NIMBY obsctructionism leads MTA, DOT to shelve M60 SBS, for now

By · Published in 2013
With a few loud voices, tens of thousands of bus riders won't see improvements.

Improving traffic flow along the M60 corridor would have benefited bus riders, pedestrians and businesses, but loud objections have quashed some plans.

Entrenched NIMBY interests have won again. Despite the fact that it can be faster to walk along 125th St. than it is to take the bus, despite the fact that 32,000 neighborhood residents, commuters trying to reach their jobs in Queens and even some airport-bound travelers would benefit, intense opposition from Senator Bill Perkins and a few drivers worried about a handful of lost parking spots has led the MTA and DOT to shelve plans for Select Bus Service on the M60 and a dedicated bus lane along 125th St.

In a statement provided to me a few minutes ago, the MTA had the following to say:

There are still a number of concerns about the project from the local Community Boards and elected officials that we have not been able to resolve to date. As a result, NYCDOT and MTA New York City Transit have decided not to proceed with the M60 Select Bus Service project at this time. We do hope to have a continued dialogue with community stakeholders about ways that we can continue to improve bus speed and service, traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian safety along 125th Street. In the short term, we plan to work with the Community Boards to explore whether any parking or traffic improvements discussed during the SBS outreach process can improve 125th Street for all users.

This decision stems from months of protest from the Community Board and Senator Bill Perkins’ office over these Select Bus Route plans. This powerful stakeholders who are not representative of the community’s voices or needs claim that dedicated a lane to buses on 125th St. isn’t possible because too many parking spots would be removed and too many others would become metered. These voices have argued that implementing metered parking along a small section of 125th St. would make parking unaffordable to public housing residents (who can otherwise afford to own a car in Manhattan anyway). And they’re annoyed at the inconveniences turn limits would place on drivers.

Even after DOT scaled back plans for the bus lane to just a few of the more congested avenues and did away with the metered parking and turn restrictions, Perkins and the Community Board were not satisfied. And so 32,000 New Yorkers who need the M60 but find that it runs slower than 3 — three! — miles per hour are left holding nothing. The people who can’t afford faster transportation get shafted.

If this were an isolated incident, I wouldn’t be so upset, but it isn’t. Across the city, politicians and Community Boards are barriers to progress on transit expansion. They object to bus lanes that benefit tens or hundreds of thousands because a few people may lose direct curbside access to their buildings or may have to work harder to find a free parking spot in congested neighborhoods. The message is clear: If you need the bus, the city and its politicians and community representatives do not care about you. Keep pressuring DOT for upgrades; vote out Senator Perkins. Something has to change.

Categories : Buses, Manhattan

75 Responses to “NIMBY obsctructionism leads MTA, DOT to shelve M60 SBS, for now”

  1. Larry Littlefield says:

    The right thing to do, but they should have hit the Board and Perkins even harder.

    “In the short term, we plan to work with the Community Boards to explore whether any parking or traffic improvements discussed during the SBS outreach process can improve 125th Street for all users.”

    How about “we will abide by the values and priorities of the official representantives of the areas and shift attention and resources to parts of the city where bus riders are a higher priority?”

    • pea-jay says:

      Hitting Perkins and the Board…

      Here’s an idea for Bloomberg and his billions after he leaves office: Fund candidates at all levels that support things he has tried to but failed in getting into law. I mean he’s already done that on national issues like gun control and health but local issues not so much.

      Granted that might not be the most democratic way but it would break the log jam of in City hall and Albany

      • Henry says:

        It’ll be like Tammany Hall, except this time it’ll be funded with legal means.

        Money isn’t even a super-big factor in city races – considering all the money Bloomberg spent in ’09, he STILL almost lost to Thompson. What matters is turning out, and having the stigma of being a Bloomberg candidate might be the worst thing ever in some communities.

  2. alen says:

    why do people drive to 125st? lots of subways there

  3. Spiderpig says:

    Is there any way to add parking on nearby streets by using diagonal spaces? Even if it is metered parking, this could be a way to assuage their “fears.” This plan could be used when those wide bike lanes on avenues push curbside parking one lane away from the curb, as well.

    Thinking about how long it takes to board the eastbound M42 at PABT in the morning makes me want to have SBS on every line (like some other civilized cities), even if it does not include dedicated (red) bus lanes.

    • Matthias says:

      The plan was to add alternate-side parking to 126th St. I thought that was a great way to slow traffic on that speedway.

  4. BenW says:

    Alternate headline: “Shockingly, Bloomberg Administration Once Again Yields to Neighborhood Concerns about Project that Benefits Poor People.” It’s an admittedly novel inventive approach to underserving Harlem, but the outcome is strikingly hard to distinguish from the old ways.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Yes, I was thinking this too. They capitulated rather quickly.

