Tonight: DOT Unveils Plans for 181st Street in Washington Heights

heights1.jpgBuses, trucks, cars and pedestrians vie for space on 181st Street. Photo: Brad Aaron

DOT tonight will present its recommendations for improvements to Manhattan’s 181st Street.

The hearing comes over a year after the first public input session on the project, where Upper Manhattanites weighed in on their priorities for making 181st a complete street. At present, pedestrians pack the sidewalks of this major thoroughfare in the heart of Washington Heights, as buses compete for asphalt with double-parked cars and trucks.

One of 14 city corridors selected for redesign under the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, 181st Street provides a direct link to the Bronx via the Washington Bridge, while, to its south, the George Washington Bridge brings traffic headed to and from New Jersey. The street is part of a local truck route and is home to five bus lines.

Tonight’s meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Mother Cabrini High School, 701 Ft. Washington Ave. at W. 190th St. Livable streets advocates, and especially locals, are encouraged to attend.

  • Reading the DOT’s notes from last year’s meeting (PDF, I was struck by how many table had someone suggesting that the buses to the Bronx be replaced by a shuttle bus. Was this something that the CB12 members discussed before the meeting or something?

    The fact that they suggest a shuttle bus indicates that they probably don’t take the buses very often, if at all. The buses run pretty full, morning to night, seven days a week. It’s hard to find a seat by the time they turn onto 181st. Replacing them with a shuttle bus and maintaining the current level of service would require running just as many buses, except they would require an inconvenient transfer for almost every passenger.

    I hope someone goes into that meeting prepared with the numbers of people who pass through those blocks of 181st every day, on a bus, in a gypsy cab, in a car, on a bike, and on foot. I’d be surprised if the bus riders didn’t outnumber all the other categories combined.

    I also hope they’ve done some outreach to get people from the Bronx to come to the meeting. If it’s only NIMBY’s from Washington Heights represented and not bus riders, it’s not a good sample.

    In the thread last year, JD claimed that the buses are most intrusive when they’re turning. The solution to that is to run them across the bridge and have them turn around in Fort Lee, or even in Paterson. Some other things we came up with last year:

    – loading zones
    – bus bulbs
    – better enforcement against double-parking

  • J-Uptown

    Does anyone know how this meeting went?

  • I attended. It was pretty low-key. There was a presentation of current traffic problems and then some short-term and long-term ideas for improvements. Short-term stuff includes making left-turn lanes and changing signal timing. Long-term fixes include widening sidewalks, curb extensions, and making parts of 181st Street one-way. Ideas about banning on-street parking (at least during the day) or making 181st into a transit mall (à la Fulton Mall) were also brought up.

    The five buses to the Bronx have a huge ridership (around 28k daily), and no ideas to reduce bus service were brought up at the meeting. My take, courtesy of the engineer in charge of the project, is that they are trying to make improvements for all modes. Through drivers, who have the smallest constituency, will probably be inconvenienced most. Several times it was repeated that steps to reduce traffic at certain intersections or on certain streets would just make more traffic in other spots.

  • Did they talk about any plans for adding bike facilities, perhaps connecting with the GWB?

  • Did they talk about any plans for adding bike facilities, perhaps connecting with the GWB?

    No. The researcher mentioned that the bike lane on Ft Washington Ave disappears between 178th St and 181st St, however, and then at 181 only reappears on the uphill (n’bound) side.

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