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MTA Maps a Five-Borough Network for Select Bus Service

Present and planned Select Bus Service routes, mapped with subway lines. ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/sbs.png##Click## for full-size. Image: MTA via Observer

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 Second Avenue subway was featured prominently, but one board member conceded that it’s “simply not possible to build more lines and have them during someone’s commuting lifetime” (a depressing admission of defeat for an agency beset by gargantuan construction cost premiums over peer cities like London, Tokyo and Paris), pivoting to the MTA’s transit expansion strategy while we wait for funding on the rest of the Second Avenue line: Select Bus Service.

While the routes that the MTA displayed yesterday are, for the most part, the same as the "phase two" corridors unveiled in 2009, it's unusual for the agency to put itself front and center when the subject turns to bus improvements -- a topic typically handled in conjunction with NYC DOT. With uncertainty about the direction DOT will take when City Hall changes hands, it's good to see the MTA making a highly visible commitment to SBS.

The new SBS map shows additional corridors along with existing SBS routes and subway lines, for a more complete picture of how the enhanced bus network integrates with rail.

While SBS on 125th Street recently suffered a major setback, the existing routes have demonstrated the effectiveness of dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding, and other steps to speed up buses. Routes on Fordham Road in the Bronx and First and Second Avenues in Manhattan have cut travel times, and according to the Straphangers Campaign have seen ridership grow by 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The Bronx got its second SBS line, on Webster Avenue, in June. Brooklyn is slated to get its first SBS route, an upgraded B44 on the Nostrand Avenue corridor, later this year.

We may soon have a better idea of how the MTA plans to move forward with SBS. A press release from Governor Cuomo's office yesterday said that SBS "will be established on a new route to be determined." And tomorrow, the MTA Board is set to discuss the agency's next five-year capital program, which will presumably set aside funding for SBS projects.

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