Home Buses BRT Battlegrounds: Hylan Boulevard

BRT Battlegrounds: Hylan Boulevard

by Benjamin Kabak

From the MTA press office:

MTA New York City Transit and the New York City Department of Transportation invite the public to discuss transit service, traffic conditions and pedestrian safety on Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard during an Open House that will be held on Wednesday, June 8, at The Renaissance Conference Center in the Grant City section of Staten Island beginning at 7 p.m.

The study will examine ways to improve safety, traffic flow and ease congestion along this major thoroughfare. The scope of the study will extend from the Staten Island Mall on Richmond Avenue to the 86th Street (R) subway station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It carries several express bus routes and is served by the S78 and S79 with a combined average weekday bus ridership of more than 30,000.

The MTA and NYC DOT have already started to work on bringing Select Bus Service to Hylan Boulevard following its successful introduction in the Bronx (Bx12) and Manhattan (M15). In addition to concepts for Select Bus Service, the Hylan Boulevard Transportation study team will develop two or three different proposals for transportation improvements to be evaluated and discussed with the community.

The public is invited to learn more about the objectives of the study, examine display boards, and offer comments regarding transit, traffic and curb use on Hylan Boulevard with project team members. The event begins with a formal presentation at 7:15 p.m. but the general public may stop by any time between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Regency Room of The Renaissance at 2131 Hylan Boulevard (at Bedford Avenue) in Staten Island.

For more on the Hylan Boulevard proposal, check out NYC DOT’s project page.

So why does Hylan Boulevard matter? Well, lately, the MTA and DOT’s joint Select Bus Service efforts have not been met with arms wide open. The plan to turn 34th Street into a Transitway that would have benefited commuters, pedestrians and businesses alike was shot down by a small but stridently vocal group of NIMBYs. Hylan Boulevard, though, is the perfect place for a bus lane.

Staten Island is a tricky area for transit improvements. Because it has so long been disconnected from the subway map and enjoys some express bus service, it is by far the most car-dependent area of the city, and its residents are skeptical of anything that takes road space away from autos. Yet, this SBS proposal — which connects to the R train in Bay Ridge but should continue deeper into Brooklyn if not Manhattan — could be the first step in speeding up bus service and improving transit in and out of Staten Island.

I won’t be able to make the meeting tomorrow, but hopefully, Staten Islanders will take this chance to voice their support for better bus service and more transit options in an underserved borough.

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Bolwerk June 7, 2011 - 1:21 pm

Another perfect light rail candidate too, of course.

Anonymoose June 7, 2011 - 5:33 pm

The SIR runs parallel to Hylan Blvd and it’s a half mile away.

The only way I can see light rail working is that it becomes a spur to the SIR mainline. While we’re at it, convert all of SIR to a light rail system, making it easier for future connections to the North Shore and even the Bayonne Bridge.

Joe Steindam June 7, 2011 - 5:48 pm

Making the SIR into a Light Rail would be interesting, all that would be needed is new cars for other tracks that run on streets or with grade crossings and overhead catenary (or trains that can switch between 3rd rail and overhead wires). It could make the SIR path more useful if spurs connected into it, but it would also probably spell the end of it being a free service.

Bolwerk June 7, 2011 - 7:09 pm

I don’t think these shared trackage schemes are a very good idea. Most other cities try to minimize or avoid them. It would probably be better to keep SIRT as it is, or expand its heavy rail capacity, and let an LRT service intersect it with a transfer.

ajedrez June 7, 2011 - 6:15 pm

But it would remove any chance it has to be connected with the NYC Subway system.

Bolwerk June 7, 2011 - 7:05 pm

Half a mile is a long way to walk for a transport line, light or heavy, so I hope you’re not implying that such a service would be redundant.

I’m not even sure SIRT is still legally a railroad, so there might not even be a legal barrier to having heavy and light passenger rail vehicles sharing the tracks. There would be no need to turn SIRT into an exclusively LRT service.

ajedrez June 7, 2011 - 9:42 pm

But you have to consider that Staten Island isn’t that dense. If it were Manhattan, then of course 1/2 mile would be a long distance to get to a subway line.

