Opinion: I love the bus, and so should you

The subway can be scary, and ride-hailing services aren’t affordable. The best option is right in front of us.

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The New York City bus system is underrated. (Sol Casimiro for WSN)

Alexandra Cohen, Opinion Editor

I moved to the best apartment in the world. It’s right by campus, it has an elevator, it’s affordable and, most importantly, the M8 bus stops right in front of it. I can travel east and west without walking more than a block. It’s essentially my personal driver — well, my personal driver restricted to Ninth Street.

NYU students often move to New York City with romantic ideas of sticking our heads out of yellow cabs like little dogs or meeting the loves of our lives on the subway, rom-com style. But cabs are expensive, and the subway, as much as I love it, has become increasingly unsafe.

Many of my friends would rather spend a small fortune on an Uber or trek through the blocks where the subway doesn’t run. I like waiting at the bus stop, texting the stop code to the designated MTA phone number (511123, of course) and getting on one of New York City’s 5,780 buses. Many are equipped with USB ports to charge your phones and screens that display the next few stops so you know when to get off. It has the ease of the subway without having to go underground and wait in a usually dirty indoor station, in a city where COVID-19 still exists.

The bus system isn’t as easy to navigate as the subway. It’s harder to figure out due to the number of buses and routes. Some are express, some go crosstown and some take unintuitive routes. I understand how approaching the bus system could be intimidating, but with a smartphone and a desire to learn, it becomes much easier. Apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps can display which bus routes can take you to your desired destination. They even factor in wait times for your commute. However, sometimes these wait times are longer than walking to your destination — something that the MTA overall needs to improve. 

Compared to cities like Paris and Amsterdam, New York City is admittedly way behind its European counterparts in reducing harmful emissions and rivals my native Los Angeles when it comes to street traffic. However, many streets in New York City have designated bus lanes. These lanes not only reduce traffic for bus riders but also reduce air pollution — buses are more fuel-efficient than cars.

Mayor Eric Adams knows that the bus system needs some improvement, which is why he plans to bring 150 miles of bus lanes to New York in the next four years, starting with 20 miles in 2022. This plan is expected to increase daily ridership to approximately 327,000 New Yorkers because of the new ease and speed that will come as the plan is carried out — and NYU students should aim to be part of that number. 

The best part about the bus is the shared experience. It’s different from the subway because, in a way, it’s more intimate. You’re in a small vehicle with a handful of other New Yorkers, each with their own quirks and personalities. They aren’t the performers that switch between subway cars or the rats that scurry across the tracks. 

I used to live in Brooklyn, and I took the bus every day from my apartment to the close-enough-to-walk but far-enough-to-take-the-bus subway station. I rode the bus with my community along Kings Highway to the subway station. The bus wasn’t just my bus, and the commute wasn’t just my commute, though. The girls going to yeshiva schools in their long skirts — it was their commute too. The nurses in their scrubs on the way to the hospital — it was their commute too. Some journeyed with me to the subway station and headed into Manhattan, while others got off the bus along the way.

Buses are the local way to travel, both physically and culturally. They can be local in the literal sense — sometimes stopping at every single street along the way. But it’s also local in that it serves local communities. Buses take you within neighborhoods just as much as they take you through them. You get to know the places, the people and the streets, immersing yourself in traffic and, if you’re like me, indulging in a little bit of eavesdropping. 

If you have the time to account for traffic and delays, as well the desire to take on a new system of public transportation and embed yourself in a new community, I urge you to try out New York City’s buses.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are not the views of the Washington Square News.

Contact Alexandra Cohen at [email protected]