First Downsized, Now Cancelled: DOT and MTA Drop 125th Street SBS Plan

Facing opposition led by State Senator Bill Perkins, NYC DOT and the MTA have cancelled the plan to bring Select Bus Service to 125th Street in Harlem. The plan, which was trimmed in half in May, cutting bus lanes out of West Harlem, has now been shelved. As a result, tens of thousands of daily bus riders in Harlem are still condemned to travel at speeds that are often slower than walking.

“This hit us by surprise this morning,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Joseph Cutrufo said. “We just got an email… It’s very vague.”

The full e-mail from the project management’s PR firm reads:

Thank you for your dedicated participation and engagement on the M60 Select Bus Service (SBS) Project. You have given us a tremendous amount of feedback about bus service on 125th Street, as well as other issues affecting pedestrians and motorists along the corridor.

There are still a number of concerns about the project from the local Community Boards and elected officials that we have not been able to resolve to date. As a result, NYCDOT and MTA New York City Transit have decided not to proceed with the M60 Select Bus Service project at this time. We do hope to have a continued dialogue with community stakeholders about ways that we can continue to improve bus speed and service, traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian safety along 125th Street. In the short term, we plan to work with the Community Boards to explore whether any parking or traffic improvements discussed during the SBS outreach process can improve 125th Street for all users.

Again, thank you for the time and effort that you put into this project, and we hope that you will continue to be a part of the discussion for how to improve 125th Street.

Streetsblog will update the story as we get more information.

  • Eric McClure

    Shameful.

  • A. Scott Falk

    Appalling, even.

  • Reader

    If you don’t drive in Harlem, you don’t matter to Bill Perkins.

  • Puzzled

    Tri-State and other advocacy groups are as much on the hook for this project falling through as anyone. Where was the organizing once Perkins became oppositional? Tri State, TA, We Act and Riders Alliance all had skin in the game here and barely a peep out of any of them. If I was a regular user of bus service on 125th I’d seriously question giving them a dime of membership money.

  • The donations do matter, and it helps keep these organizations afloat.

    The problem is that people in these communities need to donate more time to activism and government participation. As it stands now, participation rates in government are so low that anyone with a personal agenda (like, say, maintaining all-day street parking for private vehicles) has a good shot of prevailing. Sending in a check once a year to a 3rd-party activist non-profit is just not enough to keep politicians from pandering to the loudest complainers when it comes to safe streets transitions.

    I don’t consider it productive to criticize the nonprofits at this point, but I do agree that the best use of their funding is to mobilize activist participation for government hearings about safe streets proposals. Until now, there didn’t seem to be much urgency because the plan was still moving through the community boards, and any plan would have been a positive step forward. But a complete shelving of the plan is certainly a trigger for a strong activist response.

    —-

    The phone number for the Manhattan CB9 district office is (212) 864-6200, email info@cb9m.org. Their next full board meeting falls on the third Thursday of the month (but is likely adjourned until August or September for the summer), transpo committee meetings are on first Thursdays.

    The phone number for the Manhattan CB10 district office is 212-749-3105, email mn10@cb.nyc.gov. Their next full board meeting falls on the first Wednesday of the month (but is likely adjourned until August or September for the summer), transpo committee meetings are often on the second Wednesdays with some recent exceptions.

    The phone number for the Manhattan CB11 district office is 212-831-8929, email George Sarkissian, District Manager – gsarkissian@cb.nyc.gov. Their next full board meeting falls on the third Tuesday of the month (but is likely adjourned until August or September for the summer), transpo committee meetings are on first Tuesday.

  • Mark Walker

    Transit users now have a strong reason to make common cause with cyclists against the livable-streets backlash. And our first target should be not advocacy groups but Bill Perkins and the community board. Yeah, I know it’s impossible to dislodge Democrats from some elected positions in our primitive one-party city, but at least we can make him a little uncomfortable by supporting a primary challenger. We can also demand that the borough president clean up the community board.

  • Bolwerk

    SBS isn’t cheap, and those organizations probably don’t want to waste
    political capital helping voiceless poor blacks anymore than the
    Bloomberg administration.

    It makes sense for the transportation network, they put in a token effort, and will move on to invest in the People Who Count (Perkins’ friends, not his constituents).

  • Bolwerk

    I’d love to be rid of this community board system. I like the idea of
    local input, but this just isn’t working. With community boards, the
    only local input is the authoritarian, selfish, and stupid input,

    Anyway,
    transportation is not an exclusively local concern. The SBS would go
    from Harlem to deep into Queens, and impacts more than just one
    neighborhood.

  • Ex-driver

    I suspect there’s a simple reason for this. It could not overcome the perception that the the purpose of the study was to figure out how to ferry people faster through Harlem on the M60 from Columbia to the airport. It was a huge mistake to choose that bus alone, out of all the buses that ply this route, to carry the SBS nameplate–even though the improvements would have helped all bus riders including the Harlemites who ride the M60. Lesson learned?

  • Brad Aaron

    What a crock of shit.

  • Joe R.

