Planning the Next Phase of Select Bus Service

Ready for some positive transit news? Flush with the success of the inaugural route on Fordham Road in the Bronx, DOT and New York City Transit are looking ahead to the expansion of Select Bus Service.

A new report, "Introduction to Bus Rapid Transit Phase II" [PDF], lays out the basics of New York-style BRT, and announces plans to conduct seven "Phase II" workshops throughout the boroughs. The workshops are designed to educate the public on Select Bus Service and glean feedback on neighborhood transit needs. Underserved areas and overburdened transit routes are identified in the report, as are potential next-phase SBS routes, mapped for each borough. This summer eight to 10 routes will be selected for "further development," with additional input gathering scheduled for the fall. The above video and an SBS web page are also part of the outreach effort.

The report describes potential changes and improvements to SBS, including "smart card" payment, low-floor buses, offset lanes (with parking to the right), and center-lane boarding. Physically separated bus lanes are also a possibility, according to the report, which would ease reliance on NYPD, "soft barriers" like Botts’ dots, and Albany-dependent camera technology.

As for SBS Phase I, the next route is planned for Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues, with service to begin next year.

  • Miguel Marcos

    In Madrid the city uses camera-equipped Smart cars to capture license plates of cars illegally using the bus lane. Here’s one of them:

  • I’m all for better bus service but can we not call it a “surface subway.” It’s not. It’s a bus. I’d prefer streetcars or some kind of light rail. However, this is America, so we get a half-assed solution involving red paint. If you’re going to do it, at least do it right with some kind of curb or bollard separation. Make transportation improvements do double duty as street improvements.

    More like this please:


  • I agree, Dan. Bus improvements can sell themselves without pretending to be subways. But the rendering on page 49 (Woodhaven Boulevard?) looks a little like the Paris tramway picture you linked to – minus the very wide sidewalks.

  • Rhywun

    Yeah, “subway on the surface” is a regrettable phrase, but… I like the overall tone of realism. And I really like the attention paid to crosstown routes, both in Manhattan and outer boroughs. Overall, I think this is great.

  • It looks like I’m in the minority, but I prefer the “subway on the surface” terminology. It would be great if we could turn all SBS routes into streetcars and subways, but that’s not always feasible. Given the choice, I’d rather have 10 new SBS routes than 1 new subway being completed at a glacial pace.

    If anything, I’d take it a step further. I’d like to see SBS routes on the subway maps, perhaps even with traditional subway number/lettering. There are so many people out there living in subway dependent neighborhoods who don’t consider buses a viable alternative (honestly, I’m glad my middle/high school days of depending exclusively on them are over). This could only encourage bus usage by the subway set IMHO.

  • Also, how did they manage to get a picture of absolutely no cars on Fordham road on the SBS webpage? It looks great when it’s not choked in gridlock!

  • Charley,

    I think you’re presenting a false choice between very expensive subway construction and ad-hoc bus networks. Realistically though light rail or streetcars provide more capacity and the cost is somewhere in-between. Current subway construction is more expensive because the MTA collected bids during an unsual period when construction costs increased dramatically. I’m sure there are other issues involved but plenty of places seem to be able to build subways for costs that don’t get near the SAS.

    However, I do agree that using the visual language of heavy rail on maps will do a lot to make people feel like SBS is not a secondary form of mass transit.

    I’ve never really understood why there isn’t a greater desire to build surface rapid transit in NYC. It would really change tons of neighborhoods. Imagine a waterfront line from Bay Ridge, to Redhook and Greenpoint. those neighborhoods are undeserved by transit and already experiencing tons of new residents and development.

  • I doubt that they would roll out smart card payment tech, since the MTA recently delayed the introduction of smart cards by another 3 years…but would nonetheless be a great way to start off on a small scale!

  • The “subway on the surface” expression is dishonest, and it’s also completely unnecessary. This is not some Southern city where the average person thinks that only the insane, the homeless and the mentally disabled ride the bus. This is New York. We don’t have to trick people into riding the bus here.

    Please, just give us the bus improvements already and stop bullshitting.

