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THIS JUST IN: West 181st Street Busway To Start On April 26

1:58 PM EDT on March 19, 2021

Yes…Ha Ha Ha…Yes!

Sweet relief is coming to Washington Heights bus riders this year.

The third emergency bus lane of 2020 will debut in Washington Heights on April 26, 2021, potentially solving a traffic problem on West 181st Street that has vexed traffic planners for over a decade.

Per a press release from Mayor de Blasio, DOT will implement the half-mile bus priority zone on West 181st Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, a stretch that over 40,000 daily bus riders use.

Despite the tens of thousands of bus riders who use five different bus routes on the block, bus speeds were allowed to drop to a ludicrously slow 3.7 miles per hour, thanks to traffic issues centered around drivers looking for parking and others giving up and double-parking. The busway will look to solve that problem with the elegantly simple solution of banning thru traffic on the block.

The rules, which will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, are as follows:

    • Eastbound car traffic would be banned between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, while drivers going east between Wadsworth and Amsterdam Avenue would be required to turn right at the next intersection.
    • Westbound local traffic wouldn’t be banned from any part of the street, but those drivers would also need to make the first right turn off the block after they entered it.
    • At Amsterdam Avenue, drivers going east would no longer be permitted to make left turns onto Amsterdam.

The 181st Street Busway joins Jay Street and Main Street as three out of the promised five busways the mayor announced at a press conference last June. Those existing busways have both been blessed with increased bus speeds; on Jay Street, bus speeds have risen from an average of around 3 miles per hour to closer to 6 miles per hour, and according to today's press release from the mayor, northbound buses are moving between 15 and 24 percent faster during the day and between 13 and 31 percent faster during the evening rush hour.

One busway, which was planned for Jamaica Avenue, has been in limbo since Queens elected officials said they wanted it moved to Archer Avenue. The other planned busway on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan went into the wood chipper after mom and pop retailers like Armani and Tiffany and Co. objected. That revamp of the Midtown street will still include a protected bike lane and expanded pedestrian space, but private cars will have their lane back after the ritzy retailer complaints.

The announcement also comes as bus speeds citywide have stagnated, remaining stuck at 8.4 miles per hour for almost an entire year.

Oddly, the press release did not mention any future plans for bus lanes or busways this year, as activists push the mayor to install 30 miles of those lanes in 2021.

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