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Ridership falls on New York City's slow buses: comptroller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City’s bus system has deteriorated over the last decade, losing 100 million passenger trips since 2008 on buses that are the slowest in any large U.S. city, according to a report on Monday by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

System ridership has declined, in part due to unreliable and poorly connected routes and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “failure to follow its own standards and schedules,” the report said.

The slide in bus services disproportionately affects immigrant and lower-income New Yorkers, who make up the highest portion of passengers, the comptroller’s report said.

“Traffic congestion and New York City’s consistent inability to manage traffic flow and enforce existing traffic laws on its streets is killing our bus service and hurting bus rides,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement.

“The proper and progressive way to deal with the scourge of traffic is for everyone to support a responsible congestion pricing plan,” he added. “Traffic congestion is keeping the most reliable and advanced bus fleet in recent history from moving as efficiently as it can and should.”

Some riders in the New York City area, the United States’ largest regional economy, are using car-share services like Uber to avoid long waits for buses, Stringer said.

Companies managing the system, New York City Transit Bus and the MTA Bus Company, reported operating losses of $2.2 billion and over $475 million in 2016, respectively, the report said.

The city’s bus system, which serves over two million passengers each day with 5,700 buses and 330 routes, is “hampered by a fractured management structure,” the report said.

“There is an urgency to all this,” Stringer said. “This cannot wait another 10, 20, 30, 40 years. We can no longer kick that can down the road because the can is in little pieces. We must act now.”

The report included several recommendations, including that the MTA should increase the frequency of off-peak buses and adopt a more “grid-like” bus network.

“This is a lot less expensive to rethink our transportation infrastructure when you involve our buses,” Stringer said.

He also reiterated that he supported lawmakers passing a $4 billion transportation bond act on which New Yorkers could vote.

“Let the people vote for better mass transit,” he said. “I do think there has to be ways to pay for this.”

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Andrew Hay and Dan Grebler