  • Outside America, the only town I’m aware of that puts buses on its rapid rail map is Lyons (France)–and even those are trolley buses. I would only support it here if the route was permanent, which involves removing lanes of traffic, building barriers, etc.–and at that point, you might as well just build the darn rails already.

  • I pretty much agree with you guys, and I don’t see it as a choice between SBS and light rail and subways either (at least in the medium to long term).

    It’s more of a step in the right direction. Right now BRT has momentum. I say go with it, and try to make these buses as subway-like as possible, and hype that fact. The next logical step would be “well, why don’t we just put rails down”. I don’t see BRT as a final choice… just the best choice right now for more positive change in the future.

    The only real light rail expansion into NYC I’ve heard of is an expansion of the Hudson Bergen light rail into Staten Island. Meaning, the expansion of an existing system. We can look at a street with meager bus service and have the foresight to see how much better it would be with light rail, but it’s just too much of a leap in thought for lots of people. I think there’s a tendency to just brush off something like light rail now as too big or too different to even seriously consider.

    Also, Cap, while I’ve never lived in a city where there is such a stigma against buses, there definitely is a bias here! I think it helps to create a “new class” of buses, rather than just view it all as bus improvements. Anecdotally, having the SBS route in place on the BX12 has definitely increased my propensity to ride it. While the travel time improved vs the BX12 limited, it didn’t improve by that much IMO. The fact that it is a new kind of bus service changed its perception more for me than the improvement in travel time.

  • Peter Smith

    they need to just make all buses free — forget all the voodoo with costly ticketing systems and hiring fare inspectors and forcing riders to suffer the indignities of fare checks as well as having to pay anything at all for bus service.

  • Woody

    Not terribly impressive. We can only hope that Ms Sadik-Khan made this video before getting the signal from Ray LaHood that after 8 long years of transit hell, it is now ok to speak of streetcars again .

    These BRT proposals always start out full of promise, and then the politicians start to add water to the soup. By the time we get served, it’s a thin gruel consisting mostly of transit signal priority — which I’m sure we can all support. — and a lot of paint.

    And what else? Those terra cotta colored lanes. Isn’t that where I ride my bike on 42nd St, where there are no bike lanes? Then still I have to avoid cars and vans camped out in the terra cotta lane.

    For this video they were able to find some fit riders to show boarding the bus. No one really, really fat, or arthritic, or struggling with a baby carriage, a brood of brats, or a shopping cart. These buses, unlike modern trams, ride well above the pavement. So STEP up, please. If everyone wants to just walk on board, they’ll need to make it rail to fix the car at the right height and distance every time.

    Oh, and a young woman mentioned that these buses are clean. That certainly does make them special. The fancy paint job, less so.

    If you really want to tell the world that this is something special, you’ll need rail again. The sleek, Euro-style, low-floor trams going into service in dozens of cities around the world look positively FUTURISTIC — to use a word dating me to the middle of the past century. They make a statement.

    Well, it’s hard to oppose anything that could improve bus service in this city. Except that I do oppose settling for second rate when we could do so much better.


Final BRT Phase II Workshops This Week

Photo: Brad Aaron Tonight and Thursday, DOT and New York City Transit will conduct the last of their spring and summer Bus Rapid Transit Phase II workshops. The workshops are intended to allow DOT and NYCT to educate the public on Select Bus Service, and gather feedback on neighborhood transit needs, as the agencies plan […]

Take the Bus Rapid Transit Online Survey

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MTA Maps a Five-Borough Network for Select Bus Service

At a press event yesterday to announce service restorations and upgrades, the MTA also went public with a citywide plan to expand Select Bus Service. With tunnel-boring mega-projects consuming billions of capital dollars apiece, the agency is featuring low-cost bus improvements more prominently in its strategy to increase transit capacity. Stephen Smith at the Observer reports: […]

The Bronx Gets Its Second Select Bus Service Route

Yesterday marked the launch of Select Bus Service on Webster Avenue, speeding transit trips on a critical north-south corridor that lacks convenient subway access. To keep buses in motion, NYC DOT and the MTA upgraded the Bx41 route with dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid fare collection, and all-door boarding. Bus bulbs will be constructed at SBS […]