Bolwerk June 8, 2011 - 11:12 am

Of course I’m considering that. Why do you think I said it would make sense to have a light rail service, rather than a heavy rail el or subway?

Alon Levy June 8, 2011 - 4:24 am

SIRT is legally a railroad, but because it doesn’t share track or right-of-way with mainline trains, it has a waiver from the FRA allowing it to run rapid transit trains.

Bolwerk June 8, 2011 - 10:32 am

Got a cite? Wikipedia more or less says that, but when I go to the source SIRT actually isn’t listed.

There are now 19 commuter railroads subject to FRA oversight, ranging from large ones, such as the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), MetroNorth Railroad, New Jersey Transit (NJT), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (METRA), and Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA- Metrolink), to smaller operators such as Vermont Railway Company (Champlain Flyer), Connecticut Department of Transportation, Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH), Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MARC), Virginia Railway Express, Florida’s Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority (Tri-Rail), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART – Trinity Rail), San Diego Northern Railway (Coaster), Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), Altamont Commuter Express in California, and Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sounder). Public authorities own all the commuter railroads. Some of these commuter railroads operate on their own tracks and provide operating rights to freight railroads and Amtrak; others are tenants on trackage owned by freight railroads or Amtrak; and some have both arrangements. Amtrak is the contract operator of services for several of these commuter railroads, while other commuter railroads contract with freight railroads or private companies to operate their services. Long Island Railroad operates it own trains.

That seems to be 19, and unless SIRT has been renamed as the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District….

Bolwerk June 9, 2011 - 9:08 am

All Wikipedia does is point to other secondary sources saying the same thing. The FRA doesn’t seem to agree that SIRT operates under an FRA waiver.

Could this have changed in the past 15-30 years?

Alon Levy June 7, 2011 - 10:23 pm

The SIR works just fine as more-or-less FRA-free regional rail. The subway is a huge rolling stock buyer and can guarantee the SIR better trains than the city could get from light rail. It has a problem with not serving Manhattan, but that won’t be fixed by calling it light rail.

People should really stop falling in love with names of technology.

Al D June 8, 2011 - 9:10 am

MTA doesn’t do light rail. It is (unfortunately) painfully obvious. Want light rail? See ya in Joisey. 😉

Bolwerk June 8, 2011 - 6:38 pm

Indeed. Especially considering it solves so many shortcomings with our transportation system with relative ease.

Jerrold June 7, 2011 - 1:23 pm

Slightly off-topic, but where else today could I put this?
Has everybody seen this article:


Alon Levy June 7, 2011 - 10:33 pm

Note how in conjunction with the traffic increase at Flushing, we see a traffic decline at 51st/Lex, Fulton, Penn Station, and other predominantly commuter-oriented stations. In other words, what we see is a lagging Manhattan finance economy, rather than an improving economy.

As an aside, a good metric for how commuter-oriented a station is is (average weekday ridership)/(average Saturday plus Sunday ridership), which you can get from here. At a select number of leisure-oriented stations, such as Coney Islands, weekend ridership is actually higher, so the ratio is 1/2 or less. On average, the ratio should be about 1. At single-use office areas the ratio can be much higher, e.g. almost 3 at the West Side IRT Wall Street station.

ferryboi June 7, 2011 - 1:24 pm

Definitely a tricky area. I imagine many “mom-n-pop” store and restaurant owners won’t be very happy about having tons of parking spaces taken away from this heavy commercialized strip. Maybe if the DOT puts parking meters on side streets within one block of Hylan Blvd and Richmond Ave? Most small stores don’t have their own parking lots, nor do the many doctors’ offices along both Hylan and Richmond.

The Buick/Oldsmobile crowd of retirees (and there are many on SI) will probably show up more than the commuter crowd, most of which will be damn lucky to get home by 7pm and attend. I suspect the DOT will install bus-only lanes going north on Hylan in the a.m. and south on Hylan in the p.m., thereby leaving parking spaces open for most of the day and weekends.