    Community boards should just have input into strictly local matters, like maybe whether a store selling adult entertainment is allowed. Transportation isn’t a local concern. Even if a planned project may reshape the streets in a way the local community board objects to, it shouldn’t matter if that project is beneficial to the city overall. Also, community boards shouldn’t have any input whatsoever on things like traffic controls. It’s the business of DOT to determine what traffic controls and signs are appropriate, not local community boards. My blood boils every times I hear about a local community board “asking for a traffic signal”. Thanks to this, the city is littered with thousands of unnecessary traffic signals which cost the city a huge amount of money.

  • Mark Walker

    This additional post deleted due to error.

  • Ian Turner

    What happened to “If you can’t engage with other commenters without getting so nasty, your commenting privileges will be revoked.”?

  • Bolwerk

    I see my writing wasn’t very clear, so maybe he misunderstood me. What I meant was, the SBS project made sense, so the city was therefore willing to make a token effort.

    I did not mean backing off the project was a good idea. Surface transit improvements on 125th should go forward.

  • Ari

    Perhaps DOT/MTA will return with a more complete plan once this guy is replaced by an SBS fan.

    Every viable mayoral candidate has gone on record supporting SBS. It will continue to expand post-JSK.

  • Brad Aaron

    I understood the comment to mean TA and TSTC “don’t want to waste political capital helping voiceless poor blacks,” which would be ridiculous.

  • Bolwerk

    Not on their own. The naked reality is there aren’t powerful local interest groups to build alliances with, Perkins is pretty hard to beat, the community board seems evil, and they probably all know a loss when they see one.

    Why is that ridiculous? I don’t like that either, but it’s hardly a crock of shit.

  • Brad Aaron

    I don’t discount the political calculus, but these groups expend a lot of capital on the voiceless.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Yes. Eliminate the M60 and shift a few buses to the other routes on 125th Street.

    Use the buses now available, because they are not sitting in traffic on the Triboro bridge, to implement the airport access plan in Queens.

    Congratulate the Harlem pols on putting the airport bus riders in their place.

    Same lesson as in Staten Island. Don’t spend a lot of staff time trying to spend scarce money on those who then object to any and all proposed improvements.

  • Pepe

    That perception resulted from the fact that the M60 route was selected for SBS as part of DOT’s La Guardia Airport Access Alternatives Analysis, see http://tinyurl.com/k8kh9dp

  • Andrew

    The city made a lot more than a token effort.

    The city has also made it clear that these projects don’t occur without community support (defined, unfortunately, as elected official and community board support).

  • Andrew

    The city made a lot more than a token effort.

    The city has also made it clear that these projects don’t occur without community support (defined, unfortunately, as elected official and community board support).

  • Bronxite

    But wait, wouldn’t anyone going crosstown along E 125th benefit from the SBS 60? Yes it terminates at the airport but so what? It still runs a through route across 125. I don’t see the issue here.

    Perception yes, but I highly doubt that most people utilizing the M60 are heading towards the airport.

  • Andrew

    You are correct. NYCT and DOT have explicitly stated that most M60 riders are traveling within Manhattan.

  • Daphna

    10-11% of M60 riders take it to/from LaGuardia. 19-22% take the M60 to/from Queens. 17-21% take it to/from Morningside Heights. 49-51%, the majority, take it across 125th Street in one direction or the other.

    Weekday bus boardings on 125th Street:
    Bx15 – 8,828
    M60 – 9,682 (the busiest)
    M100 – 6,912
    M101 – 7,198

    From the DOT in March: “Much of the ridership of the M60 is concentrated within Manhattan and on 125th Street. Most riders are not traveling to/from LaGuardia Airport.”

    From the DOT in July: “Half of M60 ridership is on 125th St; only 11% to airport”

    The DOT made this point over and over. Certain “leaders” in Harlem chose to ignore it.

  • Daphna

    This was a comprehensive street re-design, not just a Select Bus Service route. There were many beneficial and long overdue changes that were going to be implemented. Even without the SBS, if the rest of this plan would be implemented that would still be fantastic. Making it a package deal would have been good if Harlem was like other neighborhoods and wanted SBS and was thus willing to put up with some related changes in order to get SBS. But in Harlem’s case, it might have been better to do each change separately instead of as a package.

    Local politicians who want what’s best for Harlem, (if there are any such politicians), should be clamoring to still have the daylighting, the left turn restrictions, the right turn bays, the loading zones, the ending of back-in parking by fire department workers, the added mid-block crosswalk, and the curb bulb outs implemented. More than anything they should also be clamoring to have all the blocks metered that were going to be in the plan. 125th Street should have curbside regulations akin to other busy crosstown streets such as 42nd or 34th. But instead, west of Morningside Ave (9th Ave) and east of 5th Avenue, 125th Street is treated like a sleepy residential street with no meters and alternate side parking. This plan would have metered many blocks of 125th Street and would have metered many of the intersecting avenues from 124th to 126th and in some cases from 123rd to 127th. Harlem needs these meters and needs left turn restrictions off of 125th Street regardless of SBS or not.

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