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New York City Deploys Video Bus Lane Enforcement

New York City’s bus service will partner with Hayden AI on a project to use camera technology armed with artificial intelligence to help keep cars out of bus-only lanes.

A streetside sign in a city that reads "bus lanes photo enforced" with an illustration of a camera.
Hanging out in the bus lane in New York City can now earn you a ticket — no cop needed. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will begin enforcing its transit-only lanes with video technology, which spots an offending vehicle in the lane and then issues a citation.

MTA is contracting with Hayden AI*, a technology firm specializing in transportation and imaging solutions, to conduct real-time monitoring and analysis of bus lanes to ensure they are free of vehicles, often stopped and treating the space as a delivery zone. The move is heralded by the MTA and transit advocates as a step to ensure buses can move through urban traffic faster and more efficiently.

“Automated enforcement of bus lanes is something we celebrate, unequivocally,” said Hayley Richardson, a spokeswoman for the TransitCenter, a New York City-based transit advocacy and think tank. “A bus lane loses its value immediately with even a single car in the way, as it forces bus operators to merge back into traffic to maneuver around them, wasting riders’ time.”

The automated bus lane enforcement includes “a perception system” mounted on the front of the bus, which captures imagery of the lane ahead. The data is analyzed and processed in real time in accordance with local regulations and traffic enforcement. The technology will be installed on 300 buses, with an option to install the Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) system on another 200 upon the MTA’s request, say company officials.

“By keeping bus lanes and bus stops clear of illegally parked cars, trucks, delivery fleets — you name it — automated bus lanes make way for more reliable, faster bus rides,” said Chris Carson, founder and CEO of Hayden AI. “This is a huge opportunity for transit agencies to seriously improve service, especially at a time of declining ridership and changing travel patterns with automated enforcement.”

Hayden piloted its technology with Los Angeles Metro in 2019 along heavily trafficked Wilshire Boulevard. Bus speed increased 17 percent as a result of the enforcement. Hayden AI is involved in similar pilots in other U.S. cities, said Carson.

“We were thinking, ‘Well perhaps, this new technology could be something that would help us enforce the bus lane and make sure that it is free for our buses to move through,’” recalled Joshua Schank during an April 2022 CoMotion LIVE webinar to discuss bus mobility. Schank is the former chief innovation officer for L.A. Metro, and is now a managing principal with the boutique consulting firm InfraStrategies.

In New York, the city will deploy signage in bus lanes to alert motorists of the presence of the camera technology. A first violation results in a $50 fine, increasing in increments of $50 for each successive violation, up to $250, say MTA officials.

Transit officials say technology-aided enforcement saves police resources as well as frees bus drivers from intervening with enforcement. The MTA experimented with bus lane camera enforcement in 2020 during a pilot project with Siemens and in 10 days cited 1,500 illegally parked vehicles, David Zipper reported for Bloomberg.

“Bus lanes are for buses, and today’s development gets us one step closer to that goal,” said Richardson.

*An arm of e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company, has invested in Hayden AI.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly included another partner that is not involved in this contract.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.