Eyes on the Street: NYC’s Newest Bus Zones on 23rd Street, Jay Street

New dedicated bus lanes on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller
The new bus lane on 23rd Street, where Select Bus Service is set to launch in the fall. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT crews recently put down new terra cotta paint for buses on 23rd Street in Manhattan and Jay Street in Brooklyn.

In the fall, Select Bus Service will bring faster bus service to the M23’s 15,000 daily riders with dedicated lanes, off-board payment, and consolidated bus stops. The bus lanes are set to run eastbound from Ninth Avenue to Second Avenue and westbound from mid-block between First and Second Avenue to Eighth Avenue.

The red lanes are here already — Streetsblog alum Stephen Miller snapped this photo of 23rd Street looking west from Seventh Avenue.

And in Downtown Brooklyn, there’s fresh red paint on Jay Street at the long bus stop alongside the Myrtle Avenue plaza:

The redesign of Jay Street allows cyclists to pass around buses while remaining protected by a wide buffer zone. Photo: Brandon Chamberlin
The curbside bus stop at Myrtle, with red paint to discourage placard abusers. Photo: Brandon Chamberlin

DOT’s redesign of Jay Street calls for bus drivers to pull across the new protected bike lane to access this curbside bus stop. The red paint treatment is an extra measure that wasn’t included in DOT’s renderings of the redesign [PDF]. The more the city does to ward off the parking placard abusers drawn to any available curb space on Jay Street, the better. Those plastic posts in the buffer zone may also help keep placard holders out of the bus stop.

DOT did not include red lanes or flexible plastic posts in its original renderings of the Jay Street bike lane. Image: DOT
The red paint is an addition to the design DOT showed previously. Image: DOT
  • J

    Why can’t DOT figure out what the rest of the world already knows: curbside and offset bus lanes are ineffective, as people park in them to make right turns, deliveries, drop-offs and pick-ups. It’s bad design. Put the damn bus lanes in the middle and add a mountable curb. Yes it costs a little more, but the greater expensive is more than offset by the actual improvement in speed and reliability from an effective dedicated bus lane.

  • mfs

    The construction for the Jay Street lane was causing a huge backup this morning that led to turning, stuck trucks blocking every entrance to the protected N/B lane. A temporary condition, hopefully? I’m personally skeptical that this design does anything in the actual pain points on Jay Street, but hope that it works out.

    This is such a promising corridor to ban private parking and driving from.

  • MatthewEH

    What’s the official Streetsblog-reader-on-the-street position on cycling in bus lanes, btw?

    My office is now in a building stretching from 22nd Street to 23rd Street (we just moved this weekend from 19th Street). Coming west from the greenway, the best way to approach it is now often 23rd Street, though I switch to 22nd by 7th Ave to get to the service entrance properly. Coming away, the best way to go westbound is clearly 23rd Street, at least from the building to 8th Ave, if not further.

    At least it’s the clear winner in this new world where the outside lane is a bus lane and usually clear.

    I’m always conscientious about whether there are buses in the lane, and I take care not to obstruct them. (Usually, this would mean passing them at a juncture just before they’d pick up some speed; otherwise, I’m just much faster than the buses usually are, often by a factor of 2.) Clearly it’d be a problem if there were Greenway, Kent Ave, or Flushing Ave levels of bike traffic on this road, but there aren’t; just the odd cyclist here and there, including yours truly. Is this morally defensible riding?

    I understand it is ticketable behavior, and I’d certainly take my lumps if I were ticketed for it.

  • Because then you stir up the local idiot goofballs who’d characterise that as making “sitting ducks” out of people waiting for the bus. Those people would only add to the retrograde element that opposes using street space for anything but cars.

    So, my assumption is that curbside placement of a bus lane is an easier (better to call it “less difficult”) sell, as there is one less layer of moron to get through.

  • Is it ticketable? I seem to remember that Mr. Vaccaro once gave his opinon on this; but I don’t remember what it was.

    If we can indeed use bus lanes, that would be a big help not only on 23rd Street, but also on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and on Webster Avenue in the Bronx.

    I was in Baltimore recently, and I was pleased to see that bikes are explicitly allowed to use bus lanes there. And I did this on Lombard Street in the Inner Harbor, with a bus behind me. No aggressive beeping.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Jay Street needs the best design and got the worst.

    A “protected” bike lane with an Access-A-Ride stop IN it?
    http://i.imgur.com/Kq7ntyT.png

    The end of the lane (which is only 2 blocks long) southbound has the worst possible blind, unmarked, narrow transition back to unprotected, at a driveway:
    http://i.imgur.com/qoB3Brb.jpg

  • mfs

    even better, allow only buses and emergency vehicles to travel between the Myrtle tunnel and Willoughby. That would solve most of the space allocation problem while retaining curb loading access for all buildings.

  • busriderz

    How exactly do center running bus lanes fit with ~60′ of roadway?

