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Eyes on the Street: Third Avenue Bus Island Nears Completion

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller
Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller
Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians and bus riders at one of the most dangerous intersections in Midtown now have a bit more breathing room. Work on a block-long pedestrian island on Third Avenue is complete, providing space for pedestrians between drivers turning right onto 57th Street and traffic heading uptown. It also includes a new bus stop and shelter [PDF].

The intersection, crammed with crosstown traffic and cars heading to the free Queensboro Bridge, ranks low for pedestrian safety. There were 39 pedestrian injuries and one death there from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. Itself a Vision Zero priority intersection, the crossing sits at the juncture of two priority corridors.

The new Third Avenue pedestrian island, viewed from 56th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

The pedestrian island runs the entire block between 56th and 57th streets and features a new bus stop and shelter for the M101, M102, and M103 buses. Previously, buses did not stop at all between 55th and 60th streets. The design is similar to other bus boarding islands in New York, including on both Gun Hill Road and Edward L. Grant Highway in the Bronx [PDF].

The Third Avenue curbside bus lane between 36th and 55th streets, which handles 59,000 local bus riders each day, was frequently blocked by trucks making deliveries. Last fall, DOT installed curbside parking and loading zones and moved the buses into a dedicated lane offset from curbside parking [PDF].

The evolution of Third Avenue at 57th Street. Images: DOT
The evolution of Third Avenue at 57th Street. Images: DOT
The evolution of Third Avenue at 57th Street. Images: DOT

An earlier version of the plan extended the bus lane from 55th Street to 57th Street but shortened the pedestrian island. The final version maintains a block-long island and gives buses exiting the lane a head start on cars at the 55th Street stop light. The project also includes turn bans and leading pedestrian intervals at 57th Street to give pedestrians a head start on drivers making turns through the crosswalk.

A visit to the intersection on Friday showed work wrapping up. DOT says that while changes to traffic signals are still underway, work on the bus shelter was scheduled to be completed Saturday and bus service at the new bus stop begins today.

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