NYC’s First Bus Rapid Transit Line Debuts in the Bronx


L-R: Assembly Members José Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, MTA CEO Lee Sander and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión at Fordham Plaza today

Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning unveiled details of the city's first Bus Rapid Transit project, called "Select Bus Service," to debut on the Bx12 line, which follows 207th Street in Northern Manhattan and Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.

Bloomberg and other officials also tied expansion of the program to the implementation of congestion pricing.

Connecting Inwood to Co-Op City, the Bx12 SBS corridor will allow riders to prepay the fare at vending machine stations along the line. Transit customers will get a receipt, to be displayed upon request to "enforcement personnel aboard buses," according to a media release. At first, vending stations will only accept MetroCards and cash as payment, though credit card functionality will eventually be added.

Speaking at Fordham Plaza and flanked by Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, MTA Executive Lee Sander, and electeds from the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, Bloomberg outlined key components of SBS service. In addition to prepayment of fares, the corridors will feature:

  • More buses (the Bx12 line will have 10 additional buses running during peak hours, Bloomberg said)
  • Additional service hours
  • Boarding at front and back doors
  • Fewer stops
  • Transit Signal Priority, a system that keeps signal lights green, and quickens the cycle of changing red signals back to green, to allow buses to move through intersections more smoothly
  • Terracotta colored bus lanes, with stepped up enforcement to keep cars out
  • Specially designed "branded" SBS buses, and branded stations with new shelters

The Bx12 SBS will replace the line's current limited-stop service on June 29. Bloomberg said the development of other corridors -- including First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, and Hyland Boulevard on Staten Island -- depend on getting congestion pricing through the City Council and state Legislature. This point was echoed by Sadik-Khan, who described SBS as "almost like a surface subway system."


The "salsarengue bus"

During a brief Q&A with reporters, Sander characterized MTA service improvement delays caused by slumping real estate returns as a "blip," and encouraged a long-term view. On the same subject, Bloomberg said of yesterday's announcement: "I think what it shows is there is never enough money to do everything."

Bloomberg pledged to do "everything [he] legally can" to ensure that all pricing revenues are used for transit capital projects even after his second term ends.

Also on hand were Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión and state Assembly Members José Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, all supporters of congestion pricing. Espaillat, who represents Northern Manhattan, cited the success of Bogotá Bus Rapid Transit, and said he sees no reason it can't be replicated in New York. The "salsarengue bus," as Espaillat called the Bx12, referring to the music favored in the largely Dominican and Latino neighborhoods it serves, is the perfect place to start, he said.

The three also had strong sentiments for those who would cast congestion pricing as a "right-wing conspiracy," in the words of Carrión. Rivera said he has asked Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, an opponent of both the commuter tax and congestion pricing, what he is willing to contribute to the Bronx, which Rivera described as a border between Lower Manhattan and suburban car commuters. "I have yet to receive an answer," Rivera said.

"We're not afraid of park-and-ride," said Espaillat, whose district skirts the asthma-plagued South Bronx and includes "the poster child of buckling platforms" at Dyckman Street on the No. 1 line.

"This [congestion pricing] is not a bogey monster," Espaillat said. "This is a rational, practical solution to a very serious problem."

Photos: Brad Aaron