Uptown Transit Riders Fight for 125th Street Select Bus Service

TRAC members participate in a May Day rally. One of the transit rider coalition's top demands is for Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Image via ##http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=301710533242429&set=a.301710063242476.71232.139475739465910&type=3&theater##Facebook##

Select Bus Service is a big success on First and Second Avenues and 34th Street. Speeds are up, ridership is up, and the MTA is using the time savings to run even more buses along the busy corridors. So where in Manhattan is next for the popular package of bus improvements? One group of uptown transit riders hopes the answer is 125th Street.

The Transit Riders Action Committee is a new project of WE ACT, the northern Manhattan environmental justice organization, founded last year in response to the most recent round of fare hikes. After reaching out to neighborhood riders at bus stops and subway platforms, TRAC asked new members for their priorities in the neighborhood. After generating a long list of options, the new committee voted to focus on three priorities: keeping the fare affordable, improving the condition of Upper Manhattan’s poorly-maintained subway stations, and improving bus trips on 125th Street.

“The buses are incredibly slow,” said Jake Carlson, WE ACT’s transportation equity coordinator. “They are constantly battling for their own piece of the road. It’s an issue that really hinders people’s mobility.” He noted that he often ends up walking crosstown on 125th rather than taking the bus.

Despite slow speeds, bus ridership on 125th Street is sky-high. Four routes travel on 125th Street: the M60, M100, M101 and Bx15. Between them, around 32,500 passengers board on 125th Street on an average weekday, said Carlson, and around 31,000 get off.

TRAC organizers and members have already started to meet with community board members and feel there’s room for persuasion. “When you start talking about the problem, most people get it right away,” said Carlson. “They know what it means to get across 125th Street.”

When it comes to solutions, however, there’s more resistance. “Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine what else 125th might look like,” said Cecil Corbin-Mark, WE ACT deputy director. “They sometimes can’t conceptualize, physically, how the street could be transformed.”

Most of the objections, said Carlson, are those that surface before every Select Bus Service project in the city: worries about lost parking spaces or increased congestion. Uptown, there are also concerns about the additional police presence implicit in SBS’s proof-of-payment fare system. “The idea here is that it’s another opportunity for stop-and-frisk,” said Corbin-Mark.

This month, TRAC will step up its outreach and start to meet with the three local City Council members in the area and local businesses along the corridor. At the same time, said Carlson, DOT should be completing its alternatives analysis for improving transit access to LaGuardia Airport, which could include better service along the M60 and 125th Street.

  • David Marcus

    A project long overdue. Making the M60 a SBS would also improve transit access to Laguardia.

  • HamTech87

    ohmigod, a fast M60 ride to LGA from the UWS would be incredibly popular.  It would also tie-in with all those Big Picture articles about how important airports are to urban development.  I don’t believe those articles, but if they help us get a faster M60 and SBS on 125th Street….

  • spike

    The problem is 125th St is overloaded particularly on weekends.  A better solution might be to take the parking off one side of 124 and 126th sts. (horrors!) and run the buses up those streets.  Another thing that would help would be to remove left turns from 125th St.  And of course my dream would be if they took the 2nd Ave subway and brought it across under 125th St to broadway. 

  • J

    From a space and functionality perspective, this could EASILY work. A big part of the problem on 125th Street is very poor parking and curb space management, which leads to constant double and even triple parking. This would absolutely need to be addressed before SBS could be introduced there. Once that is addressed, though, the space is there for SBS. It would look an awful lot like the proposals for Webster that were presented, with a center-running transitway and parking eliminated only at the intersections that have bus stops.

    Politically, there needs to be a strong coalition of support to get this done, but unfortunately, Harlem leadership seems to be pretty stuck to their car-centric perspective, despite the overwhelming preference and reliance on transit. Without a change in leadership, I seriously doubt this will happen.

  • kevd

    While I’m all for SBS on 125th and SBS all the way to LGA…..
    I think there are a couple dozen routes that should be made SBS corridors before dealing with the entire M60 route. (This is not a direct response to SBS on 125th, but rather to the suggestion that it be extended to LGA from David and HamTech).
    The M60’s ridership is 33rd of all bus routes in NYC.

    Though I did just take it a week ago (LGA to 31st St.). The crowding is insane!
    And that could be dealt with by the MTA simply meeting the demand that already exists and running more buses.

