Home Buses DOT rolls back SBS plans for 125th and the M60

DOT rolls back SBS plans for 125th and the M60

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

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

Can you believe there exists a State Senator who thinks NYC DOT moves too quickly in implementing Select Bus Service improvements? Can you believe there is yet another Manhattan community intent on suffering through crippling crosstown traffic rather than enjoy a realignment of street lanes that would better prioritize transit? In the public farce of New York City, you better believe it.

This time, the corridor in question is the M60 via 125th St. Ostensibly a bus route that feeds Laguardia Airport, most of the M60 ridership uses the bus as a crosstown connection along 125th St. while some use it to access Astoria and Queens. A small portion — some travelers, some airport employees — use it to reach Laguardia. It is absurdly slow as it inches along the congested corridor at 2.7 miles per hour and spend approximately 60 percent of the time at a standstill.

To better accommodate the bus, DOT has proposed a series of changes. Streetsblog summed them up in March:

DOT is proposing off-board fare collection to speed bus boarding, transit signal priority to hold green lights for buses, and converting the M60 to a Select Bus Service route serving six stops along 125th Street. A one-mile stretch of 125th Street between Morningside and Third Avenues would be remade with camera-enforced, offset bus lanes, located between the parking lane and the general travel lane, much like the set-up that has significantly improved bus speeds on First and Second Avenues.

Along with the reduction of general travel lanes in each direction from two to one, DOT will introduce left-turn restrictions at most intersections between Morningside and Third Avenues. Left turns would still be permitted at Madison Avenue, to allow access to the bridge across the Harlem River.

DOT also proposed adding parking meters on 125th Street west of Morningside Avenue and east of Fifth Avenue. Between St. Nicholas Avenue and Lenox Avenue, the agency is also considering extending meter hours until 10 p.m. Putting a price on the curb speeds buses because it cuts down on double-parking and cruising for open parking spots.

It all sounds sensible and progressive — which, apparently, is cause for concern. In a letter to DOT, State Senator Bill Perkins urged the agency to “slow down.” (It’s hard to imagine DOT moving any slower on SBS rollouts while still making forward progress, but I digress.)

Despite community meetings and a public comment period, some people don’t like the plan, and they have Perksin’ ear. These folks argue 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.

DOT has since revised the plan. The bus lane will run only from Lenox Avenue to Third Avenue. The turn limits will be rescinded, and no parking meters will be implemented along the corridor. Yet again there is no balance between the experts and the amateurs as another busy street has decided it prefers the congested status quo to a smoother ride for all.

DNA Info spoke to one person — Detta Ahl — who understood. “It was an holistic approach that would have made things safer for pedestrians and transit users. It’s not just people using the M60 that would have benefited,” she said. If only everyone else would understand as well, then, we wouldn’t have to suffer through sub-par bus service from Manhattan to its closest airport.

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Bolwerk May 28, 2013 - 2:58 pm

Can you believe there exists a State Senator who thinks NYC DOT moves too quickly in implementing Select Bus Service improvements?

Can you believe it’s 2013 and New York is dependent on buses for all surface transit?

I’m guessing the community board is against it, and it’s made up of people self-selected to complain about reform? For the sake of the 98% of us who don’t have the time or interest to go, that system needs to be abolished.

Terratalk May 28, 2013 - 3:41 pm

Oh for Pete’s sake! This has been under discussion since last Summer (at least) with public hearings, public discussions, public input and other what not. If they were going any slower, they would be going backwards! I’ve attended 4 Queens meetings and two Manhattan meetings and have discussed this to death. This problem is not going to please everyone, so its time to try it out and be flexible enough to keep what works and change what doesn’t.

John Doe May 28, 2013 - 4:06 pm

This makes me so angry!! Its time to tear down these old, decrepit projects!! the audacity of those tenants, how can they have cars and live in public housing??? an oxymoron, time to evict them all now!

Jake S May 28, 2013 - 6:05 pm

I hope this is a fake post and you’re not proposing throwing thousands of people out on the streets, but perhaps I’m over-optimistic.

al May 29, 2013 - 4:21 pm

Take a look at NYCHA rent guidelines for public housing. A couple with 3 kids can make over $66,000 a year and live in public housing. They can definitely afford a used car.

Peter Kaufman May 28, 2013 - 4:18 pm

Bill Perkins is a piece of crap, hack. With apologies to crap, and hacks.

Tower18 May 28, 2013 - 4:27 pm

“We don’t need the M60 bus to the airport so the convenience is not for us,” said Harlem resident Renee Harrison.

Lois Smalls, who works on 125th Street, agreed.

