Rafael Salamanca and Bronx Pols Pressure DOT to Scrap Bus Lanes for Bx6

The bus route serves 24,000 daily trips in an area where 76 percent of households don't own cars, but Salamanca, Marcos Crespo, Ruben Diaz Sr., and Jeff Klein are only concerned about car traffic.

Council Member Rafael Salamanca, State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Assembly Marcos Crespo (left to right), along with Senator Jeff Klein, want DOT to keep bus riders stuck in traffic. Photo: NYS Assembly/Office of Assembly Member Marcos Crespo
Council Member Rafael Salamanca, State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Assembly Marcos Crespo (left to right), along with Senator Jeff Klein, want DOT to keep bus riders stuck in traffic. Photo: NYS Assembly/Office of Assembly Member Marcos Crespo

Sometimes elected officials say they want better bus service, but when they have to actually stick up for riders, they wilt.

Last July, newly-elected Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca signed onto the Bus Turnaround Coalition’s call for citywide bus improvements. Chief among the recommendations is the expansion of bus lanes throughout the city.

“Residents deserve safe, fast and reliable bus service, notably in areas that are not serviced by the subway system such as the Lafayette-Boynton area of Soundview in my district,” Salamanca said in a statement at the time [PDF].

A year later, the city is delivering what Salamanca asked for with Bx6 Select Bus Service, which DOT has started to implement on 161st Street and 163rd Street. The project includes an eastbound bus lane on 163rd Street between Tiffany Street and Southern Boulevard [PDF], providing faster service for bus riders in the exact neighborhoods Salamanca mentioned, which are just across the Bronx River.

You’d think Salamanca would be cheering the service improvements for his constituents, a large majority of whom are car-free and commute by transit. Think again.

In a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Salamanca, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, CB 2 Chair Robert Crespo, and state senators Ruben Diaz Sr. and Jeff Klein write: “In travelling through this area, we have observed the backups caused by both the bus service and automobile traffic.” They have concluded that “it is blatantly evident that the loss of a lane here will not rectify the problem” [PDF].

It’s clear that whatever problems they observed while traveling through the area came while in a car, not a bus. Hence the goal — get rid of the dedicated transit lane that lets 50 people in a bus bypass a few people in private cars.

With 24,000 daily trips but an average speed of just 6.2 miles per hour, the Bx6 exemplifies the problems with New York City bus service, which is the slowest in the nation. While the Bx6 serves an essential role getting people across the Bronx — something no subway route does — the buses get bogged down in traffic with single-occupancy vehicles.

But that’s not the “problem” that concerns these elected officials. Traffic gets five mentions in their letter, while bus service is only mentioned once — and only as a cause of said traffic.

The bus lanes in question are only in the eastbound direction. Image: DOT
The bus lanes in question are only in the eastbound direction. Image: DOT

Within a quarter-mile of the Bx6 route, 76 percent of households do not own cars, according to DOT. Just 15 percent drive to work. In 2011, 64.2 percent of households in Crespo’s Assembly District were car-free.

Bus lanes won’t make car traffic flow freely — only road pricing can do that — but they can give the car-free majority access to faster, more reliable travel, and allow more people to make use of the same amount of street space.

If motorists on 163rd Street are frustrated with traffic, they can switch to the buses traveling on dedicated lanes. But without bus lanes, the 24,000 passengers who ride the Bx6 every day will still be stuck in traffic — with no alternative.

  • Bronx politicos are the worst, man. Car convenience uber alles is killing this borough with asthma, pollution, and heavy delays everywhere.

    The Bx6 SBS plan is watered down as it is with no westbound bus lane – and now this?!

    It’s freakin’ asinine!

    You touched on a critical point – The Bronx lacks CROSSTOWN rapid transit, making travel by *any* mode unbearable, but especially for transit users. While we need crosstown SUBWAYS, REAL BRT would be a start to addressing this critical problem – a problem that Robert Moses, in the greatest of ironies, tried to “solve” with the POS Cross-Bronx Expressway! (In other words, this has been an issue for DECADES, and these jokers don’t have the stones to make the necessary sacrifices to REALLY solve it!)

  • William Lawson

    Let me guess, all three charge around the city in giant SUV’s.

  • Mister Sterling

    Disgraceful. And these old men represent the Bronx Democratic establishment.

  • AnoNYC

    I travel along the BX 6 route multiple times a week on a bicycle.

    The BX 6 bus lanes are TOO FEW. The bus gets stucks trying to reach the lanes. They should have at minimum stretched from Bruckner Blvd to Westchester Ave. The tunnel under the GC should have been entirely dedicated to buses.

    If people don’t like the backups, TAKE THE BUS.