  • BrandonWC

    I’m quite sure that bikes in bus lanes is technically illegal. Law says no vehicles in bus lane (except to make next right turn or expeditiously drop passsnger). Law also says, absent bike specific provision, bikes are treated like other vehicles. There is no specific provision about bikes in bus lanes.
    As for the greater question of moral acceptability, it’s pretty low down on my personal list of biking sins (as long as you act like MatthewEH and don’t obstruct buses).

  • Joe R.

    http://www.bikenyc.org/question/q-where-should-i-be-riding-when-right-lane-bus-only-lane-bus-lane-left-bus-lane-or-left

    Arguably the “bus only” restriction doesn’t apply to cyclists, only to “vehicles” (which does not include cyclists when it comes to City regulations). But try telling that to the cop who stops you! More importantly, it is often dangerous and unnerving to share a bus lane. It is not uncommon to end up leapfrogging the same bus driver over and over again, inviting aggression. And if you are slower than the bus, you are slowing down a lot of mass transit users who have a reasonable expectation of a dedicated lane. You’re almost always better off on the opposite side of the street from a bus lane.

  • J

    BETWEEN STATIONS
    8′ parking
    10′ travel lane
    12′ bus lane
    12′ bus lane
    10 ‘ general travel lane
    8′ parking

    AT STATIONS
    10′ travel lane
    12′ bus lane
    16′ bus station
    12′ bus lane
    10’ travel lane

  • Riding on the other side of the street is not possible if the street in question is a two-way street, as are 23rd Street, Jamaica Avenue, and Webster Avenue.

    But this is indeed the appropriate strategy on a street with a lot of buses, whether there is a bus lane or not. This is why I ride on the left side of Madison Avenue.

  • J

    Here’s how San Bernadino, CA did it, but they added extra turn lanes, making it 70′, but without the turn lanes it’s 60′.

    NYC has WAY higher bus ridership than San Bernadino, so there’s no excuse for using a crappy design here, when so many more people would benefit.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Yeah but without parking on every frontage that store on the right must certainly have run out of goods to sell and closed. /s

  • So glad they included read paint at the bus stop on Jay street . . CB4 suggested just that for all stops on M23 to prevent loading, and police cars … that is a low cost alternative to the bulb outs ..

  • J

    Sound like a good opportunity for DOT to educate people about best practices.

  • J

    And it’s only at the stations where parking is restricted. Transit stations as pedestrian (read: customer) generators.

  • I’m in favour of that, as opposed to appeasing wackos.

  • NYC Dude

    I’m really excited to see SBS service being implemented on 23rd Street!! I’m a big fan. Now that street marking is nearly complete there is now a big issue with traffic on W 23 and in particular at 7th Ave. I’m sure that DoT anticipated much of this with the reduction of a lane to accommodate the bus-only lane but nonetheless, there are issues that need some immediate attention. Traffic between 8th Avenue and 6th Avenue is almost always bumper to bumper. The real problem is west bound traffic **frequently** ‘locks the box’ at 7th Ave which prohibits some or all lanes from moving. It turns into a mass of honking, non-moving cars that also create a unsafe condition for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

    It would seem that the city needs to do something at least temporarily to address these issues. The city should consider taking action such as: 1) educate drivers approaching 23rd St about the changes, perhaps using those illuminated temporary ’trailer’ signs on 8th, 7th, and 6th Avenues. And 2) enforce the traffic laws at 7th Ave with NYPD to keep traffic moving, avoid the noise and pollution from honking stationary drivers and return the intersection to the already dangerous one it was before.

  • Aron

    That bus stop is the prime location for a bus stop island. Just pour some concrete and voila. The bike path routing is already there.

  • AnoNYC

    The real solution is congestion pricing.

  • AnoNYC

    So what line is up next? BX6 or B82?

  • AnoNYC

    Looks good.

  • AnoNYC

    Looks like no room to double park though. The horror!

  • NYC Dude

    agreed!

  • Andrew

    There is only a right turn lane in your image, no left turn lane. Left turns here are banned. (Allowing left turns across a bus lane in the same direction would require both a dedicated left turn lane and a protected left turn phase. Most New York City signalized intersections have only two phases; adding a third phase cuts into the time given to pedestrians to cross the street.)

    Perhaps to a planner in San Bernardino, this sort of bus stop fit all the textbook guidelines for a good bus stop. But I doubt that planner rides the bus.

    Here’s what I see, as an actual bus rider:

    I see an extremely narrow waiting area, which will quickly fill up during busy periods. If the bus is dropping off a lot of people in addition to picking up a lot of people, there will be conflicts between the groups when the bus arrives, due to the limited space available. (And I pray that two busy buses don’t pull up in opposite directions at the same time!)

    I see a waiting area that offers no shade, except at high noon. (At the time of the Google Street View image, the shelter is casting shade on the southbound lanes, which isn’t helping anyone.) I see a waiting area that provides no effective protection from rain if it is blowing even a little bit to the side. I see a waiting area that offers nowhere for waiting passengers to retreat to to avoid being splashed by passing traffic on rainy days. (At standard sidewalk bus stops, watch where real live bus riders tend wait on sunny or rainy days: it isn’t directly at the curbside if there’s a more comfortable place to wait away from the curb, perhaps beneath a nearby tree or against a building or under a canopy or inside a bodega.)

