There is a new plan in New York City that centers around buses. The city will be providing 20 miles of bus lanes and car-free busways. Mayor de Blasio said that implementation of the plan across the city is already starting. He will also make the successful 14th Street busway permanent. Originally, the plan was for 60 miles of bus lanes and busways, but this is a start.
A busway on Main Street between Sanford and Northern Boulevard in Flushing will be the first new addition. Car-free stretches will include:
- Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street.
- Fifth Avenue in Manhattan from 57th to 34th Streets.
- Jay Street in Brooklyn from Fulton to Tillary Streets
- E. 181st Street in Manhattan from Amsterdam Avenue to Broadway.
These will add up to 3.5 miles of car-free streets. The Department of Transportation said that these stretches were selected because of their exceptionally high bus use. The Jamaica Avenue stretch carries 225,000 rides daily while Main Street carries 150,000. The Fifth Avenue stretch only serves around 75,000 rides daily, but it’s a destination point for buses from all 5 boroughs according to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
“The MTA asked for 60 miles, but I want to point out in our best year on bus lanes, starting in April and going the whole year, we did 14 miles of bus lanes. So for us to get this done, starting in June for the rest of the year, 20 miles is a lot. It’s not everything, but it’s an exciting start,” said Trottenberg.
Bus lanes will also be added for the additional 16.5 miles of streets. They are as follows:
- 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue C.
- 149th Street in the Bronx from Southern Boulevard to River Avenue.
- Merrick Boulevard in Queens from Hillside Avenue to Springfield Boulevard.
- Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island from Lincoln Avenue to Nelson Avenue.
Several activists were excited about this first step. Ben Fried of TransitCenter said, “This is an encouraging first step. If DOT moves fast and these 20 miles work well, it will open up possibilities to expand the concept and get those 60 miles.”
“While all corridors mentioned today are greatly needed, Main Street, Jamaica Avenue, and 181st Street serve as important transportation corridors, for both bus riders, and as transfer points between bus riders and subway riders. Fast, frequent, and reliable bus service will be key to provide confidence for commuters to use buses as the city continues to reopen. The next round of busways must include the Bronx and Staten Island,” said Erwin Figueroa of Transportation Alternatives.
Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio why he chose to do 20 miles instead of the 60 that were requested by the tri-state transit authority. He replied, “I’m someone who likes to see progress and celebrate it and then create more” — apparently a reference to the 14th Street Busway — “and this is a major step. The fact that we have proven [success] on 14th Street [and] now five more coming in — it’s positive. The busways and Select Bus Service is working and it makes for a better future.”
Although I’ve never been to New York City, I have lived car-free in Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston, and have been through New Orleans — traffic woes are real everywhere, and there is jostling between the different modes of transport in every city. So I can imagine the difference having dedicated bus lanes will make for not just the speed of traffic in a congested city, but also to reduce some of the carbon emissions and harmful air pollution — especially during rush hour.
Rush hour traffic can easily come to a standstill in big cities (don’t get me started on Dallas!) and all of that idling creates massive amounts of carbon emissions and pollution. Idling a car every day for a year could cost as much as $950 in wasted fuel, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Not only is money wasted, but the effects of car idling on both our atmosphere and our lungs are horrendous — so bad that Amelia B, an 8th-grader at Cabrillo Middle School in Ventura, California, thoughtfully took action and helped to create an idle-free zone for her school.
NYC’s improvements should offer a significant improvement for passengers as well. If you’ve never taken a bus before, let me tell how big of a deal this is. There are many times when the car behind a bus will get angry and honk at the bus for stopping in front of it, disturbing the peace and pride of passengers. There are other times when the car in front of a bus is too slow or causes an accident. I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen out of my seat as the driver slammed the brakes hard while trying to avoid hitting the car in front of it. Bus-only lanes should offer a large improvement.
I think more cities should take this initiative especially if they have issues with congested traffic.