Home Buses The son of the return of M60 SBS

The son of the return of M60 SBS

by Benjamin Kabak
The dedicated bus lane will run Lenox Avenue to Second Avenue.

The dedicated bus lane will run Lenox Avenue to Second Avenue.

When we last saw the plans to turn the M60 into a Select Bus Service route, it had died an ignominious death. NIMBY opposition and hollow appeals to the process led DOT and the MTA to shelve the plan. Locals and La Guardia-bound travelers would simply be left with the status quo in which buses sit idle on 125th St. more than 60 percent of the time.

But! Unlikely so many tales of incremental and inoffensive transit improvements, this story has a happier ending than most. After an election that saw a slight but significant power shift in Harlem, community outcry and political pressure, DOT has revived the M60 Select Bus Service plan, and the route — still in its abbreviated form — will debut in May along with some streetscape improvements.

“The 125th Street corridor is a vital thoroughfare for Harlem residents and businesses alike,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement announcing the reversal. “I’m glad we will be able to improve service for our customers while still maintaining commercial loading zones for businesses in the area. Select Bus Service will speed up bus service by as much as 20 percent on the M60 where half of the route’s boardings and alightings happen right on 125th Street.”

Per details from DOT, new plan will transition the M60 local to the M60 SBS, reducing the number of stops from 11 to six along 125th St. while maintaining connections to Metro-North and the various subway lines across the thoroughfare. Dedicated bus lanes will be in place in both directions between Lenox and Second Avenues, but unfortunately, cars will be able to enter the bus lane to make right turns at various intersections. DOT claims such a move “balanc[es] the needs of other motorists on the corridor.” To cut down on double parking and speed up the road for all, commercial loading zones will be put in place, and meters will be installed east of Fifth Ave. Left-turn restrictions will be implemented at Fifth and Lexington as well.

In addition to the bus lanes and speedier crosstown service, 125th St. itself will see a variety of improvements. The street will be lined with 62 energy-efficient LED street lights that will soon be popping up throughout New York, and the new pedestrian wayfinding signs will be a part of the 12 SBS stations. These signs are supposed to have real-time bus arrival information as well.

In announcing the revival of this key route and corresponding improvements, DOT stressed the 50 meetings they hosted over the last year with “extensive outreach” but Community Board leaders still bemoaned the route, solidifying my belief that Community Boards are generally barriers to, and not instruments of, progress in the city. Meanwhile, while various state officials including Bill Perkins, Adriano Espaillat and Melissa Mark-Viverito joined the announcement, Inez Dickens was notably absent from the parade of political quotes. Read into that what you will. The good news is that this project is happening, and it’ll be live in eight months.

“With new businesses and historic destinations drawing record numbers of visitors to the heart of Harlem, 125th Street has never been more dynamic, yet congestion has kept buses at a standstill,” DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said. “By bringing dedicated bus lanes and speeding up boarding times, SBS will provide a lifeline to thousands of residents and visitors and bring world-class streetscapes to one of the world’s most famous streets.”

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Dan October 15, 2013 - 12:35 am

Some good things there.

My question is whether there is demand in Astoria for all of those stops on a Manhattan-LaGuardia route, or if a Queens-based route could adequately handle the needs of most people getting on/off there, like what the MTA just did with the Q33/Q70 reorganization. In the latter case, the M60 route could save another few minutes (or more). But obviously if Astoria wants all 5-6 of them and they get use, then go with it.

Bgriff October 15, 2013 - 9:44 am

I have the same question — especially the two that are one-way stops, which seem like they would be of dubious value to the community.

Also wondering what is the status of off-board fare collection on this route? This is a tricky route to make off-board fare collection work well: not only could it confuse tourists (and some locals) at LGA (“you mean the M60 ‘select bus service’ gets this treatment but the Q70 ‘limited’ does not? which one is better?”), but it is also sub-par on 125th Street, where a lot of crosstown travelers just want to go a few blocks and take whichever of the multiple available services arrives first; having one of them require a different and irrevocable fare payment method is problematic.

