New Refuge Islands for Bronx Pedestrians & Bus Riders


Streetsblog reader Ed Ravin sends along a photo of a new pedestrian refuge island that has recently emerged beneath an elevated subway platform in the Bronx. While the new sidewalks make bus riders’ lives a bit easier (and, perhaps, longer-lasting), Ed also has some ideas for additional improvements. He writes:

Bus passengers on streets under elevated subways have long suffered with the paradox of a bus stop that is one lane into the roadway. If you want to be seen by the bus driver, you need to stand in the middle of the asphalt next to an el pillar, while cars and trucks pass in front of you in the main travel lane and occasionally behind you in the curbside lane.

The "el-pillar bus stop" is the norm for major Bronx arteries like Broadway and Jerome Ave that run under the el, with an occasional exception like the temporary sidewalk extension at Jerome Ave and Fordham Road installed several years ago.

But perhaps as part of a PlaNYC initiative, recent construction in the Bronx is creating at least three safer versions of the "el-pillar bus stop." The photo above shows Broadway and West 238th St under the #1 line where new concrete islands are being built to give bus riders a safe place to wait. Similar construction is underway at Broadway and West 231st Street, and at Jerome Avenue and Mosholu Parkway (where renovations at the #4 line station will also re-open the southern subway entrance for the first time since its abandonment 30 years ago, putting subway riders a block closer to a heavily-used bus stop).

Though these islands are a big improvement, one has to wonder about the DOT’s thought processes. The newly built island on the northbound side of Broadway at 238th Street has an interesting mid-island pedestrian ramp, but it’s sure to get blocked by parked cars if that little curbside lane stays open to vehicular traffic. On the other hand, maybe the DOT is thinking of relocating the crosswalk to that spot, as the current crosswalk leaves people in the middle of an empty sea of asphalt on the west side of Broadway, defended only by a bunch of thermoplastic stripes and splatters of pigeon droppings.

  • Steve

    The other benefit of these is that they prevent motorists from changing lanes mid-block which can be extremely dangerous under an el. Removing the cars from the “outer” lanes is a great idea. Maybe devote the outer lanes to vendors, pedestrians and/or bicycles.

  • Hilary

    I’m curious how cars access parking along the sidewalks now. Or has that been eliminated?

  • mfs

    In a similar vein, I’ve wondered about the space between the new bus stop platforms on Broadway and the sidewalk. Why the fence? Why the gap?

  • anon

    mfs – because of drainage. water in the gutter needs to go somewhere, and depending on the topography (which way the water flows to get to a catch basin) if you extend the sidewalk it will cause pooling. this is one reason neckdowns and other curb extensions are much more complex propositions than adding any kind of median or island.

  • anon

    oh, and, the fence is b/c given that you “need” the trench there for the water (they didn’t want to cover the trench with some kind of covering b/c garbage eventually clogs it and someone needs to keep the covered trench clean, i guess), they had to put a fence so people wouldn’t trip on the trench and sue the city.

  • Hilary

    So what goes on in the “trench” area? It isn’t wide enough for vehicles, is it? Are people supposed to walk in it? Push carts?

  • Chris H

    I’m wondering if the MTA could do something like this to improve the area under the els.

  • Ed Ravin

    Hilary, the curbside of Broadway in the photo above has parking meters on the right – one was even in the original photo but it was cropped out. I presume DoT will remove the meters as part of the final rehab.

    The new lane between the curb and the island is wide enough for vehicles, I’m told it’s standard DoT policy to always make these lanes (such as the new 9th ave separated bike lane) wide enough for a streetsweeper or other maintenance vehicle.

  • mfs

    Thanks 5:47/5:49. It seems that either running a pipe w/ an opening covered by wire mesh, a removable metal plate, or regrading the uphill side of the sidewalk would all do the same trick and save some ironwork in the process.


DOT Chooses Least Ambitious Option For 181st Street Makeover

With five bus lines, two subway stops, a busy commercial strip, the only entrance to the Hudson River Greenway for blocks, and major bridge crossings at both ends of the street, Washington Heights’ 181st Street is a tangle of cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians. For years, DOT has been looking to redesign the corridor entirely, […]

Hylan Boulevard SBS Will Speed Bus Rides Starting in September

New York City’s fourth Select Bus Service route will travel down Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard as soon as this September. The improvements are expected to speed travel times by 20 percent along the island’s second-busiest route, according to a report by the MTA [PDF]. As on existing SBS routes, the Hylan service will make fewer […]

PlaNYC Quietly Introduces “Safe Routes to Transit”

  As New Yorkers well know, sidewalks around subway stops and major transit hubs are often intensely crowded. Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC team is aware of this and buried on page 48 of the Technical Report supplementing PlaNYC’s transportation recommendations is a new program called "Safe Routes to Transit" (SR2T). While the attention to pedestrian issues […]

Is Walking PlaNYC’s Missing Mode?

  "Transportation has always been the key to unlocking New York’s potential." So begins the PlaNYC chapter on transportation, which for 26 pages lays out how the city can better meet the mobility needs of its existing population, plus an expected additional one million new residents, by 2030. While the document offers tantalizing details on […]

Select Bus Service Launches This Sunday on Staten Island

Select Bus Service begins on Hylan Boulevard this Sunday, aiming to speed bus rides by 15 minutes between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and the Staten Island Mall, cutting trip times by 20 percent on Staten Island’s second-busiest bus corridor. Mayor Bloomberg, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota marked the occasion at a press […]