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De Blasio Inaugurates Faster Crosstown Bronx Bus Service on the Bx6

A new center-running bus lane and median island bus stop at East 161st Street and Sherman Avenue. Photo: TransitCenter

Riding the bus across the South Bronx is about to get faster, thanks to the launch of Select Bus Service on the Bx6. Every weekday, nearly 25,000 people ride this crosstown route, which now has bus lane segments, off-board fare collection, and other bus priority treatments.

Mayor Bill de Blasio rode a crowded Bx6 bus this afternoon down 161st Street from River Avenue to Intervale Avenue. NYC DOT and the MTA have inaugurated several SBS routes since de Blasio took office, but this was the first time he attended a launch event in person.

"Bus riders deserve faster, more reliable service," de Blasio said in a statement. "For riders on the Bx6, this Select Bus Service means getting to work on-time, and getting home to family faster."

It used to take an average of 56 minutes for an eastbound Bx6 to travel from Riverside Drive in Washington Heights to Hunts Point. Buses spent more than half that time either stopped for boarding or red lights or stuck in traffic moving slower than 2.5 mph. The SBS project cuts boarding time with pre-paid fares and lets buses bypass traffic with dedicated lanes and queue jumps.

It's too soon to tell how much faster the improved service will be, but on Webster Avenue, SBS cut travel times on the Bx41 about 20 percent.

One section of the Bx6 goes beyond typical New York City bus lane designs, which run next to the curb or the parking lane. By Sheridan and Sherman avenues, buses now run in center-running lanes, which are less prone to interference from other traffic. Passengers wait on concrete islands.

Mayor de Blasio earlier today on the Bx6-SBS. Photo: TransitCenter
Mayor de Blasio earlier today on the Bx6-SBS. Photo: TransitCenter
Mayor de Blasio earlier today on the Bx6-SBS. Photo: TransitCenter

Closer to the eastern terminus of the route, the city's plan includes an eastbound bus lane on 163rd Street between Tiffany Street and Southern Boulevard. Last month, a cadre of Bronx elected officials -- including Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, and State Senators Jeff Klein and Ruben Diaz Sr. -- pressured DOT to scrap that bus lane segment, but DOT went ahead and implemented it anyway, according to today's press release.

There are no crosstown subway routes in the Bronx. For the car-free majority in these neighborhoods, the Bx6 is an essential connection, linking to eight subway lines, 20 bus routes, and Metro-North.

"Given the route’s connections to other transit modes and the fact that 76 percent of households within a quarter-mile of the Bx6 do not own a car, the addition of SBS could make a major difference," said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The route does not give priority to buses at traffic signals yet. It is one of a handful of routes where DOT is aiming to add transit signal priority by 2020, a pace that the city should be able to rapidly accelerate, along with the implementation of bus lanes.

The Bx6 is the ninth Select Bus Service route launched since de Blasio took office.

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