Bus Lanes Coming to 125th Street in West Harlem This Summer

West of Lenox Avenue, there are no bus lanes on 125th Street. DOT plans to change that this summer. Photo: josepha/Flickr

Bus riders may not be stuck in crosstown traffic on 125th Street much longer. DOT plans to extend bus lanes from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue this summer [PDF].

The news came last night at a meeting of the Community Board 9 transportation committee. “As far as CB 9 is concerned,” said board chair Rev. Georgette Morgan-Thomas, “I didn’t hear anything that made me think that we should not support the plan.”

Bus lanes on 125th have been held in check by years of political wrangling. But Council Member Mark Levine campaigned on moving forward with them, and his election in 2013 was a breakthrough for the project.

“I think we have great local support and a great need,” Levine said last night, adding that buses “crawl” once the bus lane disappears in West Harlem. “It’s just a great win for people in the community.”

On the section of 125th Street that already has camera-enforced bus lanes and off-board fare collection, the changes have worked wonders for bus riders. The M60 is now 32 to 34 percent faster between Lenox and Second Avenue. Local buses have also sped up between 7 and 20 percent in the bus lanes.

Meanwhile, local buses in West Harlem, which doesn’t yet have bus lanes, have actually slowed slightly between Lenox and Amsterdam Avenues, said Robert Thompson, the MTA’s manager of long-range bus service planning.

While they’ve sped up buses, the new bus lanes haven’t affected car traffic. GPS data from taxis show that eastbound driving trips on 125th are generally faster, while westbound trips have either slowed slightly or not seen any change, according to DOT.

In addition to extending the bus lanes west, DOT is proposing left turn restrictions from 125th Street to Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards. Left turns are particularly dangerous for pedestrians, DOT said. Both 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard are Vision Zero priority corridors, meaning they have high pedestrian injury rates.

When it first proposed West Harlem bus lanes in 2013, DOT also planned left turn restrictions at St. Nicholas Avenue, but those were dropped in response to opposition from community board members and elected officials. “We didn’t think that one was as important from a safety perspective,” said DOT project manager Aaron Sugiura.

One bus improvement that’s still in the study phase for 125th Street is transit signal priority, which adds transponders to buses and traffic lights to give transit more green signals. DOT is looking to add the technology between Amsterdam and Second Avenues.

“That’s generally a little more challenging on crosstown streets, because you have the avenues that we prioritize for moving traffic,” Sugiura said. “It would apply to the M60 bus, at least initially. The eventual goal is that it would apply to all of the routes that are on 125th.”

There’s also another step in the public process for extending the bus lanes: presenting to Community Board 10, which covers the area between Fifth and St. Nicholas Avenues. The board is notoriously hostile to bus lanes, bike lanes, plazas, and traffic calming.

Before going to CB 9 last night, DOT and MTA presented the plan to community board leadership and elected officials from central and West Harlem yesterday morning. “Board 10 is still concerned,” Morgan-Thomas said. “There’s still things they’re concerned about.”

In February, CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle told Streetsblog that the bus lanes have slowed her cab rides to the subway and disputed Census statistics showing that three-quarters of Harlem households are car-free.

Council Member Inez Dickens and State Senator Bill Perkins, whose districts overlap with CB 10 in central Harlem, have also criticized Select Bus Service. Their opposition stifled the project two years ago before it was revived.

The agencies will present the plan to the CB 10 transportation committee on April 14.

  • Moncada’s Codpiece

    How might this affect the drive time to Vermont? Won’t someone please think of the cars first?


  • AnoNYC

    About time. Disgraceful that it was held up at all.

  • Tyson White

    Shit! How will I get to Vermont on the weekends?

  • millerstephen

    To be fair to Ted Kovaleff, he supported the bus lanes and asked the MTA why it couldn’t install pay-before-boarding machines for all buses along 125th Street, not just the M60.

  • Ignatz

    If they’re going to put machines at bus stops, how about metrocard machines, so you don’t have to go to a subway when your card runs out?

