COMMUTE’s BRT Plan: A Denser Network and Interborough Lines

COMMUTE’s proposals for BRT routes in the five boroughs, shown next to DOT’s current plan. View an enlarged version.

As part of its "Sustainability Watch" series this week, Gotham Gazette ran a great piece on Bus Rapid Transit by Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development. Byron is one of the organizers at COMMUTE (Communities United for Transportation Equity), a coalition of community groups that has advocated for congestion pricing and BRT as means to address inequities in transit access. Now that pricing is on hold at best, Byron argues that there’s even more reason to allocate funds to a cost-effective BRT network:

With both the one-time shot of federal funding and the projected $500
million per year in net revenues from congestion pricing off the table
for the moment, BRT may be more important than ever. The MTA Capital
Plan has, in words of Straphangers Campaign
spokesman Gene Russianoff, "more hole than plan," with less than $12
billion of a five-year, $29 billion shopping list accounted for. As the
rail and subway projects envisioned in that plan recede into the
future, BRT makes more sense than ever. It will not prevent us from
building light rail or subways in the future, but for now it makes
intelligent use of the infrastructure we already have — our streets.

After applauding the roll-out of Select Bus Service in the Bronx, Byron suggests a few ways BRT plans can be pushed further:

The pilot program confined each route to its respective borough, so
that the Rogers Avenue/Nostrand Avenue route in Brooklyn would serve a
dense and underserved slice of East Flatbush, Crown Heights and
Bushwick – but then dump passengers at Williamsburg Bridge plaza,
presumably to elbow their way onto already full J, M and Z trains to
get into Manhattan. Since the transportation department is already
planning to put a dedicated bus lane on the Williamsburg Bridge, it
would be logical to connect the Brooklyn BRT route to the also-planned
First/Second Avenue BRT.

And, if you want another reason to run Sheldon Silver out of Albany, here it is:

Though dedicating lanes to buses presents a political challenge, BRT
complements plans to reduce car use by making more efficient use of
street space. There are a number of ways to ensure that the lanes are
used by buses and buses alone. The lanes can be physically protected,
but license plate cameras on the buses themselves are a more elegant
solution — letting the buses themselves nab the drivers who infringe
on their space. However, enforcement cameras face an uncertain fate in
the state legislature, where Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has thus
far resisted pressure to authorize additional red-light cameras in the

Image: Pratt Center / Gotham Gazette

  • taylor

    the line through astoria seems a bit redundant with the NW directly overhead, and it’s pretty hard to dedicated 2 lanes to buses and build loading platforms on 2-lane neighborhood roads. but BRT lanes from the Astoria Blvd station to LGA would be wonderful. the current M60 situation is pretty terrible.

  • taylor

    the line through astoria seems a bit redundant with the NW directly overhead, and it will be more than a bit difficult to dedicate 2 lanes to buses on 2-lane neighborhood like those in astoria. BRT would work on northern or queens blvd, but not so much on 31st street or broadway in astoria. but BRT lanes from the triborough through the astoria blvd station and on to LGA would be wonderful, as the current M60 sitution is pretty much useless.

  • Josh

    Those lines from Marine Park, Flatlands and Sheepshead Bay could be quite a boon to areas that are currently underserved by transit.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The capital costs may be small, but the operating costs would be huge — and offset by cuts in transit or fare increases elsewhere.

    All in all, I prefer bicycles, which are cheaper. That’s our public service future — bicycles, home schooling, folk remedies for illness — and high taxes.

  • Taylor – Don’t forget that BRT can service the elderly and disabled much better than the elevated lines that are up a lot of stairs.

    But 31st Steet is probably not the ideal place. How about Crescent St. It is basically a two lane highway with a straight entry onto the bridge.

    Making the M60 a BRT is a no-brainer. It would make using mass transit to LGA much more feasible.

  • Josh

    I’m starting to think that “Larry Littlefield” isn’t actually a human being but rather a computer that’s programmed to repeat the same messages in response to recognized keywords.

  • JK

    Wouldn’t it be cool to take revenue from bus lane enforcement cameras and use it to subsidize BRT or other bus operations? Total parking tickets are around $580 mil a year. So bus cams would eventually pull at least $50 million annually. Nah, this is New York. That would never work.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    As long as we are drawing lines on the map why not draw the Flatbush Ave. line across the Marine Parkway Bridge into the Rockaways? Or is Kings Plaza close enough?

    Three lines on the Commute map through Lew Fidler district. Looks like he gets his cake and eats it too.

  • This BRT plan is a good effort, but there are some difficulties with it. It took me a while to pin down exactly what those were. I hope they can work them out.

  • uSkyscraper

    More doors are as critical as the route itself — make sure to use 3 doors on regular buses and four sets of doors on articulated buses.

  • harold

    This is ok as far as it goes but there are no routes from Brooklyn to Queens or from, say, Bay Ridge to Brooklyn College!! How can this be?? People desperately need transportation within the outer boroughs.


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