Quick Bus and Ped Improvements Coming to Lower Broadway

bus_bulb_chicago.jpg
Nope, that's not Lower Manhattan. It's an example of a "bus bulb" in Edgewater, Chicago, a neighborhood known for its thoughtful planning and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Tomorrow, the Department of Transportation will make the first public announcement of its Lower Manhattan Transit Priority Plan. We don't have all of the details but the redesign plan for Broadway south of Houston Street sounds like it is oriented around making bus service faster and more effective, providing more sidewalk space to pedestrians and bus patrons and, perhaps most significant, making the changes happen much faster, cheaper and with far less bureaucracy than usual.

Sources say the plan calls for the creation of "bus bulbs," a design in which the sidewalk is extended into the street at bus stops. Bus bulbs allow a bus to stay in its lane to pick up and discharge passengers instead of having to pull over to the curb. The benefits of bus bulbs include preventing buses from being delayed, reducing sidewalk congestion, providing space for bus shelters and other amenities, and reducing pedestrian crossing times.

In a small but very tangible way, bus bulbs may single-handedly change the pecking order on Lower Broadway by forcing other vehicles to wait behind or detour around loading and unloading buses rather than the buses having to defer to them.

Most promising, DOT appears to be taking a far more experimental approach in this particular project. Rather than allowing itself to become bogged down in complicated, expensive street engineering, it sounds like the agency will be creating the bus bulbs by putting down temporary curbs, filling them in with concrete, and just gerrymandering the drainage. The results might not look particularly pretty but advocates have, for years, been calling on DOT to show more willingness to conduct quick-and-dirty street design experiments.

The Daily News and New York Sun will have the details tomorrow morning.

And here is more information about bus bulbs than you could ever want: The Federal Transit Administration's Evaluation of Bus Bulbs (PDF).

Photo: Aaron Naparstek, July 2006