  • Ignatz

    We’ll see if it works. It might, but a bus lane on a street where there’s a lot of double parking can get real ugly real fast. The problem is that if it doesn’t, they won’t undo it, because they never do.

    They still have the bus lanes on 34th St, and those are a DISASTER. They’ve turned a major crosstown artery into a one-lane road with no left turns. If you want to get from 34th St. to 35th St., you have to drive halfway across Manhattan, turn around and come back. Which can take an hour.

    It would also be nice if they brought back the lane on Broadway between 96th and 103rd. They seem to have simply roped off and painted out a lane for no reason whatsoever,

  • AnoNYC

    I think the MTA is avoiding that since the MetroCard is on the way out.

  • AnoNYC

    Is the 125th St corridor camera enforced? I can’t remember. People learn quick when they start getting hit with tickets and the word spreads.

    I disagree about 34th St and Broadway. 34th St has always been a hassle to drive along (I generally avoid driving within Manhattan especially). The bus lane speeds up the buses which is more important along that corridor.

    As for Broadway, it doesn’t need another lane. Traffic already moves more than fast enough between lights and heavily congested hours are going to be heavily congested no matter how many lanes. The city is oversaturated with automotive traffic as a whole.

  • Moncada’s Codpiece

    Fine, we’ll be fair. Loud audible sigh. If it’s not that from that person, though, it’s something else. Status quo is powerful.

  • Ignatz

    Really? I hadn’t heard that. To be replaced with what?

  • millerstephen

    Yes, the 125th Street lane is camera-enforced, which is a big part of it success. In areas where there is no bus lane, double parking is a big contributor to congestion.

  • dimdimbaby

    The stretch of road that we’re talking about across 125th is really a short stretch of road. Most of the time traffic is not congested and it moves across fine. The speed limit is now 25 MPH so traffic is not going to be zipping across town anyway. Putting the bus lanes from Morningside to Lenox is going to slow traffic down more than what it is. The people weighing in on this don’t frequent 125th Street often enough to make valid comments. When there is heavy traffic and rush hour hits there is nothing you can do. What the hell. New York is over crowded and it’s infrastructure is old. During rush hour everything is slowed down because the infrastructure can’t handle speed. The roads are always bad. The train tracks always need repair. The city and state are corrupt. There is so much greed and egos are too inflated for rationale decisions to be made. All of this money and much to do for a stretch of road that from its inception was made for crawling traffic so to speak. The nature of 125th street wasn’t made for riding fast. But I believe this is really about a few impatient folks just wanting to get across the hood part of Harlem quicker. But all of this 30% faster sh_t is a bunch of BS. I’m on the street everyday. The people most affected will be CB 10. Yet everybody weighing in doesn’t live in CB 10. CB 11 and CB 9 should be worried about developers trying to develop against the zoning. It’s funny how certain politicians don’t know about that kind of stuff happening. But they are getting ready to get called out.

  • Ian Turner

    A disaster for drivers maybe. Let’s not forget very few users of 34th st are driving.


  • AnoNYC

    A contactless payment system of some sort. Could be an NFC based solution.

  • gustaajedrez

    The problem with that is what do you do for the portions away from 125th Street? Do you have the farebox spit out a receipt for those who pay along say, Amsterdam Avenue so they can use it along 125th?


Harlem Bus Lane Foes: Good Streets for Bus Riders “Trampling Our Liberties”

Community board meetings in central Harlem have officially gone off the deep end. A DOT plan to extend bus lanes and add turn restrictions on 125th Street was shouted down last night by the same hecklers who have filibustered street safety improvements at Community Board 10 for years. Noticeably absent from last night’s meeting: People who ride the bus on 125th Street. […]

Eyes on the Street: West 125th Street Gets Its Bus Lanes

It’s finally happening. More than a year after bus lanes were installed on 125th Street east of Lenox Avenue, the first signs have appeared that DOT will soon be painting red bus-only lanes in West Harlem. The first round of camera-enforced bus lanes, from Lenox to Second Avenue, have helped speed local buses on 125th Street between 7 and […]