    I see a bus stop design that requires specialized buses with doors on the left side. If these buses only have doors on the left side, then every single stop on the line needs to have left-side stops, even on parts of the line where there may be no justification for anything fancier than standard sidewalk stops. If they have doors on both sides, that significantly cuts into carrying capacity.

    I see bus stops long enough to hold one bus at a time in each direction. If a second bus approaches while a first bus is still at the stop (perhaps picking up a wheelchair passenger, which takes some time), the second bus has to wait for the first bus to pull out before it can even open its doors. I’m sure that rarely comes up on the San Bernardino Green Line, which runs every 10 minutes at best, but M23 service is a lot more frequent than that.

    I don’t see anything here to discourage illegal driving in the bus lane. But if there were some sort of barrier, it would be difficult or impossible for buses to pass one another. Think back to that wheelchair situation, or to any other situation in which one bus for whatever reason gets delayed for a few minutes and its follower catches up to it. Allowing a second, emptier bus to pass the delayed bus can help to recover from the delay rather than ensuring that the delays cascade further.

    I see a bus stop in the middle of the street, safely reachable from only one end, requiring passengers from all directions to wait for the light to get to and from the bus stop. That applies equally to bus riders needing to transfer to intersecting buses – or even to the parallel 2 and 10 buses, that stop at the curb (incidentally, this means that the 2 and 10 buses can’t benefit from the bus lanes). If there are protected left turn phases to allow general traffic to turn left across the bus lanes, pedestrians will have very little time to cross to and from the bus stop. This adds up to a significant increase in access time for most passengers at both ends of the trip.

    Perhaps you will respond that the savings in travel time on board the bus with the center lane design more than offsets in the increases in access time at both ends, the reduced ability to recover from delays, the congestion and unpleasantness of a narrow boarding island in the middle of the street, etc. And, perhaps, over a 10 or 20 mile bus ride, that might be the case. But we’re discussing the M23. 23rd Street is only two miles long; the average rider is probably on the M23 for under a mile!

    Put the bus stops on the sidewalks, where people are actually going, where people have room to stand and can retreat from the sun, where two buses can pull up at a time. Median bus stops have a place, but 23rd Street isn’t it.

  • J

    Many good points you make. Thanks for taking the time to make them. San Bernardino’s BRT is far from perfect, and I think if they took your advice their system would be even better. They are also good to keep in mind when designing a real center-running BRT in NYC (see below).

    Left turn bans:
    Many BRTs around the world ban left turns, and NYC’s street grid easily accomodates this via 3 right turns. This keeps ped & bus time high, but if your goal is to make a car movement fast, then yeah, it’s worse, but that’s not typically the goal of BRT.

    Narrow waiting area:
    As I mention above, 16′ is well above the minimum of 10′ of internal width recommended by international BRT experts, so it should be ample. If not, longer stations should accommodate extra demand. If demand is really high, then very frequent buses (every 2-3 minutes) are the next step, and if those don’t do the trick, then the city should really consider passing lanes and sub-stations to get capacities similar to a subway. WIth volumes that high, it’d be easy to justify making the street one-way for cars to get the space for passing lanes.

    Shade and comfort:
    Great point! These should certainly be part of a NYC BRT, and could easily be added to a station design. Certainly a well-designed, covered station would be much nicer than a bodega awning.

    Center Stations:
    Fair point. The city could easily use side stations. This is what SF is doing. http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2013/07/vannesslpa.jpg

    Station length:
    Good point. Stations can easily be made longer and should certainly be set back from intersections.

    Bus lane protection:
    Excellent point. Barriers should certainly be a part of an NYC BRT project. Because there is no need to ever drive in the lane, the lanes can be 100% protected, unlike curb lanes and offset lanes.

    Bus Stop in middle of street:
    True that people must cross half the street to reach the bus stop. However, everyone must cross the entire street at least once on a round trip bus trip in curbside lanes or offset lanes. In my configurations they’d cross half the street twice. Is that really much of a difference? Plus, everyone benefits from the ped refuge island!

    I think you raise some really good points, which should definitely be incorporated into a NYC BRT. Thanks!!

  • john

    FUCK CONGESTION PRICING……

  • Richie

    It doesn’t matter, most bicyclists think that they are exempt from all laws, so they do not obey any of them, & NYC lets them get away with it.

  • ChelseaResident

    i agree with this and would like to complaint to DOT. Just need to know the link to do that. The traffic between 6th Ave and 8th Ave has becoming bumper to bumper since they added the bus lane and reducing regular lanes for drivers. The problem starts with at the right turn at 8th Ave. DOT needs to remove some parking spaces from the westbound NE corner on West 23rd Street to allow cars that needs to make the right turn an extra lane.

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