Manhattan’s 34th St. could be a harbinger of transit-related things to come.
In a few short weeks, New York City will mark a milestone. June 29th will witness the debut of the city’s first true foray into Bus Rapid Transit. This first experiment into a program that could revolution New York’s bus system is called Select Bus Service and will run along the Bx12 corridor from 207th Street in Manhattan down Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.
While this Bronx-based project is a start, New York’s BRT efforts seemingly took a huge hit last week when congestion pricing failed. Over $112 million of the $354-million federal grant heading New York’s way had congestion pricing passed was earmarked for BRT implementation along various corridors in all five boroughs.
But the city is plowing ahead anyway with their BRT plans. They think they can finagle some other funds from the funds, and this week, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik Kahn announced the next round of BRT plans. These plans are centered around a complete repurposing of 34th Street from river to river. Brad Aaron at Streetsblog has more:
DOT will repave and restripe for five lanes between Third and Ninth Avenues by the end of this year, with painted bus lanes on the north and south sides and three auto lanes in the center. Service hours will also be extended. Phase 2 calls for a 34th Street Transitway, closing the street to cars between Fifth and Sixth and installing pedestrian plazas. On either side of that block, there would be two lanes for cars heading in one direction — toward the rivers — while on the other half of the street, buses would have two extra-wide lanes separated from traffic. In other words, buses would constitute the only through traffic on 34th Street. According to Sadik-Khan, 34th Street BRT will eventually tie in to new East River ferry service (details to be announced next week)…
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has pledged a unit dedicated to bus lane enforcement, Sadik-Khan said. But she added that the city needs Albany to approve bus-mounted cameras as well. Though the program lost $112 million in funding with the defeat of congestion pricing, Sadik-Khan said the city has applied for federal funds to expedite BRT build-out. While the timetable for some projects is still undetermined, Bx12 Select Bus Service will launch in June as planned, and Phase 1 of 34th Street will be completed this year.
To view Sadik-Khan’s 34th Street presentation, check out this PDF presentation.
I am a big proponent of this plan on numerous levels. First, the city is not giving in to the anti-congestion pricing advocates. We may not have won that battle, but we can still win the war against unnecessary car traffic and congestion by making it tougher for cars to get around the city. Thirty-fourth street, one of Manhattan’s busiest thoroughfares with the Javits Center and Hudson Yards on one side and Herald Square in the middle, will be a great testing ground.
From a transit perspective, any effort the city and NYCT can make to beef up bus service is a welcome addition to the transportation landscape in New York. Buses right now are insanely efficient; the Straphangers, after all, hand out awards for the slowest buses. Once the city can begin to implement a true Bus Rapid Transit system, bus service can emerge as a real, viable alternate to people looking to cover long distances via public transit.
While car advocates will not like these developments, BRT along 34th St. alone has the potential to impact commutes for tens of thousands of people. Imagine what this city could look like with viable BRT service all over.