  • It would be pretty stupid if it were just the M60 – no argument there. But when you combine all the routes that run on 125th, you get much higher ridership. Between them those routes have more ridership by a significant margin than any single bus route, and more frequency than a single local bus can handle without hopelessly bunching.

    Even just the 32,000 daily riders who board on 125th would rank 10th citywide – and that’s not counting benefits to people who travel through 125th without boarding or alighting there.

  • Ben Kintisch

    125th is a constant mess because of double parking all the time. So if they do SBS on this corridor, which I support, it must be a physically separated busway, or it will be a bit like 34th streets wimpy painted bus lanes, where the busses are actually zig zagging all over the place to avoid people blocking the lanes. That has somewhat improved with the advent of bus cameras. But how can you convince the powers that be that it’s worth re-configuring space so everyone can move better…even if a few parking spaces are lost.

  • Anonymous

    WHy would anyone want this mess? Many times there are lines to get a ticket when the bus arrives and half the people can’t get on because they are waiting for the machine to produce a ticket. Then you wait sometimes 20 minutes for the next bus. Machines stop working so there’s no way to get a ticket, so u just have to get on and hope u don’t get caught. Tourists don’t have a clue so they get on and then are told to get off and buy a ticket, holding the bus up even longer. God help u if you misplace your ticket and they are checking. Even if u use your metro card there is no way for them to check so you are pulled off the bus and given a ticket for more Han $100 which you have to spend weeks fighting even though u did nothing wrong. In the end it is no faster than the old limited bus. The system stinks and I avoid it whenever possible. People on 125th street better hope they never get stuck with it.

  • Transit Guy

    Easiest and best solution is to make the M60 a limited stop bus across 125th Street stopping only at subway station locations and 2nd Avenue.  It’s alread on an 8 minute headway most of the day and it would just make getting to Queens and LaGuardia Airport all that much faster.

    As already mentioned, there is a great need for serious and on-going traffic enforcement on 125th Street to end the common practice of double parking which hurts all of the crosstown bus service there.

  • liclovr

    JKomar – i use select bus m34 twice everyday.  if you have half a brain in your head you can figure out how to use it pretty quickly.  also, just like on the subway, if you arrive to catch the bus a moment too late then you have to get the next one.  how fast would the subway be if they waited for everyone to get through the turnstile before leaving??

  • liclovr

    furthermore, why is it a mess?  its faster and now there’s more frequent bus service??  I’m just sick and tired of 60’s era new yorkers so stuck in their ways that nothing can EVER be improved…

  • Guest 2

    First of all, they should fix M15, M34/M34A and Bx12 SBS issues first. MTA & NYCDOT still have not improve the issues that they are having right now.

  • Mjofbaltimore

    M60 – +Select Bus Service

    “Route M60” should be completely implemented into a +Select Bus Service line. It seem the most obvious going from Upper Manhattan & Harlem to LaGuardia National Airport.

    Airport to Manhattan service shouldn’t be side-tracked by frequent local stops through Queens and stop & go on 125th Street in Harlem.

    Vote!! “Route M60”

  • MjofLakeland1

    If enforcers have a problem on 125th Street, well just turn it into a “Bus Mall” corridor from 4am – 8pm… It’s only little you can do to a main crosstown street, so deal with the congestion, work around it, place a “Streetcar or Light Rail” on the street, use other routes!!

    For tourists or non-New Yorkers (I don’t count) they only know 125th St./ MLK Blvd. going to/from the Triborough Bridge.

  • Duck27

    Everybody’s talking about the M60, which is fine and all, but I feel like SBS wouldn’t be out of place on the M101. The only problem would be the segment about 161 St, ridership is kind of light there. And if we’re still on the topic, slap some SBS on the Bx15 or Bx55, and put that on 125th too.

  • Mrf948

    I just found this. I wonder if you all have spent time taking the Bx12 Select service across Fordham Rd and Pelham Pkwy in the Bronx. It is a little faster, but has many other problems. Unlike limited buses, while waiting at the stop you have to commit yourself to the regular or Select stop service (get special ticket or not) before bus comes. This means that on a dark cold rainy or snowy night, when all you want to do is get on the first bus you can, you have play guessing game as to which will come first. The whole pre pay system and machines are nerve racking and difficult.   

  • Ian Turner

    @3eeaad0a17851b2d783aac4d14a1dd62:disqus : I can’t speak for the Bx12, but on the M15 route the local buses will accept an SBS fare receipt as a form of fare payment. (Though you must surrender the receipt)

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