Alex C June 7, 2011 - 2:33 pm

No parking spaces there anyways, though. Hylan is practically a highway, everything has a parking lot. I take the S79 to see family there often and can safely say BRT would work just fine there. The buses already pretty much have a lane to themselves anyways on most of Hylan. Having said that, the olds and stupids will still run to the meeting and yell about a problem that doesn’t and won’t exist, and this will probably die a sad death just as most good proposals do.

ajedrez June 7, 2011 - 9:44 pm

But wouldn’t those “mom and pop” stores have a bunch of additional customers from the bus riders doing business before/after they wait for the bus.

ajedrez June 7, 2011 - 9:45 pm

But wouldn’t those “mom and pop” stores have a pool of customers from the groups of people who congregate to wait for the bus?

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 9:41 am

Not really. Most folks who ride the local buses on SI do so because they are can’t afford a car. Middle class commuters with money to spend ride the express buses, the SI Railway, or just drive. Maybe a Walgreens or Duane Reade would benefit by more bus riders, but the tax preparers, furniture stores and restaurants definitely get the majority of their business from automobile owners.

ajedrez June 8, 2011 - 10:39 am

But what about people who live in the neighborhood who want to stop by on their way home? The buses (including express buses) would move faster, and there is a greater chance that the person would use the time they saved to visit these stores.

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 11:19 am

OK, obviously you’re not a Staten Islander, so here goes: if I need anything from a mom/pop or drug store, or want to buy stamps or newspapers, I do that on my lunch break at work, or before I get on the express bus in Manhattan. By the time the bus gets to SI, the only thing I want to do is get the hell off and get to my house. Unless there’s the best Duane Reade ever and they are having a huge sale, the 10 mins or so I’d save by having a bus lane won’t exactly make me want to go on a shopping spree after work.

If I want to buy furniture, go to a restaurant, have a doctors appt, etc, I’ll either do that on the weekend or hop in my car after I get home. I nor my fellow commuters EVER go shopping after getting off the bus.

ajedrez June 8, 2011 - 10:47 pm

I see a lot of people getting take-out food from delis and pizzarias that are near bus stops. For example, at the Richmond Avenue/Monsey Place stop, there are a decent number of people who pick up stuff at the deli before getting on the bus.

Eric F. June 7, 2011 - 2:43 pm

If there was a belt highway system in S.I., Hyland wouldn’t need to be a behemoth that functions poorly as both a through and local route. Two decent highways and reasonable upgrades to the West Shore, S.I.E. and K Vets and Staten Island would actually be a nice place to get around.

ferryboi June 7, 2011 - 2:57 pm

I seriously doubt that. A belt system hasn’t done much to make Manhattan or Brooklyn any easier to get around; the FDR and Belt Parkway are just as clogged as any other road out there. Most highways that get “upgrades” end up being more clogged because the extra lanes are quickly filled up with traffic by drivers thinking they can get around faster because of the extra lanes, a total Catch-22.

And fyi, it’s “Hylan” Blvd, not Hyland (a common mistake). It’s named after John Hylan, mayor of NYC in the 1920s.

Eric F. June 7, 2011 - 3:54 pm

Oops, apologies to Hylan. I’ve done some biking and running on that street, so I really should have read the sign properly.

There is a diversity of traffic conditions on S.I. The Bayonne Bridge and approach is more or less never clogged. The other routes are much more messy. The route network is manifestly incomplete and the bridges to the west are antiques. So you get stuck trying to make your Hylans all things to all people and what you get left with is a mess.

ferryboi June 7, 2011 - 4:04 pm

Totally agree. A combination of bad planning back in the 1950s and ’60s coupled with a citizenry not exactly keen on beltways and expressways (the unfinished Richmond Parkway for instance) and absolutely zero attention paid to public transit until well into the 1990s has finally come home to roost.

