riders throughout the First and Second Avenue corridor.

Although CIVITAS’ Select Bus Rider Survey revealed an overall—62%—positive response to SBS, particularly due to the noticeable decrease in travel time, the public response includes a list of complaints and concerns that must be addressed. These fall into the following seven categories:

  • MTA Outreach/Education
  • Off-Board Ticket Machines
  • Bus Stops
  • Bus Ride/Design
  • Bus Lanes
  • Paper Receipts
  • Customer Service

While some of these items may pertain to larger issues such as infrastructure and technology, there are short-term and manageable concerns that would significantly improve the public impression of SBS if properly addressed. The Raw Data attachment includes survey statistics from over 250 responders and the Summary attachment highlights comments most frequently addressed within the survey. For immediate improvement we would like to make three recommendations.

1. Consistent Publication of SBS Stop Locations

CIVITAS commends the MTA and DOT for the public outreach that took place prior to the implementation of the new system and especially staff orientations at bus stops within the early months proved to be beneficial. There is a lack of consistency, however, regarding the exact stop locations along the SBS route. This can be found in publications such as the M15 bus schedule pamphlet, (“MTA/New York City Transit Manhattan Bus Schedules." Web. 17 Mar. 2011., the Bus Rapid Transit webpage, (“Bus Rapid Transit - First and Second Avenues." Web. 17 Mar. 2011., and the Select Bus Service Newsletter (+selectbusservice First Avenue/Second Avenue. Newsletter 2/Fall 2010. Print). It is crucial for riders, local to NYC or visiting tourists, to have these maps readily available at each stop, online, and on buses in order to plan ahead and anticipate the connections to other transit lines. Similarly, updates to the Second Avenue bus route due to subway construction should be prominently featured.

2. Improved Maintenance and Additional Machines

The MetroCard machines are frequently inoperable, whether due to technical problems or lack of paper receipts. This creates a backup at congested bus stops and increases the risk of passenger fines. We recommend that MTA increase inspection frequency, and set up a direct and efficient method for customers to report locations of broken machines. The current method for reporting broken machines by calling MTA’s customer service number, 718-330-1234, is time-consuming and confusing. Furthermore, installing additional machines at congested stops such as 14th, 34th, and 79th Streets would speed the boarding process and reduce crowding around working machines.

3. Better Cross-Town Bus Connections

CIVITAS has been a strong supporter of the limited nature of the SBS stop locations and has advocated for roughly 10-blocks separating each express stop. There are stops, however, where the distance between an SBS and local bus, or a cross-town bus should be reexamined. This is apparent throughout the corridor where riders must cross a major cross-town intersection to transfer buses, a situation that is unsafe for riders of all ages, and especially those who are less mobile. This is evident at the 25th, 88th, 97th and 100th Street stops, which are two or more blocks from the 23rd, 86th, and 96th Street cross-town buses respectively.

We urge MTA and DOT to reevaluate the stop locations that are placed blocks away from the cross-town connection.

Although a significant number of survey comments addressed the lack of a stop at the 72nd Street cross-town bus connection, CIVITAS feels strongly that an additional stop would deter from the efficient and established route. This discussion should be reconsidered, however, with the future completion of the 72nd Street Second Avenue subway stop.

The Select Bus Rider Survey revealed complaints about the SBS experience that have longer-term solutions relating to the established SBS infrastructure. We recognize that paper receipts are central to the off-board payment and three-door boarding opportunities of the SBS model, but they create excessive litter and are easily misplaced. CIVITAS supports the implementation of a universal MetroCard that will electronically store off-board purchases and transfer information. We hope MTA will continue to utilize technology to streamline payments and boarding procedures.

We thank you for your continuing efforts to engage the community in order to better serve riders and East Side transit. Our objective is for this information to be useful as MTA moves forward in improving the Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenue and implementing new SBS routes throughout New York City.


Hunter F. Armstrong
Executive Director

Tali Cantor
Associate Director

Hon. Carolyn Maloney, US Congresswoman
Hon. Christine C. Quinn, NYC Council Speaker
Hon. Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
Hon. Liz Krueger, NYS Senator
Hon. Jose M. Serrano, NYS Senator
Hon. Jonathan L. Bing, NYS Assembly Member
Hon. Micah Z. Kellner, NYS Assembly Member
Hon. Daniel R. Garodnick, NYC Council Member
Hon. Jessica S. Lappin, NYC Council Member
Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Council Member
Robert Marino, Director, MTA NYCT Government & Community Relations
Ted Orosz, Director, MTA NYCT Long Range Bus Planning
Kate Mikuliak, NYCDOT BRT Outreach Coordinator
Manhattan Community Board 8
Manhattan Community Board 11

Summary of Comments & Raw Data

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Upcoming Upper Green Side Events: Electronic Recycling and It's My Park Day

Saturday, April 30th: Recycle-O-Rama – Spring Edition
82nd Street Greenmarket (between First and York), 9 am – 3 pm. Electronics recycling. Paper shredding. All usual recyclables.

Saturday, May 21st: It’s My Park Day
From 10 am – 4 pm Join Upper Green Side in cleaning the segment of the East River Esplanade south of 96th Street: Scraping and painting railing, cleaning plantings, getting rid of graffiti. Come for an hour. Be there the whole day.

Sunday, June 26th: Recycle-O-Rama – Summer Edition
92nd Street Greenmarket (on First between 92nd-93rd), 9 am – 3 pm More electronics recycling. Paper shredding. All usual recyclables.

For more information on these events, visit

Monday, March 21, 2011

Community Engagement Study Closed March 18

Thank you for participating in our Community Engagement Survey!

CIVITAS, working with NYU’s Capstone program at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, administered a Community Engagement Survey to take stock of community needs and priorities for the present and future of East Harlem and the Upper East Side.

The purpose of the project is to evaluate what community stakeholders view as the future needs of the neighborhood in the key areas that CIVITAS addresses through our work: land use and zoning, transportation, environmental quality and streetscapes.

The survey closed on March 18, 2011. For updates on the project, visit: