MTA Mystery: Has Anyone Taken the CPW Ghost Bus?

Mystery shuttle bus photographed in the wild by Melissa C.

By Joy Bergmann

All summer there’s been scuttlebutt about a free MTA shuttle bus roaming Central Park West, presumably to provide alternate transportation for B/C subway riders affected by the temporary closure of stations being upgraded and repaired at 72nd, 86th and 110th Streets. 

But if the MTA has not posted any signs about this bus, does it exist?

“It exists. It’s being offered and paid for. But very few people know about it or how to make use of it,” insists tipster Juliet.

Juliet, a 92nd Street resident, has been depending on the M10 bus for her commute along Central Park West during the B/C shutdown. But one recent day a bus with “Out of Service” in its route display stopped and Juliet boarded, thinking it an M10. The fare box was disabled – not an unusual occurrence – and so she accepted the free ride, ringing the bell near her 92nd St stop. When the bus whizzed past her destination she spoke up and was told by the driver, “This is the shuttle. And you’re the only one who doesn’t know that.” 

It was the first she’d heard of any free shuttle. Subsequent conversations with bus stop comrades revealed they, too, had had strange encounters with these CPW buses. Sometimes the route display says “To Subway”, other times “NYCT”, but no one seems to be riding them. And no one knows where the stops are, Juliet says. 

No shuttle bus mentions here.

Another tipster wrote to WSR back in June, “Special buses have been running on CPW since the 72 and 86 Street subway stations have closed for renovation.  When and where the buses stop is a mystery to me, and apparently to others since I have never seen any passengers on the bus.”

When we first checked with the MTA, a spokesperson responded, “While the 72 St, 86 St, and Cathedral Pkwy (110 St) stations are under repair and renovation, we’re running increased M10 bus service along Central Park West to help customers looking to use another station on the line without extra walking.”  

Nothing about a free shuttle bus here either.

And yet, these mystery buses – definitely not M10s say our tipsters – are still being spotted, if not taken. So we again asked MTA for clarification. 

“The MTA never announced any shuttle service,” an MTA spokesperson said Thursday. “We’ve added additional service on the M10 bus line to assist passengers in making connections to B/C stations that are operating.” The MTA added that the station upgrade projects are on schedule and that re-opening dates will be announced soon.

Great. Now back to a twist on the original question:  If the MTA did not announce a shuttle service, could it still exist?

WSR readers, have you seen these CPW ghost buses? Enjoyed a surprise free ride? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE:  Reader Melissa C. spotted a subway shuttle bus on CPW Friday morning and sent us the main photo. We removed our original image of an M72 bus.

NEWS | 43 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      Running the buses without any passengers has been a long-term plan of the MTA. They have implemented this plan incrementally. Now it is nearer it’s goal than ever.

      Who says that the MTA can’t bring a plan to fruition?

    2. michael says:

      Absolutely terrific article which very clearly expresses some of my increasingly frequent frustrations with the MTA in general.

    3. Andrea says:

      I rode one once. I happened on it by chance while waiting for an uptown M10. It said “To Subway” on it and I believe it stopped at all the subway stops- 72, 81,86 (where I got off). But that was May or early June. I haven’t seen once since.

    4. Bishop says:

      I, too, live on 92nd Street and have actually taken this bus, which I think is identified as CPW SHUTTLE across the front in the signage space. I have boarded it at Columbus Circle (on those lovely nights after 10 when one reaches the station below on the “C” train to learn there is NO uptown local service between 59th and 125th). The shuttle stops at 72nd and 86th and presumably 110th. Just tonight around 9:30, as I was waiting forlornly for the uptown M10 at 66th Street, I saw a SHUTTLE, which appeared devoid of passengers, roar past. Had I read this article sooner, I’d have taken a picture.

    5. Glen says:

      I have seen the shuttle bus. No one was on it. I have to wonder, if you are too frail to walk from your usual station to the next one on the line, how will you ever navigate the stairs at the stations?

    6. Natali says:

      “This is the shuttle. And you’re the only one who doesn’t know that.”

      What an asshole. If that were true then he wouldn’t be tired of saying “This is the shuttle.” I think being tired of saying that is what caused him to be so rude. Or he’s just, yeah, an asshole.

    7. C. Goddard says:

      Yes I have taken that ghost bus on CPW. It is clearly marked Subway Shuttle and it only stops at subway stops along CPW, i.e. West 72nd, West 81st, West 86 and West 96th etc.

    8. Quincey says:

      I took one from 125th to 110 about 2 weeks ago almost by accident (I had gotten off at 125th intending to take a CitiBike down to the 110 area where I live but the bus was sitting there and people were hesitantly getting on so I went over and asked where it was going). I spoke to the driver and asked how long this had been going on. He chuckled and said that it had been happening since the shut downs. I asked if people knew about it and he said that everyone “should” but said he didn’t know if there were any signs posted (there weren’t).

    9. pumpkinpie says:

      More MTA leadership, communication and service improvements from Andy Byford.

    10. Ben David says:

      I have seen the bus chugging merrily along. Not only were there no passengers, but there was no driver in the moving vehicle. The mystery deepens.

    11. Patrick S Tucker says:

      And while we are at it do these bus drivers not realize that the passenger is the customer? Is this—- “This is the shuttle. And you’re the only one who doesn’t know that.” —- necessary?

      Driver should be ashamed of such poor customer service.

    12. Mitchel says:

      I’ve seen these buses, waiting for an M10 at 67th. They never stop, and sometimes the M10 bus I’m waiting for (via the bus time info) disappears as soon as these buses fly by the stop.

      • B.B. says:

        To be fair the tracking, app or whatever systems MTA has for buses and subways seems unable to distinguish *special* things versus scheduled.

        Case in point; last Thursday evening was waiting at 81st and CPW for “C” train. Usual announcement “Attention There Is A Downtown Local Train Approaching The Station” went off and not looking carefully got on train when it arrived.

        Turns out the train was some sort of “special” coming from a sporting event somewhere uptown. It was running on 8th Avenue line then switching over to “F”. Wanted to go to 23rd and 8th, ended up getting far as 33rd and Broadway (after transferring), and walking from there.

    13. Cindy says:

      I rode it a couple of times, but ironically, not to get on the subway, but to get to the North Woods of the park. the driver was friendly, I didn’t question it.

    14. Ted Sneath says:

      There should be a schedule. As I live above one of the closed stations, I rode it several times alone, after waiting for a while. Or make M10 free.

    15. NilesR says:

      What I want to know is this: At 71st and CPW there was an abandoned station entrance that had been completely sealed off with a sidewalk. They reopened the sidewalk for construction. Is this entrance to remain or will it be once again sealed up?

    16. Eric says:

      You get what you pay for in this world…

      • dannyboy says:

        So we’re paying for the buses with our tax dollars and are getting, just what exactly here?

    17. Cato says:

      This is very much the same bureaucrat-anti-citizen thinking as the City’s eliminating the trash baskets on street corners so people will stop making so much trash.

      MTA is running the bus because it has to. It had to provide an alternative to the subway when it unilaterally shut down the CPW stations for prettifying (without any real opportunity for community input — but who cares about the community?)

      But the MTA realized that, if they don’t advertise the bus, or put up signs directing people to the bus stops, or label the buses, or otherwise provide people with information about it — and instead simply run the buses verrrrry quietly up and down CPW (shhhh!) — then very few people will know about it. And those who may have heard about it will have a hard time finding it or figuring out how or where or when it runs.

      And then — as this article, and the comments, confirm — very few people will ride it.

      And if very few people ride it, then the MTA can show that the bus wasn’t really necessary in the first place.

      Voila! The MTA gets to say “See? We told you so!”!

      Just another chapter in “The City versus The People”, that’s all.

      • dannyboy says:

        “Just another chapter in “The City versus The People”, that’s all.”

        That book’s gotta have more chapters than the Mahabharata!

    18. Valerie Bifulco says:

      I have taken it once. It read: To Subway.
      Driver explained there was no fare being taken and that it only makes the major stops, i.e. 72nd, 86th, etc.
      I haven’t seen any since. Much like the 7,10 and 2 buse service on the UWS, it is another ghost bus.

    19. Wendy S says:

      I saw it once – and used it – at 86th Street. Never seen it since. Not right that you are charged full fare in th N10. I thought it would be free during the subway station closings.

    20. Susan Creatura says:

      I have used these buses, often. They start at the M10 stop on CPW and Columbus Circle, and stop only at the B/C stations. All of them, not just the closed ones. I think it goes as far as 125th, and stops nowhere else. Which makes it go very fast, but if you want to get off at, say, 90th Street, you’re out of luck. Oh, and you have to hit the request stop button, because if there’s no one waiting at the stop and no one on the bus has requested a stop, the driver will just keep going. There is no schedule for these that I know of, and they don’t show up on any of the MTA bus schedule apps. They just show up whenever, I guess. Not nearly as good as the M10, but better than nothing, I guess. Hope this helps.

    21. Dani says:

      I see them all of the time near 110/cpn.

    22. Sue L says:

      Actually spotted one this a.m. coming down CPW as I was on an eastbound 86th crosstown. Had no idea what it meant till now. Just one more example of how the ever-efficient & helpful MTA serves its community?!

    23. Cintra says:

      It’s like the right hand don’t know what the left hand is doing. Or it’s 10:00pm, do you know where your children (bus) are?

    24. mo says:

      They do exist but they only stop at subway stops along cow while 86 n 72 stations r vein renovated. There is a sign on Columbus circle gong uptown

    25. Joey says:

      One of the great mystries of life.

    26. Lesley Gould says:

      I got on a #10 bus a few weeks ago going uptown. The driver said that no fare was necessary.

    27. Harvey Kopel says:

      I rode the bus last Friday evening. After attending the free movie in Central Park (until it started pouring) I went out of the park at 72nd street and caught the bus to 96th. The driver said it stopped only at the subway stops and his was the only bus doing this route. He also said it took him about 30 minutes to do a round trip. I do not know where it starts or ends.

    28. Kayden says:

      Silly article. It’s simply a bus that runs along CPW due to subway stop closures, end of story.

      • dannyboy says:

        Is that you Joe Lhota?

      • Ted Sneath says:

        It is not a silly article. The shuttle should be advertised and have a permanent schedule.
        there should be a clearly marked space for shuttle pickup and drop off. Many elderly people need this service, but are left on their own.

    29. WestSide parent says:

      We rely upon the 72nd B/C stop to take our kids to school. Navigating the station closure has been interesting during the school year. There was press about the shuttle bus when the station first closed. However, there was never a schedule available. A few times I saw MTA employees at 72 and CPW and asked them for details. Despite the MTA’s issues, these employees were friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, the information they conveyed was not. They confirmed there is no schedule and that one or two busses make endless loops around the route. There is no way to plan for the shuttle busses — you have to rely upon luck basically. One time, we even got on the bus at 66th St even though that’s not a stop. It’s nonsensical to think there is no schedule to it, especially during peak travel times. But there were announcements soon before the 72nd St closure.

    30. Carol M says:

      Yes I have seen them but no I haven’t taken one. Do remember THEY STOP AT SUBWAY STATIONS ONLY. You can’t ring the bell and expect the bus to stop at 92nd Street Only 72,81, 86,96,103, 110 and 116.

    31. Euna Kim says:

      A week ago, I got picked up by the shuttle, I’m almost positive it was at 88th, thinking it was the southbound M10. Later that day, I tried to pick up the M10 northbound at 70th st and the shuttle wizzed by instead of the M10 (I saw coming on the MTA website on my phone)…so I had a while to wait until the real M10 showed up 10-15 mins later…(of course, my M10 left Columbus Circle late and arrived almost together with the next scheduled M10, ha). I had hemmed about waiting at 72nd st instead and wish that I had…surely, the shuttle would’ve stopped for me there.

    32. alice s says:

      i actualy took one ONCE on the corner of 72nd st going uptown around 10:30 am. shortly after 72nd street station closed.

      There was no one on the bus and when I entered the bus and the driver asked me Where I was going I said 86th ST. He said grudgingly OK get in. Along CPW there were others waiting as I HAD BEEN FOR M10, He didnt stop til 86th and I got out.
      I tried to engage driver in conversation about the route etc. He did not answer any Qs and the bus continued up CPW empty!

    33. Judy says:

      I have seen it riding on CPW. I have never seen it stop and have not tried to take it. We could have all benefited from increased service on the M10. It’s a shame they decided to do this instead and not tell anyone.

    34. Kim says:

      Had a pleasant ride from the 59th street Columbus Circle stop on CPW to 103rd. Driver will stop at any subway-stop corner on CPW for a passenger–and will stop for anyone who looks like they are waiting at a subway stop location.

    35. Mamaebbes says:

      It exists. I got on it once unknowingly while waiting for the M 10 at Columbus Circle. The bus driver did not announce any of the stops, so it was not known where the bus would stop next.

    36. julie says:

      Guess who’s paying for this non-functioning joke of a substitute for the subway lines out of use?
      I only wish there was a way to bring this to MTA President, Andy Buford’s attention. I spoke with him before a meeting given via Linda Rosenthal having arranged a meeting in June held at Collegiate church for UWS’ers … He was bright, seemed extremely excited to be in charge of turning the system around as he’d done very successfully in Toronto, London, and Sydney. I think he would be incredulous at hearing of this cock-up! The MTA is a serious disgrace.