The Abbreviated Plan for 125th Street Select Bus Service Is Back

Select Bus Service on 125th Street is back, but bus lanes will only run east of Lenox Avenue. Image: ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/125_bigflyer.pdf##MTA/NYC DOT##

State Senator Bill Perkins let it slip during a hearing yesterday, and today the MTA and DOT made it official [PDF]: Select Bus Service is back on track for M60 buses running along 125th Street, scheduled to launch in April 2014.

After community boards and local elected officials raised concerns about the months-long planning process, saying the project wasn’t taking the community’s needs into account during its public meetings, the agencies decided to shorten the route, before shelving plans for SBS altogether a few months ago. Now, after receiving letters from elected officials who wanted to revive the plan, and holding a series of private meetings with community members and elected officials this summer, DOT and MTA have announced that the plan for the shortened route is back, with some new additions.

Bus lanes will not extend west from Second Avenue to Morningside Avenue, as originally planned. Instead, the new plan is similar to the shortened route announced in May, which cuts the lanes in half by ending them at Lenox Avenue. Also like the plan from May, the one announced today adds left-turn restrictions at Fifth and Lexington Avenues. DOT and the MTA say they expect the service will result in a 20 percent decrease in travel times. The M60 local bus will be converted to Select Bus Service, while the Bx15, M100, and M101 will continue to run local service.

As with most other SBS routes, the M60 will have pre-board fare payment, which speeds up the process of getting on a bus. Unlike other SBS routes, the plan does not include curb extensions or bus bulbs, meaning that buses will have to leave the bus lane and pull to the curb to pick up passengers, which can increase wait times.

What’s new in today’s announcement [PDF]? 125th Street will receive 62 new LED street lights [PDF] from Morningside Avenue to Fifth Avenue, paid for with $500,000 from Assembly Member Keith Wright. The 12 SBS bus stops on 125th Street will receive new, larger bus shelters, including maps from the WalkNYC pedestrian wayfinding program and real-time bus arrival information.

The new plan also tweaks parking regulations, adding loading zones during morning rush hour on 125th Street and adding metered parking east of Fifth Avenue. DOT also says that “new parking spaces will be established along parts of 124th and 126th Streets.”

“I am happy to announce Select Bus Service will come to the 125th Street corridor after a thorough community task force vetting which included the residents, businesses, disabled communities and the local community boards,” State Senator Perkins said in the DOT/MTA press release. “However, the task force and I will continue to monitor its progress and share input with DOT as this service moves forward.”

Update: “While we hope to eventually achieve full Select Bus Service along the complete 125th Street corridor, this is nothing short of a tremendous victory that will be a clear benefit for our constituents,” State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, and District 7 council candidate Mark Levine said in a joint statement.

  • Ms

    Is this even worth it, do it correctly, or not at all

  • Glenn

    Reversing this is huge. Perkins was losing his cover as the obstructionist. Glad that MM Viverito joined with Mark Levine and other local electeds to put this back into implementation phase.

  • Anonymous

    If you look at Yelp, a lot of complaints come from slow boarding. So the ticketing kiosks are helpful.

  • Ian Turner

    Regarding this: “paid for with $500,000 from Assembly Member Keith Wright”

    Let’s be clear: Mr. Wright is not paying for this, and the money does not come from him, but rather from his member items budget for which we are all paying.

  • Andrew

    Pretty disgusting that Perkins is taking credit for this himself. I suppose this points to the element of bad “process” that he complained about in the first round: the MTA and NYCDOT took credit rather than letting it fall on Perkins’ shoulders.

    Well, if that’s the case, at least he understands the value of better transit.

  • Bobby

    Will there be bus lanes between 2nd and 3rd Aves? I thought they said they were only going to have them between Lennox and 3rd but this doesn’t clarify how far east they will go.

  • Anonymous

    @bf8c69f145cc9cbffc4330f05777807e:disqus: The plan says they will run between Lenox and Second Avenues. I’ve updated the post to clarify.

  • Anonymous

    Bus bulbs would hurt here because there are so many different bus lines sharing the same street. The non-SBS busses will still have long boarding times, so it will be better to get them out of the bus lane and allow the SBS to go by.

  • Matthias

    Forget the kiosks, just let people pay on the bus (after boarding through all doors). There should be more than one place to pay onboard.

  • Ian Turner

    If you do that, then you’d have to have a full-time conductor on every bus. Otherwise if people are stopped by payment enforcement, they could say they were just on their way to pay the fare.

  • Bolwerk

    @49747d8d30334223d3a0c4dd10c2b691:disqus is right. The collection should be onboard the bus because it means people don’t miss the bus to pay and it saves on maintenance costs because TVM collection and repair can be centralized. Only very busy stops should have TVMs.

    A discerning ticket inspector can tell who is lying and who is legitimately waiting. And nothing stops them from forcing the issue, pushing people to the head of the line and making them pay immediately.

  • Ian Turner

    Maybe a discerning ticket inspector can tell, but will his or her intuitions be enough to convince an administrative law judge? I doubt it.