I for one will be moving to a nice part of another borough very soon, someplace where subway and/or commuter rail gets me to midtown. I’ve had enough of slow-as-crap ferries that run every hour on weekends and “express” buses that cost $11 a day. Ciao, Staten Island!

oxfdblue June 7, 2011 - 8:37 pm

Sorry to hear you’re leaving the island… You’re one of the few sane voices on silive.com.

Jerrold June 7, 2011 - 10:47 pm

Since you won’t be ferryboi anymore, are you going to be LIRRboi or MetroNorthboi?

Jerrold June 7, 2011 - 10:50 pm

ALSO, I thought that they ran every half-hour on weekends, and that the hourly service was late nights.

Jerrold June 7, 2011 - 10:58 pm

THIS page verifies that it’s half-hourly on weekends:


ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 9:44 am

Every half-hour until 7:30pm. I’m not so old (yet) that I’m home and in bed by 8pm on weekends! If you go to the theatre on a Saturday night the show ends at 10pm, you’d be hard-pressed to get to South Ferry for the 10:30 boat. If you miss that, you’re sitting there until the 11:30 boat. Not exactly convenient is it? Imagine missing your subway train and having to wait 60 mins for the next one.

ajedrez June 8, 2011 - 10:40 am

What I’ve done when I wasn’t sure that I would make the ferry is take the R to Brooklyn, and then take the S53 and transfer to the S62. I think you get that third transfer to any route intersecting with the S53 or S79.

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 11:21 am

And that takes you what, about 2.5 hours to get from Times Square to your home on SI? Sorry, I’ll pass. Been there, done that, have had enough of it for one lifetime.

Jerrold June 8, 2011 - 2:21 pm

Oh, then that’s right.
They SHOULD keep up the half-hourly schedule until midnight.
Hourly makes sense only during the late-night hours.

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 9:45 am

I’m thinking “BronxPapi” or “WoodlawnDude” or something along those lines 🙂

Jerrold June 8, 2011 - 1:51 pm

OK, I wish you happiness in your new residence.

Mistral June 7, 2011 - 5:06 pm

“[…]following its successful introduction in the Bronx (Bx12)[…]”
“Successful” is pretty debatable. If anything, the buses have only gotten slower since the introduction of SBS, and the drivers have become unbearably rude to deal with. I’ve literally had more than one driver close the doors on me (bus ticket in hand!) and make me late for school thanks to having to wait another 15 minutes for 3 buses to show up one after the other.

But hey! At least it’s decent in Manhattan, so we can claim it to be a success just because. Because, of course, Manhattan is the only borough that matters. 🙂

ajedrez June 7, 2011 - 6:21 pm

I checked on silive.com and it is amazing how many anti-transit people there are on those forums (meaning that there are probably a decent number of actual Staten Islanders with the same opinion).

See the comments here: http://www.silive.com/news/ind.....ments.html

“they will take a lane for these stupid buses. hell no. i will show up.”

“Oh FFS, we don’t need to lose a lane on Hylan because a bunch of lowlifes from 86th St. can’t afford to own a car. I’m only on board with this idea if they do mandatory ID checks upon boarding the bus and deport the violators. F them and the Grumman Flxible they rode in on.”

“I didn’t force these people to be too poor to own a car or two live in a crappy neighborhood where they can’t easily hop on the train.

Non-express buses are for poor people.”

“Wait and see how much worse the traffic is if they make it a bus only lane, hylan blvd will be backed up to great kills in the morning. This is a terrible idea!”

Jerrold June 7, 2011 - 11:04 pm

“or two live in a crappy neighborhood where they……..”

“TWO live in” instead of “TO live in”.

What CRAPPY spelling!
Especially when it’s coming from some rich elitist who disparages poor people.

ajedrez June 10, 2011 - 11:08 am

It’s possible that they meant to say it like this:

I didn’t force these people to be too poor to
1) own a car
2) live in a crappy neighborhood where they can’t easily hop on the train

Of course, they are oblivious to the fact that those same neighborhoods are served by the SIR. Plus, the stereotype (by that person) of the S79 being for poor people is false, especially with rising bridge tolls making buses a more attractive alternative, even for car-owners.