    • AG says:

      Ultimately it’s not the mayor’s choice… it’s the MTA’s…. The MTA has scarce dollars – so if something as simple as a bus lane gets fought – I think they will move to the path of least resistance. Plus they just opened one on the Webster Ave. corridor in the Bronx… so that doesn’t really wash with your theory.

      • Bolwerk says:

        The improvements that make SBS possible are DOT initiatives, with the MTA providing the operations. And I wouldn’t be surprised if SBS actually netted a savings for the MTA.

      • Alon Levy says:

        A bus lane, yes, but not SBS. Since the one-route-per-borough thing, the new routes for which SBS has been implemented or proposed are the M34/M16 and the M60.

        • Henry says:

          The Bx41 service is SBS.

          Queens still doesn’t have an SBS route…

          • Alon Levy says:

            There’s the one-route-per-borough thing. On top of it, they’ve tacked the super-busy M60 and M34/M16, in preference to unimportant routes like the B46 and M101.

            • Andrew says:

              The M60 is the busiest of the four routes on 125th Street itself, with significantly more boardings along 125th Street than the M101. The rest of the M101 closely parallels the subway – not the most useful place for SBS.

              Given its length, the M34 is quite busy.

              How about they get the B44 rolling before moving on to the B46?

              • Henry says:

                The M60 being the busiest is less about where it goes rather than it happening to be the bus that shows up the most – the DOT presentations noted that the majority of 125th St riders were not crossing over into Queens. If you’re going someplace, you just take the first bus that shows up – hence the fuss about “why just the M60”.

              • Alon Levy says:

                The M34 is approximately the same length as the other crosstown buses.

            • Henry says:

              The Q43 was on the shortlist for the Phase II studies, so there’s that.

            • DF says:

              >There’s the one-route-per-borough thing
              Can you clarify what you mean by this? The Bx41 is the second Bronx SBS route.

              • Alon Levy says:

                The initial route selection was meant to be one route per borough, where each borough would start with one of its busiest routes. But since then DOT has added 34th and Webster and tried to add the M60.

                • Henry says:

                  To add on, the one-route-per-borough thing ended after Queens communities pointed out that an SBS would be no good if it was just going to slam into a wall of traffic once hitting Jamaica, so they started the “Jamaica bus improvement” study instead. Speeding up the slowest portion of a route will do a lot more for average speed than speeding the rest of the route by the same amount.

                  The study helped a bit, but bus traffic in Jamaica will always be a crapshoot anyways.

          • Stu Sutcliffe says:

            Until now, proposals for SBS in Queens have been NIMBYed to death.

    • Andrew says:

      Webster Avenue SBS started up on June 30.

      What were you saying again?

  5. Epson45 says:

    Just start with M60 Limited-Stop bus first then upgrade to S BS when all groups resolved,.

    • Phantom says:

      There should be no payoffs for obstinate politicians.

      Re route the bus!

      • Epson45 says:

        to where? MARS?

        • Phantom says:

          Have it go up the East Side and then hook a right to the Triboro ( never the RFK )

          If anyone on 125 St complains about the lost bus, tell them to call their elected misrepresentatives

          • Epson45 says:

            I dont get it.

          • Henry says:

            The point of creating the M60 a couple years back was to link up all the subway lines to LaGuardia. It’s actually one of the few brand-new bus routes that MTA did in Manhattan.

          • Alon Levy says:

            Why would Harlem politicians care about the M60 so much? The internal traffic can be carried by the other three routes, and the LGA connections are not that useful to Harlem residents.

            • Woody says:

              Cut back the M60 so it would run east from Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd to LaGuardia Airport (instead of starting from near the Columbia campus). That would help riders to LGA coming from the West Side on the 2 and 3 trains, as well as those coming up from the East Side on the 4, 5, and 6 trains.

              Wouldn’t that get most of the M60 route out of Bill Perkins’ district?

              Showing a major difference in how fast buses then moved on the eastern segment of 125th St vs the pokey western segment might help change things.

              • Alon Levy says:

                And screw over the entire Upper West Side? The entire point of the M60 is to connect the subway lines, including the ones serving rich areas, to LGA. I think that if the M60 had terminated at Lenox (which would be stupid), or gone all the way on 125th to Manhattanville instead of bending down to Columbia, DOT would’ve proposed to SBSify the M101 instead.

                • Woody says:

                  From where I live on the West Side, near 96th St @ Broadway, it’s an easy ride on the 2 or 3 train to 125th @ Lenox/Malcolm X.