“The M60 bus is a community bus but the emphasis from the DOT seems to be on the airport when it should be servicing the community”

ARGH. Such provincialism. “What’s in it for me?” as transit planning, coupled with idiots who don’t understand what’s actually being proposed, and eat up the bullshit misinformation fed by charlatans with their own agendas.

If you’re a bus rider in Harlem, this plan is good for you, period. Pay no attention to what the car-driving “community leaders” tell you to think. They’re only out for themselves.

anotherguy May 28, 2013 - 10:18 pm

Yep agreed, just like Robert Moses and his bridges

Jake S May 28, 2013 - 6:07 pm

Arrrrrrrgh. I was just poking through Harlem on the M60 yesterday and thinking about this. I have an 8:45 flight out of LGA tomorrow and I cannot believe that in the Year of Our Lord 2013 my choices are a pricey cab ride or a bus that is slower than my walking speed.

When’s the next CB meeting on this issue? I’ll go and make my voice heard.

Peter May 28, 2013 - 6:13 pm

You don’t understand. The M60 is seen as a white person’s bus.

Jake S May 28, 2013 - 8:12 pm

It goes along 125th like any other. But good point, they should have a dedicated bus lane for all buses that go along 125th. Also I’d like a pony.

Phantom May 28, 2013 - 8:25 pm

Yes. Since no one in Harlem ever flies out of LGA.

Bolwerk May 28, 2013 - 9:42 pm

Facetious point: and Harlem has become a white person’s playground.

But, more importantly, the route takes people to MNRR at 125th, which makes it rather critical to the entire region’s transportation network. At least, it has that potential. It does seem a bit on the useless side now.

David May 28, 2013 - 8:19 pm

You know what would really speed the M60? Express from the Astoria N to LGA. Just have the bus get on the GCP!

al May 29, 2013 - 4:24 pm

That doesn’t work if GCP is jammed up to the BQE. I’ve always wondered if they could take the express buses and have them run from 125th St to LGA with just 6 stops outside of the airport all together.

Rob May 28, 2013 - 8:23 pm

There are other bus routes on 125th Street. Wouldn’t these changes have improved service for ALL of them?

AlexB May 28, 2013 - 9:17 pm

If New Yorkers genuinely want a good transit system, they will have to acquiesce to changing their neighborhood “Main Streets” all over the city. Free double parking would have to be prohibited in practice and in law, and buses and cars would actually move. The interesting effect of all the double-parked cars on commercial streets today is quintessentially New York: traffic is slowed so much, the street basically becomes a chaotic outdoor mall. Honking, jaywalking and street vendors create what defines NYC for many people. There are many of these “Main Streets” (Steinway in Astoria, Bell Blvd in Bayside, Nostrand in Crown Heights) where it is assumed that you can not only walk, browse, eat and shop, but also park wherever you want to run your errands. This arrangement practically defines urban democracy, fairness and “New York” to many New Yorkers, and that is what makes it so hard to change. There is safety and vibrancy in this inefficiency that creates a nostalgia which hides the costs of this arrangement.

Buses almost always run along these thoroughfares and are made virtually ineffective. New Yorkers are resigned to the fact that these buses only serve those who can’t walk very long distances or to those whose journeys begin and/or end outside the congested zone. In other words, the bus is only for “other people,” or for the frail and infirm. People would rather imagine themselves in a car than imagine what it would take to make the bus useful for them. The reality is that the existing situation is at its heart undemocratic and unjust. Car owners are usually not wealthy fat cats, and they don’t have malice in their hearts, but the cost of their presence is born by an entire neighborhood where most of the residents can’t afford to drive. The MTA and DOT are responsible for designing an efficient transit system that works for everyone in every neighborhood, not just individual neighborhoods, not just people who are in good health, and not just people who own cars.

There is no question that many people who live in Harlem suspiciously view any change imposed by any level of government as likely racist and detrimental. There is certainly a long history in this country of transportation projects for suburbanites being built through the heart of poor neighborhoods. There is nothing inherently dishonest in asking if some version of that were the case today. The reality is that those who have difficulty walking will become more mobile and the improved bus will bring more shoppers for street vendors’ and local merchants. Implying oppression or neglect to prevent these changes is a particularly ironic means of protest given the populations who will benefit. The changes DOT has proposed would indeed change the character of 125th, making it less chaotic, increasing traffic speed, and decreasing people’s ability to jaywalk safely. If Bill Perkins genuinely thinks that must be maintained at the cost of providing any transportation improvement for his many bus riding constituents, then I hope he’s voted out of office.

