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MTA: City Must Create 60 Miles Of Bus Lanes For Phase 1 Reopening

11:42 AM EDT on June 4, 2020

The MTA wants to see a lot more of this. Photo: Dave Colon

The MTA wants the city to install 60 miles of bus lanes and busways in all five boroughs as the city approaches the first phase of economic reopening.

In a letter, New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg reminded Mayor de Blasio of the important role that buses will play as New Yorkers return to work, both on their own as a transportation system and also as a way to reduce crowding on the subway.

"A robust bus system will be crucial as workers look to return to their offices," Feinberg wrote to the mayor. "It will also help alleviate crowding on the streets and underground. But to make buses a more attractive option for commuters, they must be able to move freely around the city."

Feinberg asked the mayor for better bus lanes in areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. as well as busways in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn:

Our priority corridors for new or upgraded bus lanes include:

  • In the Bronx:
    • East 149th St.
    • the E.L. Grant Highway
    • Tremont Ave.
    • Fordham Rd.
    • University Ave.
  • In Brooklyn:
    • Flatbush Ave. between Avenue H and Empire Blvd, a 4.4 mile stretch.
  • On Staten Island:
    • Bay St. between the St. George Ferry Terminal and Canal St, a 1.4 mile stretch.
    • Richmond Terrace between the St. George Ferry Terminal and Jersey St, a 1.2 mile stretch.

Our priority corridors for busways include:

  • In Manhattan
    • 181st St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, a .3 mile stretch.
  • In Queens:
    • Main St. between Kissena Blvd. and Northern Blvd, a .3 mile stretch.
    • Archer Ave. between 146th St. and 168th St, a 1 mile stretch.
  • In Brooklyn:
    • Livingston St. between Court St. and Flatbush Ave, a .7 mile stretch.

Feinberg also mentioned that commuters are choosing the bus over the subway during the pandemic. According to her letter, daily bus ridership rose from 400,000 riders at the lowest ridership point of the pandemic to 715,000 riders on June 2. The request for 60 miles of bus lanes also comes after both transit advocates and every elected borough president asked the city to install 40 miles of bus lanes last week, a request that the city has so far shrugged off. Transit advocates from the Bus Turnaround Coalition praised the letter and urged the mayor to build the bus lanes, and for the MTA to increase service for bus routes on the new lanes and busways.

"The Bus Turnaround Coalition fully endorses NYCT President Sarah Feinberg’s request for Mayor de Blasio to add 60 miles of busways and bus lanes to improve mobility for New York City transit riders," the advocates wrote in a statement. "Our organizations urge the mayor to act as quickly as possible to implement the transit-priority streets identified by the MTA. With Phase 1 of the city’s reopening set to begin on Monday, there is no time to waste. ... Faster bus speeds will enable the agency to run buses more frequently, like on the 14th Street transitway."

The mayor was noncommittal on Wednesday morning when he was asked when the city will actually install bus lanes around the city, instead talking about the general need for buses to work well.

"We've got to get back to the process of creating faster bus service," said de Blasio. "I'll have more to say on that as we can get through these next days obviously."

This letter also comes amidst continuing verbal skirmishes between the MTA and the mayor. This morning, de Blasio press secretary Freddi Goldstein and MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins engaged in a Twitter fight over the mayor's suggestion that the MTA limit capacity on trains, buses and in subway stations and even have subways skip stops if trains are too crowded.

On Tuesday, the MTA and the city sent dueling open letters to each other. The mayor made recommendations on how the MTA should keep riders safe when the economy reopens, and the MTA announced what it would be taking a series of steps to keep riders safe as the economy reopens. Last week, Feinberg, said she was baffled by the mayor's comments to Brian Lehrer that his administration had not received enough clarity from the MTA on what its plan was for when the economy reopened.

A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said the administration has spoken with the MTA about adding bus lanes to city streets.

"New York is a mass transit city, and there’s no recovery without a safe, reliable, and fast bus system," said Mitch Schwartz. "We’ve discussed bus lane expansion with the MTA, and we look forward to their commitment to increased service on bus lanes the City creates to safely serve more New Yorkers."

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