Select Bus Service begins on Hylan Boulevard this Sunday, aiming to speed bus rides by 15 minutes between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and the Staten Island Mall, cutting trip times by 20 percent on Staten Island’s second-busiest bus corridor. Mayor Bloomberg, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota marked the occasion at a press conference near the Staten Island Mall this morning.
Responding to its suburban context, SBS on Staten Island includes a different mix of features than what’s found on other SBS corridors. For example, because relatively few people board the bus at each stop along the 17-mile route, there is no off-board fare collection.
Unlike other SBS corridors, Hylan Boulevard features “advance signals,” which allow buses to stop closer to a red light than the rest of traffic. This can not only give buses a head start, but simplifies right turns for motorists when a bus is present.
Transit signal priority, which holds green lights for approaching buses and has already resulted in faster bus trips on Victory Boulevard, is scheduled to be added in 2013 and 2014, along with repaved concrete roadways at bus stops.
DOT is improving pedestrian safety along one of Staten Island’s most dangerous streets by extending concrete medians to provide pedestrian refuges at nine intersections. DOT is also building sidewalks to bus stops that do not already have them.
The corridor carries 44,000 vehicles and 32,000 bus riders daily, with riders evenly split between express service to Manhattan and existing local bus routes, according to DOT. MTA ridership analysis shows that 20 percent of all commuters who live near Hylan Boulevard take the bus to work, making up one in three Staten Island bus commuters.
Early concepts from the MTA and DOT featured a center-running separated peak-direction bus lane for the length of Hylan Boulevard to Richmond Avenue. The final design does not mark separate bus lanes along the entire corridor, instead including them at key locations where congestion is worst.
The longest stretch of bus lanes, which will be used by local, SBS and express buses, runs for about two miles on Hylan Boulevard. These lanes are camera-enforced on a peak-hour, peak-direction basis (6 to 9 a.m. northbound; 3 to 7 p.m. southbound). Drivers who enter the bus lane must either quickly drop-off or pick-up a passenger, take the next right turn or face a fine of up to $150. A shorter stretch of bus lanes on Richmond Avenue is in effect at all times.
The number of stops for the SBS S79 route has been reduced from 75 to 22. The S78 and S59 buses, with added service, will continue to serve local stops. The MTA is allowing an extra free transfer for bus riders along the corridor. This would allow, for example, someone who first boards a local bus to transfer to SBS and then to the subway in Bay Ridge.
Last year, the corridor was considered as a possible pilot location for the MTA’s smart card fare payment system, but that program remains delayed.
SBS is an improvement for Staten Island bus riders, but the local press doesn’t seem to notice. After an avalanche of news articles and an editorial arguing that the installation of the bus lanes has been a traffic-causing disaster – and bad for kids, to boot – the Staten Island Advance capped its SBS coverage with a guide to the new bus route…for motorists.