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City Proposes Short Busway For Clogged Cross-Bronx Roadway

It's not a surprise there was a push for more busways, as the data has shown time and again that they work.

Photo: Dave Colon|

Buses travel at a snail’s pace on Tremont Avenue. The DOT is trying to fix that.

They're bringing out a small version of the big gun.

The Department of Transportation is proposing speeding up one of the slowest crosstown buses in the Bronx with an 11-block busway on Tremont Avenue design that it shared last week with Bronx Community Board 5.

The centerpiece of the plan is a 0.6-mile, two-way busway between Third Avenue and Southern Boulevard. In DOT parlance, a "busway" still permits trucks and emergency vehicles along the entire corridor, while cars and taxis must make the first available turn off the roadway.

The busway would be a boon to riders on the Bx36 whose buses move slower than five miles per hours on huge stretches of the east-west corridor, including in the area slated for a busway, where bus speeds drop to as low as 4.5 miles per hour during the day.

The DOT said that 57 percent of people traveling on the proposed busway do so on the bus, which fits with the other data that the DOT has shared about Tremont and the areas surrounding it.

In the area on or near Tremont Avenue, 72 percent of households don't have access to a vehicle, and 78 percent get to work via public transit, walking or biking. Those households have a median income of just $31,000, well below the citywide median income of $77,000.

Drilling down even closer, car commuters who live the Assembly District containing the proposed Tremont Avenue busway have a median income that's 37 percent higher than their transit-using neighbors, according to census data.

Members of the Municipal Services Committee told the DOT not only should the agency do this busway, but that the city should go even further in its bus priority efforts.

"There was zero pushback on the concept of busways or bus lanes," said Committee Chair Lucia Deng. "Overall there was pressure to extend the busway beyond just Third Avenue to Boston Road."

It's not a surprise there was a push for more busways, as the data has shown time and again that they work. The DOT's own presentation noted that the 181st Street busway boosted bus speeds by 26 percent for westbound buses and 15 percent for eastbound buses. And Streetsblog's own reporting last year found that the busways the de Blasio administration installed around the city after the 14th Street busway went in sped up buses between 12 percent and 39 percent during peak morning and evening hours.

Tremont Avenue is a crucial east-west route for bus riders in the Bronx, which has no cross-borough subways. And the roadway not only crosses the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, A, B and D trains, but is a crucial commercial corridor.

But with only one moving lane in each direction for much of the stretch, the DOT didn't have many options. But the DOT deflected some potential controversy by pointing out that drivers have multiple alternative routes between Third Avenue and Southern Boulevard:

Drivers who needed to get around a Tremont Avenue busway have options.DOT

In addition to the busway, the DOT is also working up plans for curbside of offset bus lanes between Anthony Avenue and Third Avenue to the west of the busway, and between the Bronx River Parkway and Southern Boulevard to the east of the busway. The bus lane plans are supposed to be revealed further along in the process.

The DOT said that throughout the summer, it will be doing traffic analysis to see how the busway might actually work, and will bring a more fine tuned plan to Community Boards 5 and 6 this fall.

Politics will of course play a role in the what happens next. Tremont Avenue is represented by Council Members Pierina Sanchez and Oswald Feliz, the latter of whom opposed DOT's plan for an offset bus lane on Fordham Road last year.

For now, Feliz is cagey.

"We need dedicated bus lanes in this commercial corridor," he said, but added that he is in wait-and-see mode.

"We're still learning about the specifics of the proposals, and discussing them with the community, but East Tremont needs bus lanes," he said.

Sanchez also said she's in wait-and-see mode, but that she was excited by the prospect of bus priority.

"There is a long road ahead, but preliminary plans in my section make conceptual sense," she told Streetsblog. "I am looking forward to more community engagement, and thoughtful planning to ensure the city and MTA do not unintentionally create unhelpful pinch points with confusing designs, as seen in other areas."

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