                  I’ll grant that it’s not as easy from where I used to live on 176th @ Broadway.

                  But the current route and speed is almost useless.

                  Do you really see a lot of folks from Washington Heights taking the 1 train to 125th @ Broadway to get the M60 moving three miles per hour across Harlem? They’d probably save time by switching to the uptown 2 or 3 at 96th St. LOL.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    I don’t think you’d actually save time. The trip from 125th and Broadway to 125th and Lenox on the subway is about 14 minutes plus transfer time, which is slower than walking directly. A bus could beat that, not by a lot, but by enough that nobody should do it.

              • cynic says:

                When the M-60 was first started fifteen or so years ago, it ended at either Lenox or Powell. It was then extended to Broadway with a turn southward to 116th. More recently it was looped down to 106th.

    • Spiderpig says:

      How would you make it limited in Harlem, every other block? This might be something to look into and useful for the Queens portion, but according to Ben’s statistics, more people are taking the M60 to work than going from Manhattan to the airport. Limited in Queens might be useless.

  6. Josh K. says:

    Before building Phase III of the SAS, the MTA should expand Phase II to include a 125th St cross-town extension of the SAS that goes all the way west to the 1 train. Introduces a lot of passenger routing flexibility and moves more of the passengers from the snail-paced buses on 125th to the new SAS line, reducing the need for SOOO many buses using the street-space.

    • BoerumBum says:

      …or, even better, all the way to Fairway & Dinosaur BBQ!

      BTW: Am I remembering correctly that one of the ancient plans for the IND Brooklyn Crosstown line was to have it cut over to Manhattan and cross town at 125 to the ‘Fort Lee Ferry Terminal’ i.e. (if I’m not mistaken) Dinosaur BBQ?

      • Henry says:

        It preceded the IND.

        It wouldn’t have been a IND plan, because the plan called for using the Franklin Av and Astoria Lines as well, and if there was anything Mayor Hylan hated more than Els, it was working with the IRT/BMT.

    • Epson45 says:

      The problem is NIMBYs.

  7. newyorker216 says:

    Perkins may be an alum of my HS but on this and on charter school he’s been atrocious. He needs to go.

  8. Spendmore Wastemore says:

    “make parking unaffordable to public housing residents”

    Why do they need free parking if they live around the corner? The housing projects already have effectively free parking – it was recently raised from $5/month to a whopping $75/year.

    If you are in public housing in that Community Board district, you’re already at 125th st — you can walk, or take the 4,5,6, the 2,3, the A,B,C,D or about 8 buses that run through or along 125th. If you are working, you generally don’t qualify for public housing, so you are probably not parking at work.

    • Alex says:

      You wouldn’t think, but I’m willing to bet a lot of folks who have those heavily subsidized spots do in fact drive just a few blocks. Why not? They have a guaranteed spot when they return and want to make sure they have a chance of getting a spot on the other end, too. It’s another case of a privileged few freaking out at the prospect of losing their sweet deal but trying to turn it into some kind of populist issue. “WHAT will we all do without parking!?” Not really all that different from the ritzy condo residents of the West Village.

    • tacony palmyra says:

      “If you are working, you generally don’t qualify for public housing”

      Off-topic, but that’s not true. The income limit for a 1-person household is $48,100, and half the city makes less than that. The work force participation rate of NYCHA residents is lower than the citywide average, but it’s in the double digits, not zero.

      • Henry says:

        The waiting list for NYCHA units is also very long, with thousands of people hoping for a NYCHA unit. And these are just the people who know they qualify and are actively looking for one.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    Due to unfortunate community opposition, NYCDOT will instead build bus lanes on 86th Street and inaugurate a busway from Park Slope to Riverdale through the Financial District.

  10. John Doe says:

    The time has come to abolish borough presidents and the city council. They are bloated, do nothing bigwigs with fat salaries. Leave the mayor in charge. It’s not rocket science.
    and furthermore it’s time to build a direct rail link to Laguardia, enough is enough already, this country needs to move into the 21st century in terms of transit. Europe and Asia are way ahead of us. Public housing residents do not need cars, especially in Manhattan.

  11. johndmuller says:

    Subway to LaGuardia Airport, YES!!

    I’m not that fond of running it on Randall’s Island, would rather see it as a spur off the 2nd Ave. mainline running straight across to Astoria on Ditmars subwayl all the way. While we are talking about this in the context of a line from west-side 125th, it might be more useful if the line to the airport came from the south instesd of the north. The possibility of both would of course be OK if the grade needed to get below the river allowed.

