Next for Select Bus Service: Webster Ave in the Bronx, Utica Ave in Brooklyn

The Bronx's second Select Bus Service route is planned for Webster Avenue, marked as #1 on this map of high-priority routes for bus improvements. Image: NYC DOT/MTA

A new crop of bus routes is moving into the pipeline for implementation as Select Bus Service. The MTA and NYC DOT are in the initial stages of bringing SBS to the Bronx’s Webster Avenue, where the most unreliable bus in the borough runs, and to Brooklyn’s Utica Avenue, the second-busiest bus route in the city.

The innovations of SBS — pre-paid boarding, dedicated bus lanes, priority at traffic signals — have sped buses and attracted new riders on Fordham Road, First and Second Avenues, and 34th Street. And they can work on bus lines all over the city. So as the first round of SBS implementation comes to a close (lines on Nostrand Avenue and Hylan Boulevard are scheduled for completion in the next year or two), the development of new routes is a welcome signal that the MTA and NYC DOT are committed to bringing bus improvements to more New Yorkers.

The city’s first Select Bus Service line launched on Fordham Road in the Bronx in 2008, and it’s been a smashing success. Bus speeds increased by 20 percent and ridership by 30 percent. So expanding SBS to more routes in the borough is a no-brainer. The choice of the Bx41 for the upgrade was first reported in the Daily News yesterday.

“There was a lot of support in the Bronx for doing a route along Webster Avenue,” an MTA spokesperson told Streetsblog. “This would be a full-fledged SBS route with all the features offered by the Bx12 and the M15.”

Running down Webster, the Bx41 has relatively high ridership — 7.6 million annual riders — but was ranked the most unreliable bus in the borough this year by the Straphangers Campaign. Perhaps in part because of all that bus bunching, ridership on the route has been in free fall. The Bx41 saw one million fewer trips in 2010 than in 2009, according to the MTA.

There’s no roll-out date for the Bx41 yet, according to the MTA, and any eventual route will need to go through a public review process.

Though there’s no mention of Webster Avenue on the joint NYC DOT/MTA website dedicated to SBS, there is a new page on that site marking the start of planning for bus improvements along Brooklyn’s Utica Avenue.

Both Webster and Utica Avenues were identified as targets for bus improvements in a 2009 joint DOT/MTA study mapping out potential routs for the second phase of Select Bus Service. Each was considered an “underserved area”: a corridor that was far from the subway yet densely developed.

Along Utica, it’s not yet clear what shape the bus improvements would take. DOT started conducting a study on both transit and traffic safety conditions this October — in addition to carrying 16 million annual bus riders, Utica is also one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous streets — and the study will be complete this spring, according to the website. The study only covers a stretch of Utica a bit longer than a mile, however, between St. John’s Place and Church Avenue. Once the study is complete, DOT will develop a menu of options to improve safety and transit service and present them to the public.