    If all the inspector does is make you pay the fare, then there is no incentive to pay in the absence of an inspector; the deterrent effect of a fine is lost. That’s why you need a full-time conductor under such a system.

    I’m not aware of any bus or rail system anywhere in the world that operates the way you propose (although plenty allow paying the fare as you board through the rear doors), can you name an example?

  • Anonymous

    Buses and trams in Switzerland operate more or less this way (or at least they did a few years ago): per-ride tickets are made of paper, and you buy them at the train station or in a variety of other places. You “validate” the ticket using a machine on board the bus, which puts a timestamp on it. If I remember correctly, there were also off-board validation machines at tram stops and some, but not all, bus stops.

    One reason this works without having a bunch of people waiting to validate their ticket on the bus is that the vast majority of regular users buy monthly or even annual passes. Having such a pass, you just board and forget about it, unless an inspector shows up asking for it.

    The “I was just about to validate my ticket” defense doesn’t fly there. Inspectors wear plain clothes, and they wait until the bus or tram is well on its way to the next stop to give reasonable time for honest people to pay. Whenever I saw them, they worked in teams of three and checked the whole tram so quickly that they were usually done by the time it reached the next stop (it helps that it’s usually not very crowded).

  • Ian Turner

    A system like that is fine (and used in many cities around the world, including in the US). But it’s not what Matthias and Bolwerk were proposing. “Pay on the bus” is totally different from “validate as you board”.

  • Bolwerk

    I think most of Central Europe operates that way, certainly many in Germany and Switzerland. Rome also operates that way, using buses as space-constrained as NYC’s non-articulated buses no less. It’s New York’s rigid system that is unusual.

    @qrt145:disqus raises a good point about the revenue model though. There is a carrot and stick approach in POP systems. A monthly or yearly transit pass is priced at a much lower rate than fares, so it is almost always in the interest of regular passengers to have a pass – which, in turn, reduces both enforcement and collection costs. New York prices its monthly pass so high it’s barely worth it unless you’re a very heavy user.

    Also, I didn’t say the inspector is only able to do make you pay. I just said the inspector has the option to force the issue. AFAIK, on European systems they’re trained to discern the morons and tourists from the evaders – and it should typically be obvious. The dirty secret to POP is you want some evasion, or the inspectors aren’t even worth it. :-p

  • Bolwerk

    Actually, I might be wrong about Rome. Maybe the typical way was to buy
    a ticket at a convenience store or newsstand and validate on boarding.

    In any case, it’s a common system in Germany, and if you want a city that definitely does it: Cologne.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s completely different from the user’s point of view: in both cases you have to put something into a machine (cash/credit card or unvalidated ticket) and end up with a validated ticket.

    The real killer difference is the monthly or annual passes that don’t need to be validated each time. And the efficiency of that approach is hard to beat.

  • Ian Turner

    No, Cologne uses the system qrt145 named, where you validate your pass on boarding. You can’t just get on board and then pay at your leisure.

    It doesn’t matter how great fare inspectors’ intuition is (and remember this is the MTA we’re talking about), what matters is what they can convince an ALJ to think.

  • Pepe

    SBS is great idea and maybe even great for 125th Street, but the “public engagement” process was disingenuous.

  • Bolwerk

    It does both, but minor Stadtbahn stations stations sometimes don’t even have TVMs. If you don’t have a pass, you might be forced to wait until you board. I think you are right that U-Bahns, which are more analogous to subways and see heavier traffic, require you be paid up when you board.

    You can’t “pay at your leisure” either, but you can pay by TVM when you board, cash only. Doing anything other than beelining for the TVM is supposedly not advised, though I never actually saw anyone get inspected until well into a trip. Also, in some places you might be expected to be paid up when you board if the stop has a TVM, though I don’t think Cologne is anal about this.

    Anyway, best practice on surface transit seems to be to forgo the TVMs at less busy stops and at least make onboard collection an option. It doesn’t have to be the only option across the entire system.

    German cities also offer lots and lots of purchase methods, like subscriptions and severely discounted yearly fares. They do a lot to make evasion not worth it.

  • Matthias

    You can do either on a tram in Rome–validate a paper ticket or buy one with exact change. On a bus you have to validate a ticket. This is pretty similar to dipping a MetroCard.

  • Matthias

    Right on with the passes. The downside of a refillable MetroCard is that it can’t be verified visually–it has to be dipped just to show that it’s valid.

    I think the easiest solution would be to put multiple kiosks onboard–anyone can buy a paper ticket or dip their MetroCard to get one. Maybe still have a few offboard at the busiest stops.

  • Bolwerk

    The MetroCard shouldn’t be a big deal. People should be expected to get receipts, and if they don’t the inspector can dip the card onboard to make sure they have an unlimited – and issue a ticket if they don’t or it’s expired.

    In any case, the MetroCard is due to retire and whatever replaces it could be made to work with portable readers. It makes sense if we have to wait for that, but it doesn’t make sense not to better accommodate best practice when you’re changing the fare collection system anyway.

  • Bolwerk

    Ah, yeah, that makes sense. I could have sworn it was like that, but when I spent some months in Rome I stayed along a bus line and almost never used the tram.

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