Webster Avenue SBS Will Not Have Center-Running Bus Lanes

Left: The concept for center-running bus lanes on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Right: Offset bus lanes, the option that was selected for the Select Bus Service project. Image: NYC DOT/MTA

This spring, there was a glimmer of hope that Webster Avenue in the Bronx would get the first center-running bus-only lanes in New York. With NYC DOT and the MTA bringing Select Bus Service to Webster Avenue, the center-running option would have been the city’s boldest effort yet to implement high-quality bus rapid transit. While Select Bus Service is still in the works for Webster Avenue and bus trips are on track to improve, the project won’t include center-running lanes, which do more to keep buses moving smoothly through traffic than bus lanes next to the curb or the parking lane.

The decision was announced at the most recent Community Advisory Committee meeting about the project. Webster Avenue will instead get offset bus lanes, which should be familiar to anyone who uses SBS on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. These bus lanes run next to the parking lane, with passengers boarding from sidewalk extensions that let the bus avoid merging over to the curb and back. (A third option, which was rejected, would have put the bus lanes curbside and eliminated on-street parking.)

Webster Avenue will also be getting Transit Signal Priority to hold green lights for approaching buses.

Center-running bus lanes would almost certainly have required dedicated signals for drivers making left turns. This change could have negatively affected the “Level of Service” projections for how many vehicles could move through a given intersection.

A DOT spokesperson said that Level of Service projections were not a factor in rejecting the center-running bus lanes, citing other reasons for the decision. Because local bus stops would remain curbside, DOT said, those buses would have had to constantly enter and exit the center-running lanes in order to benefit from them. In addition, dedicated left-turn signals would have reduced the amount of green light time for the bus lanes, and private vehicles would be have been prevented from making left turns at a number of intersections.

In its presentation to the Community Advisory Committee, MTA and DOT staff said that the chosen alternative “maintains appropriate traffic flows and circulation.”

Webster Avenue SBS was recently included in plans to upgrade bus service to LaGuardia Airport, which would extend the service south from East 149th Street, over the Triboro/RFK Bridge, and to the airport via Astoria Boulevard. The extension is not the same project as Webster Avenue and relies on separate funding for implementation, according to DOT.

The next step for Webster Avenue SBS is for DOT and MTA to refine the plan and host a public open house this winter, before creating a final design and implementation plan in 2013.

  • That may be a good thing, since Webster can’t really support only one lane of traffic each way. Third Avenue may be nearby, but Metro North’s main line acts as a barrier. What needs fixing though is the light sequence through the Butler and Webster Houses between East 168 Street and Claremont Parkway.

  • Andrew

    Thank goodness for small favors. Median running would have made the rider experience far less pleasant, with bus stops on narrow strips of sidewalk in the middle of the street – with no shade and minimal shelter from the elements, with motor vehicle whizzing by on either side, with very limited standing space, with no opportunity to casually step into a nearby store while waiting for the bus, with no ability to hop on the local if it came first (since the local was always going to be at the curb). It would have delayed access to and from the bus, since everybody would have to cross a street to reach the bus stop – which in turn would have reduced safety, as people running to catch a bus or stepping off a bus would be inclined to cross against the light.

    On very wide rights of way, with ample space for wide platforms with significant customer amenities (and perhaps turnstiles, if appropriate for the fare payment system), the advantages of median running can sometimes outweigh disadvantages. But that doesn’t apply to Webster Avenue.

    This is no TransMilenio.

  • Guest

    I think the offset lanes are the right choice in this case.

    I am not generally sympathetic to business owners who think they need parking for their customers. I tend to think of the florist on Columbus Avenue who gets overwhelming business from transit passengers and is probably making it harder for his own customers to get to the store.  But much of Webster Avenue is different. 

    Many of the businesses along Webster are well established stores like wholesale restaurant supplies, tile warehouses, etc.  I think it makes sense to have these services available in a city, and I believe they have a real need for their customers to be able to load a van easily close to the store.  It looks like DOT is doing a thoughtful job trying to identify the right solutions for different local contexts.

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