Home Buses NYC Transit, DOT working on BRT plans for 34th St.

NYC Transit, DOT working on BRT plans for 34th St.

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Gary April 18, 2008 - 3:48 pm

This is an excellent start.

It’s a great way to tackle congestion without the pricing . . . reduce the amount of the public roadway allocation to private cars. This area is currently hopelessly congested . . . with people as well as autos. Giving over more space to pedestrians is an excellent move, and prioritizing transit use in this fashion will greatly improve the speed and desirability of bus service as a travel option.

Two thumbs up, and as a commenter at Streetsblog noted, this is an excellent way to begin a segue into the Vision 42 plan. It could just as easily be done with buses as an interim measure, in lieu of light rail, which it could be upgraded to down the road.

Marc Shepherd April 18, 2008 - 5:05 pm

I’d love to see this on 42nd and 14th Streets, too.

Cap'n Transit April 18, 2008 - 8:32 pm

Me too, Marc, but keep in mind that 42nd and 14th both have crosstown subways. 34th and 23rd are the only major east-west streets in Midtown without any rapid transit. I think they’re more deserving than the other two.

The Secret Conductor April 19, 2008 - 6:20 am

Well, this is great. I never forget the day I walked from 11 ave to 3 ave and passed the bus while walking there (and yes I was walking fast). This is one of the reason why I really though congestion pricing would have gone through somehow.

14th street is another cross corridor that this would be great on. I don’t know about 42 street but then again it would be interesting having part of 42 street a pedestrian walkway only (with bus paths of course) between 6 and 8 ave. lets face it cars should not be turning onto 42 from 7 av or from Broadway.

Brooklyn Fulton Street Mall is a great example of stopping through traffic and only allowing buses through. Now we have wider sidewalks and easier flow for shoppers.

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Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » Select Bus Service debuts on 34th St. September 15, 2008 - 2:16 pm

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