Quick Bus and Ped Improvements Coming to Lower Broadway

bus_bulb_chicago.jpg
Nope, that’s not Lower Manhattan. It’s an example of a "bus bulb" in Edgewater, Chicago, a neighborhood known for its thoughtful planning and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Tomorrow, the Department of Transportation will make the first public announcement of its Lower Manhattan Transit Priority Plan. We don’t have all of the details but the redesign plan for Broadway south of Houston Street sounds like it is oriented around making bus service faster and more effective, providing more sidewalk space to pedestrians and bus patrons and, perhaps most significant, making the changes happen much faster, cheaper and with far less bureaucracy than usual.

Sources say the plan calls for the creation of "bus bulbs," a design in which the sidewalk is extended into the street at bus stops. Bus bulbs allow a bus to stay in its lane to pick up and discharge passengers instead of having to pull over to the curb. The benefits of bus bulbs include preventing
buses from being delayed, reducing
sidewalk congestion, providing space for bus shelters and other amenities, and reducing pedestrian crossing times.

In a small but very tangible way, bus bulbs may single-handedly change the pecking order on Lower Broadway by forcing other vehicles to wait behind or detour around loading and unloading buses rather than the buses having to defer to them.

Most promising, DOT appears to be taking a far more experimental approach in this particular project. Rather than allowing itself to become bogged down in complicated, expensive street engineering, it sounds like the agency will be creating the bus bulbs by putting down temporary curbs, filling them in with concrete, and just gerrymandering the drainage. The results might not look particularly pretty but advocates have, for years, been calling on DOT to show more willingness to conduct quick-and-dirty street design experiments.

The Daily News and New York Sun will have the details tomorrow morning.

And here is more information about bus bulbs than you could ever want: The Federal Transit Administration’s Evaluation of Bus Bulbs (PDF).

Photo: Aaron Naparstek, July 2006

  • This is a great first step on producing more livable streets and faster surface mass transit. Bus Bulbs would be great everywhere in dense streets. In my area, Lexington Ave and all the crosstown bus routes (96th, 86th, 79th, 66/67) would greatly benefit from this.

  • crzwdjk

    Bus bulbs are great and all, but lower Broadway has a part-time bus lane. Does this mean that they’re going to be abolishing the bus lane in favor of more full-time parking? Because right now the pecking order has buses speeding along in their own lane bypassing all the traffic during rush hour.

  • P

    I’m with crzwdjk-

    I don’t see how this is an improvement over a bus lane. Bulbouts are better than a full lane of parking but south of 14th Street (and further probably) there is a bus lane already.

  • The problem with the bus lane is that it is not enforced (perhaps the cameras would make a big difference). The bulbouts would force cars into a narrower space, specifically at heavy intersections, but still provide a curbside space for pick-ups and drop-offs, which now all occur in the bus lane. I would make the spaces between bus bulbs short-term, pick-up and drop off only or for deliveries. This would reduce double parking in the lane the bus would now use.

  • I don’t quite understand it either…. I would guess that bus lanes end too often and then the buses have to merge back into the rest of traffic, which slows them down.

  • It’s not that the lane ends, it’s that cars block it anyway while picking up or dropping off (PO/DO). You still need to provide some curbside access for PO/DO and deliveries. The current bus lanes are not well enforced and don’t provide a safety valve for some essential curbside access. As someone who recently was on crutches, sometimes anything other than door-to-door deliver is not workable. We need to accept that some curbside access is essential instead of every available parking spot going to long term free parking.

  • crzwdjk

    The bus lane also ends up being used for cars waiting to make a right turn across busy crosswalks, notably at Broadway/Houston, which is a mess of an intersection no matter how you look at it. In that particular case, yes, it would make sense to move buses over one lane and reserve the right lane for turning cars at that location and put in a bus bulb at Broadway/Bleecker. And it might make sense to build bus bulbs instead of bus lanes, because traffic is pretty heavy even outside of peak hours, and they want to be able to keep at least some curbside parking on Broadway. Plus, if done right, this plan can be used to extend sidewalks at intersections and reduce pedestrian crowding at spots like Broadway/Prince.

  • BusGirl

    Having a bus lane one lane inside the curb allows for cars & trucks to make curb side stops and deliveries, as well as parking, without blocking the bus lane. with the bulb out, the bus doesn’t have to pull to the curb or back out into traffic, saving time.

    Enforcement of the bus lane is always a problem, but hopefully being away from the curb lane will help.

  • P

    Does anyone have a drawing of how this works- to me it just sounds like we’re losing a lane. Buses will still have to wait on right turning cars, no?

  • If you want all the details – and to participate in discussion/advocacy – this (along with Houston St.-corridor bike lanes) is on the agenda for the CB2 Transportation Committee tomorrow.

    Tuesday, Mar. 13, 6:30pm
    NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Pl., rm. 411

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