    As mentioned, the vast majority of people in the district do not even have access to a car.

  • Rev. John Udo-Okon

    The article seems to suggest that the elected officials are against the Select Bus Service which is far from the truth. At issue is that DOT did not seek community input before they unilaterally put up the “Bus Lane Only” route. This issue was deliberated and voted against at the last Community Board 2 General Board Meeting in July. The Community needs the Bus Service but it should be planned and implemented after due diligence.
    Rev. John Udo-Okon
    Member, Community Board 2

  • AnoNYC

    There was community input prior to the implementation of the bus lanes. The powerpoint presentations indicated at each final community meeting that bus lanes would be implemented, and where. There was also an online feedback portal.

    BX CB 2 has one short stretch of lane, in one direction, that’s more a queue jump than a bus lane (Tiffany St to Southern Blvd). It needed curbside bus lanes from Westchester Ave to Bruckner Blvd.

  • JarekFA

    You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re lying. You’re being dishonest. And you’re a man of clergy. So sad.

    But no, it actually all makes sense. You probably drive and park wherever you want with your “clergy” placard. Screw the flock. They can take the non-moving bus.

  • Rev. John Udo-Okon

    I am not sure if name calling is serving any useful purpose. Surely, this issue will come up again at the Community Board 2 General Meeting. You are welcome to attend and contribute. The point I am making is that, Community Board 2 General Board voted against the new Bus Lane pending further input from the community and traffic study.

  • AnoNYC

    The community board should request curbside bus lanes on both sides of E 163rd St from Westchester Ave to Bruckner Blvd. This would maintain the previous lane configuration for most of that section. Parking would only be allowed off peak.

    What was implemented is nothing more than a eastbound single queue jump for the Southern Blvd intersection (and even then turns all still allowed for general traffic). So the bus hardly benefits.

  • AnoNYC

    The Bx6, Bx42 and Bx12 should be full on BRT.

    Getting across the Bronx is a PITA.

  • I’m surprised the Bx40/42 doesn’t even have a Limited counterpart despite its high ridership. You can even do it like the Bx1/2 (one route all-limited, one route all-local). It’s nuts.

  • vnm

    Well said Nel.

  • neroden

    Disgusting. They only care about people in cars.

    These people are not respresentive of the people they supposedly represent.

  • neroden

    You’re lying. It’s documented below that the DOT did seek community input extensively. As a man of the cloth, why are you lying? I suggest apologizing and seeking forgiveness. But most importantly, I suggest that you *stop lying*.

    And adovcating a comprehensive bus lane so that people can get across the Bronx quickly without a car.

  • Rex Rocket

    Who exactly comprises the anti-bus anti-bike lane anti-mass transportation lobby? I know all of those things are hated by stage hands and waiters driving to work into Manhattan, but is there a lobby, some organized resistance wh obviously got to these guys? Is it Uber? The taxi industry? The Port Authority?

  • Andrew

    At issue is that DOT did not seek community input

    …aside from the 13 community meetings and presentations between November 2015 and April 2017: http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/html/routes/south-bronx-crosstown.shtml#updates

    (“Seek community input” is not synonymous with “scrap any plan that anybody doesn’t like.”)

  • Andrew

    This will be a problem as long as car ownership is aspirational in much of the Bronx.

    Aspirational car ownership results in people buying and driving cars to prove that they’ve made it, even if owning and driving a car might not actually make sense for their needs.

    So they’re not going to appreciate anything that has any (perceived or actual) detrimental impact on driving, especially if it simultaneously improves transit service, now that they need to prove that they’re superior to those transit riders.

    None of this is in any way rational, going all the way back to the aspirational car ownership in the first place.

  • neroden

    I honestly don’t know… but my best guess is that these Bronx politicos are rich people, who associate being rich with driving a car, who spend all their time driving cars even when it would be faster to take the subway, and they want to make things easier for THEMSELVES.

  • neroden

    I’m sure you’re right. What happened to the old days when the aspirational thing was to buy your own brownstone? Is it that nobody can afford that any more, so they’ve redirected their aspirations at something truly money-burning and timewasting, i.e owning a car in NYC?

  • Valence

    One more should be enough for now. Per your lies, false accusations, and your utter lack of interest in actual facts on the topic of Damore at Bloomberg, I’m going publicly shame you on multiple blogs you visit. You clearly deserve it. You never even to returned to admit you are blatantly wrong, on so many topics, and I’m sure you will continue your immoral lies, misinformation, and bullying in the future. Here is one example about you completely lying about, and trying to smear the character of reputable scientists you disagree with. It’s utterly pathetic and appalling. You should be very ashamed.