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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A bus lane on Woodhaven Boulevard near Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven.

A Manhattan impound lot was an unusual location for a news conference, but Mayor Bill de Blasio assured everyone in attendance that the site was on-message when he announced there would be a citywide crackdown on vehicles parking in bus lanes.

With the launch of dedicated bus lanes all over the city in an effort to cut down on commute times for bus riders across the city, de Blasio warned on Thursday that blocking the right of way could result in hefty towing bills.

“This is going to be crucial – clearing out those lanes, making sure that the buses can move. And it’s really clear to all the folks out there who think about or ever think about parking in a bus lane – don’t do it. Don’t do it because these good public servants are coming to get you out of that bus lane if you’re blocking millions of New Yorkers from being able to get where they need to go,” de Blasio said. “No one wants to see cars towed. If you don’t violate the law, you’re going to be fine. But we’re here to send a very strong message: There’s no parking in our bus lanes.”

De Blasio said NYPD will now have squads of tow trucks at their disposal dedicated to hauling off illegally parked cars in bus lanes with seven teams in each of the five boroughs, which could mean there are seven to 12 tow trucks across the city ready to remove vehicles.

The mayor said more New Yorkers should use the option of public transit, specifically mentioning Select Bus Service (SBS) and NYC Ferry which is rapidly expanding. Queens has several SBS routes that use dedicated bus lanes, such as along Main Street for the Q44 SBS, and Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards for the Q52/Q53 SBS.

“It’s within our power to get people more and better options for getting around,” de Blasio continued. “That’s why, for example, we announced the expansion of NYC Ferry. That’s why we’re going to be fighting, these next months in Albany, for a plan to actually fund the MTA properly and get our subways to run on time. The goal here is to make sure that we speed things up and we have better options and we can do it, When it comes to buses clearing out the lanes is part of what we need to do.”

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan was on hand to support de Blasio’s initiative to clear bus lanes and said summonses for moving violations in bus lanes have increased 612 percent since the beginning of 2019 while tows have increased by 7 percent.

“This bus unit deploys daily as a complement to our existing enforcement deployment,” Chan said. “Beginning last year, the NYPD began meeting frequently with our members of the MTA bus operations in order to develop a plan in response to New York City’s most congested bus routes. As a result of this partnership, we determined specific bus routes in each borough that would benefit most from the increased attention by towing and also enforcement resources.”

In December, the city announced that the rollout of bus lanes on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard had been a success, decreasing people’s commute times by 9 to 10 percent, despite community opposition to the proposal.

A ticket for parking in a bus lane can cost up $115 and price of a tow can set a motorist back $185, Chan said.

Cameras currently in place to monitor bus lanes will help the city enforce this initiative, de Blasio said.

For trucks making deliveries, Chan said they will not be making any exceptions but will help trucks find a better location on offload.

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