Lights Out: MTA Turning Off Blue Lights on Select Buses


Today, the MTA issued an order rescinding the use of flashing blue lights on all Select Bus Service or SBS buses. These lights are used to distinguish the select buses from local buses. Flashing blue lights are particularly useful at a crowded bus stops or when you’re squinting up Second Avenue hopelessly searching for a gigantic foul-smelling blue angel to come to a cacophonous halt, yawn its doors open, and accept your tired soul. Apparently, opportunities to find a ride like that only come along once in a no-longer-blue moon.

According to Second Avenue Sagas this may be due to a New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law that contains a provision referencing the use of flashing lights on motor vehicles. The law states that, except as otherwise outlined, only white lights may be used outside of vehicles exception in the case of emergency vehicles.

Section 375 (41) of the New York City Motor Vehicle and Traffic law reads as follows:

41. Colored and flashing lights. The provisions of this subdivision shall govern the affixing and display of lights on vehicles, other than those lights required by law.

1. No light, other than a white light, and no revolving, rotating, flashing, oscillating or constantly moving white light shall be affixed to, or displayed on any vehicle except as prescribed herein…

4. Blue light. a. One blue light may be affixed to any motor vehicle
owned by a volunteer member of a fire department or on a motor vehicle
owned by a member of such person’s family residing in the same household…

Looks like the fun is also over for all of those non-existent blue-light adorned vehicles on their way to Hannakuh parades.

Here is today’s MTA statement on the matter:

Reacting to specific concerns, MTA New York City Transit has agreed to turn off the flashing blue lights that have served to alert riders to the arrival of Select Bus Service buses (SBS) since the speedier service was introduced. This measure is being taken to eliminate the possibility of confusing the vehicles with volunteer emergency vehicles, which are entitled by law to use the blue lights. We are currently in the process of developing an alternate means of identifying SBS buses.

Signs point to growing concern over the lights in Staten Island. In September, State Sen. Andrew Lanza and City Councilman Vincent Ignizio wrote a letter to MTA CEO Joseph Lhota complaining about the lights. They wrote that blue lights are reserved for certain volunteer firefighter vehicles, ambulances, EMS vehicles of various stripes and police and fire vehicles. State Assemblyman-elect Joe Borelli, who is also from Staten Island, was quoted in the Staten Island Advance as being thrilled at the removal of the lights.

“These were highly distracting, partially blinding and made drivers unreasonably nervous when they saw flashing blue lights in their rearview mirrors,” Borelli said. The real question is why are all of these residents of Staten Island so nervous? The thought of them hiding something makes us partially blind with rage.