Patrick May 28, 2013 - 10:49 pm

Meanwhile JFK’s B15 is getting semi sped-up in September

WTSF is wrong with Harlemites. That’s what the M60 was created in 1992 for, travel to/from LGA & Manhattan. Why do they want it to be dumbed down to a 125th Street Crosstown when a Bronx route unofficially has said title & does it better. These improvements speeds up BOTH routes & any other route along 125th. Your logic is seriously flawed Mr. Perkins, go home.
-Patrick W/O A Blog

Patrick May 28, 2013 - 10:59 pm

My bad, there’s a “/a” after the “.pdf” in the link, delete that for viewing

Bolwerk May 29, 2013 - 1:45 pm

I doubt anything is wrong with them. The problem is who is speaking for them, which is the same problem we have everywhere to some extent. You can bet the people who show up at these community board meetings to complain are the ones with time/motivation to go. The people without time are…stuck on buses.

A big difference between Harlem and Park Slope, or even Bushwick, is there is a sorta pro-reform grassroots contingent standing up for the residents, and the middle/upper middle class residents are more able to stand up for themselves. The needs of poor blacks are basically ignored by (driving) pols and members of the press alike.

Tsuyoshi May 28, 2013 - 11:23 pm

I used to live in the area, and EVERYONE I knew there hated the 125th Street buses, M60 included. Unless you’re travelling very early in the morning or late at night, it’s quicker to walk.

I can tell from this stupid letter that Perkins obviously hasn’t taken a bus in years, if ever. I suspect he doesn’t even realize that most of his constituents don’t have a car. Does he realize that there are people who live in his district and vote, but yet don’t go to these idiotic community meetings?

If there was any justice in this world, Perkins would be forced to take the M60 every day.

tacony palmyra May 29, 2013 - 9:48 am

Perkins actually pitched himself as being “pro-transit” in the last primary, but didn’t list any specific goals other than “better” and “more” buses and subways. He also put forth that legislation to ban eating on the subways that went nowhere.

Perkins has faced tough primaries but nobody in Harlem differentiates themselves on transportation issues. It’s all about schools. Perkins is the lone anti-charter voice. He gets primary challengers who support charters who are financed by Wall Street, whereas he’s funded by the teachers union. Harlem is the charter school epicenter of New York State–I believe the stat is that there are more charters in Harlem than the entire rest of the state combined, and we’re now at the point where there are tons more charters than “regular” public schools there–so they take precedent as the huge local issue in the district. For families with kids who actually remain in the neglected traditional public schools, he’s their man.

Ian May 29, 2013 - 9:44 am

Is there data on what % of M60 travelers are heading to/from LGA. As an Astoria resident, I’ve used this bus for all sorts of purposes: to get to/from LGA, to go between Harlem and Astoria, to connect to Metro North service at 125th, a Yankee game alternative to the 4/5, and to go crosstown between East Harlem and Columbia.

Tower18 May 29, 2013 - 10:34 am

I used to live in the West 90s and traveled a lot, and so I used this bus to LGA frequently. I saw plenty of people riding the bus from Harlem to points in Queens that weren’t LGA, or who were obviously commuting from Harlem to work at LGA or nearby. Many are likely visiting friends/family in East Elmhurst.

This is why certain interested parties using race/class as a wedge issue upsets me so much. Some of these people talking about “our bus” and things like that don’t even stop to think how many of their neighbors work at LGA.

Alan May 29, 2013 - 12:32 pm

I attended the town hall meeting Perkins held last Thursday where the DOT rolled out the revised plan. The DOT distributed flyers with basic trip information and, if I recall correctly, roughly half of all trips on the M60 begin and end on 125th Street. Only 11% of trips go to La Guardia airport. Thus, claims that the M60 “does not serve the community” are patently false. I encourage all supporters of the SBS proposal to write Bill Perkins (perkins@senate.state.ny.us). To his credit, he responded to my letter of support with what appeared to be a individualized e-mail.

Alon Levy May 30, 2013 - 10:55 pm

Interesting how everyone immediately blames the community boards, when the only opposition quoted is from a state senator. Why can’t it be that NYCDOT is racist and doesn’t believe in building alternative transportation infrastructure in Harlem? Have we forgotten how many years it took for CB 11 to get the city to extend bike lanes into Harlem?

We know that CB 11 supported bike lanes on 1st and 2nd years before NYCDOT did, and that most of the segment of 125th lying in CB 11 has been removed from the plan. Moreover, of the five bus routes serving 125th, the one that’s proposed to have off-board fare collection is the one that goes to LaGuardia and is seen as serving white people. This doesn’t look like “the community board didn’t like it”; it looks more like “NYCDOT hates minorities and JSK’s fans immediately jump to blame the community boards because they’re convenient targets.”


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