Alon Levy June 7, 2011 - 9:14 pm

The MTA’s proposal here is awful. Hylan is a good candidate for open BRT, in which buses run on one trunk line in separate lanes and then branch out and function as local buses. That way some buses could continue in separate lanes to St. George, while others could branch off to Bay Ridge; at the other end, some buses could serve the Staten Island Mall, while others would continue to Tottenville.

Anonymouse June 7, 2011 - 10:08 pm

During rush hours, the parking lanes on the Tompkinsville / St. George section of Victory Blvd. become bus-only lanes. Why can’t the same thing happen to the Hylan Blvd corridor?

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 9:52 am

I’m thinking that’s what will end up happening. Bus-only on Richmond Ave-Hylan Blvd northbound from 6-9am and southbound from 4-7pm weekdays, which isn’t a bad compromise. Traffic along Hylan is heavy on the weekends, but hardly anyone rides the buses except day trippers going to the Mall. You could run a bus down Hylan every 5 mins and serve champagne to riders on blue velvet seats and you still wouldn’t get Islanders out of their cars and onto local buses.

Frank B. June 8, 2011 - 10:34 am

As always, I propose finishing the Staten Island Tunnel, to connect the SIR to the BMT 4th Avenue Line, then running it up that line express, while the D train runs local instead. (To compensate, the third track on the BMT West End Line would start running peak-express again.)

BRT is such a cheap, quick, fantastic way to improve transit, and I’d LOVE to see Staten Island transit improve in ANY way, but unfortunately, at this point, many Staten Islanders do not make the connection between long commutes and low standards of living and quality of life. Many don’t think that way, unfortunately.

Even if you offered Staten Island a tunnel TO MANHATTAN, I’d guarantee you, there would still be naysayers lined up and down the boulevard.

In their cars. Honking in revulsion.

Bolwerk June 8, 2011 - 11:20 am

SIRT to the BMT sounds like a sucky trip, even if it’s express. The furthest reaches of that line would probably have a commute comparable to or worse than the commute suffered by Rockaway A Train riders. It’s already easily an hour to the end of the R.

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 11:23 am

All a moot point, since no tunnel exists and will not be built in our lifetimes.

Frank B. June 10, 2011 - 8:09 am

No, likely not, sadly.

Al D June 8, 2011 - 12:04 pm

The S79 gets good ridership, but isn’t adding a Limited bus a lot cheaper and faster to implement?

Other than Alon Levy’s feeder system idea, there is no point to this whole thing.

ferryboi June 8, 2011 - 12:17 pm

I’m assuming any new bus-only lane will include “Select” service such as the M15 and Bx12 now enjoy. If not, this really makes now sense since the S79 has dozens of stops between Bay Ridge and The Mall.

Wonder if the MTA has though to make one of the SI Railway stations a major transfer point for buses to Brooklyn? Other than the woefully tiny Grasmere station and its transfer to the S53 bus, there are no connections between the railway and Brooklyn-bound buses. Maybe a new station where the railway runs underneath the SI Expressway could be built, with intermodal transfer to local buses to Brooklyn and express buses to Manhattan? For south shore riders, the train will get you along the Hylan Blvd corridor faster than any bus ever could.

ajedrez June 8, 2011 - 10:51 pm

ferryboi: I generally don’t do that when coming from Times Square. When I take the (R)->S53->S62, it is when the ferry runs every hour (and it is only occasionally, so its not tiring or anything). When the ferry runs every 30 minutes, it is faster to take the ferry. I’ev learned the hard way how slow the S53 is in Arrochar/South Beach.

Staten Island’s Closed BRT Disaster | Pedestrian Observations June 9, 2011 - 2:07 pm

[…] the South Shore, and thence to Brooklyn over the Verrazano Bridge to connect to the subway. As Ben Kabak reports, this is intended to resuscitate the idea of SBS after the cancellation of the 34th Street […]


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