Spendmore Wastemore October 15, 2013 - 10:07 am

20% faster than slower than dirt equals equally as slow as dirt.

That $500,000 bus will traverse the length of 125th street slower than an eight year old on a bicycle. Thus, that’s half a million dollars plus operating expenses doing nothing. Or slightly more than nothing: it burns fuel, at about just over a mile per gallon on that stretch.

Spiderpig October 17, 2013 - 3:01 pm

Easy: allow people who have paid at SBS machines to board other buses by showing their receipt.

Not so easy: MTA actually discussing and implementing this plan, especially if they fear it might lead to suggestions for more SBS. Oh, the horror!

Duke October 15, 2013 - 3:33 pm

31 St connects to the N/Q and Steinway connects to the Q101. As for the stops east of there, they serve the area where all the rental car places are.

I can see demand for an express bus from La Guardia to Manhattan (why does this not already exist?), but it should go to Midtown, not Harlem. Leave the M60 as a semi-local route.

Spendmore Wastemore October 15, 2013 - 6:42 pm

“express bus from La Guardia to Manhattan”

Might decrease passenger misery.

Can’t have that.

SEAN October 15, 2013 - 8:01 pm

There are express busses to all the airports, but Coach USA operates them from Penn Station, PABT & GrandCentral near the Hyatt.

tacony October 15, 2013 - 11:06 pm

The new Q70 Limited is the equivalent. It goes direct to Jackson Heights and Woodside where you can transfer to the subway or LIRR into the city. It’s probably faster than it’d be to run the bus to Midtown during rush hours.

David Brown October 15, 2013 - 12:39 am

This is good news, as is just about any new way to get people to and from LaGuardia. As for Inez Dickens not being there, it could be a hint that she opposes this, and she will NOT be City Council President (particularly because Letitia James beat Daniel Squadron, and there will not be such a demand for a Black Woman for City Council President). I actually would have preferred Squadron even if it meant Dickens, because Squadron is solid on Transportation Issues, and I would have loved to see James stopped in her tracks. Why? God help New York if Letitia James becomes Mayor in Eight Years, trust me, she will make De Blasio and Al Sharpton look like Ronald Reagan. Does Marion Barry or Coleman Young ring a bell?

Bolwerk October 15, 2013 - 11:19 am

An empty suit with mercurial politics and suspiciously nebulous ties to special interests? De Blasio almost could be a new age Reagan, the original etch ‘n sketch/Teflon candidate, with Clintonesque wishywashyness and sans racism.

At least with Sharpton, you don’t learn where he stands only from the history books. The only meaningful opposition to de Blasio is too cluelessly hung up on crime and taxes to understand the real problems with him, like stupid transit policies continuing for another 4 or 8 years.

David Brown October 15, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Bolwerk, crime will become a bigger issue, trust me on that. But as far as transit policies are concerned, what can be done on a Mayoral level to improve them? I suggested SBS for Woodhaven Blvd (and for a change, you and I did not disagree). I read his transit proposals and they amounted to nothing new. The biggest mistake however, would be following through on the horrible Quinn idea of moving MSG and building a New Penn Station (which he is for, and Bloomberg CORRECTLY I might add opposed).

Bolwerk October 15, 2013 - 5:27 pm

What I don’t get about SBS is: there is not a single existing bus route in NYC that can’t be improved by introducing some or in many cases all of the characteristics of whatever the hell SBS is (it’s more a brand than a definition). Above the tires, this can even be done almost for free, especially if done in the course of routine fleet turnover. Read that: almost for free.

Yet the MTA, pols, and a fair number of mode ideologues in the transportation advocacy community…well, they don’t seem to give a shit. They are licking their chops to dismantle the few places where rail is unambiguously cheaper and more cost-effective to build busways. And that’s the limit to their imagination. Even the TWU ignores this, and the drivers, who claim to be always be getting spat on and yelled at by irate customers, win by not having to do collection anymore.

