‘Progressives’ Should Support Public Transit Over Private Vehicles

So why are bus lanes on Broadway so controversial for a liberal Bronx Community Board?

The Bx7 bus, which runs along Broadway for part of its route in the Bronx. A DOT proposal to give the Bx7 and other buses five-block, daytime bus lanes has roiled Community Board 8.
The Bx7 bus, which runs along Broadway for part of its route in the Bronx. A DOT proposal to give the Bx7 and other buses five-block, daytime bus lanes has roiled Community Board 8.

Some New York community boards want to stand in the way of transportation changes that would help more residents get to school and work. 

Take, for example, Bronx Community Board 8, whose Traffic and Transportation Committee recently gave an “icy reception” to a Department of Transportation plan for daytime bus lanes on Broadway. Several members opposed the lanes, claiming they would create traffic jams and curtail public parking. The board snubbed DOT’s request for a quick hearing.

The reaction was dismaying, both on the substance and as a matter of public policy.

Daytime bus lanes are a cheap, easy way to improve transportation that makes sense for most local residents — and would promote key community goals such as safety and sustainability.

Jessica Haller.
Jessica Haller.

The stretch of Broadway in question — from 225th to 230th streets, between the Broadway Bridge and a road to the Major Deegan Expressway — is a notorious bottleneck. 

Bus lanes would help calm and rationalize traffic on a badly designed road where erratic driving and double parking creates dangers for pedestrians and motorists alike. Between 2014 and 2018, 7,089 vehicle crashes occurred in CB8, with 10 fatalities — seven pedestrians and three motorists — and 1,631 injuries, according to city data.

That’s roughly four crashes per day in a relatively small neighborhood. Three of the fatalities were near Broadway. 

Getting more people out of cars and onto faster buses also would improve air quality and, not incidentally, help the city achieve its ambitious climate goals: Last month, New York became the first major American city to declare a climate emergency. The stretch in question lies beneath the 1 train’s elevated tracks, trapping automobile fumes and likely worsening asthma rates among the residents of the Marble Hill Houses, the NYCHA complex straddling Broadway there.

Moreover, bus lanes would promote social equity. According to the Comptroller’s Office, lower-income communities rely on bus service more than others; a majority of bus riders are immigrants, and 75 percent come from communities of color. The average income of a bus commuter is $11,500 less than the average subway rider’s $40,000 income. These people need the MTA’s help to get to school and work. 

So why do some CB8 members oppose the bus lanes?

To be sure, DOT did not do itself any favors in the way it approached the board. Apparently, DOT made its request without first communicating the project’s goals and benefits. Still, CB members are supposed to act as leaders.

Two declared 2021 City Council candidates: Dan Padernacht, the chairman, and  Eric Dinowitz, serve on CB8’s Traffic and Transportation Committee.  Both call themselves progressives.

“Progressives” should realize that progress means siding with the transit systems that serve the many, not with the automobiles that carry the few. Only then will we attain a safe and sustainable city. But some CB members are sowing confusion and division — without providing any evidence to back up claims that bus lanes would snarl traffic.

Bus lanes are a solution. All over the city, residents literally get stuck on their way to work and school because buses travel at an average of 8 miles an hour. A few gallons of road paint could really make a difference for working people in the outer boroughs.  

“Progressives” worthy of the name should not stand in the way of that progress. 

Jessica Haller is an environmentalist and community activist who lives in Riverdale. Twitter @JessicaHaller 

  • PDiddy

    I thought NYDOT does not require permission from community boards for projects like these.

  • 8FH

    I believe they are required to present plans, but not follow CB advice.

  • MatthewEH

    “Rationalize” is an understatement here. I’ve never, while riding, collided with a car, but I had my two closest calls on this stretch of Broadway, southbound both times.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Bronx 8 progressive?

    Not unless the population of Riverdale has completely turned over recently, and so has the community board.

  • iSkyscraper

    Photo is of the Bx7 in Manhattan, not the Bronx. The route is actually key to Inwood ever since Ydanis Rodriguez decided to play transit god and moved the M100 off Broadway, driving its heavy ridership down to zero in the process. While a cute sop to what he perceives as his voting bloc, few riders wanted a detour down Dyckman Street (still missing its bike lanes, another Ydanis gem) and then a trip from nowhere to nowhere up 10th Ave.

    So the Bx7 is now the only bus line serving Broadway above Dyckman, and subject to heavy delays and bunching in the Bronx.

  • Jessica Haller

    Correct, but they do come to the CBs to get buy-in. The trouble is that they don’t really come prepared and they aren’t good storytellers, communicators or salespeople.

  • jojo

    I am not familiar with the Broadway bus route uptown and in the Bronx, but I am glad the community is having their say in the matter even though MTA officials will do whatever they want anyway. Face the facts, the deck is stacked in the MTA favor. By the way when are the delivery truck lanes being painted on the asphalt streets with the pasty white chemical goo that the DOT uses the make there street designations that wear out after a few months only needed to be redone.

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