True, the flashing blue lights on the city buses in the Select Bus Service program looked cool. But there were problems with them.
For a start, some people complained that the buses could be confused with emergency vehicles. They said the lights caused drivers to pull over when they didn’t need to, and, in the words of one City Council member, Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, “desensitized the public for what is reserved in law for emergency vehicles only.”
Also, the lights might be illegal. State motor-vehicle law restricts the use of flashing blue lights to volunteer firefighters.
Initially, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority resisted the call to scrap the lights on the buses, which run in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn and differ from regular buses in that they operate in exclusive traffic lanes and require passengers to buy tickets at a sidewalk kiosk to eliminate delays associated with farebox fumbling. Officials wanted customers to be able to recognize them at a distance and decide whether to hop a regular bus or wait for the select bus.
“I doubt whether there’s anyone out there who will mistake a 60-foot bus for a volunteer firefighter’s vehicle,” a spokesman for the authority said in 2010.
But on Friday, a few weeks after published reports that the authority was giving up the fight, it formally announced that the lights would be turned off, “to eliminate the possibility of confusing the vehicles with volunteer emergency vehicles.”
The authority said it was still deciding on an alternate way to make the buses stand out.