And people actually think New York isn’t the most conservative city in America. :-\

Spendmore Wastemore October 15, 2013 - 6:47 pm

“there is not a single existing bus route in NYC that can’t be improved by introducing some or in many cases all of the characteristics of whatever the hell SBS is”

Many of the bus routes in Manhattan can be improved by eliminating them.

SEAN October 15, 2013 - 7:56 pm

Many of the bus routes in Manhattan can be improved by eliminating them.

And what routes are those, dare I ask?

SEAN October 15, 2013 - 8:27 pm

people actually think New York isn’t the most conservative city in America. :-\
It’s not, but even liberals to some degree have become more conservative in the past 30-years. 1980’s conservatism is way left of conservatism of 2013. Just witness the TV & radio ads for senate in NJ.

Bolwerk October 15, 2013 - 9:45 pm

When it comes to political intractability, it really is. Even Salt Lake City manages to get light rail built.

Hear that? The place where they think it is divine truth that womankind was extracted from a rib and many still think African people were blackened by the Curse of Ham is doing better than us.

Eric October 17, 2013 - 4:05 am

Just goes to show that transit need not be a left/right issue.

David Brown October 15, 2013 - 9:45 pm

I cannot believe anyone believes that this Country is more Conservative. Obama is far to the left of even Jimmy Carter, and De Blasio is to the left of Ed Koch, and Mitt Romney is to the left of Ronald Reagan. On issues like Gay Marriage, the role of the Church, Obama-Care, Criminal Justice, and just about ever issue, the left has gotten its way BIG time, because of the Courts and the Media. Even on this chat board, the only one who admits to being right of center is ME. Without question the Working Families Party is the Number Two party in the City, and my Party (Conservative) is being slowly passed by the Socialists and Greens.

johndmuller October 16, 2013 - 2:35 am

It’s not surprising that the supporters of the 2 major parties are at each other’s throats when the people on the left feel just as intensely that it’s the right that’s gotten its way “BIG” time on all the major issues. And did you seriously use the courts as an example of liberal co-conspirators? Well we’all have our crosses to bear, as Jimmy Carter might have said (with a big smile).

And in this era where bloc politics rule and “if they’re for it we’re against it”, why is it that transit doesn’t have any fanatic supporters willing to shut something down if they can’t get their way?

Bolwerk October 17, 2013 - 1:14 am

Eric F. has the occasional outburst about anti-Republikan bias here.

I don’t really see how the left-liberal-right-conservative distinctions are so meaningful in American or NYC politics. I buy de Blasio is to the left of Bloomberg or Lhota, but de Blasio is also more conservative – he ain’t gonna fuck with the status quo. De Blasio might be more civil libertarian, but Lhota probably has a better chance of pushing through transportation reforms that would be perceived as “anti-car.”

On that other stuff, the only tilt I can see that might be called leftward is in gay rights, and a lot of that is just that attitudes toward gays have obviously changed. But, even then, fascism apparently has its gays too.

Alon Levy October 17, 2013 - 3:58 pm

Lhota’s campaign is in fact all about being nice to drivers, since his base is in areas far from the subway and he knows he’s not going to win anyway.

Christopher October 15, 2013 - 12:41 am

Was thinking of SBS this morning as I live near Nostrand and looked at the configuration of the lanes and realized that one of the big drawbacks to our approach is it’s an end in and of itself. Other cities that are building rapider lines with special boarding areas are building them in such a way that they could eventually be upgraded to light rail. That’s the approach the Bay Area is taking. (DC is actually building light rail, and the rapider treatment hasn’t gone as far as ours, but those lines will eventually become light rail and get a whole different road configuration.)

So I guess my concern is that we have no end game beyond this sort of pathetic rapider system. It’s not a gateway to something even more robust or with great capacity. It’s end in and of itself and that seems like a particularly short sighted idea.

Spendmore Wastemore October 15, 2013 - 10:09 am

That was s’posed to be a freestanding post, not a response. There’s no edit function …

Simon October 15, 2013 - 2:16 pm

It’s about freakin’ time!


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