The Top 10 Bus Corridors Where DOT Should Make Streets Work For Transit

Targeted bus lanes can speed up service in congested areas. Photo: NYC DOT
Targeted bus lanes can speed up service in congested areas. Photo: NYC DOT

New York City bus service is the slowest in the nation and riders are abandoning the bus in droves, even as the city’s population steadily increases. To win people back over to the bus, the advocates at the Bus Turnaround Coalition have pinpointed 10 high-priority bus corridors where DOT should make service faster and more reliable.

DOT doesn’t run buses (the MTA does), but it controls the streets. The agency has a powerful toolkit to prioritize surface transit, including dedicated bus lanes, “queue jumps” that give buses a head start at busy intersections, traffic signals that hold green lights for buses, and sidewalk extensions that enable bus drivers to pick up passengers without pulling in and out of traffic.

The ten corridors identified by the Bus Turnaround Coalition have high ridership — together they carry 250,000 weekday passengers, or about 10 percent of all bus riders in the city. They’re also the routes that get slowed down the most during rush hour, when more people need to use them.

The B41, for example, which connects Downtown Brooklyn to Marine Park via Flatbush Avenue, has seen a 20 percent decline in ridership since 2010. There the coalition recommends targeted improvements around Cadman Plaza and south of Prospect Park on Flatbush Avenue.

On the Q58, a major route in central Queens with a daily ridership of almost 30,000, the coalition says the city could improve bus speeds at bottlenecks in Corona and Elmhurst with queue jumps.

The Bx19, which runs between Harlem and the Bronx, made the Bus Turnaround Coalition's list of ten routes for DOT to prioritize improving this year. Image: NYC Bus Turnaround
The Bx19, which runs between Harlem and the Bronx, isn’t working well for thousands of daily riders. Image: NYC Bus Turnaround

The coalition also singles out the Bx19, Bx9, and Bx28 and Bx38 (especially on Gunhill Road); the M57 and M31 on 57th Street and the M101; the B35; the S48 and S98 on Victory Boulevard and Forest Avenue; and three lines that run along 21st Street in Long Island City.

Last summer the coalition released recommendations for the MTA and DOT to improve bus speeds and reliability citywide. So far, MTA officials have not been receptive to the campaign, while NYC DOT has shown more interest.

DOT’s “Mobility Report,” released in June, used BusTime data to pinpoint street segments across the city where buses are slowest, and DOT Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Management & Planning Ryan Russo told Streetsblog the agency had to “lean in even further” on the Select Bus Service program.

The MTA declined to respond to AM New York’s request for comment on the Bus Turnaround Coalition’s list of high-priority routes, deferring to DOT. A DOT spokesperson said the agency will work “with… the MTA and with local communities to improve bus service citywide,” including “bringing SBS-like treatments such as all-door boarding to all bus lines.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Flatbush Avenue is also one of the only two through truck routes in Brooklyn. And it narrows to nothing in the former village thereof. I really don’t see what can be done there, aside from perhaps banning private motor vehicles altogether. But where would they go?

  • I doubt Flatbush and Church will get bus lanes any time soon…the city seems allergic to lanes on any two-way streets that are narrower than six lanes. Proof-of-payment, stop consolidation and bulb-outs, on the other hand, are eminently doable. This is one reason I don’t like SBS’s all-or-nothing approach (except on 86th St.) – if there aren’t room for politically palatable lanes, riders are shit out of luck and get nothing.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Even at its narrowest Flatbush is pretty wide. I don’t know how peaky the traffic volumes are but if there really isn’t room for a full busway a single reversible BRT lane should at least be considered.

  • kevd

    Flatbush is never narrower than 5 lanes. (2 for parking, in most places)

  • Urbanely

    Something I’d like to see is some coordination of buses and trains, for buses that pick up at or near train stations. When I lived in Canarsie I used to ride the L train from Rockaway Parkway. That was also a bus terminal, but you could count o the fact that as soon as the train pulled in to the station, at least one bus would take off, mostly empty and leave a crowd of people waiting for the next one, which would then be too crowded. In my you get days I used to race the bus to the next stop because there were two traffic lights between the stops, but not everyone could do that, and they shouldn’t have to.

  • AnoNYC

    My Bronx observations.

    Improving the Bx19 would reduce crowding on the 2 and 5 subway lines through much of the Bronx.

    The Bx19 is always stuck in traffic, experiences slow boarding, and must deal with several intersections. Both E 149th St and Southern Blvd should have bus lanes. The entire route should have priority at intersections (accept at E 163rd St, where the Bx6 should have priority if they meet since there is no crosstown subway parallel). This would also be a great line to test elevated bus platforms.

    The Bx6 is getting SBS this Spring and the Bx36 should also be considered.

  • com63

    Every major crosstown street in Manhattan should have bus lanes, off-board fare collection and right turn bans across the bus lane.

  • Vooch

    larry,

    these private drivers would likely change their mode

  • Vooch

    every arterial in the entire city should have your items

  • Great points, but tough to put bus lanes on Southern Blvd underneath the elevated, where it’s basically one moving lane in each direction. The obvious answer is to get rid of parking, but good luck waving that fairy wand.

    The Bx36 route in my opinion has too many turns to make a good SBS route as the turns (University, Webster, Boston Rd, West Farms) reduce actual east-west moving time. Suggest instead a route that follows the Bx36 west from Soundview to Hugh Grant Circle, then follows Cross-Bronx Expy Service Road to Rosedale Ave and takes the highway right to the Washington Bridge and onto West 181st St for connections with the 1 and A trains. Then the Bx40/42 can be tweaked so that one version stays on Tremont to University and winds up on West 181st St.

  • AnoNYC

    In a perfect world, those streets under the elevated tracks would be dedicated to buses. Maybe not bus lanes under the elevated track section right now, but definitely other SBS features. There should definitely be a bus only lane on Southern Blvd between Westchester Ave and Hunts Point Ave at the minimum. A queue jump for soutbound buses north of Westchester Ave, and northbound buses south of Hunts Point Ave. I would suggest one near the Hub as well, perhaps the entirety of E 149th St.

    You could add off-board payment, queue jumps, traffic light priority, and reduce the number of stops along the Bx36 route to start.

  • Some Asshole

    Yep. One would pull out of the gate, then sit waiting to turn onto Rockaway, where some folks would come aboard. That made it sit long enough that it often then sat at Glenwood or Conklin. Sometimes, it took five minutes or more just to get to Flatlands.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Or sending the trucks through Ocean Parkway. The idea of using a heavily frequented area as a through truck route is terrible anyway. And if super wide roads like Ocean Parkway aren’t for through traffic, why do they exist?

    Also Flatbush just leads to Rockaway anyway, it’s hard to see it as a crucial freight corridor.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • Johnathan Boev יונתן בוייב

    I like you all-or-nothing approach.

  • Johnathan Boev יונתן בוייב

    Improving the bus speed will not necessarily help mobility. Having dozen ‘fast’ bus routs is not enough to improve bus services. The improvement will come in combination of frequency=reliability, speed and seamless = transferring or connection. On each topic a book could be written.

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