MTA Maps a Five-Borough Network for Select Bus Service

Present and planned Select Bus Service routes, mapped with subway lines. ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/sbs.png##Click## for full-size. Image: MTA via Observer

At a press event yesterday to announce service restorations and upgrades, the MTA also went public with a citywide plan to expand Select Bus Service. With tunnel-boring mega-projects consuming billions of capital dollars apiece, the agency is featuring low-cost bus improvements more prominently in its strategy to increase transit capacity.

Stephen Smith at the Observer reports:

The Second Avenue subway was featured prominently, but one board member conceded that it’s “simply not possible to build more lines and have them during someone’s commuting lifetime” (a depressing admission of defeat for an agency beset by gargantuan construction cost premiums over peer cities like London, Tokyo and Paris), pivoting to the MTA’s transit expansion strategy while we wait for funding on the rest of the Second Avenue line: Select Bus Service.

While the routes that the MTA displayed yesterday are, for the most part, the same as the “phase two” corridors unveiled in 2009, it’s unusual for the agency to put itself front and center when the subject turns to bus improvements — a topic typically handled in conjunction with NYC DOT. With uncertainty about the direction DOT will take when City Hall changes hands, it’s good to see the MTA making a highly visible commitment to SBS.

The new SBS map shows additional corridors along with existing SBS routes and subway lines, for a more complete picture of how the enhanced bus network integrates with rail.

While SBS on 125th Street recently suffered a major setback, the existing routes have demonstrated the effectiveness of dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding, and other steps to speed up buses. Routes on Fordham Road in the Bronx and First and Second Avenues in Manhattan have cut travel times, and according to the Straphangers Campaign have seen ridership grow by 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The Bronx got its second SBS line, on Webster Avenue, in June. Brooklyn is slated to get its first SBS route, an upgraded B44 on the Nostrand Avenue corridor, later this year.

We may soon have a better idea of how the MTA plans to move forward with SBS. A press release from Governor Cuomo’s office yesterday said that SBS “will be established on a new route to be determined.” And tomorrow, the MTA Board is set to discuss the agency’s next five-year capital program, which will presumably set aside funding for SBS projects.

  • Bob

    Looks great, except: why nothing for SE Queens? Using the map, there is nothing south of Queens #4 or east of Queens #9 (an area that has no mass transit connections). Why not continue Queens 5 south to JFK?

  • Bolwerk

    Another 20 years of New York falling behind Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and even London. How about the MTA comes around to at the very least featuring the low-cost rail options too? Triborough RX, Rockaway, and North Shore even have ROWs in place, so they’re low hanging fruit if ever there was any.

    From the map, it even looks like they want to burn money replacing at least one of those ROWs with a busway.

  • Ari

    It’s possible that using the Triborough RX ROW as a busway is better (cheaper/faster/more efficient) than refurbishing the railway. And there would likely be less NIMBYism.

    I would love to see trains on the RX route. But that would be one helluva fast bus.

  • Anonymous

    At least, between this and Citibike, NY is catching up Mexico City, which rolled out true BRT and bikeshare long ago.

    Now if only we could get Mexico City-like service frequency on our subway…

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s still an active freight railroad, so you’d have to officially abandon it (which takes Federal Railroad Administration approval) before you could turn it into a busway.

  • Bolwerk

    Building a busway is never cheaper, faster, or more efficient. Buses are only cheaper when they can use existing infrastructure, and then only when ridership is so low that the financing costs of rail can’t be justified. If the ROW is already there, it basically always makes more sense to use rail.

    And why would NIMBYs prefer louder buses to trains? Well, don’t answer that, NIMBYs aren’t remotely rational and we should learn to ignore them.

  • Bolwerk

    “True” BRT is a little silly in NYC, unless it’s a reclaimed elevated highway or something. At least SBS is cheap upfront, even if it ends up costing more over time. You can’t even say that about needing to build a grade-separated ROW.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean grade-separated. I meant 100% in bus lanes, signal priority, and stations with fare control.

  • Bolwerk

    I think they do SBS pretty well actually. The major stupid factor is the fare collection doesn’t let you buy or cancel after you board. And the way an unlimited isn’t sufficient for travel is pretty wrong, but at least maybe a technical limitation of the media more than incompetence.

  • Guest

    I’d love to see Brooklyn BRT corridor #4 make it past the green fields and the hi kinds.

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