NEW YORK CITY — The MTA is getting ready to ditch the bright flashing blue lights on top of the city's Select Bus Service vehicles, to prevent drivers from mistaking them for emergency vehicles, officials said.
The MTA said that they are currently looking for a suitable replacement color for the nearly 140 SBS vehicles citywide before replacing the lights — which have distinguished them from other buses since the city rolled them out in 2008. The changes were first reported by NY1.
“We are currently looking at different light color alternatives,” said Marisa Baldeo, a spokeswoman for the MTA. “Once we decide which one we are going with, we will begin retrofitting the buses accordingly.”
Currently, the city has four select bus routes: the S79 in Staten Island, the M34 and M15 in Manhattan, and the Bx12 in the Bronx.
The MTA has defended its use of the blue lights on its Select Bus Service, saying the decision was made by a prior administration. Officials say the buses are important for the city because they speed the trip for riders by cutting the number of stops.
The MTA did not have a time frame on when the lights would be replaced on the buses.
The changes came about after Staten Island Councilman Vincent Ignizio and State Senator Andrew Lanza asked the MTA to change the lights on SBS vehicles from blue to a different color to avoid confusion.
By law, it’s illegal in New York for blue lights to be used on non-emergency vehicles, and Lanza said drivers may see the buses in their rearview mirror and believe they're emergency vehicles.
“As drivers and pedestrians, we have come to know that when you see flashing blue lights you should yield in order to allow emergency vehicles the opportunity respond to the various emergencies they deal with in order to keep us safe,” Lanza said in a statement. “Blue flashing lights on buses, while illegal, would ... desensitize drivers to the emergency nature typically associated with blue lights.”
On Ignizio's Facebook page, many residents lauded the change and said the lights made them think an emergency vehicle was driving near them.
“THANK YOU!” Ruth Cavanaugh wrote. “It is so annoying, whether they're behind you or on the opposite side. It should only be used for emergencies, not normal bus service.”
Ignizio could not immediately be reached for comment.