  12. D in Bushwick says:

    We need to stop putting bus and bike lanes on the busiest, most congested streets and move them to the next parallel streets over.
    Put an eastbound bus lane on 124th St and a westbound bus lane on 126th Street.
    These lightly traveled streets could then become the best way to get buses moving again and eliminate business interests along 125th.
    Also, extend the Second Ave. Subway under 125th all the way to Broadway.

    • Henry says:

      By doing that you effectively cut the area the thing can reasonably serve by two blocks, since someone closer to the southern street would have to walk an extra two blocks to get on a return trip, and vice versa.

      • D in Bushwick says:

        We are only talking about 200 feet farther in one direction but 200 feet closer when going the other direction. This isn’t really seriously a big difference.
        But extending the 2nd Ave Subway under 125th St (which would take decades) will ultimately solve the issue.

        • Henry says:

          Studies show that ridership drops off past a quarter mile. 200 ft may not sound like a lot, but that’s a 15% reduction in walking radius right there.

          I rate a 125th St crosstown SAS as something that is probably not happening for a few decades.

    • Andrew says:

      The subway and Metro-North connections are all on 125th. (None of the stations have entrances at 124th or 126th.)

      Motorists, who don’t have to transfer to or from the subway, are free to use 124th and 126th.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Put an eastbound bus lane on 124th St and a westbound bus lane on 126th Street.

      Where are all the successful bus lines that are run like that? Not in New York, except in parts of Manhattan that have one-way pairs because it’s more convenient for drivers. Not in Vancouver – the buses are on the busy streets, and the busiest route has 80,000 weekday riders between locals and limiteds.

    • Woody says:

      Why not move all the cars and trucks off 125th St?
      Let THEM use 123rd and 126th St.

      Then 125th could be a bus mall, like Fulton St in
      Downtown Brooklyn, with wider sidewalks for all
      those street peddlers, bike lanes, and even more
      buses moving faster.

      But just you try moving the buses off 125th. All the
      merchants, including the street peddlers, would
      scream when they lost that pedestrian traffic from
      the bus stops.

  13. Q says:

    Ben, any idea what’s going on with this “emergency track work on the A line”: http://www.mta.info/nyct/servi.....hanges.htm ?

  14. Boris says:

    Meanwhile, the NYC EDC is about to build two new malls with hundreds of new parking spaces, one in Staten Island and another in Willets Point. Unobstructed by politicians, the EDC steamrolls everyone and everything in its path, residents and community boards be damned. Why can’t the other agencies get away with this?

  15. Craig says:

    The current situation on 125th street fails for everyone, an abject failure. And to Bill Perkins, this is the way it should be.

  16. llqbtt says:

    Part of the solution could be to raze a few of the dumpy old buildings and put in a few parking garages. That way all the NYCHA residents who live in Manhattan and own a car and drive everywhere will have a place to park. Make it free for them and charge the rest of us.

    Additionally, create standing zones and enforce them. This will clear one lane of traffic, now effectively a double-parking lane, and voila, a +SBS+ corridor that will benefit Mr. Perkins’ apparent constituents AND improve bus transit for the remaining 98% of the people who use 125 St.

    • Henry says:

      125th St is gentrifying, and regardless of whether or not you see that as a good or bad thing, parking garages would destroy all of that.

      Besides, the NYCHA towers already have lots, so they could just build decks over those.

      • Epson45 says:

        125 St is still is a dump.

        • AG says:

          that corridor is MUCH improved from what it was… if you are too ignorant to see their is a new Harlem Renaissance going on then too bad for you. 145th was much worse – and now there are brand new condos their.

      • llqbtt says:

        So you’ve just invalidated Mr. Perkins’ argument then. And better yet, given the better idea of permitting NYCHA residents who own cars in Manhattan and drive everywhere in Manhattan a special use permit to park in the nearby NYCHA facilities lots.

        Besides, I agree with Epson45 below, 1 2 5 is still pretty dumpy, albeit a busy one at that.

        • AG says:

          so since it’s “dumpy” in your eyes – then it shouldn’t get transit improvements…? is that how that works?

  17. Matthias says:

    As a 125th St resident, I can’t express how angry I am. I attended several community meetings and there was general enthusiasm for bus lanes even if not everyone grasped the specifics of parking policy and traffic patterns. Everything was very well-explained. At the most recent one, someone from some organization stood up and delivered the standard “We are all for better bus service, but we have concerns about the process” bullshit.

    As it is, I never take 125th St buses unless the weather is horrendous because walking or biking is so much faster. “The process” can’t move fast enough, except for the NIMBYs who somehow get to control all our lives. I have no respect left for Bill Perkins.

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